Category Archives: Facing Fear

The Art of Visualization

Posted in: General, Hope, Visualization on 05/25/11 by

What is it in one’s spirit that enables them to break the cycle of a dysfunctional pattern of living and choose to live a healthy life?  Recently I was asked that question by a gentleman in my community.  Each time I visited his vitamin store he insisted I talk about my healing.

“What is it within your psychology Kay that gave you the strength to stop your codependency and get well?  I’ve lectured for many years on addictions and in my experience only a handful of people in an audience of several hundred were willing to see the truth, quit denying and begin recovery.” 

At first I gave him pat answers, “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired or I wanted a better life.” 

He would say, “No, go deeper.  All those folks who were in my seminars wanted a better life but so few seemed to be able to change their unhealthy way of being.  How did you do it?”

I’ve spent years working on myself in Al-Anon, therapy and A.C.A. groups. I have known for some time that my health is a gift from God and I have never taken it for granted.  But truthfully I had never thought about exactly what inspired me to get well.  I’ve lost many loved ones to death from alcoholism and drug abuse.  Since I am the lone survivor of my immediate family, I pondered his question for weeks.  Was I just lucky?

One quiet morning in my Oakland art studio I sat facing a blank canvas as I have done many times.  As I began creating shapes and colors with my brush I glanced outside to the redwood trees and a story began forming in my head.  It was if I were being guided to knowledge.  I was being reminded of what I have done all my life beginning in my youth.  I would visualize and imagine the beauty I wanted to surround myself with and how I wanted to live my life.   It wasn’t any different than painting a picture and building a sculpture except that the images stayed in my head and my heart instead of becoming alive on a painting or a drawing.  As far back as I can remember I thought, assumed, and planned that I was going to be happy, have a wonderful family and a beautiful home.

I got up from the easel and took inventory of my surroundings. I have a fantastic husband, a precious daughter, a gorgeous home and best of all I am healthy! I practiced the art of visualization.  No matter how ugly my home life was growing up, I never let go of my dreams of normalcy.  Being an artist helped because I was able to let go and allow myself to create images that weren’t there.  I was able to do this in my everyday world, as crazy and sick as it was.  I imagined and carried these thoughts with me always.  These images were the positive in an otherwise negative world.

I was bursting because I knew I had found the answer to my friend’s question.  I hurried to the village to tell him what I had remembered. 

“Really, if that is so;” he said, “then why did you become so sick with codependency?  Didn’t you say you were lost in a sea of despair for 20 years?  What happened to your imaging?”

“I was brutally raped and hospitalized in 1969.  This trauma sent me spiraling downward into the dark world of a codependent.   I was already showing signs of illness before this brutal attack because I was born in the middle of a war, a war called alcoholism.  But this incident was so devastating to my soul I quit visualizing and had absolutely no hope for the future.  I was death walking.  Once I stopped creating and imagining a better life for myself my world collapsed. I was powerless against the toxicity of codependency and focused all of my attention on my alcoholic partner.  I have told this story, “I Survived:  One Woman’s Journey of Self-Healing and Transformation” on DVD.

All of us growing up in stressful environments, with alcoholism, drug abuse, or mental illness are candidates for addiction and codependency.  This unbalanced way of living becomes as natural as breathing.  It is possible to learn how to visualize and make it a part of our daily life. We can actually create our positive dreams.  Of course this is accomplished by first opening your heart and having the belief that this is possible.  This creative process is a form of miracle.  I have taught meditation and visualization and I have seen it work, many, many times.

How to start?  Don’t panic when you think to yourself, “But I am not an artist.”  This important tool on the path of healing is a technique which can be taught.  Yes, we all can do it and have fun while we are learning.  Let’s begin by making a Life Dream Plan.

Gather together as many different types of magazines as you can; what you might have around the house, from friends, or buy them at the store.  Purchase a few pieces of poster board and have scissors and glue sticks handy.  Start by cutting out pictures and words that appeal to you.  You don’t have to know why you like an image; just go with your feelings if you are drawn to it.  Of course choose only images that are positive.  You may also use photographs if you wish.  When you have a stack of approximately 20, or more, proceed by gluing them on the board creating a unique collage.  You may space them out or jam them together.  Most people find this so pleasurable that they work until they are finished with a beautiful Life Dream Plan.  This can take several hours to complete.

I have been making visualization collages for 25 years.  You can never have too many. It is enjoyable to have Life Dream parties with a few friends.  Sometimes you can share pictures.  Because poster board is large and it might take over your apartment or house, a good idea is to have them reduced and laminated so that you can carry them with you or have them in surprise places like in your drawers.  The most exciting thing about this endeavor is when situations start manifesting and you realize the ideas, pictures were on your poster.  This method of creating your own reality is powerful.

For a few years when I would turn on my computer I saw the magnificent stones of Stonehenge set against a light ultramarine sky.  When I chose this picture I didn’t know exactly where it was; I thought in Europe somewhere.  I had been looking at this for over a year.  When I travel with my family we use our time shares to trade for exotic places in the world.  We tried to go to Italy three summers ago but there were no resorts available.  We were fortunate to exchange for England.  On our journey between London and Cornwall was the ancient site of Stonehenge.  We didn’t have to go even one mile out of our way to see it.  My subconscious mind was impressed with this amazing image day after day until it became a reality.

What about you?  Are you open to believing there will be positive outcomes to events and circumstances in your life?

Facing Fear

Posted in: Anxiety, Facing Fear on 05/20/11 by


I had never seen a nude model.  Naked was the reality but in art school they don’t call it naked model, they use the more polite description.  This drawing class was a requirement for a B.S. in Art Education.  There was no getting out of it, I had to sit at my easel, along with twelve other students, and await the models arrival.  Candice was late for the first session.  I think all the girls were secretly hoping she wouldn’t show.  I can only guess what the male students were thinking.  When she finally walked through the door I was surprised at her demeanor.  She ascended the platform with confidence, casually disrobed, and lowered her faded kimono gently to the floor.  I was stunned at her physical appearance.  This female model must have weighed 350 lbs.  All I could see were rolls of flesh billowing over pillows where she assumed her pose.  I wondered, “How does she have the guts to sit for us being so big!”  I didn’t dare let on what I was thinking and feeling.  I looked straight ahead in fear of meeting someone else’s eyes.  “Oh, this is going to be a challenge,” I thought.  Jaw bones, hip bones, leg bones connected to knee bones, there weren’t any bones, at least none which were visible.  Drawing was hard enough, now I had to “imagine” her anatomy under pounds of fat.

My position in art school was precarious.  I had originally planned to get a degree in Elementary Education.  About half way through the required courses, I enrolled in a Beginning Art class to fulfill the Fine Arts requirement for a B.S. in Education.  After just a few projects, the instructor approached me and said, “Kay, have you ever considered majoring in art?  You have talent.”  I was flabbergasted because, although I had always loved creating abstract forms and designing colorful costumes, I couldn’t draw realistic figures and objects.  I didn’t feel I was a “true” artist.  He said, “You can learn to draw.  It is a skill that takes time, patience, and practice.  It will help you in your career and in your life.”  I am not sure I believed him but I did know I loved being around the art department.  I felt at home with artist’s tools and the more creative aspects of education.  With the teacher’s support, I changed my major to Art Education.

I struggled through the Life Drawing class. After that first day of shock at seeing a naked fat woman, I was able to start focusing on my renderings.  They weren’t good, in fact, they were awful!  I couldn’t draw what I saw before me and I didn’t know how to sketch figures from memory either.  I was panicked!  I had changed my major to Art and my confidence was slowly being eroded because of my poor drawing skills.  I was also frustrated because just as I would get “into the drawing” and barely mark the whole figure on the page, the teacher would ask the model to change her pose.  This rapid-fire changing of positions happened every ten minutes.  It was driving me crazy.  My drawings looked like monkeys, fat monkeys.  It was embarrassing.  I managed to get a C as a final grade, probably because I showed up on time to every class and it was obvious I was making a serious effort to do the work.

In the Ceramics, Design, and Painting classes I excelled.  I made nothing lower than an A for four semesters.  As my graduation approached, I realized I was just beginning to understand art and needed more schooling.  I was accepted to Graduate School at the University of Missouri on probation, with the full knowledge that this art school expected their graduate students to be able to draw, and draw well.  C’s were not acceptable and grad students needed to make A’s with a scattering of B’s.  I decided to “go for it” and would face the drawing situation later.  Little did I know what was in store for me and it had nothing to do with charcoal and paper.

I skated through the first semester at the top of my class avoiding drawing.  Soon, I had to face the music.  I enrolled in Mr. Bill Klapp’s Drawing class.  Bill was one of the most amazing artists I had ever known.  His drawings were breathtaking and his craftsmanship was superior.  Mr. Klapp would set up displays with various shapes and textures and leave them up for an hour.  He encouraged us to take our time observing the objects closely before we began to draw. He also allowed the nude models to stay in one pose for the whole period taking rest breaks periodically.  This helped; I had more time to concentrate without the worry of being rushed.  But, my drawings still weren’t up to par.  I repeated the problems of my earlier classes with just a slight improvement.  Bill called me to his studio one day and came right to the point.  “Kay, you need to do several drawings for extra credit.  Start with elemental principles, drawing the basics like cubes, cones, and spheres.  If you don’t improve I am going to have to give you a D.” 

Terror seized my soul.  There were six weeks left in the semester and I was still on probation in the art department working toward an advanced degree.  I went home and prayed.  I was talking and reflecting out loud, “I need help.”

I am not sure I was open to believing that God would answer me, but I did hear the words in my head.  “Take your time.” It felt like I was moving methodically in slow motion.  One step at a time I arranged two blocks, two eggs, and a lemon on a table.  I glued them down so nothing in the display would move or change.  I shut the blinds and angled a spot-light to create strong shadows to accentuate the forms.  I marked the spot where I chose to sit and prepared to study the Still Life.  I didn’t care how long it took, I was determined, on my own, by myself, to learn to draw.

I chose pencils which were supple with a soft lead instead of charcoal.  I felt I had more control with a tighter, finer line.  The paper was heavy weight and top quality.  I knew I needed proper tools to enhance the picture.  I didn’t have an easel at home so I used a drawing board propped up against a chair.  I nervously sat and waited.  It was important just to “plow into it” but my hand was frozen.  I didn’t know where to begin.  “What do I put down first?”  I thought.  I wasn’t able to make the commitment to draw the likeness of my arrangement on the table.  I had succumbed to fear.

I watched myself go into a panic.  My hands were slippery with sweat and I could feel the pounding of my heart.  Two hours must have gone by without being able to lift a finger.  My eye sight was blurred from staring so intently at the objects, which exacerbated the dread.  Finally I was able to begin measuring the relationship of the eggs to the cube and approximate their size.  With a straight, out-stretched arm I used my thumb, as I had seen many artists do, as a measuring device.  I lightly sketched an outline covering 3/4ths of my drawing paper.  My breathing became less labored and I felt I had made a particle of progress.  I expended this same type of energy every day for a week.  I was exhausted.  I asked for guidance from God, the universe, my higher power, whoever was listening.  Again, I heard words, “Don’t just look, SEE!” 

Within a few short minutes I began to have the “experience” of seeing the Still Life.  It seemed as though a veil was lifted exposing three dimensional forms pulsating with energy.  The interplay of light and shadow bounced off the table.  I saw, I really saw, the beauty inherent in those inanimate objects.  The details literally came to life.  It felt like I had been shown the next step to awareness.  The process was illuminated.  I no longer was going to focus on worry and from that day forward I let go of the fear of drawing.

For the next few weeks I put pencil to paper and created amazing realistic drawings.  It was as if I had been doing it all my life.  I finished the Still Life and did another in pen and ink.  Several of my friends agreed to pose for me while they studied for finals.  I took my time, was patient, and practiced my newfound skill. Using a variety of media, I was able to put together an impressive body of work before the deadline.

The day came to present my drawings to Mr. Klapp.  I anxiously approached his studio eager to show him my improvement.  It was as though I was returning from a secret mission ready to share my discovery.  I carried the art gingerly through his office door and unwrapped each piece spreading them out on the floor.  I had managed to complete twelve drawings.  My feelings were genuine; I was proud of myself.

Bill Klapp quietly and systematically examined the work.  He was speechless.  After what seemed an eternity, he looked up at me and said, “What happened?  How did you do this?  I never would have believed this Kay, that all these are yours, except I recognize your style of drawing.  You can’t plagiarize art.  You have just gone from a D to an A in six weeks.  Congratulations.”

“I learned how to see!” 

My new ability of SEEING enabled me to appreciate the human body with all of its imperfections.  I had the opportunity of drawing Candice, the model, many times before I graduated with a Masters Degree.  I grew to love the fluid lines of her figure and some of the best drawings I ever did were of her.  She inspired me to study the Renaissance artists in depth. 

The lesson I learned that day I have applied many times in my life.  When I yielded to fear I was swallowed by quick sand, unable to function.  Now I allow myself to believe it is possible, whatever my goal.  I take the time to examine the details, watch, and experience.  I am grateful I saw the light.  What about you?   

P.S. Remember to give yourself breathing room. While focusing on the in and out of your breath you create the space of calm.  This is where fear dissipates.