Artsy-Fartsy Play Time for Adults

Are you tired of kids having all the fun and having to sit back and watch? Join us Sunday, November 14th, from 2-5pm for some artsy fun. What began as a mandala workshop, which it still is, is also a time and place to let your hair down, get the crayons, colored pencils and collage materials out, and have a blast. A place where your imagination can soar and you can relax into the process of art-making.
Creativity provides a vehicle for your soul to speak, your left brain time to rest and your right brain space to dance. Whether you consider yourself artistic or not, this is a place for you to have fun, explore and not be concerned with "shoulds" or "musts." It is a place to play.
Using various art materials, step into the cirlce of creativity and see what happends. For those who do not have a creative outlet, this might be just what your heart desires.

For more information, please contact me at 310-922-3957.

Tibetan Mandala

I had the opportunity to see my first Tibetan sand mandala being created at the Hammer museum in Westwood, Ca yesterday. The exhibit is being put on by the Mandala Project. ( The traditional Tibetan mandala is meticulously painted with colored sand and can be seen in its 3-D replica and blue print forms as well. The process is amazing and to see it in person was a moving experience.
I continue to learn something new all the time about mandalas. I learned yesterday that traditional mandalas are 3-dimensional and flat replicas are created on a surface painted with colored sand. These are the mandalas I am most familiar with. Given the time and expertise needed to create 3-dimensional mandalas, there are only a few of them in the world. These mandalas are not dismantled when completed as the sand mandalas are. The particular mandala that is on display at the Hammer is the Zangdok Palri and depicts the gathering of awareness holders, who have attained the highest level of wisdom and capacity to benefit others. ((The Mandala Project) Whether 3-dimensional or as a sand mandala, the space is considered sacred and rich in ancient symbolism.
To preserve the importance of this treasure of Tibetan culture, the Zangdok Pairi Mandala is being built in the mountains of Tehachapi, California. It will be a four-story architectural mandala. When completed, the structure will reach 90 feet high and will be a symbol to promote and teach peace and compassion.

Finding art all around us

As I was driving home yesterday from Hollywood, where I'm a counselor at the Do it Now Foundation, I spied this amazing rainbow dashing through the sky. After a few days of extreme heat, the sky darkened and between clouds and buildings, this rainbow appeared. I had to grab my Blackberry and snap away. Rainbows are, I believe, natures ability to be artist. Children draw rainbows at a very young age and they seem to instantly communicate a sense of happiness to those who witness them. They are referred in music, poetry, children's lit and more as a place where joy resides and when you get to the end of them...somewhere over the rainbow; a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Rainbows appear when the sun shines into droplets of water. I happen to think that they are one of the most beautiful phenomenons in nature along with blazing orange, pink and red sunsets. So grab some pastels, colored pencils, paint and create your own personal sunset.

Experiencing ANXIETY from a different perspective

AnXiEtY - comes in many different forms from debilitating, to annoying, to nonstop, to somewhat under control, to life-saving and to hopefully, a place of calm. Anxiety does not come from out of nowhere. It is produced by our thoughts. Usually, thoughts about the past or future. Unless we are eye-to-eye with a real threat, which is about fear, anxiety is something that comes from our beliefs and thought patterns. I believe in the idea of seeing anxiety and the emotions connected to anxiety as energy. Therefore, if we can change our thoughts, we can decrease our anxiety. Sounds easy, right, well, research is discovering that there is another component to lowering anxiety and that is emotional energy, which Peter Strong, PhD calls, Emotional Feeling Energy. He goes on to say, that this is "what gives meaning and power to our thoughts." "These beliefs become trapped energy."
Art directive
From an art therapy perspective, I would ask, what does this energy look, feel, taste, smell and sound like? What shape is it? What color is it? Then, I would ask you to draw this image. Pick a color that represents this energy or emotion. After you put the image on a piece of paper, practice introducing another color that modifies or allows the original color to feel better. Surround your anxiety image with this new color and work with altering and introducing this new color into the original color. Be mindful of how you feel during this process and if your anxiety shifts. This idea is not to get rid of the anxiety, but to work on modifying the energy so it doesn't feel as intense.
Try practicing this exercise and be aware of any shifts in your anxiety. Journal about the process. Remember, to practice being with the feeling that you are experiecing instead of the anxiety. The feeling will not kill you. Try not to run from it. Be still and allow the feeling to be acknowledged.

Quotes taken from Peter Strong, PhD:

Universal Women's Retreat

I spent, Saturday, September 11, 2010, in Santa Barbara at Casa de Maria doing a mandala workshop for a women's spiritual retreat. It was an amazing day, in an amazing location, with amazing women! My workshop was from 9am - 11:15. If you have never been to Casa de Maria, you really owe it to yourself to make a visit. The atmosphere is calming and uplifting at the same time. I was able to do the workshop in the loft at the center and it provided for a great setting with light, open windows and tables! Something that is not always readily available when I hold workshops.

Everyone was open to the process, which included creating a pre-designed mandala using Crayons and a free-style mandala using mixed media. I had such a great time introducing the art of mandalas to the women, who were there for a weekend of sisterhood. Below are some photos from the workshop and also along the side bar of this blog. Hope to see you at one of my mandala workshops soon. Be well, Victoria

The Disfunctional Art of Not Showing UP

One of my pet-peeves in life is the not showing up virus. As I mentioned in my last posting, I want to say a few words about this rampant disease that attacks young and old, is not gender, race, or religious specific, and can reek havoc on those depending on those who have agreed to SHOW UP in other words, RSVP's YES.

I recently encountered this problem when I signed up to be a Meetup facilitator and to hold monthly Creating Mandala Workshops. 18 people RSVP'd "YES," a bunch "Maybes," some "No's" and 3 on the waiting list. 7 people actually "SHOWED UP." Those on the waiting list missed out, because those that said they were coming didn't. So, what causes people to say yes to something and then change their mind, but not let the event organizer know? Does a better invitation come along? Do they get lost and turn around and go home? Do they lose interest? I know there have been times when I've changed my mind about attending something or I just didn't feel up to it, but I'm quite sure I let the organizer know and if I didn't shame on me.

I believe strongly in showing up. I guess because I was brought up when what others thought of you still mattered and manners and thank you notes were not considered an archaic act, that I realize how important it is to RSVP and follow through on that decision. Or, at least let the person know if you've changed your mind.

Showing up, is what it's about, someone said not that long ago. I can't remember who. But I believe it is true. It's like being habitually late to things. For my recent Meetup event, I was counting on 18 people coming, so I bought additional supplies, set up for 18 people, not 7 and even sent an email out asking people to please let me know if they weren't coming. A few people did change their RSVP's, but mostly, they just didn't show up!

I believe you never know what you will discover when you show up. You might make a new friend, you might meet a love interest, you might get a connection or lead for a great job, find a dependable dog sitter or a great lead to something you've been just don't know. But, if you don't show up, it is certain, you will miss out on some life experience. I met a woman at this meetup, who has generously offered her art studio for me to hold future mandala workshops! How cool is that.

The Art of Creating Mandalas is now on Meetup

My first Art of Creating Mandalas' meetup was last Saturday at Burtan Chase Park in Marina Del Rey. If you've never experienced a Meetup, you should check them out. No matter what you are into, you will find a Meetup on the subject. From arts to sports, spirituality, cooking, dinning, Moms, Dads, Sailing, you name it, and most likely there is a Meetup for it. Meetup is basically a social network of activities that are sometimes free and sometimes there is a fee. A great way to connect and not feel isolated. Check them out at

Other than the terrible parking situation, it was a great event. 7 people made the effort to show up. Actually, that should be the title of this post...the importance of showing up. I'll save that for another post.

We all met at the park, where I had set up blankets, art supplies, boards to lean on and shade. It was an enthusiastic group from different walks of life. But what brought us together was our love of creativity. There was time to do more than one original mandala and to explore using both black and whte paper, crayons and colored pencils.

The next meetup is scheduled for September 18th and it's possible we will meet at a studio in Tarzana.

Be well and keep the creativity flowing!

Check out this great site...

This site goes to show that you can create art anywhere...check out Scott's work; it's amazing! (

Energy-Zappers: finding a creative approach

Are you surrounded by energy-zappers in your life? People who have constant drama and chaos in their lives and have little time to hear your story? People who monopolize the conversation with their tales of drama and never ask what is happening in your life? What does this have to do with creativity you might ask? I'm asking myself that question too. Lets see how the two can come together...

First, lets define what an energy-zapper is:

  • Someone who has constant chaos in their lives

  • Someone who thrives on chaos in their lives

  • Someone who has the ability to pull you into their chaos

  • Someone who during the conversation does not ask about your life

  • Someone who leaves you wondering, what just happened?
If you recognize any of these situations happening in your relationships, you are most likely experiencing the art of the energy-zapper's ability to drain your energy

Now what?

Here is what I'm learning to do:

  • Distance myself from energy-zappers and limit my phone conversations and personal contact with them.
  • I've identified who the energy-zappers are in my life.

  • I choose when to talk to them and when not.

  • I create clear boundaries with them, such as..."I need to go now."
How can I turn this into a creative exercise?

1. Create a collage that represents energy-zappers: choose images that correspond to how you feel when you have a conversation with an energy-zapper and recognize the impact they have on your well-being. See collage at the top of this post.

2. To regain a sense of calm after having an energy-zapping conversation, create a calm and relaxing mandala that reflects a release of anxiety.

After creating your calming mandala, spend some time with it. Maybe ask it a question such as, How can I regain the energy I just lost by listening to an energy-zapper? What is it that I need right now? How can I take care of myself the next time I encounter an energy-zapper? Questions like these can help you get back on track, so you do not spend the rest of the day feeling drained or resentful.

Another suggestion is, before engaging in an energy-zapper conversation, let the person know you only have so much time to speak with them before you have to go. You also might decide, that this is a time in your life when you do not have any space for energy-zappers and that is OK too. Limit conversations or let others know you are exhausted and need time to yourself.

REMEMBER---you can always turn to your journal to write or draw about the feelings you are experiencing. This is your safe place.

Painting Self Portraits

I recently attended a workshop at the Ford Theatre in Los Angeles in memory to Frida Kahlo, one of my favorite and admired painters. Know for her detailed and vibrant self portraits, part of the evening was going to be spent exploring self portraits. What I thought was going to be a film and dance event, became an amazing experience in painting our self portrait. The out door theatre was turned into an art studio with the stage being lined with brown paper, acrylic paints and mirrors. Two professional painters were there to guide us. But other then some technique tips here and there, we were on our own. I began with an outline of my face and then attempted to to fill in the oval. It is challenging doing a self portrait with one size brush, but luckily we could paint over and over our brown paper until we got the image that we liked. I could feel my inner critic speak loudly as I tried over and over to get the image I wanted and feeling little control over the paint and my brush. As soon as I was able to let go of any expectations and just let the brush have fun, my self criticism silenced some what. My friends who came with me had a great time and the portraits that came out of the experience were fantastic. It was a beautiful experience and I learned to allow my self portrait to be more of a reflection of how I am rather than a perfect image of my features.

Selective Mutism - Understanding a Child's Silence

I've been seeing a young girl in my private practice for about three months now, who I am totally fascinated with. Until recently, I had no idea she remains completely silent in class except for Spanish and Music. She is in Kindergarten and is 6. At She has a 9 year old brother, who at the first session informed me that she doesn't speak and that he will speak for her. At home it's a different story. She talks, plays, and wrestles with her brother. She is also aggressvive at times, acts out inappropriately and uses profanity.

So what's going on with this six-year old girl? That's what I've been seeking to understand and figure out since beginning to see her. I first thought I was working with a child with ODD, oppositional defiant disorder, a diagnosis from the DSM IV manual. The more I work with this young girl, the more I begin to see an intelligent, witty and athletic child, who is doing the best she can to cope with her surrounding environment. She loves animals, loves sports and loves to win. After speaking to her teacher, I realized that this kindergartner is silent throughout most of the day. Some how, she keeps it all together without speaking or uttering a word. She has pretty good peer relations, but definitely has her triggers. The clinical term given to children who do not speak is called Selective Mutism. Many will report that selective mutism is about control, but it is not. It is a social anxiety disorder that causes children to clam up for fear of being laughed at and fear of social embarrassment. It is found in less than 1% of mental health settings and can develop into other issues later in life if not treated. It usually occurs before the age of 5, but does not become recognized until a child enters school.

One of my therapeutic goals is to help my client improve her self-confidence and to decrease her social anxiety. As an art therapist, I do this by incorporating play, art and games. It has taken about 3 months for this child to feel comfortable and to begin to trust me and to not act out or miss use my art supplies or toys. Though this child does exhibit signs and symptoms of ODD, it is due in part to her underlying anxiety disorder. It makes sense that a child who remains silent for a good portion of his or her day, would at some point need to some how release all their built up feelings and emotions. I continue to learn, and try to understand how this child perceives her world. Part of my job as her therapist, is to help her develop healthy and constructive coping skills to handle her world. Becasue at six, she already sees her world as being scarey and unpredictable. I have to help her learn tools to not only cope, but to handle disappointment and unpredictability.

Women, Food & God - A book review

Women, Food & God - a book review
I'm reading a new book titled Women, Food & God by Geneen Roth. If you've ever suffered from or continue to suffer with emotional eating, she shares many wonderful thoughts, ideas, wisdom and laughs on not only her own journey with emotional eating, but of those who attend her retreats. Roth is new to me, but, as I soon found out, she has written on the subject of emotional eating for may years. Feeding the Hungry Heart, When Food is Love, Breaking Free from Emotional Eating and many more. She talks a lot about why diets don't work, and I couldn't support that idea more. When we diet, we for the most part, don't look at our relationship to food or to the feelings that trigger our food issues. All we are concerned about, is dropping the pounds and looking good. We don't go deeper into what is behind what drives us to over eat or eat the wrong foods or have cravings. I try to ask myself when I'm craving something, what am I really craving right now? Comfort? Excitement? Not to be alone? And what would happen if we actually sat with those feelings? We want a quick fix. We don't want to go deep into our feelings, because hey, what might be down there?She reminds us of the importance of being in the here and now when eating and recognizing and feeling the feelings that come up instead of heading for the refrig to mask them with food. We have a whole arsenal of feelings inside of us though we tend to not want to feel many of them, mostly feelings such as, loneliness, fear, anxiety, sadness and or boredom. We'd rather eat a bag of chips, Oreos or ___________you fill in the blank, then feel the feelings. Roth reminds us that feelings won't kill us. We might cry, we might feel uncomfortable, but they won't kill us. Here is where I recommend keeping a journal. Write your way through the feelings. Collage your way through the discomfort. Turn on some music. Call a friend. Go for a walk. She writes about being aware of the Voice. That voice that has been present inside of us since our little brains could make sense of them. The negative and positive messages that still scream in our ears. The voice that maybe says, "You're not wearing that outfit are you?" Or, "You're not going to eat that are you?"And how these statements can trigger an internal reaction or thought about ourselves and inturn sends a message about ourselves to our core. She stresses the importance of listening to our bodies. Where in our bodies to we experience a feeling? How does it feel? What shape is it? What color is it? I use this a lot with art therapy when I ask a client to create an image of what they are feeling in their bodies. We live so disconnected to our precious bodies that we stay in our heads where all the lies dwell about ourselves. The lies that say, we our too fat too thin, too this too that.I especially like The Eating Guidelines, which include things like: Eat when you are hungry. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. Eat what your body wants. Eat until you are satisfied. These are just a few. I recommend you pick up the book at the library and savior Roth's wisdom and expertise on the subject. Until then, eat mindfully.

Art & Pain

I read recently that Liam Neeson turned to art-making after his wife died to aid in his healing process. Others throughout time have used art for its cathartic benefits including Frida Kahlo, to name just one. It is no secret that art, music, poetry and other forms of self-expression aid in the healing process. But how? From a neuroscience perspective, art activates the emotional brain (amygdala ) quicker and easier than the left thinking brain. Art allows for feelings and emotions to be expressed instead of leaving them unaddressed where they can trigger anger, frustration and sadness in the brain and body. Art provides a calming and relaxing experience that supports the immune system, decreasing blood pressure and physical pain. When we focus on a creative practice, our minds are not focused on the pain or distractions of illness. Have you ever doodled? Doodling is a great example of how we can refocus our brains to a creative practice providing a distraction from worry, anxiety and many times physical pain.

Not only does art provide a tool to express feelings non-verbally, but it provides a vehicle to gain a sense of control when much of our lives can feel out of control. It offers a sense of accomplishment. It can be done at home or in the hospital or during medical treatments. Words can not always explain the impact an illness has on one's life, but art offers that opportunity. When we engage in art-making that isn't product focused, but rather process-focused, we can allow the enjoyment of self-expression to be present. We can let what happens happen and not be caught up with how something should look, but rather let the process unfold without judgment. With art-making, clients can give voice to the aspects of their lives that provide joy and to those that are challenging and painful. The art-work then becomes a tool to discuss life with a chronic illness.
Be well in body, mind & spirit.

Write & Draw your New Years Changes Out

So, a New Year has arrived again and everyone or almost everyone puts in place a list of resolutions he or she would like to address in the next 12 months. Maybe it concerns weight or spending, or eating, or a job search or relationships, whatever the focus, it's not the resolution that is difficult to come up with, it's the maintaining it. I find resolutions very interesting, because really, we can start them at anytime of the year, but for some reason, the New Year gives us a reason to begin again. The holidays are behind us and a brand new year awaits our energy and ideas.
I've chosen not to write resolutions anymore. I write the year's past accomplishments, and I begin a new journal. I can't say enough about the power and process of a creative journal, but I will try.
I began keeping a journal, which I called a diary, at a very young age. Mostly, I wrote what I did that day, and what I was going to do the next day. And maybe a few notes about my friends. But, I didn't go into my deep thoughts and feelings or ideas about my life. I saved that for later. My mother kept a daily journal, and I am sure she is the reason I've chosen to keep a journal today. I'm not sure where or when the first diary/journal was written, but I'm sure Anne Frank might have had something to do with the concept, or maybe not.
Why do I keep a journal? I keep a creative journal, because it is an outlet for me. It is a place to create, reflect, vent, make sense out of my life, explore, draw, and meditate. Lately, I've been drawing mandalas in my journal that reflect the mood I'm in that day. I draw images of problems I'm trying to figure out or relationships that baffle me. I write when I'm feeling good and when my mood drops. I write to get things off my chest and to process my feelings.
Back to the New Year's resolutions and how we can journal our way through our process. So, you've decided to stop eating sugar this year and on Valentine's Day all you see are dark chocolates every where you look. You remind yourself you're not eating sugar, but you also remind yourself dark chocolate has lots of antioxidants in them...But you've made this promise to yourself or, should I say, resolution. Then you think, one chocolate is not going to kill me. I have a feeling breaking the resolution promise begins with one sneaky chocolate and then another and before long we've given up the resolution. Maybe if we had written about that first temping dark morsel, we'd be able to make sense out of our need to give into it. maybe if we journal about the thoughts that were driving us to just have one, we could process what was actually happening when we decided to give in. Not that having that one chocolate is a bad thing, but the question becomes, now where do we go with the promise we made to ourselves? I'm suggesting that our journals can be used to process the trials and tribulations of resolution keeping. We can collage in our journal the resolution process. On one side what the resolution is and on the other side what gets in the way of following through with it.
It is not whether or not we keep our resolutions, but rather understanding why we made them and what gets in the way of maintaining them. Here, on the blank pages of our journal, we can reflect on whether it is truly a behavior change we want to make or just a passing idea. Whatever, our journal can provide us with an outlet to make sense of why we can or cannot keep our resolution promise and actually be a support system for us. I do suggestion keeping track of your successes as well as your challenges with maintaining your New Year's resolutions.
May you be the change you'd like to see.