Saturday, July 2, 2016

Daily Inspirational Quote for July 2, 2016

“Some things have to be believed to be seen.”

Belief is something wonderful we can gift to ourselves. When we truly believe, it’s as if a veil has been lifted from our eyes and we are able to see more clearly. However, it’s up to each and every one of us to realize there is a veil there in the first place and then work to remove it or brush it aside. This also gives us the ability to “see” perhaps only with our mind’s eye, the wonderful, magical and inspiring people or places in spirit form we would never be able to see with the naked eye.


Art & Healing: Katherine Sherwood

UC Berkeley art professor, Katherine Sherwood suffered a serious cerebral hemorrhage paralyzing her right side. Impatient with the slowness of rehabilitation therapy, she decided to go back into the studio and try painting using her left hand. It turned out to be the most effective therapy she could have imagined. And her painting, many agreed, had become better than ever. As she says, "I strongly agree with Oliver Sachs that having a disability, a severe illness, reveals creative parts that you hadn't known before."

by Richard Whittaker

Katherine Sherwood has been on the art faculty at the University of California at Berkeley for many years. Hers is a remarkable story. Having first studied art history, Sherwood found her way into a studio practice and became a painter. Her work was being noticed in the Bay Area when she suffered a serious cerebral hemorrhage paralyzing her right side. Impatient with the slowness of rehabilitation therapy, she decided to go back into the studio and try to paint, having to use her left hand. The return to painting turned out to be the most healing therapy she could have imagined. She was soon painting again in earnest and, as many agreed, her work had become better than ever before.
     She continues to teach at UC Berkeley in the Art Department, and now in the Disability Studies Program where she teaches Art, Medicine & Disability and Art & Meditation.
     Meeting at her studio for the interview, I was reminded again of the special pleasure of studio visits.

Richard Whittaker:  It’s such a different experience to look at an artist’s work in her studio.

Katherine Sherwood:  The paintings develop as a family and they’re so close together in this space. They animate the space in a much different way than when they’re taken out of this context and put into a gallery setting.

RW:  In a gallery, of course, art works become commodities. I think that’s the reason I’m less receptive to the art in galleries. I imagine you’ve thought about this, the commodity aspect.

KS:  For twenty years. But you know, in respect to the studio it is an extremely private space and I wouldn’t want people to view the art in the studio. I’m feeling strongly about both situations. When you mentioned the part about commodity I thought about more public spaces like a museum, and that’s about commodities too.

RW:  What is the idea of an art museum, anyway?

KS:  In the modern era I think it’s been almost going to some sort of religious place to see art.

RW:  I know it’s implicit that going to a museum is supposed “to be good for you.” But from the point of view of the curators, critics and theorists and so forth, I don’t get any connection with the religious.

KS:  That’s probably my projection of it, because it’s been that way for me for a long time, I’d say. I found that especially when I lived in New York and was constantly going to museums there, the Met and the Frick, I was going to a very quiet place just to look. The religious aspect is probably just my associating this with the art viewing experience.

RW:  It seems there’s something very right about the association you’re describing, the possibility where art and religion approach each other. What I don’t see is that the art world supports that.

KS:  I would agree with you on that.

RW:  What interests you right now?

KS:  What’s really interesting to me now is that I’m preparing to teach a class in the fall called “Art, Medicine and Disability.” I’m trying to locate that specific territory where those three concepts are best described by visual art. I’m trying to look at how visual artists have responded to illness and disability.
     There’s a whole range of things I’m trying to work out in looking at art from different cultures that specifically have to do with healing. For instance I’m looking at the 16th century Blue Beryl Treatise in the Tibetan art tradition. This explains every bit of their system, all the herbs, the different kinds of states that each part of the body can be in—it’s just fascinating. I’m also trying to look through the lens of disability at a few modern art historical subjects. For instance, Toulouse Latrec as a disabled artist. Also at how Monet, Manet and Matisse grew old. For instance, looking at the work Monet did at the end of his life when he was almost blind. I love those paintings. I think they’re the best of the whole body of his work.

RW:  Can you describe that work for me just briefly?

KS:  They were at Giverny—of the lily pads—but were so abstract because he could hardly see anymore. To me, they were the true predecessors of artists like Pollock. Even though Monet wasn’t proclaiming abstraction the way Kandinsky did, I feel he really led the way with those paintings.
     About half of the class will be looking at contemporary artists like Hannah Wilke who had cancer and made art about it. I’m going to look at developmentally disabled artists and mental health patients who were artists. I’m also going to look at art brut in that context.

RW:  What is it in this area that intrigues you?

KS:  Well, it’s from my own experiences of this, and from making art out of those experiences.

RW:  You’ve had a stroke.

KS:  A cerebral hemorrhage. A friend of mine in the English department at Cal [University of California at Berkeley] is the presidential chair of disability studies. She approached me about a year after I had returned to teaching and asked if I would be on the Disabilities Studies Board of Advisors. It’s a new program. I agreed and went to a few meetings and it became clear that because of my art historical background and because I had been interested in a lot of these artists before I had the stroke, that it was a good fit .

RW:  The word “disability.” I’m guessing there is another side, maybe the opening of some ability. Right with this disability there may be something that becomes accessible. Would you say so?

KS:  I definitely believe that when, for whatever reason, you’re denied access to a certain part, then you will have that equal part show up in another place. I also strongly agree with Oliver Sachs that having a disability, a severe illness, reveals creative parts that you hadn’t known before. But I will also say that I just believe it’s part of a big continuum. What do you think of when you think of the word “disability”?

RW:  I hardly think about it, first of all. I think I take it just on the surface, a person in a wheel chair, some physical problem that makes it apparent their physical capacities are not like mine, or a mental condition, a brain function problem, but to be honest, I haven’t thought about it.

KS:  I don’t think it’s the greatest word to describe what’s going on. “Disability” has a “dis” in it right away. So that you are thinking of the negative aspect right away. There should be a one syllable word like “race” or “sex” to describe that.

RW:  I guess what I’m asking about has to do with your art making. What is it that you’ve found in art making that has moved you to become an artist in the first place?

KS:  At around 25 years of age I started realizing that making art made me exceedingly happy. That’s been the case ever since, for almost 25 years. I was so happy to merely change hands after I had the stroke instead of giving up my avocation.

RW:  How did it happen that you took up art at the age of 25?

KS:  It actually started a few years before, but that’s when I decided I would pursue being an artist. It happened because I was an art historian in college and I had to take some art classes for that major where I found myself enjoying the making of the art much more than studying art history.

RW:  You mentioned earlier that you wouldn’t want people to see your art here in your studio, that it’s such a private space, and there’s something about the privacy of art making, that’s…

KS:  That’s very essential for me. I long for that solitude that I can get in the studio.

RW:  Is there anything more you can say about that?

KS:  For me, that’s where art is made. I love the fact that I get to go into my studio and work by myself.

RW:  As you said, you discovered that making art made you happy…and that is still true.

KS:  Yes.

RW:  That is a very big thing somehow.

KS:  I will say that before I had the stroke, my studio practice was fraught with struggle. I never thought, “I’m having so much difficulty,” but it was a constant thing that I would have ups and downs. Since the stroke, I don’t quite have the ups and downs. I know what I want to do and I don’t have long intellectual quibbles about it.

RW:  You used to?

KS:  Yes.

RW:  Those intellectual quibbles. Where do you think they may have come from?

KS:  I think they came from being an artist in New York and growing up through the 80’s and seeing what happened in the early 80’s, seeing the over-intellectualization of theory and how, in a way, that became the subject of art. And then coming to the university which highly valued that intellectual display and undervalued the artistic display.

RW:  Is that still—you’re in the university—has the atmosphere changed at all in the university in terms of the place the intellectual theory holds?

KS:  Our department and the art history department split up twenty years ago. That split is more evident in my institution than it would be in others.

RW:  I have the impression that somewhere, maybe in the 60’s, there was a shift in the art world so that the gate keepers of art meaning became non-artists.

KS:  My sense is that that happened much more in the 80’s although it may have began in the 60’s.

RW:  Do you have a sense of where that might be today?

KS:  I don’t. To be truthful, all that stuff doesn’t really matter to me anymore. I had such cognitive damage from the cerebral hemorrhage that I had to learn how to read again, how to reclaim all the art historical facts I had before the stroke. Now I don’t have the patience and I don’t have the time. It takes me a long time to read now and I really treasure reading what I choose, and it’s not that. That’s very funny for me to say because before the stroke I was a voracious reader of all art theory.

RW:  I never had much patience for a lot of it myself. Getting back to how art making was for you before the stroke and how now, it’s not so fraught—can you say anything more about that?

KS:  I don’t know what it is exactly. My experience is just much more direct than it was before. For instance I believe that my left hand is a more natural painting hand than my right hand, but my left hand couldn’t do these paintings unless it had all the years of the right-handed making.

RW:  This sidedness that people talk about—right and left brain—from this very real event that happened, you now inhabit your body…

KS:  Very differently. Some people say that because I had a left-handed cerebral hemorrhage that it shut down what is called “the interpreter” which is a part of the brain that transmits knowledge into the left hemisphere. That’s one theory for what’s happened.

RW:  When you are working, painting, how do you pick a color?

KS:  I used to paint with oil and, of course, I mixed them. To mix colors one-handed is a very hard proposition. Now I’ve tried to detoxify my process as much as possible and so I started buying latex paints, and I order my colors so I won’t have to mix them. So I decide on colors in the very early stages.

RW:  Do you have feelings about colors?

KS:  Yes.

RW:  Is it possible to say anything about that?

KS:  No, because it’s really an instinctual feeling. It’s not, “I picked blue because of this,” or “I picked yellow because of that.”

RW:  There is an instinctual feeling then.

KS:  Yes. But I’ll also say that sometimes I pick colors purely for their ugliness and then sometimes I pick colors as a symbol of the person that I’m making the painting about or the seal that I’m making the painting about.

RW:  The seal?

KS:  All these are based on King Solomon seals. They’re from a medieval text called “The Lemegeton.” All the seals represent the spirits that he harnessed to bring him his fame and fortune. So all these paintings may look like purely abstract paintings, but the lines are from me following the seals.
     There are 32 white magic seals and 32 black magic seals. I only work with the white magic seals. I began incorporating them into my art in 1994. Over the next three or four years I pretty much utilized all 32 of them. Then when I had the stroke I returned to the ones that had to do with healing and started working on one or two seals at a time. In this room I’ve been working on “Gremory” [shows me a book with diagrams of the seals] This is gremory. In that painting, [pointing] it’s on its side. In that big painting, it’s standing upright, and in this painting. The rest of these are balam[another seal]. So can you see balam in that one?[pointing] In all three of those.

RW:  Yes, I can see that now.

KS:  In this one [pointing] it’s squished all together.

RW:  Working on these seals this way, is it a form of research?

KS:  In 1993 or 94 I was invited to be in a show in Thailand and I wanted to do work that was somehow related and relevant to the Thai audience. I had experimented with the theme “luck” and so I decided I’d do all these works on paper about “luck”. At the time I lived in a loft that was above “The State of the Art Bingo Hall” in Alameda County. It was a huge hall that had video monitors every nine feet showing the ball with the number that popped up. I used to go into it because it had an ATM machine and I also walked around it because I had dogs. I started collecting all these “records of ill luck” as I called them. I did drawings on top of the bingo cards and also did a series of small 9 by 9 inch ink on paper drawings of these Solomon seals. That was the first time I had ever researched it or used it. And ever since 1994 the seals have been a dominant force in my work.

RW:  What attracted your attention to these Solomon seals?

KS:  I had a very slim pamphlet that my husband had gotten in New York in the East Village, a compendium of seals, and those Solomon seals had always been the only ones that interested me. At first, my usage of them—from ‘93 to ‘97 —was just purely aesthetic.

RW:  It had nothing to do with the mythos of Solomon, the mystery of the ancients, that sort of thing?

KS:  I knew about that, but I wasn’t about to stake a claim of efficacy about any of that. I wasn’t interested in that aspect of it.

RW:  Did you become interested at some point?

KS:  About seven months after I’d had the stroke I came back into the studio. All my art friends had wanted me to get back into the studio. They had recommended that I start by just doing drawings, but instead I wanted to go back and finish the three paintings I had begun before the stroke. So that’s what I did. My results were quite minimal. Then when I started to make paintings from scratch at that time I thought I would concentrate on one seal at a time, and just on the seals that assured you of good health.
     I discovered then that this was really the highest form of occupational therapy I could engage in. I’d had seven months of occupational therapy before. Working in this way is what made it possible for me to get well.

RW:  What do you attribute difference to, if I can ask that?

KS:  When you have a near death experience that is always life changing. I think that sums it up better than anything else I could say.

RW:  I’m intrigued by your not claiming any other relationship to these seals except as lines that held an aesthetic appeal.

KS:  That’s the way it was before the stroke, but not after the stroke.

RW:  What’s changed in your relationship?

KS:  It’s almost like before I would scientifically survey them and practice them and they were together as a group. Now that I am really grappling with one seal at a time, one seal that I make art work about for a whole year, my experience is much richer with them.

RW:  For instance, someone might speculate—I would speculate—that these seals represent something intentional. One might even speculate that these lines contain something which other things that looked similar, would not contain.

KS:  Yes. But it’s fascinating to me that I was first attracted to those seals because they didn’t carry any symbolic content that I could read, or anybody else that I knew about vs. these other kinds of seals that were clearly Christian, clearly Islamic. I chose them because they were very eccentric and the symbolic content was not known, or not easily identified. It interested me that King Solomon was someone equally revered by Christians, Islams, and Jews.

RW:  So you knew something about their background.

KS:  I did all the research, but I wasn’t emotively connected to them.

RW:  Looking back on it, is there a question about what attracted you aesthetically?

KS:  Yes. But at the same time I started using images of brains in 1990.

RW:  And so after you began painting again, your relationship to the seals changed. Would you say something about that.

KS:  There are private elements I don’t choose to talk about. In terms of having a moment of epiphany, that was not the case. I’ll simply say that I now have a very rich relationship with them.

RW:  What I think of as a King Solomon’s seal is this [drawing a six pointed star]. It can be said that this has a symbolic content. It can be seen as two triangles, one pointed up and one pointed down. Let’s say it's an old symbol. Or I could just say, “oh, it's a six pointed star.” Maybe if I spend a year with it, I would start to have some ideas about different ways to understand the meaning of this.

KS:  But I think these are more than symbolic representations than something like that [the star]. So if you’re dealing with a symbol that is like this, and like this [showing by drawing lines on paper], you don’t have a simple symbolic thing like the six pointed star.

RW:  Yes. So maybe it’s something else, as you say.

KS:  That’s why I did not choose the ones like that [the more schematic symbols]

RW:  These remind me of Chinese ideograms, stylized representations of things, like drawings in a way.

KS:  I did work from 1992 to 1993 based on The Secret of the Golden Flower, a text from 18th century China which summed up the ideas of Taoist philosophy. That was the work I had done immediately before—and with brains and perception.

RW:  There’s something about these seals that continues to be alive for you in order for you to work for a year on these.

KS:  I think that’s just the pace I want to go now. It seems to recommend itself for that amount of time.

RW:  That recommendation, is that received in the feelings.

KS:  Yes, I think it is all instinctual.

RW:  In something I read about your work it was suggested that a key interest in your work was the point of meeting between the visible and the invisible. Does that interest you.

KS:  Yes. But I didn’t suggest it.

RW:  Not one you would be moved to talk about.

KS:  No.

RW:  In reading about your work I thought there might be something in your process of working about calling something up. Does that strike you?

KS:  In the sense that I’m using the seal or imploring the seal, that could be read as calling up. I’m not opposed to that notion.

RW:  From your own experience does it correspond in any way?

KS:  Yes.

RW:  It would be calling up what the seal would be reputed to represent?

KS:  Yes. And to try to match my intention to be approximately close to that intention that that seal brings.

RW:  I gather that you have a personal interest in the religious dimension of art.

KS:  Yes.

RW:  Is that something you came to from your parents?

KS:  From a very early age I was just innately concerned with spiritual problems and spiritual existence. I can remember being six or seven and always enacting play that was based on that. And I studied it in college with art history. They were always connected; there was some kind of connection for a long time.

RW:  Enacting in play? What was that like?

KS:  The structure of my play was based on religious things. For instance, Palm Sunday would just be endlessly fascinating in our fire pit in the back yard.

RW:  Burning the palms?

KS:  Yes. And trying to re-enact the ritual in my imaginary space.

RW:  Did you go to church?

KS:  Yes. My father died when I was nine and my mother remarried three years later. She married a Catholic man. We lived in New Orleans and then we moved to Santa Barbara. Because I was at such a young age I was just absolutely taken with Catholicism. I was introduced to it when I was in seventh grade. So that was another chapter.

RW:  The ritual, vestments. Some of the churches are incredibly ornate. Did you go to one of those?

KS:  No, but I always appreciated the Spanish Catholic taste, the more baroque expressions of Catholicism. Then I started taking religious studies courses in college and when I finished school I continued to do art that was reflective of those experiences, but I didn’t belong to any church or group. It provided me an opportunity to learn about all different kinds of religion. That was very valuable at the time. And it was a revitalization of some topics I had closed myself off to at the time, for instance, looking at the Bible in a historical context. That kind of thing.

RW:  You take a pleasure in making these paintings. Then there is the action of calling forth which is also associated with the making of these paintings. Is that an open question?

KS:  Yes. But I think that is part of the process. That’s what I love, the process of making them.

RW:  Have you given thought to the relationship of art making to the unconscious? Is the unconscious a useful idea?

KS:  Yes.

RW:  Do you see art making as having a living connection with the unconscious, shall we say?

KS:  Yes. But I would be the last person to be able to define it.

RW:  As Jung said, “Remember, the unconscious is unconscious.”

KS:  I think that’s great.

RW:  I don’t suppose it’s all that uncommon, but I’ve seen in a painting or drawing that later it became obvious what it was about. It’s a shock, to have evidence of forces moving me of which I am unconscious. It’s sort of unsettling.

KS:  But it’s a very big relief for me. I think when you experience something so absolutely life altering as a cerebral hemorrhage you see that, “okay, I wasn’t in control.” And what’s happening is not just the conscious person inside of me. Once you give up any notion of control then I think life goes a lot easier. That’s what I’ve experienced.
     I think the nature of what happened divided me in two. On this side [the left] I have perfect control, but I’m always aware of how on the other side I don’t have any control. That both sides are part of the same body makes me think differently than I did—that I could think before.

RW:  That’s a profound reality you inhabit. You’ve come to terms with that?

KS:  Yes. It’s been almost five years and that has afforded me enough time to really grapple with it and with who I am now.

RW:  Earlier you’d said that the three things, medicine, art…

KS:  …Disability. I put art first though. Art, medicine and disability. So it’s the visual art about medicine and disability that I’m investigating.

RW:  What do you see in these relationships that is valuable?

KS:  I see the vast continuum of what a person can be. Each one of the artists I’m looking at are so complex and have different factors influencing them in making their art. I think that, for instance, the two most notable 20th century artists that are most often associated with disability are Frida Kahlo and Chuck Close. You couldn’t find two more different artists in every important way than these two. So partially, that is what I want to show. That some people are deaf and they make fantastic art. Some people have learning disabilities, some people have problems of intellectual development, and they make beautiful art. They don’t even have a concept of who they are or what art is, but they make beautiful art. So by showing the broad panorama of it, I think people will understand it better and not be scared of it. That is a real thing with disability, the notion of disability. It just scares able- bodied people.
     I know it’s a tough subject. Also I know that one word I haven’t mentioned, but I’ve been making art about is death. So I want to look at artists like Wendy Sussman and how she almost saw her death and made paintings about it—and artists like Rothko and Goya. He’s an interesting person because he was deaf first. Then he made those black paintings to portend his death. Those kinds of subjects I’m really interested in.

RW:  I saw Wendy’s paintings a few months before she died. I was so unnerved by them, in a way. Their impact was so intense that I really couldn’t find the right words to talk about them. She was quite an artist, and I felt tremendous respect for her.

KS:  I consider it my great good fortune that I came to Berkeley and we became friends. She was the greatest painter that I knew and I’m just shocked that she’s not here. I think that she was always concerned with death. At least from the early 90’s on. There was that beautiful series that she did about her mother’s and father’s death.

RW:  It struck me so strongly about Wendy’s work that she painted about these very big realities that we can only face with a question, I suppose. I don’t find the art world much able to deal with such things today at all. It makes me think of the claim that painting is dead today. I hesitate to bring this up before a painter. Does this concern you at all?

KS:  No. Because the notions of painting being dead have arisen many times during my life time. John Yau once related to me during a dinner party—at the time it was an issue in the international art world—some Spanish woman had said, “What’s all this rubbish about painting being dead. It’s died a hundred times and it will die a hundred times more.” That about sums it up. And there’s another thing I always remember from a lecture by Robert Irwin I heard as a college student. He said that for 20,000 years men and women have been painting and they will go on painting for that long. Now I don’t think painting is the popular art form that it was maybe two or three hundred years ago, and I definitely think that the art form of this past century is film and I’m glad to give them that credit.

RW:  Just last night I was over in the Mission district in San Francisco walking around. I walked by a door that was open. There was an art exhibit inside and in another room, I could see people roller skating to dance music. It turned out to be a community center. There was a feeling in that place, a wonderful feeling actually. The paintings, though unsophisticated, were alive. There was a feeling of hope, of possibility. That came through in the paintings strongly— the feeling that life was worth living. To me that’s the real living spirit of art. Something I don’t think the art world knows what to do with.

KS:  That seems very familiar to me. I know I have often looked beyond the art world for examples of folk art, children’s art, and it’s because I think I’m trying to see where that spirit is alive.

RW:  Art, medicine, and disability. You’ve mentioned that there is a vast continuum. I don’t know where I’m going with this.

KS:  Yesterday I was reading a book about Karl Prinzehorn who was the first psychiatrist and art historian who collected the art of the insane. He did this between 1918 and 1921 in Heidelburg. He made a collection and about half of those artists he collected were part of the Nazi extermination trials. This was before the Nazis started attacking the Jewish people. He was trying to make a connection between Expressionism as it had flowered in Germany at that very same time, and the art of the unconscious which we’ve been talking about with the art of the insane.

RW:  You teach art. What is the role of teaching art in the university?

KS:  There are three or four levels of what I do. I teach non-artists and hopefully open up the world of art to them in a much more personable way. With the art majors, one out of ten may go on to graduate school, or if I’m feeling generous, I’d say maybe two out of ten. So in a way I’m educating stock brokers as well as art historians. For the graduate students, that’s a different role. They’ve already made their choices and it’s about maybe guiding them through an intense part of their creative life. I couldn’t go to sleep at night thinking I was educating every student to be an artist.

RW:  Lately I’ve had an impression about language in relation to the visual. Have you thought about that?

KS:  I have to think about that a lot because of being a teacher, but I am a person who has no faith in language as something that can explicate what’s really at the core of art. I’m not a great expositor.

RW:  There’s the famous statement of Wittgenstein’s, “That of which we can not speak, let us pass over it in silence.” And then, it turns out that he thought just about everything important was something we couldn’t speak about.

KS:  That would be okay with me. [laughs]

RW:  I had an impression not long ago—suddenly it was very clear that we take in visually a world of information and that language is something quite different than that. They are two different things. Have you thought about this aspect of it?

KS:  Not really. I’ve thought about them to the extent that I don’t think they are the same thing, and it’s fine for my world view that they aren’t.

RW:  Do you think images can have a medical function?

KS:  It’s from the medical world and the military world that I’ve gotten my source of images for many of my paintings. In that way, the visual relics of the processes were what interested me.

RW:  What is it about the visual relics?

KS:  For instance, all the satellite photos that the CIA has taken. It’s just fascinating to me that they can record all this data in such a thing as a satellite photo and use it to determine military policy. Also the amount of over-information that we have that we just can not process. Now because of microscopic photography we have entry into the inside of our bodies and that has always fascinated me since I started using the brain imagery in my work.

RW:  Have you given thought to this world of over-information in which we live in relation to painting?

KS:  The parallels of over-information in both are very interesting.

RW:  We have a culture of the intense surfaces. A great deal of skill, expertise and money goes into charging these surfaces, particularly for advertising, for persuasion. We’re just swamped with this. The contention that “painting is dead” may be a response to this, that it can no longer compete in this atmosphere of charged surfaces. But maybe that’s not what painting is really about.

KS:  For me, most paintings are about a certain kind of ambiguity that ads can not be about. I would hope that the intention of the painter would be wholly different from the intention of a designer.

RW:  It occurs to me that the relationship a painting has to time is very different from these other surfaces. These charged surfaces are meant to impart their content very quickly. Whereas a great deal of what is important about a painting has to do with the period of time involved with its creation. And perhaps the surface is meant to yield something over a longer period of time.

KS:  Yes. I agree with you.

RW:  That may not be so easily accessible to the viewer. When I look at your work, it is ambiguous. When I begin to understand more about it, it becomes more and more interesting.

KS:  I think that there is a huge gap between what motivates me and my experience and how well any of that is communicated to the outside viewer. They are two things, and that’s inherent in the process of making a painting—an abstract painting. I don’t get upset about that. I feel good about what I communicated, and if that is not communicated at all and another set of ideas are communicated, that’s fine with me. I don’t expect people to walk up to these paintings and understand that the photographic images are from my brain and that the abstract lines are part of a Solomon seal. I am not that na├»ve. But the drive inside of me to make the paintings is so strong and I know that I’m going to have to relinquish the paintings. They’re going to have to go live their lives in the outside world. Whatever happens to them there, then so be it.

Which Vitamins Do You Really Need?

Vitamin A

There are two main types of it. One comes from animal sources of food. You need it to help you see at night, make red blood cells, and fight off infections. The other is in plant foods and can help prevent an eye problem called age-related macular degeneration and to cells all over your body. Eat orange veggies and fruits (like sweet potato and cantaloupe), spinach and other greens, dairy products, and seafood such as shrimp and salmon. Too much vitamin A can hurt your liver, though.

Vitamin B12

Rev up before hitting the gym with a snack like a hard-boiled egg or cereal with vitamins added. B12 helps your body break down food for energy. Some athletes and trainers take supplements before workouts, but these don’t really boost your success if you're getting enough in your meals.
Vitamin C

Despite claims made by some over-the-counter remedies, it doesn’t prevent colds. But once you have symptoms, drink orange or grapefruit juice to help yourself stay hydrated and feel better sooner. Your body must have vitamin C to help your bones, skin, and muscles grow. You'll get enough from bell peppers, papaya, strawberries, broccoli, cantaloupe, leafy greens, and other fruits and veggies.


This mineral, when mixed with sand, helps harden concrete harden. Its strength makes it the building block for your bones and teeth. It's also key to make muscles, including your heart, move. Get calcium from milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy foods, and from green vegetables like kale and broccoli. How much you need depends on your age and sex. Check with your doctor about whether you should take a supplement.

Vitamin D

Like calcium, it keeps your bones strong and helps your nerves carry messages. It also plays a role in fighting germs. Careful time in the sun -- 10 to 15 minutes on a clear day, without sunscreen -- is the best source. Or you could eat fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. There's a little in egg yolks, too. You can also get milk and sometimes orange juice with added vitamin D.
Vitamin E

It's also called an antioxidant. They protect your cells from damage caused by cigarette smoke, pollution, sunlight, and more. Vitamin E also helps your cells talk to each other and keeps blood moving. Sunflower seeds and nuts including almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts are good sources. If you're allergic to those, vegetable oils (like safflower and sunflower), spinach, and broccoli have vitamin E, too.

Folic Acid

For moms-to-be, it's a must. It helps make DNA and prevent spina bifida and other brain birth defects. Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, oranges and orange juice, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) are rich in folic acid. Your doctor may want you to take a supplement, too.

Vitamin K

You need it for blood clotting and healthy bones. People who take warfarin, a blood-thinner, have to be careful about what they eat, because vitamin K reacts badly with the drug. A serving of leafy greens -- like spinach, kale, or broccoli -- will give you more than enough K for the day. A Japanese dish called natto, made from fermented soybeans, has even more.


When your levels are low, your body doesn’t make enough healthy red blood cells. And without them, you can’t get oxygen to your  tissues. Women who are pregnant or have heavy menstrual cycles are most likely to have anemia, the medical name for when you don’t have enough iron in your blood. Keep up your levels with beans and lentils, liver, oysters, and spinach. Many breakfast cereals have a day’s worth added in. Even dark chocolate with at least 45% cacao has some!


This mineral plays a role in making your muscles squeeze and keeping your heart beating. It helps control blood sugar and blood pressure, make proteins and DNA, and turn food into energy. You'll get magnesium from almonds, cashews, spinach, soybeans, avocado, and whole grains.


You may think of bananas, but green leafy veggies are a better source of this mineral. It helps keep your blood pressure in a normal range, and it helps your kidneys work. Levels that are too low or too high could make your heart and nervous system shut down. You should also watch your salt, because your body needs the right balance of sodium and potassium. Snack on raw cantaloupe, carrots, and tomatoes, too.

Without it, you couldn't taste and smell. Your immune system needs it, and it helps cuts, scrapes, and sores heal. It may help you keep your sight as you get older. While you can get zinc from plant sources like sesame and pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils, and cashews, it's easier for your body to absorb it from animal foods, such as oysters, beef, crab, lobster, and pork.

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Yogi’s Journey to Sobriety

by Maha Devi

It was very cold in Atlanta 9 Octobers ago. The wind was a show off causing the sun to shiver. Feeling the chill, I cracked my eyes open on the morning of October 24, 2006 like two miniature ancient wooden doors. I got off the floor, because that’s where I woke up, and felt the Universe unzip itself underneath me. The realization that I never had to take a drink of alcohol again was the most enormous, beautiful, and terrifying sensation, like jumping out of a plane or being freed from prison after a very long stay. I’d attempted to get sober the entire previous year with diminishing returns. But on this day, in this October, there was a shift within me and all around me. I was ready to surrender. And it was on the path of yoga where I would ultimately land my feet.

Let’s back up for just a moment. I was an actor for years in Atlanta. In August of ’06 I was cast in a play that would go into production the following winter. The playwright informed me that I would be nude in one of the scenes. It was a beautiful play and I was humbled and grateful for the opportunity. But I was in rough shape. Underweight, weak and very unsure … not in a place to allow myself that kind of vulnerability. I remember thinking, “O God, I’ve gotta get in shape fast.” So, I crawled into a yoga studio/urban ashram called Kashi Atlanta thinking I’d get nice abs and a yoga butt. I had no idea that my heart would be cracked wide open and my addiction and unworthiness would be exposed by the illumination beaming from those cracks. I took a class. And then another. And another. Each time it became more and more difficult to willingly run back into the darkest part of my own shadow after being held in all that light. But I did. I’d leave and I’d drink. For almost 2 months. The more I practiced, the more I became desperate to stop.

Then I met my Teacher with a capital “T”, Swami Jaya Devi Bhagavati. She teaches a weekly Spiritual Growth and Meditation Class and I decided to take the plunge. From the bottom of my heart, I had never been in the presence of so much light and wisdom and love. I hid in the back of the room trying to shield myself behind a small tower of yoga blocks, crying, not saying a word, clinging desperately to a box of Kleenex. I was an utter wreck. Even though she never addressed me directly, she spoke to me the entire 90 minutes. She taught about walking toward our hearts, not away from it. About loving unconditionally and the willingness to BE loved unconditionally. She spoke about addiction being one step over from spirituality; that what we long for is God in whatever form makes sense to us: The Universe, Kali, Christ, Shiva, Allah, Mary, the Buddha, the Ocean, Kindness … She said we become free when we are free from attachment. She insisted we don’t have to become someone different, we just need to remember who we really are. She asked us to close our eyes and to breathe. That sometimes one conscious breath is all it takes to transform. She asked us to look toward something when we close our eyes, not away and to consider the fact that our hearts are bigger than our pain. Our hearts are bigger than our pain. Our hearts are bigger than our pain.

I drank that night. A lot. I left Kashi, went home and drank alone. I believed Her and all the things She said. I just didn’t think she was talking to me. The next morning, that strangely cold fall morning, I was in a lot of pain. More than I’d ever felt in my life and nothing in particular had happened. I was just an addict alone. As soon as I sat up, I walked on to my back porch. I was so dehydrated and exhausted that the cold wind almost knocked me to the ground as if to say, “You can’t come out here unless you really mean it so you better think about it, Girl.” I meant it. I got on my knees under the shivering sun of autumn and prayed. For the first time in my life I knew where to send my prayers. Quickly, tiny discoveries popped off like bubbles. I want clear skin. I don’t want to throw up red wine anymore. I want to want to eat food. I want to be on time for work. I want to remember every time I french kiss someone for the rest of my life. I want to remember every mistake I make. I just want to remember. I don’t want to divorce myself from my body anymore. I lingered on that one. For an hour? Or two? I wanted to be in my body, not out of it. Embodied.

When I walked outside that morning something HAD shifted within me and I made a choice to believe that if my heart was bigger than my pain, then my heart was really f**cking big. And that I had a lot of work to do if I was going to share it with the Universe. So I surrendered.

I have to say, I’m a big fan of the 12 steps and all it has to offer a person who has a desire to stop drinking (or drugging or gambling et al). It is a brilliant way to live. And I went to a meeting almost everyday for 3 years and continue to attend meetings regularly. It has been a big part of my recovery. But my story is that the 12 steps alone were not enough. The 12 steps and therapy was not enough. The 12 steps, therapy, anti depressants and anti anxiety medications were not enough. I needed yoga, too. So, I immediately called a friend in AA and asked her to be my sponsor. I had a white chip in my hand within 2 hours. Then, I went to Kashi, unrolled my mat, laid flat on my back and had a silent conversation with my Higher Power: YOGA.

I practiced and felt good in my body. I worked out A LOT of shit on my mat. Some serious life long shit. Day after day. Downdog after downdog. I went to meetings, (Swami insisted I continue following the 12 Steps and I am so grateful). I served and meditated. I fumbled, was raw, cried and resisted but I never picked up another drink. As I write this, I still haven’t. Swami would soon introduce me to Her Guru, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, who would become my Guru. In 2008 I emerged as a Kashi yoga teacher in her lineage and Ma gave me a spiritual name: Maha Devi. It means Supreme Goddess. I was 2 years sober when She gave me that name. She told me to use the name as a tool and in Her beautiful Brooklyn accent yelled, “You don’t get a name like that for nothin’!!” For Her, for Swami, for my family, for my students, but mostly for me, I try each day to live up to that name. I do my best to breathe and stay simple and practice. To serve, stay teachable and love.

In the program, I hear many wise people say that no matter how hard a day may be sober, it could never be as hard as any day in active addiction. I believe this to be true. In sobriety, I’ve had many emotional set backs, been riddled with doubt, loss and grief. I have had countless moments of pure happiness, courage, adventure and serenity. All without a drink.

Each day when I practice yoga or teach it, I bring my hands together at my heart in Anjali mudra or prayer hands. Anjali means “divine offering.” And so in this moment, I offer these words to anyone who may be suffering from addiction. I bow at your feet and honor your struggle. I see your heart and know it is bigger than your pain. There is a light in you so bright. Like me, all you have to do is remember.

5 Surefire Ways To Increase Your Energetic Vibrational Frequency

-Nikola Tesla

I love this quote from Tesla as it describes the entire universe in one sentence. More importantly, it describes you and me in our natural form which is energy!
As you go through your daily life, each moment, action, interaction, and reaction impacts your overall energy level and state of wellbeing.
shutterstock_155349410Every choice you make will either help you raise or lower your vibration. And because we are vibrational beings, every day we are in a constant state of change as energy never stays the same.
When we are blessed with good days, then our vibrational energy is leaning more towards the positive side, but what about the days where nothing seems to be heading in the right direction.
Don’t you worry!
From my own research and studying the subject of vibration, I have learned that lower vibrational frequencies are most likely associated with negative emotions, fear, stagnation, lethargy, health challenges, and even depression.
So to experience increased health, happiness, and wellness, I am going to share with you not one but 5 ways to increase your vibration in 5 minutes or less!
1. Focus on the present moment
Living in the present moment is the source of your power and energy!shutterstock_422129731
If you are constantly living in a state of anxiousness about the future or re-living the past, then you’re wasting the energy available to you at the present moment.
So practice forgiveness towards yourself and other, and let go of the past and cut your ties from these lower vibrational energies.
By doing so, you open yourself up to experiencing the magic and beauty of living in the now.
2. Focus on your breath
To experience an immediate energetic shirt, simply close your eyes and focus your mind on your breathing!
This practice takes you right into your body, calm your nervous system, and raise your awareness of the present moment.
shutterstock_271452926 (1)
When focusing on the breath, you become aware of your mind, and it’s tendency to jump from one thought to another.
The simple discipline of concentration brings you back to the present moment and allow you to experience all the richness that it contains.
This is what I personally call becoming mindful of your breath. To learn more about mindfulness, please go here.
3. Focus on Nature
Whenever I feel down, drained or simply out of sort, I immediate go out in nature.
Nature is a natural mood elevator and is an excellent way to increase your vibrational frequency.
I recommend that you don’t wait till your energy is low to spend time in nature; be proactive, make it daily or semi-daily activity!
And, if you’re wondering what kind of activities you can do in nature, let me give you a helping hand and stimulate your mind with a few ideas:
shutterstock_96101450- Go on a walk in the park
- Do some gardening
- Meditate outdoors
- Go to the beach, or
- Go start gazing at night
These are just a few ideas, and there are a million other ways to experience nature at its best, so get creative!
Doing any of these activities will remind you of the beauty of mother nature and will lift both your spirit and frequency up!
4. Focus on inspired action
We spend our days in a constant state of multi-tasking and marking things off of our to-do list.
shutterstock_316789250This leaves us drained and most of the times frustrated as we feel like our to-do list grows longer and longer and our time gets shorter and shorter.
So what’s the solution?
Focus on inspired action. Prioritize and take action on the things that adds the most value to your life and the lives of those around you.
It’s ok to SLOW DOWN and focus only on what matters the most!
5. Focus on YOU
No one knows you better than YOU!
So take the time to process your feelings.
There is a misconception that if a feeling is not positive, you should stuff it down.
This is the absolute opposite of being spiritual.shutterstock_246706546
Spirituality is all about experiencing all of our feelings!
So instead of stuffing your feeling and getting dragged down by the low energy it packs, experience and processes your feelings.
Matter of fact, the sooner you do that, the easier it will be to release any low energy feelings and make more room to the good high energy feelings such as joy, contentedness, and well-being!
In reality, you are responsible for your energy.
Your energetic state attracts the experiences you are living on a daily basis.
So, make sure you engage in daily practices like mindfulness, high-energy habits, and healthy eating to ensure you are on your best vibrational energy.
When you operate at a high-vibrational frequency, you become a magnet that attracts love, abundance, positive experiences, events, and relationships.
I hope the 5 ways I listed above will help you raise your vibration!
To a vital and high-vibrational you!
Ps. sharing is caring, so make sure you share this article with a friend :)
P.P.S. have you used any of the 5 listed ways above to raise your energy? And do you have another way that you use to raise your vibration? Please share in the comment section below.
Zane Baker is a Master Success Coach & Inspirational Speaker. He’s also the Co-Founder of The Valhalla Mind Institute & The My Daily Zen Transformational Programs. Zane serves over 150 thousand subscribers & followers with his free newsletter & personal growth advice on his Facebook page. His top rated meditation track is available here “The Vision Quest”.