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This image came up recently in an intuitive painting and it looked to me like a monk standing below a snake, possibly an animal guide. I don't know yet who he is or why he is talking to the snake. Maybe you have an idea. In any case, he seemed to connect with the theme of monks and saints that I talk about below...
This can be a time alternately of contemplation and relaxation…
Hello again. I hope you have been able to find ways to stay centered during this crazy time we find ourselves in around the world. For me, it continues to be an up and down time. I am grateful that I am still able to make it to my studio and that all of my family is safe. (Making it to my studio, which is a quick walk up the block, may change over the next couple weeks if a more severe quarantine goes into effect.) But at times, especially at night I do find myself falling into a rabbit hole of worry about all the uncertainties and possible dangers that may be ahead of us. I am amazed at the variety of resources that have cropped up in my in-box from all of the wonderful healers and guides that I have been following.
Many of them have been helping me to cope and so, I picked a few of them to share with you below. Maybe some of them will resonate with you too. In addition to guidance that directly addresses ways to cope with the current crisis, I also decided to share some fun resources that I have also been enjoying. This externally imposed retreat can be a time of reflection and contemplation, but there is also time for fun and relaxation. I know that there are still some of you, like my husband who is working directly on a response to the corona virus, who aren’t really in retreat mode and still have to go to work. Yet maybe there are some elements of retreat that you can use to balance the stress of having to navigate this strange situation.
Peregrinatio, contemplative pilgrimage…
I am going to refer often to one of the resources that an artist friend of mine directed me to, a series of talks called a Novena, that address these difficult times. In the Novena talk that I listened to today, Christine Valters Painter describes the Celtic tradition of Peregrinatio. Monks and mystics are celebrated as having taken pilgrimages in small boats called coracles, boats without oars or any form of navigation. The idea is that they were to let the current take them, and that wherever they ended up would be their place to set down roots and establish their ministry. Valters Painter connected the journey of these early saints to our journey right now, trying to navigate the daily uncertainties of life in the time of coronavirus.
One of my favorite stories was the one about St. Brendan, who was guided to take a trip in a coracle. He received guidance that his trip would take one day. Instead it took seven years and took him and his small crew in a series of circles across the Atlantic Ocean. According to the story, on one Easter day, he and his crew landed on a small island, celebrated Easter, only to discover as they were leaving that what they thought was an island was actually the back of a whale!
Over the past week I have been creating a series of painted cards, possibly oracle cards or possibly mini paintings. In a few of them, an image of a small boat showed up, or an image of a waterfall or river and it seemed connected to the story that Valters Painter was telling. Could it be that my unconscious was trying to remind me to let go of control of the things I can’t control right now? (and there are many) It helps me to think that this time could also be an opportunity. Once we are able to take care of the basic needs of having enough food and emergency supplies (not to overdo it!) and that everyone in our family is safe, then there is nothing left to do but just rest in place. And potentially turn inward to our own source of strength, however we would describe it. Valters Painter shared the following poem.
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.
List of resources:
Stuff to help deal with the current time of uncertainty:
All free and accessible on-line.
Novena for Times of Unravelling-I didn't know what a novena was before a friend referred me to this wonderful series hosted by the Abbey of the Arts. Wonderful contemplative series of talks on coping with the current crisis.
Tara Brach, Buddhist meditation teacher and scholar. I had been volunteering at her weekly live meditations near where I live but they are of course not happening now. A link to her series of free web-streamed talks and meditations:
Rick Hanson, another Buddhist scholar and wonderful resource: Fear in the Time of the Corona Virus.
Fun stuff if you need a break from reading about coronavirus:
I apologize for some of this only being available on streaming services. But if you have these services, they are definitely worth looking up. True confession, I do spend a lot of time watching movies on-line as a way of relaxing! A guilty pleasure. But there are some other resources here that are easy to access and are free.
Visit 2,500 museums around the world, from the comfort of your sofa. Google has partnered with multiple shuttered museums around to give you an on-line tour of their exhibits.
Podcast, Finding Fred- about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood by Carvell Wallace. Wallace explores the way Fred Rogers has had an impact on many of his younger generation friends and colleagues, in a series of interviews. Also the two movies about Fred Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (on Prime Video, even though it just came out!) and Won't You Be My Neighbor (HBO). I've seen them both and they are both great.
Podcast, Reply All, especially “The Case of the Missing Hit”-this one is just a fun diversion if you love puzzles and solving mysteries, The hosts of this podcast, PJ Vogt and Alex Goodman, are approached by Tyler Gilette, who has been searching everywhere for a song from the late 90's that cannot get out of his head. The search, documented in this podcast, had me laughing out loud, something much needed these days.
Movie The Freedom Writers on Netflix with Hilary Swank, as a beginning high school English teacher at a public school in Los Angeles after the riots. Based on a true story of a teacher who inspired her students and transformed their lives.
Movie The Intouchables. It’s on iTunes now but I know I saw it somewhere else. Much better than the American remake that just came out. Here is the description: “A Parisian aristocrat, quadriplegic since a paragliding accident, hires a young man to be his live-in caretaker. Although very different the two men bond and develop a close friendship.”
Series Outlander on Starz, (sorry if you don’t have this streaming service. The first seasons are also on Netflix now.) I am obsessed with this series about a World War II nurse who somehow falls into mid 1700’s Scotland before the Scottish rebellion. She discovers her true love and has all sorts of adventures. Based on the book series by Diane Gabaldon.
Joyful side of alter ego flip doll, with image of myself at age seven-ish. Doll at left has a girl riding a sea turtle on the skirt. Doll at right has altered image of me with sisters and a family friend.
Greetings all! What surreal times we are living in, at least in the US right now. I wonder how you are all doing? Every day seems to bring new challenges, new opportunites to either collapse into fear or frustration or to rise to the challenge. I have found myself in both places off and on over the last days.
The last post here was about a flip doll workshop that I was excited to share with local followers. Last Thursday afternoon, I was sitting in my studio ready to sort through the wonderful fabrics, embroidery threads, and some enticing new fabrics I had ordered from India to get ready for my alter ego flip doll workshop. Then I got a call from Erin at Halcyon, saying, "hey, Erika, I just came out of a planning meeting and we have decided to put off all events for at least the next month. Do you want to reschedule your workshop to May?" Well, I had just come from a meeting at the Jackson Art Center, where I have my studio and we had decided to put everything off until the fall. No Spring Open Studios, no talks, of which I was going to give one on Flip Dolls, none of that until the fall.
So I said, let's switch it to September. The new date for the Alter Ego Flip Doll workshop is the weekend of September 12 and 13, a Saturday and Sunday. We didn't decide anything about the April self compassion wrap doll workshop but I have a strong feeling that one will be put off as well. Halcyon, as many institutions including schools and art centers are doing, is addressing this one month at a time.
What are you doing with this unexpected time?
Instead of putting the final touches to my handouts for the Saturday workshop and getting supplies together, here I was on Friday, making a video of myself painting in an altered book. This has become a daily practice as of late. Below are a couple videos, showing some of the pages I have done so far and also the beginnings of one of the altered pages in process. The videos are a bit rough as of yet. This is one of my missions lately-to learn videotaping and start to offer more videos here, mostly about doll-making but just as a way of trying something different, I am sharing this painting process here. Stay tuned for more videos, hopefully of doll making as well.
After I finished this painting, I finished the flip dolls, shown above.
There is something very therapeutic about this way of painting intuitively. It seems to tap into whatever is hovering or maybe lurking under the surface emotionally, waiting to be expressed.
What got me started on this process is an online class I took in January with Fonda Clark Haight called The Down Deep. I strongly recommend this class as a way to get your creative juices flowing. She only offers it in the beginning of the year but you can get on the mailing list for next year.
Here's the second video. It's already about 14 minutes long. Sorry so long. And it stops abruptly. Below is the finished image. This just gives you an idea of my process.
The finished and as yet, untitled image. I am amazed at how this process is like the Rohrschach, which is a psychological testing technique in which someone is asked to view a series of ink blot images and name this images that they see within the ink blots. Supposedly the answers reveal all sorts of truths about what is going on with that person psychologically.
So, what's this about? This image probably has a lot to do with the fears that are coming up for me around the corona virus, the uncertainty and all the media coverage of the dangers that we are facing. Perhaps this is an image of the lurking virus? Curious to hear what you see here?
The video cuts off just when I am starting to talk about these flip dolls. What I was about to say was that the "petulant" side of the flip doll shows two different aspects of one of my inner demons.. Dark times can trigger inner demons, for instance, that greedy, grasping place of not enough. On the left, a hungry, angry mouth swallows up the joyful image of me, my sisters and a family friend. Someone on my Instagram where I shared this image said, "it looks like she is so jealous of that happy group that she decides to eat them up." Sometimes that demon of not enough can be so strong that even joy is swallowed up. On the right is that same greedy, grasping mood, this time shown in the figure at the top grabbing at the bottom figure's heart, while also grasping at some gifts with her other hand.
This side of the doll is counteracted by the joyful side, seen in the above images of the other side of the doll. There, in one of the dolls, the little girl on the skirt rides joyfully on her sea turtle companion. On the skirt of the other doll, she participates fully in the companionship and joy of her sisters and friend.
In this crazy corona virus time, as I was saying above, we have the choice of collapsing into ourselves with worry and fear or of rising above it and seeing whatever joy there is available. Joy in having extra time with family members, being home together. Time to rest. Time to experience nature. But not at all to judge the scary feelings and the fears, just to let them coexist with the good.
Sorry, this was kind of rambly today. Next time I will go back hopefully to my normal kinds of newsletters. I think today I just wanted to say, I am here. I am thinking of all of you. To those of you who were going to come to the workshop today, I am thinking of you too. I hope you consider rejoining in September but I understand if that doesn't fit into your schedule. Hopefully these videos are of interest and maybe they inspire you to do some explorations of your own,
I'd like to hear what you are up to during these challenging times. What is helping you to stay calm? What are you finding to be therapeutic?
Love to all!
“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.”
If only there were a way to hold onto the bliss of spiritual connection…
This winter I took an enlightening on-line class with shamanic guide, Sandra Ingerman called Healing with Spiritual Light. There was one exercise in the class that she called “transfiguring” in which one meditates on being filled with spiritual light. I’ve been practicing this exercise on and off since then. It’s a very simple practice that you can do almost anywhere. Sometimes I would meditate on light and feel completely transported and sometimes I wouldn’t feel it as strongly.
But what I noticed most of all, is how hard it was to hold onto that feeling once I got caught up in my daily life. For instance, I would come out of my moments of blissful morning meditation, only to feel like yelling at a family member for leaving dishes in the sink for me to clean up. Poof! There goes all that beautiful light! Or I would get upset at someone honking his horn at a pedestrian slowly crossing the street and the bliss would feel like it was gone.
If you are a member of my email list, I am pretty sure that you also want to live a life guided by spiritual ideals and probably have some sort of spiritual practices that you follow like yoga or meditation. And maybe, like me, you often find that you are distracted in daily life from those intentions. What to do?
Beyond wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field…
What is Rumi talking about here?
We all know on some level that there really is a place, where we are all connected by a web of love and where we aren’t affected by distractions like ego struggles. I don’t presume to be able explain Rumi’s words, but his words have stayed in my head for a long time since I first heard them. They resonate with someplace deep inside of me, a place that knows that when we let go of judgments and critical thoughts, we begin to find peace.
What does this have to do with making alter ego flip dolls?
Flip dolls have two sides, so there is always an element of opposites in them. And yet, the truth about these dolls is that however opposite one side is from the other, they are always connected at the waist. An alter ego is basically an alternate or opposite self. The alter ego might be that light-filled place that we come to when we meditate on spiritual connection. So that would be one side of the doll. The other side might be that place we go to when we are distracted by the daily challenges of life, where we fall into feelings of jealousy or rage, or maybe just discomfort. You can experience in a visceral way by flipping the skirt from one side to the other, how both sides are connected. This reminds us not to feel self-judgment when we are caught up in an emotional reaction. This also shows how just by an action as simple as flipping a skirt, we can return to our natural state of peace.
There is something about taking the time to carefully stitch, sew, and craft a doll, which represents ourselves from two different perspectives, and that helps to bring understanding and self awareness. The process of making the doll is meditative. And once the doll is finished, one has a mirror, a reflection of who we are in that moment. Or in this case, in those two moments.
Maybe that is why I am so obsessed with flip dolls...
And when I teach this process to others, the participants in my workshops seem to have similar insights and discoveries. I remember a while back when I was teaching the alter ego flip doll in a paper doll format, that one of the participants made a doll about the way she presents herself in professional situations. On one side of the doll was her quieter, politically correct even, self that seemed to conform to the requirements of her work environment. But on the other side, she discovered a powerful, even fierce self that revealed the deeper self that advocated for and protected her.
I’ve been working on two flip dolls in preparation for the workshop this Saturday with two faces of myself as a child. One is a joyful, full-of-life face. The other is petulant and sad. I’ve been playing with the ways that I can accept both sides equally. Though it is harder for me to allow that petulant face, I know that allowing both petulant and joyful is a way towards fuller self-acceptance. A way towards that place beyond right or wrong doing that Rumi speaks of.
Reminder-Alter Ego Flip dolls this weekend at Halcyon:
The alter ego flip doll workshop starts this Saturday, the 14th from 10-3, with a second session the following Saturday. There is still room in the workshop for one or two more participants. So if you have been considering whether you want to take part in this workshop, it’s not too late. I would really love to have you there!
For more information or to sign up, go to the link above or click on the photo above. You can also read answers to commonly asked questions about this workshop on my offers page.
I've been making dolls for about five years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am exited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!