Completing Expressive Arts Teacher Training

Last August, I embarked on a 10-month Expressive Arts Teacher Training program with Chris Zydel. We completed our fourth and final retreat this past week! It’s hard to believe how fast time flies and how much has happened since the first retreat. While I was really excited to finish the training so I can bring the work out into the world, I also enjoyed getting to play with my fellow teacher trainees one last time (including a hilarious game of charades that still has me in stitches).

That’s Danielle Saunder’s paint palette above – she got creative with glitter paint barriers to prevent the watery paint from running everywhere – see we even got a kick out of our supplies!

Matchbox collages from Linda Kennedy

The amazing Linda Kennedy made each of us a unique collaged matchbox. Mine had a tiny handmade book inside of it to celebrate writing my book. I absolutely love my matchbox and it’s now part of my altar at home.


On Tuesday, I led the afternoon session and took the women on a magical journey in nature to meet their inner muse.  The weather was perfect for some frolicking in a green meadow! I picked a gorgeous peony for our altar as a beautiful reminder that our inner muse is always blooming inside of us. Facilitating the intuitive painting session was a blast and it was an honor to witness the inspiring creativity and courage that poured from paintbrush to paper. I can’t wait to lead more of these kinds of workshops soon (stay tuned for an announcement about a class or two this summer in Oakland!).

Teacher Trainees

Here are all the creative goddess graduates surrounding Chris after our lovely graduation ceremony. Sweet Chris gave us some fun goodies including our graduation certificate declaring us “Master Facilitators of Intuitive Painting and the Expressive Arts” (woohoo!). Then we dined on celebratory cheesecake!

Intuitive Painting

On the last day, we did our completion circle and talked about our painting process that week. I had worked on the same painting from the last retreat and to my surprise it continued to get bigger. This one ended up being 32 sheets of paper – my biggest one yet! I was already straining to reach the top panels, so when I knew I needed to add more paper (the red creature was just begging to materialize!), I had to ask for help to lower the bottom part to the floor. The painting process continues to show me that my edges involve stepping into bigness, finding ways to make things work despite challenges that come with my ambitious drive and desire to keep pushing the envelope, asking for help (without feeling like I’m imposing), and following/trusting/listening to my inner muse.

Intuitive Painting

Each painting is special in its own way and I really enjoyed the playfulness that showed up in this one. I grew quite fond of my cannon turned pink elephant blowing glitter snot. I’m always amazed at the crazy creatures that emerge from the world of my imagination!

Chris Zydel and Jennifer Lee

And here I am with the wonderful Chris who is so full of love and generosity. I’m thankful for her guidance throughout this training and for the special magic she brings to the intuitive painting process.

I loved gaining a deeper, more intimate understanding of intuitive painting and expressive arts and appreciated developing more skills to facilitate this internal creative journey for myself and others. The biggest take-away for me, though, was fully owning and embodying leadership from the get-go. After having done CTI’s leadership program back in 2004, it was super empowering for me to experience how much I’ve stepped into leadership since then. Just like being face-to-face with my paintings has helped me to see myself in new ways, participating in this program has helped me to see how much I’ve grown and continue to grow as a leader and a creative being. I continue to be in awe of how the creative process provides such valuable insight and opportunity for self-development. What a gift! Here’s to more painting!

Day 1 of Expressive Arts Teacher Training


Today was the first full day of the Wild Heart Expressive Arts Teacher Training Program with Chris Zydel and seven other wonderful women. There’s so much to share and process (just on Day 1).  More to come on that later.  For now I’ll just include a few pictures to set the scene.


Here’s a peek into part of the portable studio that another student and I helped Chris set up yesterday afternoon.  There are large cardboard easels throughout the entire room.


Plenty of colorful paint to choose from.  I loved opening up several brand new bottles – so satisfying!


We’re staying at the Mountain Home Ranch in Calistoga.  I was actually here before about 4 years ago for another retreat which was quite challenging for me, so it’s been interesting to be back here with a new perspective.  I know there’s lots of learning in looking at how far I’ve come since then and how differently I’m showing up now.  There’s definitely more to write on that later!


It’s funny to hear the cows mooing while we’re in the painting studio.  A great reminder about how expressive sound can be!


And I just love this huge dog.  I can’t believe her name is Jessica.

Gotta get ready for another intense day tomorrow and I’m hoping that I can finally get a good night’s sleep!

BTW – Yes, my painting did get even larger today!

Action + Vision = A Positive Difference

Last night I read this quote from Joel Barker to my Incubator group, “Vision without action is a dream.  Action without vision is simply passing the time.  Action with Vision is making a positive difference.”  We talked about how important it is to have a clear vision of where you’re headed and how that vision makes it easier to continue moving forward with focused action even when times are challenging.

One of my dearest friends, Brighid, exemplifies how action with vision makes a positive difference.  As an avid advocate for mental health, she founded the non-profit Cheryl’s Dreaming Big to shed light on mental illness.  Through theatre performances, sharing personal stories and facilitating dialogue, CDB is breaking the stigma of mental illness, generating awareness and having a positive impact in schools and communities in the Chicago area.

The other day, I watched the Cheryl’s Dreaming Big video above.  I was so inspired to see Brighid’s vision come to life in such a profound way.  A couple of years ago, I co-designed and co-led a CDB leadership program with Brighid.  I learned so much through partnering with her and being a part of CDB.  I learned how mental illness can impact people when it’s not addressed openly. I learned that there’s such a spectrum of mental illness and that there are probably times when many of us, myself included, have danced at the edge.  I learned to have deeper compassion for those who struggle with mental health challenges.  I also learned the power of having a big dream and mobilizing people to take action and create positive change.

I can’t wait to see Brighid’s vision for mental health awareness and education spread across the country and the world.  She is truly an amazing person up to amazing things!

The Anatomy of Peace

A few months ago, I was working with a client using some of the concepts from the powerful parable Leadership and Self-Deception.  He valued the learnings so much that he looked into Arbinger’s second and equally-profound book, The Anatomy of Peace, which I recently checked out.

The Anatomy of Peace paints a poignant and engaging picture of how we unwittingly create conflict.  And how we can resolve that conflict on an individual and even global level, which is very timely given the challenges our society currently faces.  The key lies in how we “be” more so than what we “do.”  You can read an excerpt from the book on the Arbinger Institute site.

When our heart is a peace we see others as people who have hopes and fears just like we do.  From this place of being, we naturally have a sense/desire to help or extend ourselves to others. When we betray that sense, we then see the other person as an object as we find ways to justify the fact that we went against our urge to help.  We put ourselves in the box and our heart goes to war, creating a vicious cycle of blaming and self-justification.

I realized that recently my heart was at war with my husband, Brian – poor guy!   He took last week off for a “staycation” (a.k.a. – a vacation at home).  I had all these thoughts about spending time with him, but I ended up choosing to work a lot instead. I spun into a “better-than-box” of “I am just sooooo busy” and an “I-deserve-box” of “Gee, don’t I get a break, too?!!!”  I thought, how could he be laying on the couch reading when there was so much stuff to do?  It was not pretty and made it difficult to enjoy our time together for part of the week.  It’s a rather mundane example, yet it can be those day-to-day triggers that build up and lead to more significant discord.

The Peacemaking Pyramid depicted in the book shows that we must spend more time helping things go right (starting with a heart at peace) rather than dealing with things that are going wrong (i.e., correcting the other person).  I mean really, how can I “correct” something that probably isn’t “wrong” in the first place.  Of course it’s just “wrong” in my mind because then that makes me “right.”  So, just by noticing I was “in the box” toward him, I was able to be in relationship with him as a person again.  Get out of the box and come from a place of peace.  It sounds simple, and it is.  AND the challenge is continuing to choose to stay out of the box.  Awareness obviously helps, as does practice.

I highly recommend both books to help with individual relationships as well as group dynamics.  And I also highly recommend The Coaches Training Institute’s Leadership Program (where I first came across Leadership and Self-Deception).  Check out their new video.  You’ll see that much of the program is about the “being” of a leader and coming from a heart of love and peace.

What do you notice about being in the box versus out of the box toward other people?  What happens when you come from a heart at peace rather than a heart at war?

Swimming with the Sharks

This week is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.  I, like many others who watched Jaws at a tender age, am scared to death of sharks.  In honor of Shark Week, Larry Olson of the J.O.B. radio dedicated a whole show to this theme.  So, I dove into the waters of radio once again, this time being interviewed by Larry on leadership and how to swim with sharks in the office space.

Happy Unbirthday

For some reason, Plaxo thought today was my birthday.  Colleagues sent me birthday wishes and e-cards.  It was pretty cool to have an extended celebration!  My actual birthday was on Tuesday.  I enjoyed my day by taking the afternoon off, hanging out with my friend Kate (who gave me the lovely orchid pictured above), going to yoga, having a white chocolate dream at Bittersweet and then Brian took me out for a nice dinner in Berkeley.  I also started off my b-day by writing what I’m grateful for on a card for my blessings box and what I hope for the coming year on another card for my wish box.

What I loved about getting the second round of birthday wishes on my unbirthday is that it reminded me of something one of the leaders in my leadership program talked about.  He mentioned that growth is the process of constantly being shattered and reborn.  So in effect, everyday and every moment is our birthday.  At any given instant, we have the opportunity to shed the old and embrace the new.   So, Happy Birthday to you, too!

Living “On Quest”

Last weekend I was in Toronto as a Circle Coach for Quest, The Coaches Training Institute’s latest leadership program. In three days, it’s amazing to see the transformations that occur and the quests that participants have embarked on!

The concept of a quest is rooted in Joseph Campbell’s model The Hero’s Journey. In his research of ancient myths, Campbell articulated the shared path of ordinary people being called forth to do extraordinary things. Below is a great video that uses one of my favorite movies, The Matrix, to illustrate the steps of the hero’s journey.

Quests can be as grand as saving the planet or as close-to-home as creating shared community in your neighborhood. What’s most important is that the quest comes from your essence and that it’s making a positive impact on others. In your life you’ve probably had and will have many quests. Don’t get trapped into feeling like you must search for the one perfect quest that defines your life purpose.

A key to living “on quest” is to stay engaged and in action around your quest (even when you’re up against challenges, rejection and doubt). One of my quests is to create an Expressive Arts Coaching community. So, earlier this year Jamie and I submitted a proposal to present our perspectives on this emerging field. We were disappointed that we didn’t get selected AND it didn’t stop me from submitting another proposal for a new opportunity to speak next month. Living “on quest” means staying in it, course correcting, asking for help and celebrating your steps along the way.

One of the things that helps me stay “on quest” is to connect with other questers. I get energized witnessing others making a positive impact and showing up so fully in their essence. One of those inspiring questers is Doug Somers who is spearheading The Hero’s Journey Project, a collaborative initiative to create musical accompaniment for the hero’s journey. Take a listen! These magical songs will no doubt move you in your quest! And this week I heard from another amazing quester who just signed a book deal to write about creative women entrepreneurs. Exciting stuff is happening!! I can’t wait to see how the Toronto questers’ quests unfold!

What quest(s) are you being called to do? What will keep you living “on quest?”

London Calling

At the end of April I took a short trip to London to visit with four of my dear friends from my leadership tribe. It had been about three and a half years since we were all together, so we were thrilled to have a mini-reunion.


The four bellas – a radiantly pregnant Tina, Lisa, me and Fiona – were happy to be together. We have been connecting off and on on the phone over the past several years and it’s always like a breath of fresh air when we’re all together. Fiona, being the fabulous idea generator that she is came up with a “development day” concept where each of us got time to share what was going on in our lives and get support, coaching, insights and feedback. Pretty awesome considering we’re all trained coaches who care deeply about each other!


Beks‘ son Callum and Fiona’s son Pierre meet for the first time. Too cute!


A gorgeous view from Richmond Park where we spent a warm, sunny afternoon with the boys.


All five of us together before heading out to dinner at a delicious Turkish restaurant.


An afternoon at Petersham Nurseries.


We dined on yummy sweet potato and ginger soup in the lovely Petersham Nurseries greenhouse. Just heavenly!


A view of the Thames from the Petersham Hotel where we enjoyed high tea complete with finger sandwiches sans crusts and scones with clotted cream. A table near us had a group of gray-haired well-dressed women and we joked that that would be us forty years from now at one of our future reunions! I love to think of us continuing to make time to connect like that. These women are such an important part of my life and we have seen each other through lots of growth and transition. I am so glad I said yes to this spontaneous trip to spend time with dear friends.

Questers, Dreamers and Launchers


The past 10 days have been a whirlwind of excitement, connection, fulfillment and fun! I visited Washington DC to be a Circle Coach for Quest, returned home to lead a dream box workshop at It’s Yoga and then flew out to Cleveland for our Ladies Who Launch leader training. I had a great time at all the different events. And this weary traveler is happy to be home (where it’s not snowing!).

Quest was amazing. What an honor to help shepherd our Questers on their journey of discovering their leadership essence and taking action on their inspiring Quests. I look forward to seeing how they each continue to make their unique impact on the world!


The icing on the cake was meeting up with my friends John and Marie last Saturday night in DC. I hadn’t seen John in about three years and this was my first time meeting Marie in person. What a treat!

Had one day back home to make dream boxes with the yoga teacher trainers including students from Mexico, Israel, Japan and all across the US. I’m always so moved by what the participants dream of and create!


Next up, Cleveland! On our first day there, Launy, Corinne and I ventured to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m no music buff, so much of the paraphernalia was beyond me. But I did get a kick out of seeing a letter that Madonna wrote to a friend while she was at the University of Michigan, Jim Morrison’s report cards from grade school and drawings that Jimi Hendrix did as a kid.


California girls Launy, me, Corinne and Claire braving the snow. It was so much fun to be at the training with these smart, savvy gals. And we’re so excited to bring all our launching energy back to our fellow Bay Area launchers.


Oh, and I just had to take a picture of the infamous chocolate cake that magically appeared after every meal. Good thing we had yoga class Friday morning to work off such decadence.


And finally, a beautiful shot of all 14 leaders in training from across the US and Canada along with our awesome trainer Stella. What an amazing group of women!

The Creative Connection – AEDM Day 15


In the half hour before leading a call today about Expressive Arts Coaching, a wave of anxiety came over me. Gremlins were hard at work grilling me… “What makes you think you can talk about this or that anyone would be interested in what you have to say? Do you even know what you’re going to say?!” and on and on.

Instead of getting sucked into the fear, I allowed myself to express it on paper in the form of colors and lines – a way to be with it, honor it and release it and, in fact, practice an exercise I was about to take the participants through on the call. I scribbled the nervousness and doubt and then did some movement around it. I then wrote the words “angst, confusion, scared/pit of stomach” on the back of the drawing.

Flipping the paper over again and looking at it anew I saw, instead of inner turmoil, a glowing fire with sparks flying. I laughed to myself realizing that we titled the call Firing up Coaching with Expressive Arts.


My perspective shifted to see my fear as passion and excitement as I stepped into something new and invited others to play with me. The image evolved more into a celebration and I found new words to describe my experience of it, “release, passion/fire, disseminating, firing it up, sparks, flow, dynamic.”

My friend Jamie and I had been exchanging e-mails this week about Natalie Roger’s book “The Creative Connection” and her concept of using the interplay of creative modalities like visual art, dance and poetry to deepen our experience and self-exploration. How each medium builds on the other and gives us new perspectives. This was so helpful for getting me in the right space to lead the call. And when we did the exercise together as a group, it was fun and enlivening for all. I’m excited about the community that’s gathering around this idea of consciously weaving expressive arts into coaching to move ourselves and our clients forward.


Also had my last session of the felted baskets class tonight. I still need to finish decreasing and then of course, try my hand at felting. I can’t wait to see what the end product looks like!

[tags]National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo, Art Every Day Month, expressive arts coaching, art visioning, coaching, knitting[/tags]