Greetings to all you wondrous creatives,

We have dipped our toes into the waters of 2019 with a whole new year spreading out before us like a blank canvas of magical possibility.

But I often forget that at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere we are still firmly ensconced in winter, which means the days are short and sunlight has made itself scarce. Our bodies crave warmth and rest and a slower pace. And our hearts and minds are still more focused internally than on the demands of the outer world.

So even though there is a collective focus on planning and creating with an expectation that we should be feeling excited about manifesting this unfolding future right NOW, I’m noticing that what’s authentic for me is spending time going through a review process of the year known as 2018.

And I wanted to share that review process with you and invite you to honor where your own rhythms are taking you right now.

RIDING THE WINDS OF CHANGE

When 2018 began I was still reeling from the devastating losses of my two beloved and primary retreat centers, The Ghost Ranch Conference Center and The Mountain Home Ranch Resort, where I had been offering my Wild Heart Painting retreats and my Wild Heart Expressive Arts Teacher Training Program for many, many years.

So even though it felt like I was neck deep in the process of grieving, and a big part of me wanted to simply crawl into a cave somewhere for a long while, I had to keep moving as I still had retreats and trainings to facilitate and lead. I was incredibly fortunate and extremely grateful to have Bodega Sky Ranch literally fall in my lap as a place to continue to do my work. And in 2018 I facilitated 6 intuitive painting workshops there.

There were some initial bugs to work out, just like there would be with any new place. And some of the things that were challenging in the beginning now feel like wonderful additions to our retreat process.

For example, both Ghost Ranch and Mountain Home are large retreat centers that had staff on hand that we could call on if a toilet backed up, a light bulb burned out or a window wouldn’t close. But at Bodega Sky we have to take care of those minor emergencies on our own.

However, because of their size they could also house a LOT of people. And we often had to share the public spaces, like the dining hall, cafeteria, swimming pool and hiking trails with a bunch of people we didn’t know. But at Bodega Sky we have the WHOLE place to ourselves which means there is a sense of spaciousness and stillness and silence that gets created and that opens folks up to those places of spacious, still, silence in themselves. And it actually leads to a greater level of relaxation for us as facilitators because we don’t have the wild card element of having to deal with people who are NOT part of our retreat.

The lodging options at Mountain Home and Ghost Ranch included the potential of having a cabin or casita to yourself. And that sense of intense privacy was something I had always valued as a positive thing. And was sorry to lose.

But those cabins had some physical distance between them and the public retreat spaces like the painting studios and the kitchen. Which meant that you could REALLY separate yourself from the group in a big way if you wanted to.

At Bodega Sky you CAN have your own private room, but all the rooms are part of a HUGE rambling house which makes the group feel like one big family and facilitates a much deeper sense of intimacy and community between the participants. People connect more easily and spend more time congregating in the public spaces, like the kitchen and dining room, where there are opportunities for chatting and storytelling that often leads to a fair amount of giggling, snorting and pants-peeing laughter.

Some things I learned:

Change is hard, but trust the process.

Just because you’re attached to something doesn’t mean that it’s the BEST thing.

Sometimes we outgrow things, places and ways of doing things without even realizing it.

CREATIVITY UNBOUND

It truly surprised me, given all the grief I was dealing with, but 2018 was also a year of brand new creative energy and a TON of new things entered my world last year.

For example, I began my teacher training program over 10 years ago in 2008 and this coming February I will graduate my TWELFTH group of Wild Heart teachers with another round of training beginning in May.

I love that program with my whole heart and soul. And the structure was good and solid. But by the end of 2017 I was itching to bring some new energy and new life into the program and I did that by reworking all of the modules and adding a LOT of fresh content. Which meant I was writing my ass off and downloading ideas like a house on fire.

I have created a wonderfully comprehensive teacher training manual that I give to my students in the program that is filled with all kinds of practical and inspirational articles about intuitive painting, the expressive arts process, working with students, facilitating groups and how to turn this work into a thriving business. And that manual it is now over 450 pages long. Which is kind of crazy and very satisfying. And I must say I’m rather impressed with myself.

Last summer my muse also got VERY excited about offering a brand new workshop I called Women, Painting and Power, which included writing and movement exercises designed to explore the true meaning of divine feminine power as a positive life giving force. As well as looking at what gets in the WAY of women’s relationship with their innate power. In addition to the writing and movement we also did tons of intuitive painting that helped the participants integrate and go deeper with what they were exploring emotionally and psychologically through making visual art.

My muse was very clear that she wanted me to schedule this workshop in early October. So since I learned long ago to ignore her at my own peril I did what she told me to do and set the retreat for those dates. The Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the brave testimony of Christine Blasey Ford had synchronistically happened a few days before the workshop began. And that event was galvanizing women all over to tell the truth about ways they had been sexually abused and exploited in their lives.

So something that spontaneously happened at the Women, Painting and Power retreat was an evening sharing circle that turned into a two and a half hour soul healing, truth telling, heart opening, power reclaiming extravaganza of radical honesty and bone deep courage as women took turns telling stories of fear and shame and triumph that many had never told before.

It was a beautifully awe inspiring experience of the power of art, community, a creative circle and being seen and held with respect and love to heal even the most grievous of emotional wounds.

And it gave me a whole other level of trust and respect in the wisdom of my muse to plan my events.

In December my husband and creative partner Tim and I developed a whole OTHER new workshop we called Painting The Invisible: Exploring the Outer Reaches Of Inner Space. And we had so much fun taking people on various journeys into expanded and altered state experiences using the expressive arts.

We created meditations, had people moving their bodies in all sorts of wild and unpredictable ways, developed writing exercises designed to confuse and enchant the left brain and took everyone on a sound bath meditation journey where Tim and I played drums and rattles, singing bowls and flutes, chimes and gongs in a tapestry of sound that opened the portal into the multi-dimensional realms. And then of course, taking all of those altered state experiences and bringing them into the studio and the intuitive painting process.

Half way through the weekend I knew the workshop was a success when one of my students said to me “ Talk about being in an altered state. I feel absolutely STONED right now. I’m just glad I’m not driving.”

Some things I learned:

Creativity heals

Trust your muse. She’s often wiser and smarter than you are.

The death-rebirth process is a REAL thing. And when something dies it truly does open the way for something else to be born.

There is no such thing as the end. There’s only diverging paths on the journey that lead you to places you’ve never been before.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the changes I went through last year. But these are definitely the highlights. And going through this process has inspired and intrigued me about what magic and mystery 2019 will bring.

From my wild heart to yours,

Chris

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