We Are All Homeless by Willie Baronet (and Co-Conspirators in Empathy and Creativity)


This project is genius because of the spirit it evokes and invokes.

May we each find and live our hearts purpose in a creative manner such as this. May our most cherished work be a gift in the lives of all who participate, and inspire all who bear witness.

May it be so.

Ashe.

And so it is.

I Am Black Gold


I Am my natural resource.

I AM renewed by my heritage.

I AM enriched by my self-cultivation and rooted in my ancestry.

I AM the richness of the world. I AM Black Gold.

Shawndel Fraser 2014

Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society

This song and video remind me of my childhood in Harlem and my adulthood in Brooklyn New York. My New York childhood was full of teachers who embraced and espied the fullness of our African heritage. My family reveled in our Caribbean ways, and my adulthood is chock full of friends and peers who expertly interweave identity rooted in a self-love so deliciously chocolate that neo-soul is but a watery description of the depth and richness of our “Negritude”. I have gloried in Harlem sunrises, Brooklyn BBQ’s, mid-day Guyana rains,  Ghanaian Sunsets,  family dinners in Mexico and basked in Costa Rican love songs. In each place I was made aware of just how golden my Blackness is by immersion, contrast or just plain awesomeness. I adore this song and video for reminding me of my path, my people and my home-place. Thank You Esperanza and Algebra!

Ashe.

As I awaken from my multi-year cocooning, I emerge to Esperanza’s ode to and celebration of cultural richness and historic significance.

Make Good Art


Author Neil Gaiman,

2012 Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts

Philadelphia, 2012

Musical Monday::One Chorus, One People


Bobby McFerrin may very well be on of America’s National Treasures. His approach to music shows his total immersion in the craft of music from the world of sounds, and he seems to have honed the ability to transform instruction into entertaining activity.

This video shows Bobby McFerrin leading the audience (at the World Science Festival ) in a song based on the pentatonic scale; he uses mime and vocalizations to teach the audience to sing the song. McFerrin begins by demonstrating the interval between the mid-tone and the next higher tone, as well as the tone below. After the minimal instruction, he pantomimes to lead the audience through the rest of the song. Amazingly, the audience sings as if they already knew the tune, or at least the pentatonic scale. At the end, Mr. McFerrin returns to his seat and discloses that everywhere he’s visited, all the countries with different languages, cultures and musical traditions, people everywhere are able to intuit, discern and vocalize the correct higher and lower notes for the pentatonic scale, beyond those he initially demonstrated.

This demonstration suggests that our brains are hardwired for harmonics. As an intuitive person with a holistic understanding of nature, this makes sense to me given that all life forms make music. All Life Makes Music; Sound and music is a condition of life. When we use our voices we add to the chorus of the world, whether we sing, speak, yell or cry, we add to the ambient soundscapes of birds, rushing water, rustling tree leaves, whooshing wind, car honks, dog barks and on and on.

think:: If you were an observer /listener who detached from the emotionality of the scene or activity of the actors, let’s say you recently landed from Neptune, would you be more likely to perceive “noise” or be able to discern human language versus birdsong, versus rainfall, thunder or the rev of a motor? Probably not. If you were new to the earthly soundscape, you would be more likely to orient yourself to the underlying rhythms which pattern the swells of noise, eventually noticing similarities or dissimilarities in tones before you could identify where the tones / sounds / pulses or rhythms emanate from. If our humanly sounds add to the chorus of life, even our technological wonders become a part of the greater soundscape, are we really so different from a woodpecker, dragonfly, rooster or any other animal? We are ONE.

Feel:: What emotions come up for you as you listen to the non-musical audience of strangers who engaged in a perfectly orchestrated impromptu song? Remember, these people don’t represent a cohesive group, they all flew / drove / swam / walked 🙂  to the World Science festival to attend that lecture; they were from as many walks of life, and represent as many different experiences as there were people, however harmonically they were all in tune. Complete strangers expertly sang a new song in unison. When I watched this video, I felt an overwhelming, beautiful sense of joy and expansive ONENESS. The people may not have known each other individually, but they essential humanness asserted and recognized itself to show that they, WE come from the same proverbial root.

The harmony created in a room of strangers poignantly illustrates an ultimate truth: there is no separation between you and me. If we can tap into the greater chorus at will, then maybe, just maybe we  are all creating a symphony composed of the sounds, words and expressions we make in our everyday life?

Grow!:: What sounds do you want to contribute to the chorus of life? Identify the most recent time you felt alone. Not lonely, but alone. Where life seemed as if it were coursing by without you, or when you had thoughts that your experience was so different from everyone else’s, that no one could understand. In this moment, after witnessing a supreme moment of oneness between strangers, realize that there is no possible way for you to actually be alone the world. Even in feelings of isolation, we can add melancholy tone to the symphony of life. We all know that some of the most compelling works of art incorporated the artists melancholy to great effect; I challenge you take the reins as the composer of your life and consciously decide what note you add to the chorus of life. The next time you feel alone, or misunderstood, to go out into the world and listen to the chorus just outside your door. Do you notice that there is something missing? It’s You! Your voice is crucial to the chorus of Life. Lift your voice and sing, add your unique melody to the chorus. When you add to the soundtrack of life, it is impossible to feel alone, because in that moment you connect and contribute to the chorus, you will remember that you are irrevocably plugged into or tapped into to the greater power that unites us all.

What is my sound?:: Well, I wish to add the beta-wave sound of optimism, honesty and human healing. I wish to create a sound-wave of my healing that emanates from my own healing process out to others in need of the same. My intent is that the healing beta-wave compels all who hear it to seek, find and ultimately embark on their deepest, most profound healing journey.

Shawndel

Heritage Wednesday::The Elevator Speech


A Heritage Elevator Speech? Yes. If you are a professional, a small-business owner, an academic, an artist or a dreamer, you have inherited a culture that is short on time yet ravenous for great ideas. The elevator speech is what bridges the gap between innovators and their supporters. If you are fortunate enough to encounter an interested or strategically placed person who can propel you on your path, you need a hook, a compelling and SHORT story to engage them in your vision. These interactions are often the result of chance social encounters with friends of friends, colleagues at professional conferences or all-staff meetings at work. At best, you may get a 1-4 minute audience with this person, so make it count!

Elevator Speech Opportunities

“So, what do you do for a living?”

I have heard it said a few times by artists and academic-types that the sales-pitch feels like the hardest part. “Why must I sell people on my idea when it is clearly something that: will inspire others / help the greater good / is intrinsically valuable”. Yes, your idea may be all of those things, but no idea is helpful without the support of other people. It’s a condition of being born a social being. The truth is, if you have a degree, a job, or you have friends who support your endeavors, then your inner-salesperson is alive and well. We sell people on ideas of who we are, what we are capable of, and even convince companies and institutions to believe that we are ambassadors for the best interests of an academic discipline, department or product line.

If you dislike the “sale” then that is an indicator that you approach the sales moment with the sensibilities of the inner artist, or academic etc, that is to say, you may be approaching the sales moment with the portion of yourself that prefers to be alone and simply do the work, rather than drum-up support for it. That frame of mind is good when creating or writing, but does not directly serve the proliferation of your goal, project or idea. You will need to free your inspired salesperson self to share your idea, or it will remain small and undernourished, and will eventually wither and die young, never having received support from those who could help it thrive.

Overlapping interests are the bounty of the elevator speech

“No kidding? I have always been interested in that! Let’ set up a meeting time to discuss this further. I’d love to help you in any way I can…”

Approach the following exercise with the passion of the artist, the honed expression of your inner academic, and the tact and extroversion of your inner salesperson.

Elevator speeches should be customizable on the fly, so this requires you to really think about your project, ideas or goals, and think of as many possible applications or collaborations that you would ENJOY pursuing. This refines your thought process about the project, and cultivates a flexible approach to describing your idea.

If your networking goal is to meet as many allied people as possible, then your elevator speech goal is to craft as many versions of an introduction.

Now that you know the “whys” of an elevator speech, let’s discuss the “how”.  There are five dimensions to the elevator speech. They cover the points most likely to interest the listener, yet leaves them enough time to comprehend the information and ask for more if they so choose.

  1. Who am I and what is my research / project / initiative?
  2. Why is this new fangled thing better that what already exists? What does your offering give that has never been offered before?
  3. What makes your approach/ project/ initiative/ research so important, notable or special?
  4. What are your desired outcomes / goals?  What is your vision?
  5. BREATHE

 More on STEP 5

After the sales pitch, the rest is up to the listener / audience. You can make a quick introduction, but the buy-in cannot be rushed.  After you finish your elevator speech, make eye contact, smile, take a deep breath and relax your shoulders while counting to 5.  By the time you compose yourself, you will be ready to listen to their response, and answer any questions.

Remember, this is a conversation, and questions signify interest and active listening, not necessarily criticism (remember: critique is good); so receive their questions as guidance toward the clarification and manifestation of your goal. No idea is created in a vacuum.

Give the listener time to digest and respond to your “speech”. Let them begin to sense the greater implications and importance of your work. If you give them time to respond, inevitably, they will respond with thoughtful questions. Keep your answers concise. Less is more. The “less is more” speech is composed of the prize nuggets that makes listeners want to seek more information. This is salesperson-ship at its best! Your brilliant idea enhanced by a refined presentation does all the work!

Congratulations!

Kudos to You!

Congratulations! This was a long post, so if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already primed your inner salesperson to do you proud. The hardest part is writing the speech, so once you’ve written the first draft. Say it aloud, practice it, test it on your friends and family, coworkers, and your boss (if appropriate). When you can improvise alternate versions and feel comfortable with the process, you’re ready to take it into the field…

I thought I’d share my revised elevator speech with you as an example, so here it is, in outline format:

  1. Who am I and what is my research / project / initiative?
    1. My name is Shawndel Fraser and I am an Environmental Psychologist. I am building a creative and healing arts retreat for women survivors.
  2. Why is this newfangled thing better that what already exists? Why is your project / goal / idea unique?
    1. Where most retreats cater to luxury consumers, yogis, or spiritual seekers, The Blue Dome is a retreat for women who wish to hone new emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual tools to transform limited and limiting beliefs about past intense experiences.
  3. What makes your approach/ project/ initiative/ research so important, notable or special?
    1. The Blue Dome is a restorative and safe place where women create community; they repose in physical, emotional and psychological comfort, and take part in creative and healing art activities that help them realize one thing: survivors don’t simply survive, they Artfully Transcend. Any survivor has the potential and ability to transcend all types of violence and circumstance.
  4. What are your desired outcomes / goals?  What is your vision?
    1. My goal is for the women to realize during their stay, that their past traumas were divine lessons in disguise.
    2. My vision is that they will come to learn that their survivor status is actually a call to contribute in global healing though their unique expression of leadership in their everyday lives.

I hope this is helpful, do share your elevator speech should you feel so inclined. I will offer constructive critique if you do!

Shawndel

Saucy Saturday::LogoDoodles for Self-Awareness


I’ve been playing around with Logo symbols, and created two ideas. I used my new watercolor pencils for these, though I plan to revisit them with my rich new watercolors from The Modern museum in Ft. Worth.

20120803-101128.jpg

These are not final, but they begin to touch on the energies I wish to invoke with my creative and healing arts retreat “The Blue Dome” and the subsidiary brands: think. Feel. Grow!, and Artful Transcendence(c)

20120803-101148.jpg

Think::What do these images communicate to you? What meaning do you derive from the symbols and their placement?

Feel::How do you feel about a hand drawn logo, given the type of company/organization it represents? How do you feel about the idea of crafting your own logo?

Grow::What would your logo look like? What materials or medium would you choose? What shapes, colors, symbols would you use? What would it represent about you/your goals/your heart work (that is, the true work that you are here to contribute e.g. Healing, beauty, advisor, etc.)

Ah, therein lay the rub. To make a logo, you must first discover and decide on your contribution to this great social and ecological world we call home, That IS the Blue Dome! 🙂

Conspiratorially yours in creativity,
Shawndel

Inspiration Tuesday: Strength, Courage and Wisdom


My thinking, feeling, growing lovelies!

I recently became re-inspired to practice my guitar for two reasons; the first is for the simple enjoyment of the instrument, I love to feel the curves and weight of the guitar in my arms and on my lap, and the sounds of the plucked strings thrills me. The second reason is to get my chops back as I anticipate performing with vocalist Leisha Lashawn later this year. It has been a while since I’ve performed, I’ve started practicing the basics so that I may feel confident when I return to the stage.

As I searched my sheet music I rediscovered my book of India Arie’s “Acoustic Soul” guitar tablature. However, it was only when I watched Lainey Bernstein sing it at the Center for Spiritual Living Dallas, that I realized that I should share this song (and Leiney’s performance of it with you. ( Reverend Petra’s talk “What You Think of Me is None of My Business” follow’s Lainey’s performance).

I adore this song because it is a catchy, inspirational tune that tells us that self-trust is the only path to emotional, spiritual and psychological freedom. There is no person, pastor, prophet or professor who can give you courage or confidence. Science of mind, or spiritual psychology would tell is that any miracle that bolsters your faith was in fact, self-created. I love India Arie for her courage and innovation because she wrote a song of self-love and shared it far and wide with mainstream music fans.

As a blogger, I step out on faith every time I share my thoughts with a public that I do not see and cannot trace. I make myself knowable using a medium that does not necessarily foster reciprocation. Even still, I trust that I am honing my ability to share insights and inspiration via the web as effectively as I do in person. I also trust that blogging contributes to my future goals in some great way–beyond my enjoyment of the task itself.

THINK::When was the last time you stepped out on faith? What made it a test of your courage?  Remember tests are indicators of skill, so then tests of faith are measures of how well you trust yourself to manage that aspect of your life. If you doubt yourself, remember doubt is not based on fact, doubt is created by fear. Doubt is literally the spawn or offal of fear. Why give your power to psychological poop? Just flush it away.

FEEL:: What emotions and physical sensations did you feel during and after the “test”? What do you feel right now as you read about and think about fear as something that you can work by simply choosing to trust yourself? What would your life feel like if you had profound trust in your ability to care for yourself, to choose good people,places, and foods for yourself? If you can feel it, you can live it!

GROW:: What would it take for you to trust yourself? If you feel that some parts of your life actively prevent you from feeling courageous about your ability to be healthy, stable, happy or calm, then what changes can you make? The only change you need in life is you: shift your thoughts and choices, your behaviors and relationship to your environment, community and confidantes.