“the tattoo that Gus never got”

Sketch request #5:

“I have a friend, Gus X, who, in college, would start up conversations with chicks at parties about the tattoo they would get if they got a tattoo. He got lots of stories about things sentimental to them that they would want to adorn them for life. “A heart with my dog Barney’s name in it on my ankle,” “The scales of justice on my wrist to remind me to always take a balanced approached to everything I do. . . ” etc. When they were done telling of their ideal tattoo, they would inevitably ask what tattoo he would get. He would look them in the eye and say, “I would get a bald eagle across my chest, carrying a dead pig in its left talon.” He would hold eye contact for another couple of seconds, then would turn and walk off ending the conversation.

To the extent it helps with the vibe of the thing, Gus had curly blonde hair cut in a mullet. He got his degree in Turf Management at Kansas State University after 11 years in college (not kidding) and now runs the greens of a fancy golf course in Arizona. He has no tattoos and no eagles.

I would like a drawing of the tattoo that Gus X never got.” Shari

Gus, as I imagine him 🙂

Two Minute Doodles

When I say I’m scared of drawing, people either think I’m joking or fishing for compliments, but the truth is I haven’t really felt comfortable drawing ever since my first formal lesson at the age of ten. Until then, it had always been something I’d practiced instinctively, without too much thought.  In fact, it was a way for me to get a thought out of my head and into the open, where I could see it.  Sort of like thinking out loud, only with a crayon or stick. Mark making was just another form of communication to me, using all kinds of tools and symbols

My teacher (a very stern elderly nun) would make us sit for hours copying etchings from dusty old art books. This kind of “Drawing” felt neither instinctive nor natural. Suddenly, Drawing (with a capital D) meant staring at the tortured or rapturous faces of deities, disciples, gladiators and martyrs. I came to think of it as a very serious and important business, for very serious and important people; people with very important-sounding names like Rembrandt, Michael Angelo, Caravaggio, and Leonardo da Vinci. In my ten-year-old mind there wasn’t much hope for a Sally.  I became very disheartened. “Drawing” wasn’t at all what I’d thought it to be, and I decided that it was probably best left to professionals.


Fast forward several lifetimes later and I am STILL struggling to overcome this ridiculous blockage! In an attempt to loosen up and rewire my brain, I’ve started taking random requests. I give myself between 2 to 5 minutes and sketch on the spot, without time to over-think it. I find it helps to draw on lined or scrap paper as white “drawing paper” gives me stage fright!  The first marks are always a bit hesitant, but then I tell myself that I’m not creating Art, just making marks to convey a message. writing with pictures

The very first request was: “a family of cows around a table, eating a human“!! We were sitting in a bistro at the time. Our meals arrived before I could draw more than one cow, so I compromised by hanging a family portrait in the background. It was meant to be funny but it’s actually a pretty gruesome image. No more disturbing, I suppose, than a human slicing into a dead cow, but still …. it definitely made me think a bit. Later, I used photoshop to remove the background and create a more “finished” image. 

“a family of cows around a table, eating a human” Matt M

….  and so on.

I now have a waiting list of requests that I’m terrified of tackling, but every time I push through the fear I find the process incredibly liberating and, most importantly, FUN!

The Art of Knitting for Procrastination Purposes


me, avoiding my research assignment due Monday

I made Harry (the cat) a jumper out of an old bed sock two weeks ago and it was such a huge success that making comfort garments for small anxious animals has become my latest calling. I bought a pair of massive needles from an op shop and have absolutely no idea what I’m doing or how I’m getting some of these very interesting textures! 🙈😂 so far I’ve only managed to make something vaguely resembling a cape. Haven’t figured out how to knit arm holes yet. And anyone who suggests watching a YouTube tutorial obviously doesn’t know me well at all, but I’d be happy to put the kettle on if they’re willing to come teach me themselves.

Then again, I should probably stop trying to knit and start writing the research essay due Monday  ….

How to Solve a Rubix Cube 101

TRANSFORMATION NUMBER 4 (see previous post for 1-3)

As always, with a next day deadline and no creative project started, inspiration struck around 9pm last night and i was up until 4am seeing it through.
The recurring, underlying theme of all my uni “transformation” pieces so far, starting with the giant cardboard scissors and news paper chain inspired by my necklace, which then turned into a crossword puzzle rubix cube that became a giant hand drawn crossword puzzle with only three repeating words, has been a very defiant “JUST WATCH ME”. I think it’s more a mantra to convince myself rather than anyone else, as it’s my own internal voice that shouts the loudest “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!”

So I made this video of myself to be played on a roughly made cardboard telly with a magnifying reading sheet for a screen. To watch it you’d have to bend down and peer in, at just he right angle. The magnifying screen will distort the image unless you focus on the very centre, where I am. It encourages you to try seeing me from a particular point of view. Be curious enough to make the effort.  Or something like that 🙂

The interesting thing that I’ve come to know during all of this playing and experimenting with ideas, is that while I will of course always appreciate and be extremely grateful for positive feedback, I no longer NEED it. I’m learning to follow my inner compass and trust my own judgement. Self acceptance is much more profoundly satisfying (and a million times harder to achieve) than approval from others.

This time last year, I had to pull out of uni as I had so many pressures competing for attention. My daughter was very ill and I was ill too (needing surgery), totally broke and, with exams looming, had to make the decision to quit before March 31st (the census date). It was a very difficult time but we all muddled through. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to (or even whether I should) do it again, but here I am, completing week five of Round Two!

What a difference a year makes!! I had my first written exam on Monday and was so nervous and sleep deprived in the lead-up that I didn’t have much time or energy left for the practical side of things. But I did it.
I had absolutely nothing ready for today’s presentation (we do one a week), and was starting to think I’d have to forfeit the marks… And then this happened!
Once again, I did it. (“take the first step and the path shall appear”)

It was all totally spontaneous. I was still wearing jeans and doc martins under that dress which I pulled on at the last minute, and the garish, heavy makeup was slapped on just as quickly!
I know, it’s ridiculous, and probably not all that original either, but, you know … it’s Ahhhrrt, daahrrlings! 😉



My rather childish response to the demolition of 51 beautiful, healthy native trees in the valley behind my house

A student using my scissors to cut the chain the chain they’re attached to


First, I spent time with an object that meant something to me, observing, sketching, thinking, exploring, making notes, taking photos, using free association to unlock ideas. The object I chose was the necklace that I’ve worn around my neck for the last 10 years.  On the chain is a little gold pair of scissors. The idea was to study this necklace and transform it, create a work of art inspired by it, using any medium.  Once I’d finished the transformation, I repeated the process several times, letting each stage inform the next. To read more about the process, you can click through the gallery below.



The newspaper chains of the previous sculpture reminded me of how much we are shaped, informed and manipulated by the world, media and people around us. The headlines I cut from the paper were transformed several times, first when I read and projected my own interpretation onto them, then when I removed them from their original context, and again when I placed them alongside other cuttings to form a loose narrative. Once I’d turned them into links, they were curved and the words partially hidden so that only certain parts of the sentences could be seen, and what was seen varied depending on the position of the viewer. What was visible was transformed yet again by the personal interpretation of each of those viewers ….  The only way the headlines or sentences could be seen and read in full was after the links had been broken away from each other and laid out flat on the table or wall.

This made me realise that no matter what face we think we are showing to the world, or what we believe we are communicating, no one can ever truly know or relate to the full story. What others see is profoundly influenced by their previous experiences, personality, beliefs, abilities, cultural background, education and so on.

Sometimes, the only way to make sense of things is to separate each individual thought, idea, memory, sensation, from the rest of the background noise and lay it out in isolation. While it is true that we are the sum of all our parts, each of those parts takes on an entirely different meaning when viewed in relation to any or all of the others. Exploring one at a time has been an extremely enlightening experience for me.

From this reflection I formed the idea of using blank crossword puzzles to cover the Rubix cube, a challenge I had never been able to complete as a child, but I’d always found crosswords relatively easy and fun.

While playing with the cube I noticed that no matter how many times I shuffled the segments, the central squares always stayed in the middle. I placed a printed image of the cardboard scissors (which had come to represent my self) in the middle on all six sides, to show that no matter how much background noise or chaos surrounds us in life, we can weather all the twists and turns if we are able to stay true and stable at the core.

(click on the images below for more information)


when you have seconds to capture a moment … and no camera!

If, like me, you are feeling creatively blocked or petrified by the thought of drawing “badly”, I highly recommend grabbing a pen or pencil and scribbling whatever your eyes fall on first. No more than 1 minute. Just do it!

Even if the result is unrecognisable, I promise you it’ll be very liberating!

Remember, no one has to see it. (Unless, like me, you have several social media accounts and poor impulse control!)  😉

Things from my Things Drawer

I was inspired to make this piece while contemplating the little gold charm bracelet that I’ve worn almost every day for over 20 years. It struck me how little it would be worth to anyone but me, as the true value is in the meaning attached to each individual charm, all the memories preserved and provoked when I look at them.

Each charm has a complete, standalone story of its own, and when linked together on a single chain they become part of an even more intricate and meaningful whole.  A metaphor for life, really, as who we are is the sum of our myriad parts, all invaluable.

I have always had a “things” drawer in my kitchen, a Purgatory for random objects that don’t fit or belong anywhere else. Some are waiting to be useful again, some waiting to be repaired, some waiting for their pair to show up, and some have been in there so long that the outside world has forgotten they exist.

This things drawer has been moved from rental house to rental house over the years, and i thought it was time to explore it. Spending so long with each random piece, cleaning it, preparing its surface and gilding it, then linking them all together was quite an amazing experience. Every single seemingly insignificant castaway had a story to remind me of. Every single thing had once had purpose, played a part in my life. Remembering the tiny ways in which each object had served me over the years prompted all the surrounding memories to surface. I was able to see patterns and links and make sense of the chaos. It was just the start of a very important and ongoing process.

Why I do what I do

For as long as I can remember, creating art of any kind has been been more about the process than the product. Even as a child, I didn’t draw to replicate what I was seeing, but to explore things emotionally. I was acutely aware of how what I saw affected me, and how what I was feeling affected the way I saw. For example, a donut would look very different to me depending on how hungry I was. When not hungry, I’d be more relaxed and inclined to notice and wonder about all the various ingredients, colours, shapes, textures, smells and tastes. I might even notice how the light reflects off the individual specs of sugar; the contoured edges of the glossy frosting; the spongy, rounded surface of the golden pastry…

When starving, I’d simply see a doughnut.

The Process

When I produce a visual representation of my internal chatter, I can see things more clearly. My muddled thoughts start sorting themselves into orderly queues instead of simultaneously clamouring for attention.

To put it another way: imagine hundreds of oddly shaped, different coloured Lego bricks scattered across the floor around you. Sharp little boobytraps everywhere you look! Each individual piece unidentifiable as anything other than part of the one big, insurmountable MESS. You can’t step in any direction without hurting your feet.

It is easy to become so focused on getting rid of or around “The Mess” that you fail to see The Bigger Picture. You might even find yourself paralysed (Procrastinators Unite!) stuck to the spot, awaiting rescue.

But what if you were to stop for a minute, crouch down, give each and every little brick your full attention; start sorting through them, finding connections and piecing them together…? You might see how each seemingly insignificant piece, while not of much interest or use on its own, transforms into something entirely different when it’s linked to others. Each little piece plays a vital role in constructing The Whole. By the end of the process, you’ll still have the same number of oddly shaped, different coloured bricks as you had before, but now there is cohesion and clarity, and more space in which to manoeuvre (For the techies: think defragmenting the hard drive on your computer)

To all those people thinking “But I don’t have time to sit around all day playing with my problems! Hand me a broom!”, think of all the time that you’ve already wasted trying to avoid doing emotional housekeeping.

So that’s how I’d describe the art-making process; forcing myself, despite the discomfort, to slow down and confront the chaos, start picking through the minefield in my head, treading carefully to avoid detonation! Examining and fitting together seemingly random thoughts and feelings until I find a common thread or an image starts to form. Because everything is related. No thought, however trivial, meaningless. Everything matters. The answers to most of my questions are hidden somewhere amid the jumble, so I just keep sifting and sorting my way through it, without any real sense of direction, until I have what I call an “AHA! moment”.

And then, there’s ….

The Flow!

Have you ever tried catching a feather or leaf that’s fluttering about on the breeze? The more you wave your arms or move your hand, the further away it will get. That’s what it feels like for me when inspiration is just out of reach. The AHA! moment comes when I have managed to grasp an idea. Then, the the hard part is over.

When in that creative zone, known as “the flow”, my mind becomes very still. I’m no longer chasing or running or flailing about desperately trying to make sense of things. I am completely tranquil, opening myself up, letting those fluttering objects drift down and settle upon me. I loose all sense of time and space, and switch into cruise control. Emerging from this flow state feels like waking from a dream, only I’ve brought something tangible back with me. A souvenir from my subconscious.

Externalising my thoughts and emotions in this way helps me gain better understanding of them and how they affect me, but it also makes my internal world accessible to others. Exposure to scrutiny and criticism absolutely TERRIFIES me, and makes me extremely vulnerable. So why do I do it??

Because my deep seated longing to make authentic connections only very slightly outweighs my paralysing fear of rejection.

It’s something I find difficult to write about without feeling a tad wanky, but there you have it.






Heuristic Process of Inquiry for Therapeutic Practice  

“Whether in painting, poetry, performance, music, dance, or life, there is an intelligence working in every situation. This force is the primary carrier of creation.

If we trust it and follow its natural movement, it will astound us with its ability to find a way through problems—and even make creative use of our mistakes and failures.

There is a magic to this process that cannot be controlled by the ego. Somehow it always finds the way to the place where you need to be, and a destination you never could have known in advance.

When everything seems as if it is hopeless and going nowhere . . . trust the process.” (McNiff 1998)

 “in every learner, in every person, there are creative sources of energy and meaning that are often tacit, hidden, or denied” (Moustakas, 2001).


“Heuristic” is a term for a particular technique of directing attention (focusing) towards discovery. The term is derived from the Greek word, Heureskein, which is also the origin of “Eureka”, the word supposedly exclaimed by Archimedes when he discovered how to determine the purity of the gold in Hiero’s crown.

Hureskein literally means “to find” or “pertaining to finding”.  (Beard)

Heuristic inquiry was developed by Clark Moustakas (1990; see also Douglass & Moustakas, 1985), and bears some resemblance to the idea of lived inquiry developed by John Heron (1998), and mindful inquiry developed by Bentz & Shapiro (1998). Heuristic inquiry is an adaptation of phenomenological inquiry but explicitly acknowledges the involvement of the researcher, to the extent that the lived experience of the researcher becomes the main focus of the research. The researcher really needs to feel passionate about the research question (West, 1998a; 1998b). Indeed, what is explicitly the focus of the approach is the transformative effect of the inquiry on the researcher’s own experience. (Hiles,2001)

“. . . From the beginning, and throughout an investigation, heuristic research involves self-searchself-dialogue, and self-discovery; the research question and the methodology flow out of inner awareness, meaning, and inspiration. When I consider an issue, problem, or question, I enter into it fully . . . I may challenge, confront, or even doubt my understanding of a human concern or issue; but when I persist in a disciplined and devoted way I ultimately deepen my knowledge of the phenomenon . . I am personally involved . . I may be entranced by visions, images, and dreams that connect me to my quest. I may come into touch with new regions of myself, and discover revealing connections with others” (Moustakas, 1990)


My first aim was to identify an experience or theme that I felt strongly enough about to investigate using this method.  In the beginning, I had very little understanding about the term “heuristic process of Inquiry”, or what my own inquiry was to be about. In fact, I spent the first five and half hours of “research” staring at the wall, shuffling papers, installing anti procrastination apps on my various digital devices, and Googling the word Heuristic. I felt very out of my depth, overwhelmed and confused by the entire concept, and as the clock tick tick ticked (well, clocks don’t actually tick any more, but the digits on my laptop were becoming rather shouty) I started to suspect that I was on a wild goose chase, some kind of elaborate psych evaluation or endurance test designed to weed out the weakest students …Amazingly, I resisted the urge to shout “BOLLOCKS!” and run, and persisted, plodding through all the suggested exercises in a state of curious resignation. Diligently following instruction, I completed all the suggested activities and pushed through the excruciating discomfort of feeling utterly ignorant and sceptical; no idea what I was doing, where I was heading, or even why

Suddenly, in the final few minutes of my first day of inquiry, I had an “Eureka!” moment.  I still didn’t entirely understand what Heuristic meant, but at least I had some idea about what “theme” would like to investigate. What questions I needed to ask myself.

I’ll try to explain.

PREPARATION – Information gathering.

Participant Observation

“Becoming fully immersed in the problem, learning about the topic by observation, research, talking with other people.” (Nathan and Mirviss 1998)

Group work: Mirroring

On day one, I started by doing some warm up exercises with a group of eight colleagues. The first of these exercises was called Passing a Gesture, which involves standing in a circle, taking turns to make a face or an expressive gesture towards the person standing next to them. The receiver would then turn to their neighbour and repeat the gesture, passing it around the circle like a parcel. A visual form of Chinese Whispers.

It was surprisingly difficult, initially, to mirror someone else’s body language. The movements were always altered slightly, changing the mood, often rather dramatically. Something was always lost in translation. Or added? Perhaps both.

Throughout the exercise I was extremely careful to be as accurate as possible when reproducing these gestures, and felt very uncomfortable when others didn’t do the same.  For example, when one colleague performed a rather somber, serious-looking mime, the receiver burst out laughing and made up her own very comical version of it which, in accordance with the rules of the game, the person next to her was then obliged to mimic. As the gesture was passed around the group, the interpretations became less and less reflective of the original. This seemed extremely disrespectful and insensitive to me, and reminded me of all the times, especially as a child, when I myself had been misunderstood, dismissed, left out, ignored, not taken seriously.

Note to self: My own past experiences are influencing my interpretation and judgement of the behaviour of others.  This was an important observation. My first clue.After this warm up, we did another type of mirroring exercise.  In pairs, we took turns doing a body sculpt to demonstrate how we were feeling at that particular time while the other person copied our movements.

For my sculpt, I stood with terrible posture, head hanging low, shoulders sagging, arms hanging loosely by my side, knees slightly bent. My eyebrows were raised and my eyes closed. (It was Saturday morning, I’d had a late night studying, and was facing a long day ahead. I would rather be at a photography meet or yoga class, or still in bed…)

When I opened my eyes after a couple of minutes, I saw my colleague standing in front of me with almost identical posture and facial expression. I saw someone who looked just as tired, sleepy, saggy, heavy and “over it” as I did!

It was a moving experience, for many reasons. The fact that she had gone to the effort of recreating my pose so accurately and thoughtfully was touching. I felt respected and understood.  Connected. “YES! You get it! That’s how I feel!”

My body seemed to respond to what I was seeing. I felt lighter, as though relieved of a burden, and the situation felt really comfortable, familiar. Even though it was simply a mime, the gesture felt genuine, convincing. I couldn’t stop grinning, and neither could she! We had both been thinking and feeling very similar things that morning, but would never have guessed as we express ourselves so differently.

I returned to my desk to indwell on the experience. I did this by writing automatically, noting everything that came to mind and drawing a small illustration (fig 1)figure 1

I hadn’t realised until seeing my body language reflected back to me, and heard my colleague’s inter subjective response: “exhausted, sleepy, loose, relaxed, droopy” that, although I did feel tired, irritable and grumpy, I was also quite relaxed and loose, neither stressed nor unhappy.

My colleague then performed a gesture while I acted as her mirror, and we repeated the process.

What I came to know:

  • that I am able to communicate very effectively using body language and that I also have a very visceral response to the body language of others.  This form of communication is occurring constantly at a subconscious level all the time, whether I am actively engaged with a person or simply passing them in the street. This may explain why I have always found shopping centres and other crowded places very overwhelming.
  • It is important for me to learn to identify and separate my own feelings from those of others. “Bracket out!” avoid projecting or making assumptions.

The Creative Process

In their book “Therapy Techniques Using the Creative Arts”, Ann Arge Nathan and Suzanne Mirviss described the creative process as a problem solving method, as opposed to an innate talent or gift, and how it is thought to consist of six phases:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Preparation
  3. Incubation
  4. Insight
  5. Evaluation
  6. Elaboration

fig. 2 The Creative Process

In pairs, we were allocated phases to explore and asked to collaborate on creating both an image and a movement to represent it visually. My colleague and I were assigned  Incubation and Insight.

Incubation and Insight”.

On a large piece of paper, we brainstormed ideas. This exercise felt rather contrived at first, awkward, insincere, confusing. However, as we scribbled loosely and filled the page, both the drawing and conversation between us started to “flow” and feel increasingly natural and comfortable, even fun! I noticed that once I had surrendered to the process I felt less self-conscious and was able let go of expectations. As a result, the activity stopped being stressful and became highly enjoyable and relaxing.

My colleague and I drew a lighthouse, radiating light, surrounded by swirling waters. In the water was a figure, swimming, and a shark fin breaking the surface.

Also in the water were puzzle pieces, grey clouds, question marks, arrows pointing toward the middle. It all just started flowing out onto the page as we discussed ideas and thoughts on what incubation and insight might look like. fig.3 above:  “incubation and insight”

While still feeling relaxed and uninhibited, we performed  a movement to  describe “Incubation and Insight”. Had we tried doing this before warming up with the drawing, I doubt it would have happened as easily. As it was, my partner and I swirled around the middle of the room like a couple of dervishes with our arms spread wide, fingers splayed, completely unselfconscious. Without planning or prompting, I suddenly stopped swirling and started swimming in circles, and my colleague slipped into the role of a shark in hot pursuit! Then, just as suddenly, I stood still and reached my arms above my head in an AHA! gesture, which I quickly followed by miming being a lighthouse, my outstretched arms the beams of light.

To end the body sculpt, I shaped my arms into a circle and Katherine instinctively put her head through the hole, and we stood there, giggling, pretending to be two very funny-looking puzzle pieces fitting together.

This all felt very silly, but extremely liberating and joyful. It also helped me to understand that every phase of the creative process has a beginning middle and an end.

Once each group had completed a movement, we placed the drawings on the ground, in order.(Fig 4) The group drawings representing “Inspiration and Preparation” (top)“Incubation and Insight” (middle) and “Evaluation and Elaboration” (bottom)

Seeing these drawing laid out in sequence, I could clearly see a pattern: Top, middle, bottom: Beginning, Middle, End.

By now I felt exhausted. Although I had some insight into the various stages of the creative process, I still wasn’t sure what Heuristic meant or how all these individual insights fitted together. My head felt extremely heavy, I desperately needed a cup of tea, and the overall point of the exercises continued to elude me.

Next, we were asked to construct a kinetic group body sculpture to represent all six stages. With hindsight, the purpose of the exercise seems obvious, but I remember feeling confused at the time, not sure how this differed from what we had already done. But, once again, I put my trust in the process and as soon as we all stood up to create the movement, it “just happened”.

When we were asked to draw an image of this flow state, showing a beginning, middle and end, I found it relatively easy to picture. (fig.5)fig 5.  “The Flow: Beginning, Middle, and End”

Kroestler’s Emergent theory. (Fig.6)

Arthur Koestler studied the processes of discovery, invention, imagination and creativity in humour, science, and the arts, and developed an elaborate general theory of human creativity. From describing and comparing many different examples of invention and discovery, Koestler concluded that they all share a common pattern which he terms “bisociation” – a blending of elements drawn from two previously unrelated schools of thought into a new matrix of meaning via a process involving comparison, abstraction and categorisation, analogies and metaphors. He regards many different mental phenomena based on comparison, such as analogies, metaphors, parables, allegories, jokes, identification, role-playing, acting, personification, anthropomorphism etc, as special cases of “bisociation”. (Koestler, 1964)

I then used Freud’s process of free association to brainstorm the word “Inquiry”.

This method involves quickly writing down every single thing that comes to mind while thinking of a particular word, no matter how unrelated it might at first seem. Make a note of any sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, memories and so on that the word might evoke.

Once I had done this, I broke the list down into key words by highlighting those that stood out, repeated or resonated the most with me. (fig. 6)

The words I was left with were:



QuestioningIdentifying Sensations, Images, Feelings, Thoughts and Memories associated with “inquiry”

I explored each key word by breaking them up into five separate categories: Sensation, images, feelings, thought and memories.

For example, how did the word make me feel physically, what did I visualize? what emotions did it evoke? What did I think about and remember? I repeated this process for all three words, using the same free flowing word association technique as before, and once again noted the key words. (fig.7)

These key words were:





Stillnessfigure 7

At this stage, I still had no idea what my theme or topic was going to be. It still didn’t click or make any sense. Nearing the end of day two, I had started to panic again. After all this work, so many little and not so little Eureka moments, yet I still didn’t think I was any closer to knowing what it was that I wanted or needed to know more about!

Despairing, I asked myself, the following questions:

Who am I?

What do I want to know?

What is the nature of my curiosity?

What do I know?   I can’t know what I don’t know!

And then, all of a sudden, it hit me.

I seek …..




Well of course I seek enlightenment, but why? About what, in particular? What do I want or need to change? What will bring me closer to achieving my key words “Stillness, patience, peace, love, happiness, understanding,” etc etc etc etc?

Finally, after much angst, internal struggle and doubt, I knew what I wanted to explore:

ACCEPTANCE fig.8  EUREKA!!!! – My theme is to be Acceptance!

Mirroring – Inter and Intra subjective responses

With a partner, I performed another mirroring exercise, this time while focusing on my newly decided topic of inquiry, “acceptance”.

What does acceptance look like?

With this in mind, I moved around the room, adopting the attitude of “acceptance” while my partner mirrored me.

Once I’d done this I jotted down three intra subjective words in my journal, noting how I felt during the exercise, and my colleague wrote down three inter subjective words on a piece of paper which she then handed to me.

My three words were Open, Relaxed, Peaceful

My colleague’s words were Open, Non-judgmental, self love.

Statement of knowing

After a few minutes of deep reflection, I came up with a short statement about what I understood the purpose of my inquiry to be:

“I wish to achieve a state of inner peace and tranquility through acceptance”

Using COLLAGE to explore the word acceptance

 With this statement in mind, I started looking through magazines to find 20 – 30 images that resonated with me in regards to my topic of inquiry.

I used these images to create a collage on a very large sheet of card. (Fig9)fig. 9 My collage, inspired by the theme Acceptance

Phenomenological description

Once the collage was completed, I sat with my colleague and described it to her phenomenologically, (form, colours, lines, shapes, positions) while she took dictation.  As the transcript below shows, I found phenomenological description rather ….  challenging
fig, 10  transcript of my phenomenological description of collage & key words


indwelling/processing information/text

 I took the transcript to my desk sat with it, reading, indwelling, making notes and reducing it to key words using free association (figs 10 & 11)

My key words were as follows:

strange, small, different, water, space, even, religious, intricate, separate, circular, beautiful, colour, icy, stark, repeating, small, hollow, inverted, green, red, blue, orange, yellowFig 11. My notes, written while indwelling on the transcript of my phenomenological description of the collage, the key words and the thoughts, feelings, images, sensations and memories that arose.

Using movement

Next, I explored the energy of each of the key words thorough movement, noting my intra subjective responses fig.12 exploring key words though movement

I chose one of these movements and repeated it in front of my partner who mirrored it back. The word I enacted was “Repeating”.

I then wrote down three intra subjective words, and she wrote down three inter subjective ones.

My intra subjective words were mechanical, predictable, even.

My partner’s inter subjective words were Robotic, rhythmic, steady.

After all this indwelling and focusing and movement, I was feeling utterly drained, but there was still more investigating to do!

My partner and I sat in front of my collage again. She asked me a series of questions about it and took dictation as I answered.

The questions were:

  1. What draws your attention the most?
  2. What comes to mind when you focus on this?
  3. What else draws your attention?
  4. Tell me more/something about this?
  5. Where is the main energy or movement of energy in this representation?
  6. What do you become aware of when you reflect on this?
  7. As you look, what are the feelings responses you have? What can you say about this?
  8. Do you notice anything about colour? What does it suggest to you?
  9. Do you notice anything about texture? What does it suggest to you?
  10. Do you notice anything about shapes? What does it suggest to you?
  11. Do you notice anything about line? What does it suggest to you?fig 13  My answers to Katherine’s questions about my observations of my own collage

Once I had answered these questions I indwelled, using all the information I had gathered, and came up with the following statement and poem:

What I have come to know:

Although I can influence certain things in my life, arrange them into some semblance of order, the fact of the matter is I will never really be able to control or predict anything other than my own choices, thoughts and reactions.  I believe that my acceptance of how things are and how they affect me is the only way I will be able to learn how to move forward and make the most of what I do have.  Understanding why I see the world the way I do and react to things the way I do may help me find peace.

Blue skies, grey skies, Darkness, light

Straight lines, curved lines, Wrong and right

Inside, outside, upside-down,

Joy and sorrow, smile, frown

Cruelty, kindness, Life & death,

Seeing, blindness, work & rest


Reduction – Phenomenological reduction is a way of removing the layers of interpretation and assumptions that we put between the world, and ourselves in order that we can better see the world for what it actually is, rather than for what we imagine it to be.

Husserl said that by studying the appearance of something, the boundaries of knowledge can be extended in two directions, firstly towards the object, to find out about it, Secondly, towards the subject, to find out about the process of looking – the more I look at things the more I will find out about the me that does the looking.

With this in mind, I sat at my desk with my collage on an easel in front of me and copied it into my journal, but using only the outlines of the main objects and shapes in each picture.  Then I filled in each outlined shape with a colour I felt resonated with it. (fig 14)

I numbered each shape and made a list naming all the images. (fig.15)fig 14  reduction of photo collage to A4 outline drawing

I used free association to explore the shapes, noting sensations, images, feelings thoughts and memories that arose for me as I did so.

Indwelling on the information gathered (fig 16), I asked myself what this tells me about my chosen theme, Acceptance.

 ACCEPTANCE:  Accepting everything as it is, as it happens, and the reasons why. Moving through every experience, moving forward regardless of fear or discomfort.


fig 15  list of descriptions of images in A4 line drawing of photo collage

The Focusing Process –

a therapeutic process developed by contemporary psychotherapist and philosopher Eugene Gendlin.

People engaged in Focusing therapy place their attention inwardly to discover awareness and the meaning of what they have not yet been able to verbalize. The concept of Focusing is based upon Gendlin’s research, which indicated that the client’s internal dynamics were the most critical elements of successful therapy. He found that clients who focused internally were more likely to succeed in therapy.

As part of his Focusing approach, Gendlin coined the term “felt sense.” This refers to a physical sensation of unease that is difficult to clearly articulate. People might feel a sense of emptiness, tension, or heaviness that is related to a previous trauma, for example, but has yet to be recognized consciously. Through Focusing, people detect, observe, and evaluate this felt sense so that they can recognize what they truly feel and move toward a “felt shift.” A felt shift occurs when a person names the felt sense and associates it with a situation or problem in the person’s life, allowing the body to relax. The person may feel relief, elation, energy, or gratitude. (Goodtherapy.org, 2015)

Working with Toni, we sat in front of my collage and she asked me to choose one image that I felt resonated with me most. She asked me a series of questions as shown below. (fig 17)fig 17  Focusing

As I considered and verbally answered her questions, I became acutely aware of my body’s physical responses. Tingles in my back, arms, legs, spreading warm glowing sensations, tensions, discomfort, and so on, and as I became aware of the feelings, they did shift, or moved to other areas of my body. As soon as I was able to identify the source of the greatest discomfort, and verbalised it, I experienced a huge wave or relief and felt tears of joy welled up. I felt an overwhelming sense of understanding, lightness of being and freedom.  fig 18. My felt senses and experiencing during focusing process with Toni

I then drew a visual representation of this felt sense and wrote a very short poem to synthesise my knowing fig.19 Depiction of felt sense after focusing process with Toni

Acceptance is key, 

Let go and let be.

Transcendental Phenomenology – Edmund Husserl (1859–1938)

Noema – that which is experienced

Noesis – the way in which it is experienced

To gain inspiration, I walked around the room, thinking of the word acceptance, using free association, letting words tumble out spontaneously. I made a note of the key words and amplified them through movement.

fig 20

After this I sat with my collage and identified 3 images that attracted my attention.  I made a paper frame to isolate each image from the rest of the collage  fig 21 a fig 21 bFig 21c

First, I described these three images literally (fig 22) then described them again, using felt senses, images, feelings, thoughts and memories. (Fig 23)fig. 22  literal description of imagesfig 23. Describing the 3 images using SIFT (sensations images feelings thoughts etc)

Story Telling

fig 24a. the story – Beginningfig 24b   the story – the middlefig 24c The story – the end

Exploring the Story

After writing the story, we got into groups of three.

While I read my story aloud, the two listeners noted key words, which she then gave to me.

Then, one of the listeners read my story to me while I noted key words.

Listeners then gave me their inter subjective responses :

  1. Katherine used her key words to write another story which amplified mine (fig26)
  2. Corrine used key words to create an image in response to my story (fig 25)
  3. I indwelled on my own keywords and incorporated them into a poem
  4. Both Katherine and Corrine gave me their drawing, story and key words to keep

fig. 25  Corrine’s drawing, notes and my key words produced in response to my story

fig 26 Katherine’s story in response to mine

Continuing to work with Amplification, Re experiencing, and Multi Modal Experiencing

Playing with Plastiscine

To begin, I went for a seven minute walk, indwelling on the word Acceptance, my story, all my experiences thus far, and everything that I was coming to know about my chosen topic.

I then used modeling clay to create a representation of this knowing. (Fig 27a 27b 27c)

I wrote a description of my creation then underlined key words and chose the 3 that resonated the most strongly. I then amplified those 3 words, as shown in fig 28, below.

fig 28

fig 29

 What is at the core of the responses?

Strength, Resiliance, Acceptance

Group Work: exploring the other

I looked at the clay models of two other students and wrote a one word inter subjective response on a piece of paper which I placed face down next to each model.

They other class members did the same. We had given and received two words each.

I indwelled the two words left on my object and followed the process of inquiry shown below in fig 30 and 31

fig 30 Exploring the inter subjective Reponses of others to my clay model, and the relationship between object brought from home and chosen image on collage

fig 31  Object as interviewer.  Noting connections between object brought from home and clay model.


fig 32 Britany’s notes of my answers to her questions regarding the relationship between the object brought from home and my clay model


The phenomenological method comprises three steps: (1) the rule of epoché, (2) the rule of description, and (3) the rule of horizontalization.  Applying the rule of epoché involves setting aside one’s initial biases and prejudices in order to suspend expectations and assumptions. Applying the rule of description, involves describing instead of explaining. Applying the rule of horizontalization one treats each item of description as having equal value or significance. (Spinelli)


Cluster analysis or clustering is the task of grouping a set of objects in such a way that objects in the same group (called a cluster) are more similar (in some sense or another) to each other than to those in other groups (clusters). It is a main task of exploratory data mining (the process of analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing it into useful information)

I used this process to indwell on all my accrued data, including my collage and discover groups of images that are similar.





fig 33 my Clusters

Letting others in

After completing these clusters, another student sat with them while indwelling on my theme, acceptance. She then rearranged the key words in a way that she felt might be of service to me in my inquiry. I did the same with a different student’s clusters, and it felt like quite an enormous responsibility! I was surprised how difficult I found it to let go of my inhibitions and self doubt and thinking that I had no right to interfere or make suggestions.  I was so relieved when Hazel reacted positively to the changes. The process had felt a little like rearranging someone else’s furniture after they had placed it just how they wanted it.

I was even more surprised, however, by my reaction to the way the student had rearranged my clusters. She hadn’t just moved a few key words around, she had written a completely new heading, created a whole new cluster and added some of her own extra key words! (Fig 34) I felt really uncomfortable and upset when I saw this. I couldn’t relate to the new cluster and the words she had added looked so out of place and jarring. Yet I controlled my reactions and did not show disappointment as the student was watching me and smiling broadly, expectantly waiting for me to comment.  I felt frozen. I was shocked by the strength of the emotions I was feeling. My body felt prickly and “icky”, and I had to try really hard not to cry. How could I have such a dramatic response to such a simple, seemingly harmless exercise?

I felt totally disconnected from this student.  It confused me that she seemed so pleased and assumed that I would be too.  And when I smiled at her and thanked her politely, she smiled back and said she knew I would be happy with it, because I am “so unique and different” and that I have my own style.  She wasn’t saying anything unkind,  quite the opposite,  and I genuinely believe she meant well, but for some reason it seemed inappropriate and alienating. I noted that I didn’t enjoy being told what or how or who I am.  I need to discover that for myself, in my own way and in my own time. I also noted that I felt very guilty and ashamed for feeling so upset, and ungrateful.

fig 34.

As soon as she wasn’t looking, I rearranged my clusters and removed the new words that didn’t resonate with me.  As I did so, I found myself reducing the number of clusters from 4 to 3.  So I understand now that the uncomfortable jolt had been both necessary and productive to my inquiry.

Using the felt sense/intuitive knowing, I explored each cluster, asking myself: Who is in it? What is happening? With whom? Where? Which values? Emotions?

fig 35

fig 36

Using the felt sense/intuitive knowing, I explored each cluster, asking myself: Who is in it? What is happening? With whom? Where? Which values? Emotions?

fig 37  Using the felt sense/intuitive knowing, I explored each cluster, asking myself: Who is in it? What is happening? With whom? Where? Which values? Emotions?

Further reduction to a visual representation (fig 38) and  Thematic statement


What I came to know

When I allow myself to embrace and accept the differences between myself and others, I am more able to see the similarities and feel accepted in return, part of a tribe.

Humans, and all things, are all connected, even if they appear to be completely unrelated on the surface.  I feel hopeful now. I feel I am a part of the world and that in order to achieve a sense of peace, serenity and belonging, I must first learn to accept it as it is, others as they are, and myself as I am.

We are all in this together.

fig 39 drawn after laying out and indwelling upon all my work, data and experiencing accrued during this heuristic process of inquiry

fig 40.  Written after laying out and indwelling upon all my work, data and experiencing accrued during this heuristic process of inquiry

fig 41 My little bronze fell off the table and broke, just as I was about to present all my findings. And it was ok. I accepted it as being all part of the process

fig 42  my presentation

fig 43 some of the inter subjective responses given to me by my classmates and teacher following my presentation