Going Inside

Going Inside

Shrine From a 2006 Lindly Haunani Class

I was about ready to quit reading Facebook.

Seems that everytime I opened Facebook I saw that someone was doing something more exciting than me, more visible than me or more magnificent than me. I know. I know. Life is about living one’s own journey, about fully embracing it and exploring one’s creative impulses, passions and compassions. I know that. I teach that. I preach that. Yet nearly every time I entered the Facebook world I left feeling somewhat “less than”.

It didn’t feel good, but most of all I knew that it was a character fault of mine to always be comparing and judging. Plus I knew that I had been blessed with a wonderfully creative and fulfilling life, one for which I was very thankful. And yet, here I was feeling a bit fearful and anxious that somehow I just wasn’t measuring up.

A recent conversation with my friend Ann gave me a useful tool for approaching this “opportunity to grow” . It involves recognizing the thought pattern, stopping it in mid-thought, FEELING the STOP, asking where the thought pattern came from, thanking it for it’s good intentions, recognizing and saying that , while I am thankful, it doesn’t serve me anymore, then asking for help in changing the message to one that is life affirming and free of blame/shame and coulda/shoulda. Thank you, Ann, I’m practicing. It isn’t automatic yet, but I’m believing that I can become more loving of myself and, in the process, more loving and celebratory all around.

Another useful tool came from a recent reading in the http://www.dailyword.com thought for the day. I read the message and I stopped breathing as I took it in, and then read it again. It fit so perfectly my need for a life-affirming attitude of grace.

Sacred Journey


Some sites are considered sacred, and people go there to worship and experience an uncommon energy. Many of us dream of making a pilgrimage to a sacred place. Such journeys have a meaningful impact on our lives and help us grow in spiritual understanding.Yet every spiritual journey begins right where we stand, this very moment. Whether we travel to the far reaches of the earth or sit on a meditation pillow in our living room, the real expedition is a journey inward.Wherever I go, I abide in the presence of God’s love. I expand my awareness to recognize God in each moment, in each breath, in each person and place, for life itself is holy ground.

Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.—Acts 7:33

I love the concept that the place that we are standing is holy ground. What ever name we give to Sacred Energy, whether we call it God or Higher Power or Our Highest Self or All That Is or Mystery or Nature. I believe that we have each experienced that sort of deep awe that connects us to something beyond our ego selves. It is in remembrance of those times of deep awe I retreat in thanksgiving. And it is with remembrance of that deep awe that I return to Facebook, knowing that each of our experiences, no matter how seemingly big or magnificent or small or simple or sweet or harsh or ugly or sad or delightful or beautiful, is a part of the whole that is Mystery. Even those seemingly mundane “what I had for dinner” photos. And those celebratory “look where I’ve been” or “look who I am” photos. They are all experienced on holy ground. Each message is a from a living person who is searching for connection. For meaning. For purpose. Just like me.



ImageI love it when a book that has been sitting on my shelf for awhile, unread, seems suddenly to announce that its time has now come. “Read ME. Read ME”, it announces. And so I do. Sometimes it’s a dead end road, but at other times, like last night, the message is right on. 

It was icy here last night when I went to get in the car after open studio. I tested the slickness of the sidewalk with the toe of my shoe. Yup. Treacherous! So I decided to stay over in the dorm (nice perk of having a dorm!). 

A conversation with a friend earlier in the week had made me think of a book that I had stashed on a shelf a few years ago. I hadn’t taken the time to search it out as it was one of those weeks. But, suddenly, here was the time. Since I hadn’t packed a suitcase I just brushed my teeth with the extra supplies that I keep at the Center and crawled into bed with my clothes on. Comfy. Feeling slightly defiant like a 12-year old refusing to get ready for bed. 

The book, Leap! What Will We Do with the Rest of Our Lives?, by Sara Davidson (2007), is a Reflection from the Boomer Generation. Seems that there is a minefield of change, adjustment and surrender that confronts all of us who are at the stage of transitioning into … or embracing … the third era of our lives. We choose to call it different things depending on our mindset. But I like to think of it as third act, a third act in an age when fourth acts are becoming possible, when wisdom suggests that there are still surprises and possibilities, and when experience tells us that there is still much to learn, 

The book is full of the stories that Sara gleaned from her numerous interviews with people, rich, famous and unknown, who are considered to be Baby Boomers – born 1946 to 1964. Are you in that group? Or close? You might find this book to be very affirming.


 But now I ask, what does this have to do with creativity and making art? How does it relate to polymer clay?

 To me it does, for a lot of what we do in our classes at Maureen’s is teach techniques and skills for telling our stories, in whatever way makes sense to us. Reading books like this gives me perspective on my own life and helps me be more clear about my own path. Hopefully that all translates into more freedom to be present. To be here. To do my own work. To listen with compassion. To forgive myself when I’m less than I intend to be. To be thankful for the journey.

 And now on with the making of art!

Chicken Badger Both

Never Alone
Artwork by Maureen Carlson

This past weekend I attended a Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea workshop about Calling a Circle and Listening to Story.  Afterwards I was talking with a friend about some of the issues that came up in me during the workshop.  She asked: Why do you think that we keep ourselves small?  In answer to her question, I wrote:

For me, the question has now become, as of this moment: Why and when do I choose to SEE myself as small? 

Yesterday I wrote this story: 

Once upon a time there was a chicken just walkin’ on down the road … pecking at the seeds.  She looked into a puddle, there, just past that pile of corn that the farmer had spilled.  She thought that she was just looking at corn, but she had, indeed, looked into the puddle.  Her reflection caught her off guard, so off guard that this time she actually saw herself.  Black stripes.  White mask.  Little ears. Flat head.  She looked just like a badger.  She picked up one leg and looked at her clawed feet.  Clawed feet?  Uh huh.  Feet that turned furry right before her eyes.  She turned and looked over her shoulder at her butt, and there trailing behind her was a long, furry tale.  She reached around, picked it up and chomped down on it with her long white teeth.  Hard.  Yes.  With teeth.  And it hurt. 

She stopped.  Stood very still.  And then she claimed this new image of herself and looked back into the mirror at those black beady eyes which were so familiar. 

I thought about this when I got home, and decided that the chicken is indeed a chicken, but not just a chicken.  And she is indeed a badger.  But not just a badger.  The advantage of being both is that she can now put on either face, as long as she is free to pull out either suit as the occasion warrants.  The secret to it all is the freedom piece.  And the more that she learns and understands when it serves the Work best (yes, not her, but the Work) to be a chicken, she’ll be a chicken, and she’ll peck for seeds and cluck and be cute and funny and busy.  But when it serves the Work best to be a badger, she’ll be that.  And, sometimes, maybe, she’ll be a chicken with a long furry tale or a badger with a decided cluck and bob to her head, and that will be OK, too.  Might even keep her dancing along that edge where the mystery and the magic and the sacred dwells.   

Now, to undestand this story, it is helpful to define the word Work.  For me, Work with a capital W means that thing that fulfills one’s purpose in life.  And what occurs to me now, right now, as this is typed, is: What is the Work that will keep her (me) this focused?  This centered?  So aware of the Work that I forget to worry about how the world is seeing me?  So passionate about the Work that I’ll risk discomfort, embarrassment, disdain?  What is my assignment?  It seems important to find an answer to that question.  And to act.

I think that my work has something to do with listening to people tell/share/envision/create and inhabit their stories.  I’ll learn more about that as my own story unfolds.  

This change in thought, from concentrating on myself to concentrating on the Work, has come out of my realization that no one is small.  We have different functions and different dreams and different assignments in this world, but none of us is small.  We do, however, sometimes refuse to live out our dreams or pick up our assignments or turn them in on time.  And we have differing amounts of influence and power.  I believe that influence and power are material goods, though.  They are bought, sold, earned, shared, gifted and taken.  But they are just material goods.  They are transient.  Temporary.  Borrowed.  They do not affect how big or small the story is or how big or small the person is. Being big or small is a spiritual attitude that comes from inside.  

I can’t make myself small, but I can act as if I were, and I can make myself invisible.  I can act as if I have no right to be in a given situation.  I can stumble over my own ego and get wrapped up in comparing myself or my accomplishments with others.  What, I think, will bring me back to center, is to remember what Work it is that I am called to do, and then to focus on that Work  What’s intriguing, really intriguing, is to begin to understand that each person’s Work is equally important.  Now that’s a pretty elusive thing to wrap my brain around, but I’m starting to get it.

A book that goes along with these thoughts is the Tolstoy story of the Three Questions that was told and illustrated as a chidren’s book.  You can find info at:


 The three questions are:

When is the best time to do something?
Who is the most important one?
What is the right thing to do?

I’m putting this book on my shelf as a reminder that I know this story, and that I know the one about the chicken and the badger, too.  Help me remember.

Maureen Carlson


Photo Styling by Susan Lumoto of DailyArtMuse.com

On par.  Up to par.  Is par.  At par.  Above par.  Below par.  Par.  Par was my “word of choice” for 2011.   I gave myself permission to be.  Just to be.  There were a few months there where I actually forgot what my word was, so I had to come back here to my Jan 2011 post to look it up!  That strikes me as funny, definitely a below par sense of memory there!

 But the word was in there, in my unconscious, doing its thing anyway.  Perhaps it’s a little like the riddle over what comes first, the chicken or the egg, because I’m pretty sure that I chose that word because the riddle of its meaning was already present in my life.  Now was just the time to delve into it a bit more deeply.

So, did having a word affect my approach to 2011?  Did it make a difference?  I think it did.  Not in any magical way, but just taking the time at the beginning of the year to think about what was important to me put an intention out there.

 Par is a good word in and of itself, but it is also an acronym for Playful, Authentic and Responsible.  Choosing the word “playful” gave me permission to play in a deeper, less self-conscious way.  Paying attention to being authentic meant that I looked more closely at my behavior as I peeked behind my masks.  And I definitely noticed myself stepping back and being less driven about doing things in my normal “must be perfect” way.  In fact, a lot of things I didn’t do at all!

The problem came with the word “responsible”, for that word raised lots of questions.  Responsible to whom?  And for what?  And why?  And what really mattered, anyway?  That’s the part of par that I’m still trying to figure out.  Which brings me to my word for 2012: embrace.

For me that word means moving past observing and noticing things, which I’m pretty good at, into wrapping my arms around them and engaging with them.  I looked up the definition and found words like seize, embody, accept willingly, receive gladly or eagerly, to clasp.  Hmmm.  Sounds a bit dramatic for that part of me that tends to step back and watch a while before making a commitment to action.   But here I go.

I looked through my picture files for something that embodied the word embrace.  The closest that I came was the feeling of love with which the Pippsywoggin, Winnie Viola, holds close to her bosom her cup of warm tea.  Switch that beverage to coffee and I can feel it!

Who knows, I  may even get so I LIKE the sharing of hugs at my spiritual community’s weekly gathering …

Jeff Rouse of OurStoryMn.com

Chances are that if you’re reading this blog, you’re a person who identifies with the word  “creative”.  And if so, you’ve surely had someone say to you, “It’s all in your imagination!”, as if that’s a BAD thing.  Gets old, doesn’t it?

It seems to me that the mythical place of imagination is where ideas are generated, where creativity is nurtured, where visions begin to take form and where yesterday’s magic becomes tomorrow’s routine.  The ideas that are brewed in this “land of imagination” become the events and productions and goods of tomorrow. Without imagination we’d still be copying books by hand, harnessing horses to buggies and spending a good portion of each day growing and gathering and spinning and mending.

And, to be honest, I don’t believe that would be ALL bad.   I think we are in risk of losing touch with our connection to the Land and to Source.  I am a believer in the concept of simplicity and love and face time with self and neighbor.  But I do love it that with the click of a key I can talk via email or phone with my friend Iris in Israel or Dayle in California, those wonderful grandkids in Wisconsin … or, when we’re both busy, busy, busy, my partner husband, Dan (Hi, Dan), who is at work in his office downstairs.  Imagination at work has allowed us in the 21st century to stay connected with our friends and family in ways that our immigrant grandparents never, ever experienced.

Despite my ambivalence about the results of imagination, for me, imagination is Sacred.  It is more than coming up with a beautiful sculpture or a clever rhyme.  Imagination IS the rhyme. Imagination is both sender and receiver.    The rhyme isn’t clever until our receptive energy interacts with the written word.  Sort of like how air isn’t breath until a living being takes it in and interacts with it.  For me, Imagination is the Sacred Mystery of life itself.  The spark.  The energy.  The wave and the flow and the pulse that makes us – and keeps us – alive.

So, in honor of imagination, I’d like to tell you about a remarkable Imagineer who is sparking connections here in the MidWest.  Jeff Rouse, pictured, has started a business called Our Story Minnesota.  You can see his work and that of his partner, Denise, plus their platoon of volunteers, at OurStoryMn.com .

Dan and I were fortunate to be able to spend an evening with the Our Story Minnesota people a few weeks ago when I was interviewed on their Women of Sweet Swine County program.   Yup.  Sweet Swine County, their version of down-home midwest tongue-in-cheek fun and play with a healthy dose of marketing and info sharing thrown in for good measure.

The segment that we taped isn’t yet on-line, but do go check out past offerings.  As you smile, or laugh, or grin in recognition of one of the corny jokes or clever phrasings, your receptive energy becomes part of the creative circle without which there would be less energy and less joy and less reason for any of us to get out of bed every morning.


What’s Next?


I feel blessed this AM.  Do we ever get too old to love winning a prize?  To love the unexpected gift?  To feel opened up by the generosity of another?  I don’t think so, at least I hope that I never become jaded to the sheer joy of receiving the creative offerings from fellow travelers along this journey of ours.

A few weeks ago I posted my word for the year on Susan Lumoto’s fascinating blog Daily Art Muse . Her idea was to give a forum within which people could share their word for the year, then she would pick 3 people’s words to feature in a photo styling presentation which she would then gift to them.  I love the topic, so I posted, and I won!

Here is an image that she created for me.  I love it.  Makes me smile.  Makes me laugh.  Makes me want to run along the beach, gather stones, and just see if there is a little alphabet soup factory there somewhere among the waves which throws up food for the elves.

One of Susan’s business offerings is that she’ll create personalized/customized  images such as these for people.   Sound like fun?  Check it out: Daily Art Muse