cultivating compassion

Most of us are so hard on ourselves. Our self-criticism and negative self-judgments can undermine our enjoyment of life, our sense of our own competency, and our ability to take action.

Compassion helps us to meet ourselves and others with tenderness, kindness, openness, patience and love.

As with any growing thing, it takes time for these good feelings to develop strong roots and flourish. We can nurture the growth of compassion with just a couple minutes, whenever the time is right.

Start by making yourself physically comfortable. Are there any adjustments to your posture that could help you to feel more relaxed, open and grounded? It might help to have your feet flat on the ground and your back supported. You might want to inhale deeply and raise your shoulders tight up to your ears, then exhale fully as you let your shoulders drop. Feels so good to let tension go!

Notice the sensations in your body, the thoughts in your head, the emotions in your heart. Then allow your attention to focus on your breath, noticing the sensations of inhaling and exhaling.

Bring one hand gently over your heart. Notice the warmth of contact, the rising and falling of your chest, the rhythm of your heart beat.

With your inhale, say to yourself: I breathe in love and compassion.
With your exhale, say to yourself: I release judgement and shame.

Perhaps there is a color that matches love and compassion. Imagine this color filling your heart and expanding through your whole body as you breathe in.

Imagine that the shame and criticism also have a color, that is released as you exhale, dissipating into the air.

You may choose to begin with 10 breaths. You can use the pressure of your fingers to keep count – one finger for each inhale/exhale. You can also do this practice for as long as feels right to you. The more you practice, the more effective it will be.

Elements of this practice are adapted from meditations offered by Thich Nhat Han and Jack Kornfield, and benefit from the wisdom of countless others: the Dalai Lama, Buddha, Jesus, and Kwan Yin are names that are known.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with compassion. If you’d like support in your practice, please contact me to schedule a meeting. May you be well!

Annunciation: a prayer for the healing of the waters

The beginning of this image came in a dream, when the barn owl’s face blended with the wise expression of Kwan Yin.  Then I went to the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains, to pray and be in a sweat lodge ceremony with the Medicine Path circle, led by George Bertlestein.  A few days later I danced like a dervish at Ecstatic Dance Oakland, and the image came whole into my mind’s eye.  I stayed up late that night, sketching, and worked on this piece for close to nine months afterward.  Materials include gouache, water soluble pencils and crayons, sumac, and turmeric.


Indoor art retreats offer time and space for indulgence in restorative experiences of creativity and beauty.  ArtSpa afternoons and evenings occur monthly, and may also be scheduled for private groups.

Group size is limited and pre-registration is highly recommended.  Healthy, tasty snacks and tea will be provided.

Date: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Time: 10:00am-1:00pm
Location: Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA
Cost: $90
January’s ArtSpa focuses on clarifying our intentions for this new year.  We will create mandalas on plates to invoke and expand the presence of whatever we are calling forward in our lives.

Date: Sunday, February 24, 2013
Time: 10:00am-1:00pm
Location: Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA
Cost: $90
February’s ArtSpa supports our love for ourselves.  We will make a small, portable shrine as a visual reminder of what we are holding closest to our hearts.

Date: Sunday, March 24, 2013
Time: 10:00am-1:00pm
Location: Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA
Cost: $90
March’s Art Spa nurtures the seeds that we are growing.  We will create healing environments that include living plants to support our own healthy growth.

Date: Sunday, April 21, 2013
Time: 10:00am-1:00pm
Location: Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA
Cost: $90
April’s ArtSpa celebrates our blossoming beauty!  We’ll indulge in flower foot baths and adorn mirrors with reminders of our loveliness, inside and out.

Register for ArtSpa. Please email or call me at 510-414-9728, with questions or for more information.

Eco Art Therapy

eARTh circles

eARTh circles combine art, outdoor explorations, and group interactions. We will connect to and collaborate with the sustaining, healing power and wisdom of nature – inside and outside of our selves.

Indoor and outdoor art activities, mindfulness practices, discussion, breathing and movement support our ability to open to the love and the pain of our interconnection with all that is.

Creative process helps us to clarify our vision and catalyze our energy in order to create healthier and more harmonious communities.

Earth art circles support new connections, whether you come alone, with a friend, partner, or family member. Children and teens are welcome; please contact me to make sure that the site and activity are age-appropriate for your child.

Date: Sunday May 5, 2013
Location: East Bay location TBA
Sacred Space: Where are our sacred spaces? We will be making nests, honoring our mother earth and cultivating safe homes.

Date: Sunday July 28, 2013
Location: East Bay location TBA
Courage – How does being in nature revitalize our hearts and inspire us to action? We will be connecting to our lion/lioness/leo selves, the protectors of the pride – and to our own bright centers.

Date: Sunday October 27, 2013
Location: East Bay location TBA
Family Trees – What would we like to harvest from our family trees? What would we like to release into the earth, to compost and feed new growth? We will make symbolic family trees and honor the turning toward darkness, our own ancestors and the ancestors of our land.

Register for eARTh circles. Please email or call me at 510-414-9728, with questions or for more information.

Group Art Therapy for Women

What’s Next? Transforming Transitions
Women’s Art Therapy Group

Life is full of change…shifts in employment and relationship status, living situation, health; recovery from loss or addiction. How do we flow through the waves of change? Where do we want to go in our lives? What’s getting in the way? What gives us the strength and hope to achieve our dreams?

We’ll use art activities to explore these questions and discover some answers in a small, supportive group. We will experience the power of sharing wisdom, humor, pain and compassion in the ancient healing space of the circle.

Artists are welcome; this group is also perfect for those who believe that they “aren’t artists” or “can’t draw.” Just as life is a journey, not a destination, our art is about the process, not the product. We’ll create collages, build bridges, make mandalas, and more.  All materials provided.

Where: Oakland location, wheelchair accessible.
When: 8 week groups meets Monday evenings from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Next cycle begins June 10, 2013.  Please email or call for fall cycle dates.

$400 – payment plan available.

Previous participants have said:

  • “The workshop was useful, practical, interesting and fun.”
  • “Making art was fun and relaxing.”
  • “I could feel my tension releasing while I drew.”
  • “The art was the most useful part of therapy.”
  • “I’m starting to like myself more.”
  • “Eleanor is gentle, accepting and caring … she creates a safe, non-judgmental space.”
  • “I felt comfortable with Eleanor, her presentation was clear and inspiring.”
  • “Eleanor is very down to earth.”

Register for this group. Please email or call me at 510-414-9728, with questions or for more information.