September is here and it's time to establish our art-making rituals and routines for the fall. This is a 4-week yoga session dedicated to cultivating artistic discipline through yoga practice and the support of the class as a creative community.

We will:

1) Commit to and share our achievable artistic goal for the month

2) Receive support and inspiration from a class of fellow yogi artists

3) Enjoy a yoga practice, complete with posture, breath-work and meditation designed specifically to enhance your creative flow and work through creative blocks

4) Share our final products with the class! (Don't worry, your art won't be marked!)

The session runs from SEPTEMBER 6th until September 27th, class runs from 6pm to 7:20pm, and is 50$ for the entire session. Mats are provided.


For more information and to register please email me at mara.munro@gmail.comScreen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.34.52 AM


Couldn't ask for a more inspiring day! The sun is shining, spring seems just around the corner, and we are unlocking the throat chakra in tonight's class with deep vibrational harmonies, delicious shoulder stretches and Adham Pranayama.





Hello lovely arty yogis! Happy 2013! It's time to clean out the old creative cobwebs and take a new approach. Creativity can be as nourishing, enriching and enlivening and yoga, but many times, like yoga, our creative practice can be stale, stagnant or downright lazy. We are always creating something a bit different each time we sit at our easel or desk, even if it's a minor variation on an ongoing theme: so why not take a new approach to how we go about supporting our creative practice. Do you always write late at night with a glass of wine, or need to clean the house before you can feel ready to paint? This year, challenge yourself to get up early to write your next chapter, or commit to your canvass irregardless of the state of your abode. What would come pouring out if you chose to scrap the old artist 'you' and break the mold? Probably the same thing as when you break your bad yoga habits and try something new: TRANSFORMATION.


In honor of transformation, and of tapping into your fullest creative potential, my ongoing Friday class will morph into an 8 week intensive on creativity, using asana, pranayama, mediation and journaling to discover your creative habits, those that help and those that hinder, your artistic output, and forge your own, new creative path for 2013.

Friday February 8th to Friday March 29th, 2013 

At Spiritwind Academy (64 Oxford St., Toronto, Ontario M5T 1P1)

Yoga for Creativity Pre-Registered Sliding Scale: 60$ - $80 Drop-in: $13

6pm to 7:15pm


* All art supplies are provided, but bring your personal journal if you have one.

Map Your Yoga Body

Since approximately 60% of us are visual learners, it may be beneficial, and fun, to break out the art supplies and draw a map of your yoga body. In this way you can use colors, shapes, words, and even textures to record the results of your body scans. You can keep track of changes over time, noticing overlaps or repetition of sensations, new aches and pains, or changes in your existing trouble-spots.

To draw a map of your body, you can either make it life-size by having someone trace your outline by lying on a large sheet of drafting paper, or you can scale it down with a freehand drawing or tracing an image from your favorite yoga anatomy book. You can use just one image, or create numerous maps based on different areas of your body, such as one sketch for muscles and one sketch for organs.

Scan your body from head to toe, from the surface of your skin to your bone-marrow, and track everything you find by marking points on your yoga body map. From this, you will begin to create your unique body map — and a work of art!


If Your Life Was a Painting, What Would It Look Like?

I like context. Knowing where a painter was born, if they were left-handed, if they were avid readers, city mice or country hermits and what they ate for breakfast all help to deepen my perception and enjoyment of a painting.

In an art gallery, I enjoy the artist bios and quotes and the collection introductions stenciled up and down 15 feet of wall almost as much as I do the colors and brushstrokes.

Take for example this one I found in the AGO on my latest visit:

"But, after all, the aim of art is to create space - space that is not compromised by decoration or illustration, space within which the subjects of painting can live."

- Frank Stella

    Frank Stella     Madinat as-Salam I , 1970     118 X 300 inches     Polymer and fluorescent paint on canvas     Frederick R. Wisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles, California

I also like parallels.

If we take Stella's quote and think about the canvass as our body, and yoga as painting, we find a common goal between the two practices: space. The aim of yoga is to create space, mentally and physically through breath, compassionate awareness and asana. Sometimes I think of this process as a cracking open of sorts, or as letting go and surrendering. But what if we thought about creating space in our yoga practice as a creative process? In the act of relinquishing everything that fills us up, litters the canvass of lives, that ceases to serve us anymore, that distracts our attention, we consciously free up space for light, for softness, for movement. In these spaces, we invite our authentic selves, the true subject of our painting, to appear and to flourish: to live.

If your body were a painting: what wold it look like now?

How cluttered is your painting; is their room to breathe?

What 'decoration or illustration' s can you remove?

How can you bring your 'subject' to life?

No Straight Lines

"There are no straight lines in life," says my friend sitting across from me, resting his elbows on the checkered table-cloth staring out past his coffee mug through the restaurant window. "What do you mean? You've had a pretty linear trajectory of success!" I reply, rubbing in the fact that he has just left me in Toronto, for the greener pastures of New York City. "Plus, the lines of these squares," I say pointing to the red and white table-cloth, "are pretty perfect". "That's exactly it, " he says, "these lines only look perfect from a distance; and my life looks like a well-executed plan. But from the inside, there are no straight lines. With a microscope you could easily see the imperfections of the lines on this table-cloth, and if you ever sat with me on one of the countless days, when I had no clue where I was going, and was filled with doubt and uncertainty, you would see that my life only looks like a straight line in hindsight: these are all optical and perceptive illusions."



"Remember when I visited you in New York," I say, "and we went to hear Henry Rollins talk about his new book of photography. I think he was saying the same thing. Looking back on his career now, everything fits together, his music, his message, his publishing company and now his photography; but amidst this process, he didn't know what the fuck was going to happen, or where he would end up."

"Exactly, Rollins was articulating this very same idea; from the outside, we like to look at successful people and imagine that they knew where they would end up, nay, planned where they would be, from the start. This is a perfect way for us to stay paralyzed by fear, to make ourselves feel bad about not knowing where we are going, but the truth is, no one does: there are no straight lines, and that's perfectly okay."

I looked down at the table-cloth and noticed how the red and white threads had bled together in the tight weave, almost creating a soft pink blur at where they met, not a crisp line separating the two squares. I looked up at my friend, and saw how I had built up this idea of his life, being so perfect, so planned and so expertly executed, and noticed how I have held this illusion against the map of my life, at times using it as inspiration, but also fueling my doubt and insecurity.

Then I saw the soft blur of both our lives, the red and the white, the successes and failures, the dreams and realities, the dropped threads and the inconsistent patterns woven through decades of wondering, and wandering. There are no straight lines in life, no clear-cut paths, no red and white, we exist in at the soft meeting point of will and surrender, moving though life leaving a luminescent pink blur as we follow our truth.

Why Yoga Teachers Need to Be Yoga Students

Not only do we, as yoga teachers, learn the little details of asana, pranayama, anatomy and meditation from our fellow teachers, but we also absorb new yoga teaching techniques. When we set aside our ‘teacher’ hats, and fully embrace our role as a student, we become better teachers. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Why is Pidgeon like a Painter's Easel?

Art Battle This is a picture of me painting.

I am not a painter, and I had no idea this picture was being taken.

a few nights ago I was unexpectedly hurled into an intense moment of unadulterated creative expression that in many ways felt like doing yoga. Here's what happened...

Art Battle Toronto was created by Simon Plashkes and Chris Pemberton, and is a live art competition where artists have 25 minutes to paint a complete piece in front of a live audience who then votes for their favorite. Each round includes veritable artists, and a guest audience member - which is where I came in. 5 minutes after I dropped my ticket stub in the hat and promptly forgetting about it, my name was drawn, and I was summoned to the easels.

Sweating under the bright lights, I found myself face to face with a blank canvas, armed with a heavy palate of thick vibrant acrylic paint, wondering, "what the hell am I going to paint!?"

No time to decide, the buzzer goes off, and the games begin! I set aside my train of thought, my nervous brain filled with doubt and judgment, because there is no time or need for stories about can and can't, what and why: I pick up the palette knife, exhale, and let the paint fly.

Like sinking deep into a long pigeon pose, 25 minutes could have been 25 hours. As I dropped deeper into the experience of painting; the colors textures, sensations in my arms and shoulders, the magic of instantaneous, intuitive aesthetic judgments, I truly felt like I was practicing yoga, and very viscerally realized that in these two practices, so much of my inner-landscape appeared exactly the same.

The buzzer rings, the game is done, and I feel elated and energized: like the flooding sensation of free-flowing prana and unraveled emotions when you pull yourself from the inner life of a pose and feel it's effect. My painting was done. I didn't care how it looked, just like a yoga pose, it was all about how it felt, during, and after.

Later, my soon to be art patron approached me to discuss my spontaneous creation. instead of asking me about how I chose to paint what I did, he asked, (just like a teacher) "How did you feel?"

"Nervous, charged, liberated, fearless, inadequate..." I replied. "Yes, he said, "I can see that."

This whole experience was a revelation of yogic and artistic ties, and deepened my understanding and curiosity of the links between these two practices.

My painting was an unfiltered manifestation of my immediate reality, like the blank canvass of a yoga pose splashed with the unique colors of time, place, person and experience.

This experience was an affirmation of the power of the uncensored pose. Like an unplanned painting, unmediated by thought or judgment, every yoga pose is free to become a work of art.


Starving Artist Yoga: And Then There Were Three

2012 promises to be good. No. Great. In a few short weeks, huge new changes have opened up in both my writing and yoga worlds. All of a sudden there are brand new creative continents to explore, and beyond that, a refreshed hope for more uncharted territory. I blessedly fell into the arms of the Starving Artist Yoga Network just one year ago when I moved to Toronto, and am happy to announced that I am now officially part of the team, along with painter and newly certified acupuncturist Julie Gladstone, and the lovely inked Doula, Leah Von Zuben.

We have re-committed and clarified our vision to promote and provide Creative, alternative, affordable, non-corporate yoga classes in downtown Toronto.

We are also amping up to release a winter workshop series to knock your woolen socks off! Get ready for a synthesis of yoga and creative arts unlike anything offered anywhere in Toronto.

Starving Artist Yoga Network is  happily housed at Spirit Wind Internal Arts Center in Kensington Market at the corner of Augusta & Oxford St. on the 2nd Floor above the Vegetarian Restaurant Urban Herbivore.

While we fishing cooking up some delectable workshop fusions of yoga, art, music and other imaginative artistic ingredients, join us every Friday for a relaxing end of the week class for all levels:

Spirit Wind Centre. 64 Oxford St. 2nd Floor 6:00-7:30pm



Listening to the Leaves

When we don't know what do to, when we are stuck in our minds, we need to drop down into our hearts to find the answers. Whether it's "What should I do with my life?" or "What word, note, or color should I add to my newest piece?", sometimes the best advice comes from inside our chests not our skulls. This may be tough to hear, and harder to follow, but trust is our greatest strength. At the end of the outdoor yoga season, I was in a situation of having to find a yoga studio, rent space, market and promote and network my butt off to continue with a my drop -in classes. I had done it successfully before, but now, that heart-voice began to get louder. "look at all the writing you are doing" it said, "this is exactly what you want, why don't you stop teaching yoga for the fall, and see what happens when you focus on your words".

I listened; and I miss my yoga students terribly. But I am more busy with writing than ever, and I have found peace in a sense of cohesion, of focus and satisfying singularity (not to mention single-dom!), which has been feeding me, figuratively and now literally, since.

I guess that's what fall is about, and what we can work with in our yoga practice for this time of year: LETTING GO OF THE OLD, SO YOU CAN LET GO INTO THE NEW.

Falling leaves nourish the soil, and help give life to new growth.

What are you letting go of, and letting go into, this fall?

Yoga in Trinity Bellwoods Park: It's all about Sangha

I have been away from my blogging post for over a month now, and I miss it more than I thought I would, almost as much as I missed my old yoga community (sangha), when I moved to Toronto last winter. The initial plan for my yoga classes this summer was pretty simple, I want to be outside at all possible moments, and I can't afford to rent space at a yoga studio: solution, a pay what you can/with what you can, all-levels, drop-in yoga class in the lush grass of Trinity Bellwoods Park. The result: I wasn't the only one who loved the idea, and I have taught some of my biggest yoga classes since moving to Toronto.

My yoga sessions in the park, with the ever-so-classy title: Green Grass, Nice Ass, to lighten the sometimes all too serious nature of the practice, came with an added bonus: sangha. Despite my belief that I had to join a yoga studio in Toronto to find a new community of like-minded yogis, the trees, sky and summer breeze gave me some of my strongest yoga bonds in this city yet.

I say this because space has such a huge impact on interaction. Doing yoga in the park means that instead of rushing off to clear the room for the next scheduled class, we can roll up our mats and share watermelon slices, and talk about our yoga practice, what it means, what it gives us and how it challenges us, one of my students left a lasting impression one day with his reflection that yoga, like art, is all in the doing, in the process, and that is the fruition.

My park yoga sangha also shares talents and skills. One of my students sold us some amazing handmade natural lip-gloss one day, while another knit me yoga socks (toe and heel-less wonders!) as payment for class. My little yoga sangha has connected make-up artists with brides, and photographers with nutritionists, forged some new friendships, and made small-world connections. This is what feels very special about the creative use of public space: there are no guidelines, you can re-invent the concept and social boundaries of a yoga class in any way.

And by virtue of working in a wall-less yoga studio, I have the benefit of free advertising. It's always interesting to see how different dog-walkers and park-strollers react to our yoga class, and I've even gotten a few new students by virtue of our flexible spectacle!

Kripalu Yoga in Trinity Bellwooods Park continues to the end of September. Meet us at the Queen Street Gates at 6pm every Wednesday for a sunlit stretch session while the weather lasts!

Don't be so Predictable

I am writing my first book. It's almost as scary to write these six words as it is to tackle the several thousand to be contained within.

On this particularly scorching and smoggy Toronto day, its pretty easy to summon the will to stay inside, and immobile at my desk.

Getting words down on the page (or screen that is), is a different story. Today my wall is not incentive, or inspiration, or distractions: today, the creative edge that I need to work with is fear.

Knowing from my yoga practice that I need to gently stretch and expand past my edge instead of pushing and forcing my way through it, I close my eyes, breathe, and listen to the subtle inner dialogue that sits between thought and feeling.


Feeling: "I am scared"

Thought: "What are you scared of?"

Feeling: "I am scared of failure"

Thought: "What would failure be?"

Feeling: "Not meeting the expectations of this project that I don't even know I have."

Thought: "What would that feel like?"

Feeling: "That I don't like my writing."


This is something I think everyone who at one point in their lives pursues a creative project deals with: the fantasy of their art, and a fear of the reality of their art.

I pick up my copy of Pema Chodron's "The Places that Scare You" and flip around until something strikes me, which happens to be two mind-training slogans developed in the 11th century by Atichsa Dipankarar as part of the bodhichitta teachings:

"abandon any hope of fruition"

"don't be so predictable"


For the rest of the afternoon, I am going to write like I have never written before: no neat and tidy lessons or endings, and a ton of dialogue.

For the rest of the afternoon, I will abandon hopes of success, and in so, fears of failure.

For the rest of the week, I won't dislike my writing, because it's not even mine, but that of my new 'genius'.

The Genius in All of Us

It's about to pour ideas. I can feel it in my body, the swelling storm, the heaviness in my head, the sunshine of sociability hides behind the dark pregnant cloud of solitary sitting. I love rain. I love getting drenched by a flood of ideas. These relatively infrequent moments in the lives of most, dare I say all artists, are fleeting and joyous, perennial, yet precious. And when inspiration hits, we run outside with our buckets and passionately try to capture each drop.

But just the like the rain, creative inspiration, nay, genius, is a gift from above, and if you feel uncomfortable with the word god, or divine, then at least keep thinking of those silver-lined black clouds.

The Genius of Alexander

ThereTED Talks on the exact subject of inspiration by well-loved author Elizabeth Gilbert. In short, she says that in ancient Rome the word 'genius' meant the divine nature within everyone and everything. Somewhere along the timeline of western civilization, 'genius' came to signify individual human talent and excellence, losing its original meaning that linked us to a greater external force.

Gilbert hypothesizes that the burden carried in the classic idea of the struggling artist in fact relates to this shift in what 'genius' meant. If genius was something divine outside of you that you could channel to create magnificent art, then as an artist, you could neither become too egotistical and claim total responsibility for your masterpieces, nor become too depressed when you failed to create anything at all: the best and the worst of your creative efforts could be attributed to your 'genius'. Like Gilbert, I love this idea.

Being pretty much obsessed with the ways in which yoga shows up in art, and art in yoga, Gilbert's thesis reminded me of the yogic concept of ishvara pranidhana, "surrendering to a higher source". The basic idea is that while we have intentions and agency in our lives, the ultimate results of our efforts are outside of our control are beyond our power.

As yogis, our aim is to connect with this higher power, or divine source and embrace the contradictory nature of our life: we are at once all-powerful, and fragile, both sand and stone.

As artists, embracing this yogic concept, or classical paradigm can liberate us from many stressful shackles of creative responsibility. Humility in the face of success, and strength in the face of adversity is a difficult and invaluable balance. I always feel more honest and inspired with my art when I open my perspective to the bigger picture of life, acknowledging greater forces around me, and invite them into my words. We don't exist in a bubble, and neither does our art.  

What is your 'genius'; your unique conduit to the infinite creative powers outside of you? What would it feel like to give up the feeling that your creativity, for better or for worse was a reflection of you? Can you open to that smiling cherub, riding storm clouds sending down raindrops of inspiration?

How Letting Go, Got Me Going

The thing I love most about yoga also drives me totally crazy. There is this perpetual irony throughout the teachings that seems to undermine our most concerted and committed efforts: Do the opposite to get the results you want. Don't worry about losing weight, and you will lose weight; don't try to do the splits and your body will relax enough to do them; let go of the things you desperately want in your life, and they will come to you.

While this counter-intuitive advice may not work for every aspect of life, (drink more to get over your alcoholism!?) it seems to work brilliantly, albeit with much paradox-ridden frustration, in the realm of professional artistic goals.

Take my recent move to the bustling mega-city of Toronto. Armed with an unfailing ambition to find employment as a writer, my sword of purpose, (however delusional and idealistic to many, including myself) was held high. Knowing it wouldn't be easy, but trusting that it could be done, I grasped this dream with an iron fist, leaning forward into this vision of my immediate future so deeply, that I could no longer feel where my feet were.

This familiar parable is not about the shattered dreams of a naive country girl in a big city - the story is far from being over. It's about loosening your grip on what you want out of life, in order for life to give it to you: it's about the contradictory wisdom of yoga.

So I was caught up in grasping, in reaching, in achieving my goals. This was making me pretty unhappy, and very stressed out. "Let go", said my mom's best friend over the phone one day, "just soften your grip, relax and trust" she said. But how could I? There was so much to do! How was I going to get what I wanted unless I coveted the hell out of it?!

What she was talking about was the yogic practice called Aparigraha,  or non-attachment. The idea is to release our wants and expectations, and embrace what we have. It's not about not trying, but being grounded in what is, what we do have, and letting things flow to us naturally, as opposed to living with the illusion that we can force them. It's about being soft, and facing success and failure even-handedly.

Being one to respect the wisdom of my elders, I eased up. And, sigh, the detestable yet irrefutable irony commenced. I let go of these images of my future ideal life that played through my mind daily; I stopped dreaming and started being present in the moment. The quality of my work improved, and so did the quality of my sleep: the slight pain in my abdomen which I was convinced was an immanent appendicitis attack was also miraculously cured.

Better yet, one morning, when I wasn't fantasizing about writing a feature for the next issue of  Yoga Journal, reality gave me something better: a well-paid, ongoing contract to write high-quality yoga articles for a local eco-friendly yoga supplies company. So there you have it, letting go, actually got me going. Call it co-incidence, call it sheer logic, but to me, it is the wisdom of yoga, (and a very wise god-mother).

Yoga is Saving my Business

Hello fellow aspiring yogis and yoginis! I’m thrilled to be guest writing here on Art in Practice, not only because Mara and I have been friends since the tender age of 13, but because what she writes about, and the message behind her blog has become an important part of my life. (And by life, I mean my small business, called Stark Skincare if you’re curious, which has become one and the same, for better or worse.) Here’s my story. If you work for yourself, you’ll relate.

Recently, an article of mine was featured on a how-to website for the how-to folks; basically a small business and crafter’s website that helps creators with the many facets of running a small business. Basically, I talked about how yoga may be saving my business... from myself. VEGAN Exotic, multi use butter. Ucuuba, tucuma, Argan.  Free shipping to Canada and US o' A

I think any small business owner, or self-employed person knows that feeling of panic, fear and uncertainty that comes with not having a steady pay check or a clear future. We fear that perhaps we’re making a huge mistake, that we should find other sources of income even if it means our core business takes a backseat. We compromise our ultimate goals for short-term, more “reasonable” ones. We’re afraid that the sacrifices we make won’t pay off in the end. We freak. We stress. We become horribly unproductive.

This winter, I did just that. I freaked out.

Now, you have to understand that Stark is my baby. It is an extension of my self, my outlet for creativity and it is my passion. It literally consumes me and certainly not always in a good way. When I freaked out this winter, as I am apt to do time and again, especially as my business grows and reveals a whole new set of challenges, I didn’t deal with it in the best possible way. I’m not saying I went off the deep end, but I didn’t do anything to help myself in that time of need, despite knowing that I didn’t feel good physically. I had put on weight, I felt sluggish despite my good diet and restful sleep, my brain was clouded, confused and all over the place. I was always heading in 5 different directions at once, rarely completing a single task at a time. Plus, my skin broke out which is nothing short of a small tragedy when you’re business is skincare! I went on this way for weeks and weeks, even though I knew exactly what my body needed. Yoga.

I ignored my urge to stretch, breathe and reconnect with myself because I didn’t see how it could benefit Stark, my business. I saw the value in yoga, I saw the value in being a more relaxed, balanced person but somehow checked the “n/a” box. Yoga even kinda “suits” my lifestyle as an organic skincare product-making vegetarian. However, I saw yoga as an unnecessary distraction. Silly, I know.

There are times that, whatever our craft may be, we need to take time to step back from it. We know that attachment with anything in this life will never result in something positive; the trouble is prying yourself away from something you have become so entangled in, that you don’t know what part belongs to what anymore. I was making this situation with Stark Skincare worse when I would wake up at the crack of dawn, brew my coffee, and get straight to work... many days without a plan, without direction, just meddling in details that aren’t (that) important. I felt it was the best I could do, completely forgoing taking care of myself. I didn’t feel like I was the real priority, which is contradictory because without me, my business does not exist.

Thankfully, my rut was broken. Right around the same time that Montreal was experiencing a non-stop rain that cleansed the streets of winter grime and the first buds were appearing on the naked, grey trees, I felt a rebirth in myself. Something just clicked one day (or may have been a snap), and I unrolled my yoga mat and played a 20 minute “awakening” video. Then, I played another (a hip opening sequence I believe), and another (power yoga!!!). An hour into my first yoga practice in ages, I could have wept with joy. My body was tingling, my hamstrings were burning, and a winter of stress and sitting at a computer melted from my body. I could have kicked myself for having been too stubborn to do this months earlier, but I was feeling a juicy warmth in my body and a calmness in my mind I hadn’t felt in ages.

For about 3 weeks I have been doing yoga every single day, and I feel amazing. My body is slowly becoming recognizable to me once again, my mind feels sharp and my creativity and productivity are at an all-time high. I’m sleeping even better than before (sometimes a little too well, but at least I don’t wakeup exhausted at 3 am now!), and tasks that I hadn’t been able to quite accomplish before are actually getting done! Most importantly, I’m not as idle as I was this winter. If I’m not really actually doing something, then I’ll choose to actively not do anything, or choose to do an activity I really want to participate in, like cooking or going for a walk.

Do I only have yoga to thank for this? I’m not sure. It’s isn’t just whipping out my mat and doing some sun salutations that have gotten me back on track, but the time and effort that I put into reconnecting with my body and mind. I hadn’t even realized how disconnected I was until I began to reconnect! This complete escape and release back into myself has allowed me to gain new perspective of myself, my direction and ultimately, my business. So, I can thank yoga for being the perfect vehicle to invest some time in creating and recreating myself at this present moment. I will try not to worry about whether yoga will always feel so beneficial to myself as a business owner, because I know my practice will change, I know it will take my body, my mind, and by extension my business, in new paths.


Jessica Lee

Jessica Lafleur is the Montreal-based creator of Stark Skincare. She is a yoga practitioner and creative professional exta-ordinaire!

Eline Saglik: Health to Your Hands!

Many times there are expressions in other languages that are summed up in one or two words, where in English we flounder with sentences and metaphors and get lost trying to express the same idea. I found a very beautiful example of this a few weeks ago while working in Kabak Valley, Turkey. Apart from teaching yoga and tending to tropical plants, I was asked to re-paint the camp signs that would lead the weary hiker to Reflections camp. Armed with oil paints and a motley assortment of brushes, I put my steady hand to the test. Comfortable with my task, from months of house-painting jobs which helped pay for my trip, I completed six fresh signs.

One afternoon, after putting the final touches on  my most prized sign, our cook took a break from chopping garlic to examine my work. “Very nice,” he said, “Eline saglik!” I looked at his quizzically, “Health to your hands!" he said. He explained that this expression was used when one truly enjoys the labors of others, whether someone has cooked a delicious meal, or created a lovely work of art.

This has now become my favorite Turkish expression, a succinct compliment as well as a sort of benediction to your wellbeing.  So to all my friends out there, whether your hands are busied preparing food, making music, building a home or painting a canvass: Eline saglik!

Looking for Gray Hairs

Mistakes are as natural as gray hairs - of which I have made (and now found) my own. Like gray hairs, many of us look for mistakes in our art, with the vain attempt to eradicate them; like somehow, if we found them all, and stared and them hard enough, they wouldn't happen anymore. A close friend of mine is a musician, and after many shows I noticed how critical she was of herself. She would quickly point out her mistakes, even if it was after noting the overall success of the evening - this happened so soon after that it would almost counteract the praise. I fully realize the importance of seeing mistakes, whether in music or in my writing, (however I do have the unfair advantage of proofreading not allotted by performance), but there is a self-limiting course set in action when we focus on mistakes, nay LOOK for mistakes.

What usually ends up happening at the end of this thought path, is that we engage in a subtle form of aggression towards ourselves: we either directly, or indirectly blame ourselves or feel guilt for these 'imperfections', and becomes stuck in a state of displeasure, which is rather, uncomfortable.

The yogic concept of Ahimsa (or non-harming) is to refrain from violent action towards other and ourselves. This goes beyond hitting and screaming, can can get deep into the fabric of our relationship to ourselves. Ahimsa invites us to examine how we hurt ourselves, how we are our own aggressors. When we are frustrated with our follicles and creative foibles, and get caught in this anger based on an attachment to an impossible ideal, this is perfect time to practice Ahimsa.

Now don't get me wrong, no artist would be anywhere if we didn't strive for greatness, but something has to shift between what we conceptualize while creating art, and what we meet when we have finished creating. This is reality: the beautiful imperfection that it is to be human.

In another perspective, wouldn't we rather create from a place of striving to fully express, than from the fear of making mistakes? This comes up in art and in life so often. We can make choices based from fear, doing things to avoid certain repercussions, or we can act from love, moving towards something because it is in our heart. Ahimsa is exactly this, acting out of love. And in that way, we can shift our focus from seeing faults, those few gray hairs or missed notes, to embracing the whole picture, wholeheartedly.

Art, in Crisis

Global crisis seems to be at an apex: or as some argue, things have always been this bad, we just didn't have the international media and technologies to hear about it. In any case, there are many feelings of powerless frustrating flying around in the hearts and minds us here in Canada with lives being relatively secure and unaffected by these tragedies at a fundamental level, (we still have food, water and shelter, except for the deplorable water disaster on northern Manitoba reserves, which barely anyone seems to be talking about). And for my artistic associates here, there exists an added layer of privileged guilt, making it difficult to believe that our creative endeavors are meaningful, necessary, or in the least impactful or helpful. Browsing the CBC website, I came across an interview with authors Joy Kogawa and Kyo Maclear, talking about how we make sense of tragedy. Kogawa says that, “When you hear [about] something like that [disaster], there's a certain mechanism that happens, a closing down of immediate response. It takes time to digest these things. Sometimes people never get to the point where they can take it in." I have definitely witnessed this 'numbing' reaction, in myself and around me.

But both authors conclude that art has a central role in searching for and finding meaning amid crisis. Beyond the popular use of art as a platform for raising awareness (and money), Maclear says "Poetry can't heal the wounds — the physical wounds. It can't address that immediacy of what's happening in the epicentre now, of people losing family members and homes. It can't salve that hurt, but I think that what it can do is provide a space for reflection and mourning and grief." Kogawa puts it beautifully: "I think of art as the tool with which I can go to the places that I most fear, in order to overcome the power of fear."

In a very similar way yoga holds this same type of space as art  - a safe space in which to dive deep inside and explore the things that scare us, and the tenderness and fragility that fear and trauma can cause, inviting us to re-sensitize. This is the potency of yoga; because in doing so, we can learn to heal when we face this pain, and to embrace the vulnerability that it is to be human. Instead of shutting down and numbing out to the pain we experience, either indirectly or directly, both art and yoga offer us a tool to be with it, and to remember our vulnerability long after things have been 'fixed'.

Check out the whole interview:  Searching for Meaning amid Tragedy