‘From Surviving to Thriving: Unleashing Creativity’ by Madeline Goldstein JANUARY 29, 2015 BY DAVID CLARK

Awesome
Many things can facilitate healing and people need to find what helps them to heal. Here is a beautiful story about the power of photography, and creativity in general, by Madeline Goldstein from Mad in America.
“Adversity has effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant”
Horace
It started out innocently enough, with no preconceived ideas or expectations. I had no idea that what began as giving a gift would change my life forever.
I live in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. It is a college town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. As of this writing, I am eighteen months drug free after having been on Xanax for twenty years.
While this, of course, makes me very happy, I still struggle with many, many withdrawal issues and can’t enjoy being here as much as I would like. I’ve been exhausted much of the time, dealing with various withdrawal issues like fear and physical pain, insomnia, anxiety and much insecurity about my appearance (weight gain, hair loss, dry skin.)
I have a friend, Hiram, who lives in East Harlem in New York City – El Barrio to be exact. This is a poor, rough part of New York City. Being a native New Yorker myself, I know that neighborhood well, I know how stressful it is living there, and I know how hard it can be to find “beauty” there.
I decided to send him some photos of Boulder to bring some beauty and peace into his life. At that time, I had a very old, primitive cell phone with an even more primitive camera on it – so old and primitive that I couldn’t actually see what I was photographing. I’d just point at something that looked really beautiful to me, hoping that even if the pictures were not very good he could still enjoy them. I took a few pictures and sent them to him.
Even though the technical quality of the photos wasn’t very good, I realized that I seemed to have some kind of affinity for photography, especially nature photography. I also had an affinity for naming each of the photos I took for Hiram, a process I discovered was really fun and creative, and I loved that part of the process almost as much as actually taking the photos: “Mysterious Snow,” “Sparkling Water,” “Magic” “Singing Stones,” “Divine Detail.”
I fell in love with every aspect of photography. Prior to this, I’d only taken the usual photos of family, friends, parties, never really any of nature.
Here I was in Boulder, though, surrounded by such majesty. I took photos of the sky, the snow, various creeks; the flowers, trees, and mountains. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, was something spectacular. I could feel how much this helped my heart and soul.
There were days that I’d wake up and all I could do was cry for no particular reason, just another miserable day of withdrawal. However, the idea of taking photos would get me out of the house. Especially on those days, the absolutely only thing that would get me to move at all was the idea of taking photos.
One particular day, I was just crying, crying, crying, and as soon as I got to a beautiful spot that I loved, I stopped crying, took photos, and felt at peace. I even found that the days I felt the worst were the days I took the best photos.
Sometimes as I’d lie in bed (or on the couch, which had become the only place I could get any sleep at all), I’d see the images I’d taken in my mind and my whole body and heart would relax. Through these photos, the beauty I was surrounded with became a part of me.
I also noticed that since I started taking photos, my ability to write has seriously declined. I find it very hard to write anything and writing this has taken a long time. Writing is all about words, while photographs are all about images.
Taking photos makes my brain feel open and at peace. For me, taking photos is like dancing: no words, just movement and joy and being totally immersed in the present moment. No past or future, just the immediacy of taking that shot before the clouds change or the light shifts, and worries fade into the background.
Going through the horrors of withdrawal in many ways has left me speechless and beyond words, and I wonder if this is why taking photos has been so healing for me. Through photography, I’ve also come to realize that the beauty I see outside of me also reflects the beauty and light that are within me.
There must be an inner light within me that recognizes beauty, as though the photographs are already inside of me, just waiting to be freed. I feel that I am living more fully, more alive. I forget myself and feel part of something larger. I am part of nature more then ever before. I flow more. The edges of my life are softer.
For me, finding this wonderful new area of creativity has become like a meditation. A flowing, moving meditation. I am climbing places, walking around seeking the allure of the clouds, the mountains, the water, the earth.
Creativity is a way to encourage the body’s relaxation response. It’s helping me to cope better, and gives me something to look forward to other than another horrific day of just trying to survive.
Creativity in any form increases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has been called a natural antidepressant. Our brains do make new neurons in response to whatever activities we do, so I believe I am helping my poor, tired, overworked, injured brain to heal and create new and healthier pathways.
I got a new cellphone with a new, much better camera and I am ecstatic. I can actually sometimes see what I’m photographing and now I can upload the pictures myself. I can now even adjust the exposure, the contrast, the shadows. My joy of taking photos is enhanced by this technology and I have found another layer of creativity that I love.
I believe that it doesn’t matter what medium we choose, whether photography, dancing, knitting, or singing. We can be creative in whatever way feels best and right for each of us. For those of us in withdrawal, if we can’t get out of the house, we can creatively clean, do laundry, or cook.
Even if all we can do is lie around, we can creatively rest and know that we are artists even in withdrawal. We have our imaginations. The brain doesn’t know whether we are actually painting a beautiful picture or whether we’re merely imagining it. Our imaginations can help free us from our beds, our couches, the seeming smallness of our lives and our day-to-day struggles.
We are creating new lives free of drugs knowing that we are true Warrior Artists in every way, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow.
Nature in all its glory is full of grace, harmony, majesty, timelessness and passion that speak to the heart and soul.
Creativity and art in any form can help us tap into the knowledge that there is no actual separation between oneself and the exquisiteness of creation that is alive in our every cell, even in the midst of withdrawal.’

Friday, January 30th, 2015 Focus: I surrender in each moment and listen to the still, small voice within.

wow
Surrender is absolutely necessary if you are to have success on the spiritual path. But surrender has to be done with awareness and discrimination. Otherwise it may be just apathy or indifference.
I became aware, also, that unless I surrender my habitual thinking, the habitual quick response in my mind — in other words, my own mental activity — I can’t really hear what anybody is telling me. In any human relationship (not only in marriage), if you want to hear somebody, you have to surrender at that moment and really listen to that person.

If you practice that, thinking each time, “That was another little opportunity to be better able to listen to the still, small voice within, to listen to the Divine,” then surrender becomes second nature and you don’t have to make a conscious effort. You have to surrender to the Divine twenty-four hours a day. You cannot do it part time.

Excerpted from the article:
Practicing Surrender and Acceptance of What Is
Written by Swami Sivananda Radha.

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RECOMMENDED BOOK OF THE DAY
Time To Be Holy: Reflecting on Daily Life
by Swami Sivananda Radha.

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Thursday, January 29th, 2015 Focus: I start making healthy changes in my life and raise my spiritual vibration.


Successfully raising our spiritual vibration can only happen if we are willing to clean up any emotional wreckage. Trauma involving a troubled past, a lost love affair, a divorce, a major job change or geographical move, caring for aging parents, difficulty in raising children, experiences with war, a sexual assault, or any other number of intense life experiences can block spiritual growth. Pushing this aside won’t relieve us of the emotions associated with these events.
Unhealthy relationships can also block spiritual development. True intimacy and healthy connections with other like-minded people teaches us how to be spiritual beings. One-night stands and quick sexual interludes will leave us feeling empty and spiritually disconnected. Having an identity that rotates around taking care of everyone else’s wants before caring for our own needs is also very unhealthy. For my growth I had to look at the people in my life and determine whether these relationships were good for me.

If you are suffering from emotional despair or unhealthy living, you can begin to mend your spirit with active psychological healing techniques, positive lifestyle changes, nutrition, and even herbal medicine. Utilizing a more holistic approach can have many long-term benefits. If we are willing to start making healthy changes, this intention alone can begin to raise our spiritual vibration.

Excerpted from the article:
Raising Our Vibration & Learning to See the Unseen
Written by Carla Wills-Brandon, Ph.D.

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RECOMMENDED BOOK OF THE DAY

Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support, and Hope From the Afterlife
by Carla Wills-Brandon, Ph.D.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.
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Saturday, January 24th, 2015 Focus: I forgive and let go of bitterness and resentment.

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People who heal have gotten over the idea of blaming themselves for their illness. They have gotten past finding fault in themselves or others, knowing that blame is counterproductive to creating hope and healing. Similarly, they have forgiven themselves and let go of bitterness and resentment.

The Native American perspective is simple: When you are sick you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you have been heading in this direction for too long. Therefore you need to turn around; you need a new direction. You need to find a different location physical, emotional, relational.

All aspects of your life are suspect as contributing to your illness. We examine them all, searching for what we can change. It is impossible to look at our lives unless self-blame and guilt have been overcome.

Excerpted from the article:
Miracles in Native Medicine: Seven Keys to Healing Yourself
Written by Lewis Mehl-Madrona.

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RECOMMENDED BOOK OF THE DAY

Coyote Healing: Miracles in Native Medicine
by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D.

Distills the basic principles used by Native American healers to create miracles.

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A great loss: RIP Ernie Kurtz Posted: 21 Jan 2015 03:51 PM PST- By David Clark



I was saddened to recently hear that Ernie Kurtz passed away on 19th January. Ernie was a brilliant and inquisitive man who helped very large numbers of people better understand AA and spirituality. Bill White recently described Ernie in the following way:
‘One of the distinctive voices within the modern history of addiction recovery is that of Harvard-trained historian Ernie Kurtz.
Spanning the 1979 publication of his classic Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous to the just-released Experiencing Spirituality (with Katherine Ketcham), Kurtz has forged a deep imprint in studies of the history of A.A. and other recovery mutual aid groups, the varieties of recovery experience, the role of spirituality in addiction recovery, and the personal and clinical management of shame and guilt.
This imprint though lies far deeper than the legacy of his five books and numerous articles. Ernie’s involvements in the field span his teaching at innumerable addiction summer schools and conferences (from Rutgers to the University of Chicago) and his mentoring untold numbers of individuals, as well as in his research collaborations focused on the multiple pathways of addiction recovery.’
Hazelden wrote the following biography:
‘Ernie Kurtz received his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University in 1978. His doctoral dissertation was published as the book Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Since then, he has published The Spirituality of Imperfection, and the booklet Shame and Guilt: Characteristics of the Dependency Cycle. He has also published a number of articles, both scholarly and popular, on topics related to his interests and has lectured nationally and internationally on subjects related to the academic study of spirituality. Some of his articles have been published in the 1999 book, The Collected Ernie Kurtz.
Dr. Kurtz taught American History and the History of Religion in America at the University of Georgia and Loyola University of Chicago. From 1978 to 1997, he served on the faculty of the Rutgers University Summer School of Alcohol Studies and from 1987 to 1997 as a lecturer at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.
After a brief stint as Director of Research and Education at Guest House, then an alcoholism treatment facility for Catholic clergy, Ernie retired to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and began taking classes in the School of Information at the University of Michigan.
He continued to travel widely offering presentations until late 1997, when a botched medical procedure led to spinal surgery that only partially restored his ability to stand and walk.
Noting that “it is ironic that I now walk like a drunk,” Ernie devoted his remaining time to the intricacies and possibilities of electronic research in this field. Ernie passed away January 2015.’
Bill White recently developed an Ernie Kurtz section of his website, which is essential viewing. I leave you with a film that Bill and Ernie produced. It’s an important legacy.
RIP Ernie Kurtz

Friday, January 23rd, 2015 Focus: I do my best to understand rather than condemn.


There are times when our trust is forsaken or broken. However, assigning blame is useless. Trust is based on human nature and nothing about humanity is yet perfect.

If we do our best to understand rather than condemn, mistrust becomes nothing more than misunderstanding. And once you understand, your choices become clear and your life becomes balanced.

Trust offers you only two paths: If you distrust, you open yourself to confusion, turmoil and doubt. If you trust you receive trust, understanding and clarity in return. The choice is yours.

Excerpted from the article:
Trust Offers Two Paths to Choose From
Written by Paula Bonnell.

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RECOMMENDED BOOK OF THE DAY

The One Minute Coach: Change Your Life One Minute at a Time
by Masha Malka.

Assembled here for the first time are a series of easy life-changing weekly routines you can carry out at home, at work, or at play. You won’t need to go to classes, you won’t need expensive CDs or DVDs and even the busiest of people will be able to use this book whenever they have a spare minute the results can be extraordinary!

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Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 Focus: The way I use my mind is a habit and habits can be changed.

Right Brain
The way you now use your mind is only a habit, and habits, any habits, can be changed if we want to do so, or even if we only know it is possible to do so. Quiet the chatter of your mind for a moment, and really think about this concept: YOUR MIND IS A TOOL YOU CAN CHOOSE TO USE ANY WAY YOU WISH.

The thoughts you “choose” to think create the experiences you have. If you believe that it is hard or difficult to change a habit or a thought, then your choice of this thought will make it true for you. If you would choose to think, “It is becoming easier for me to make changes”, then your choice of this thought will make that true for you.

Say to yourself, “I am willing to let go. I release. I let go. I release all tension. I release all fear. I release all anger. I release all guilt. I release all sadness. I let go of all old limitations. I let go, and I am at peace. I am at peace with myself. I am at peace with the process of life. I am safe.” Go over this exercise two or three times. Repeat it whenever you feel thoughts of difficulty coming up. It takes a little practice for the routine to become a part of you.

Excerpted from the article:
How to Change with Joy and with Ease
Written by Louise Hay.

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RECOMMENDED BOOK OF THE DAY

You Can Heal Your Life (illustrated gift edition)
by Louise L. Hay.

Louise L. Hay, internationally renowned author and lecturer, brings you the beautiful gift edition of her landmark bestseller. Louise’s key message is: “If we are willing to do the mental work, almost anything can be healed.” She explains how limiting beliefs and ideas are often the cause of illness, and shows how you can change your thinking – and improve the quality of your life!

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