Finding Community in New Places: Hanuman Yoga and Music Festival, Boulder, CO

This woman is no island.  As I travel, I crave social interaction, but try to do so consciously-not just searching for a friend to share a beer, but to find those folks who truly enrich my life.

I write about this subject as a guest blogger for Hanuman Yoga and Music Festival:

New Year’s Resolutions and Sides of Ranch: Back to Work in Estes Park, CO

I have been back at work for two weeks. Already, I find the ugly demons of Stress and Impatience rearing their gnarled heads in my day to day life. A month ago, I made many phone calls to set up my schedule the best I could before I came back.  Thinking I could be in control from the get go….believing I left Stress and Impatience behind.

I arrived in Colorado, my home base, 16 days ago. Just like last season, I began work as a server at two restaurants, started teaching a weekly yoga class and put myself on the call list to guide hiking and snow shoe trips in Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition to all of this, I write copy (blog posts, how to articles and catalog copy) a few hours a week.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein

Just before I left for Hawaii, I attended a yoga class on New Year’s Day that was sacred for me. I used the movement of my body as a prayer to seal my intention of living my life more in balance in 2012. On January 1, 2012, I thanked Stress and Impatience for their service and asked them to leave. Last time I saw them, they were flailing and alone on my yoga mat.  Now they are sending me flowers and cards, asking me to take them back.

Stress and Impatience did serve me in 2011 just as I asked them to. I built the largest savings account I have ever had.  This was good.  Unfortunately, I also developed habits that were unhealthy for my body.  My compassion for myself and others dwindled to disgusting lows.

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity said: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

To some of you who are familiar with my life and the blog, the above quote may be confusing.

“Doesn’t Kaci just la-ti-da off to anywhere she pleases?” You might ask.

Why, yes, sometimes I do. And yes, I la-ti-da more than most, but what most people do does not serve as a model way for me to live my life.  I am interested in my personal journey-defining and practicing the way I believe is the best way for me. I am not here to do as most or get in line. I am here to live my highest life. How else can I celebrate this beautiful existence? How else can I give gratitude, but in living in joy?

I am not suggesting that I should quit working. I mostly enjoy the unique, vivid people I work with and for. At our best, we create a family-like bond, supporting one another through our strengths and weaknesses. We give each other room to learn lessons and look past blunders. Personally, work allows me to examine my own strengths and weaknesses.  While working, I can examine the the width of the chasm between my ego and my highest self.  I can see how they can work together and also how they tear each other apart.

During my trips in the past few years, I have learned to value having a purpose. What I am speaking to is Right Purpose or Right Work. Can I find Right Purpose by merely having an attitude adjustment in my current situation? Should I focus on creating a schedule that allows me to do more of the work I love?

I’m not sure of the answer, but I am sure that I can no longer work only as an act of worship to this God called Money. As soon as I am short with J or find myself wide awake at 4 a.m., a black snake of fear slithers up from my belly into my throat. I know where I have been. I know that last year I carelessly placed myself at the altar of Security and said, “Take me. I’m yours.”

Sometimes, I think I write this blog post mostly as a pep talk to myself. As if I need to remind myself that I have the right to control my life.  Sometimes, I think I write this post in hopes that others out there can relate to my struggle on some level and maybe offer up some wisdom or a simple “me too.”

But really, why should the notion that I control my own life with balance and peace rather than dollars and cents be so preposterous?

Artist-in-Residence at South Verde High: Camp Verde, AZ

“Ms.  Joan, I think I’ve decided on the figures for my mural,”  Marco says.

“Don’t tell me about your mural.  Show me,” Ms. Joan replies with a kind  but firm smile.

By the way she emphasizes “show” I deduce that she has used this phrase several times.  Joan Bourque is the artist-in-residence at South Verde High School for the 2011-2012 school year.  This year is her first at South Verde.

South Verde High School is a charter school located in Camp Verde, Arizona.  To simply write that the school is diverse would grossly undercut the uniqueness of the student population.  For the purpose of giving you perspective:

  • Students are primarily of Native American, White Non-Hispanic and Hispanic descent.
  • Many students are young parents and their children have the option to attend the Early Childhood Education Center offered by South Verde High.
  • Several students live on the Yavapai-Apache Reservation.
  • Some students live with foster parents and are or have been separated from their siblings.
  • Many students have taken extended absences from attending school.
  • 100% of the students are individuals with distinct thoughts and opinions.  Though not everyone has exerted themselves as a leader, not one of them is a follower.

Steve King, the principal of South Verde High, approached Joan last year about becoming the artist in residence at South Verde.  Joan’s work in other schools has been to create a mural with mandatory participation from all students.  She assumed the work at South Verde would be the same.

“When I brought up the idea to Steve, he told me, ‘That’s not how we do things here’,” Joan says.

Initially, they planned to paint a mural on the outside of the building.  However, the building owner did not grant permission for the project on the exterior.  Without missing a beat, Joan and Steve decided to allow the students to paint individual murals inside the school.  Today, students are hard at work creating murals in classrooms and offices.

“We started with three students who wanted to paint.  Once the other students saw the work being done, they volunteered to create a mural of their own.  We now have approximately 15 students working on murals,”  Joan says.

Before Joan arrived, there was no art program at the school.  In fact, when I asked around, some students told me they have had no previous art classes.  The quality of the murals is a testament both to Joan’s guidance and the students’ perseverance.  Joan works with each student, helping the individual to hone in on their vision and create it on paper.  Rather than projecting the mural onto the wall and allowing the students to fill it in, Joan teaches students how to create a grid and use the grid to expand the image onto the wall.  Using the grid incorporates math principles.

Of course, Joan only suggests the way students might create their murals.  How they actually draft the mural on paper and paint it onto the wall is up to them.  Some students have chosen not to use grids and to freehand their mural.

One student discovered that his mural “was not working.”  He had created a rough sketch and thought the mural would take better shape on the wall.  Joan was delighted to hear him admit that the mural was not working.

“This is the statement of a true artist.  I told him there are no mistakes,”  Joan says.

Joan gave him some assistance.  Currently, he is reworking the mural on paper.

The content and style of the murals are as diverse and unique as the students of South Verde.

“The word of the week when I came to the school was ‘provacative’,”  Joan says.  “I think that word embodies the work the students have done.”

This year, Joan is paid out of funds from the school district.  Steve applied for a grant from the Arizona Commission of the Arts to fund Joan’s stay as artist-in-residence for the 2012-2013 school year.

“My hope is the students creating murals this year can mentor next year’s incoming students,”  Joan told me.