I have to tell you, the Discovery Workshop has left me changed. As each day goes by, I can tell the change is lasting. Even though I was teaching it alongside Rick and Brian, I was also powerfully affected. As teachers, we did all the exercises we asked our attendees to do, and I can’t believe what unraveled for me. I told the ladies I was going to share my new self portrait, but we ran out of time. So I hope you don’t mind if I share the process here.

This was the Self Portrait I brought to the workshop.

It’s an image that Brian and I worked on together while in Thailand. The interesting thing about this image is that I knew it had something to tell me about myself, but I wasn’t sure what that something was. I tried blogging about this image several times while in Thailand, but the story still wasn’t clear. Not until after we got home did the image, the story of the image, make sense.

Brian and I set the image up so I would be blurred while in motion. The overall image is meant to give feelings of warmth, ease, femininity, softness. But I wanted to be in blur because I was in the middle of discovering a part of myself I never knew existed. I knew I was moving toward something, but I didn’t have clarity yet. The books below are all our homeschool materials. I wanted those in focus because in the midst of feeling this change, this journey inside, our family was clearer than ever. The homeschool time we had, the projects we worked on, the long walks we did every day, I could see my family like I’d never seen them before. And lastly, if you’ll notice, I’m not lifting my head up. I’m looking down. I tried taking this shot with me looking up, straight ahead, but I couldn’t do it with ease. Inside I knew that the future was still unclear. I didn’t feel confident enough, at ease with myself, to look straight ahead as I moved forward.

I tried to hold back my tears at the workshop, but it was a lost cause. I told the women that I felt like I had begun to find this woman inside me. And yet, I only had a moment with her before we had to leave Thailand. Would I find her again? Was it possible for her to exist here, away from the calm of Thailand’s jungle? The unanswered questions have swirled inside me ever since we returned. This self portrait was my discovery process to finding the answers.

When we did our drawing exercise at the Discovery Workshop, I was amazed with what came out of me. I don’t feel like I can draw at all, but I felt like the first half of the day unleashed all this emotion inside. I found myself drawing swirls, and flames of fire, that are moving upward. I drew hands, lots of hands, reaching, comforting and calming myself. I realized I had more hands within me to help myself than the two I see.

As you can see, I can’t really draw but that didn’t matter for the exercise. The drawing affirmed an overall connection to my body. Maybe it’s the fact that I wore a two piece every day in Thailand and did it with ease–maybe that is where it started. Maybe that step of doing something I never do was the beginning of me feeling connected to my body. Did I ever realize how strong I was? Did I ever know how disconnected my heart had been from my physical body? How did that happen? These are all the questions that started to swirl, churn, and rise up within me.

And then Leslie, Rick’s beautiful wife, asked us to write three statements based on our drawings starting with the words, “I am.”. Mine were the following;

I am fire, rising, churning, surfacing, then swirling before settlement. I am more hands reaching than two, more help than I knew, more mystery, internal movement than I knew existed. I am unfolding, untangling, coming up for air.

Then Leslie did something that shook me to the core. She took her own three statements and said she was going to transform them into an interruptive dance. Leslie started by saying she wasn’t a dancer by formal training, but movement is a way she expresses herself. What she did for us was amazing. And I found myself needing to understand it more.

I had a conversation with Leslie about my three statements. Feeling totally afraid and insecure, I asked her for ideas on how she would turn my statements into movement. As we talked, I remembered going to ballet for so many years. Fourteen years of ballet, can you believe it? As a little girl, I wanted to be a dancer. But I didn’t really have a dancer’s body. I wasn’t flexible. And my ballet classes seemed to stress my dad out. Over the years, I felt more pain around ballet than freedom. I’m wondering if I disconnected from my body at the same time. Leslie challenged me to open my idea of what Dance means–outside of the box of formal ballet. And all of a sudden, in talking with Leslie, I wanted to be a dancer again. It was like this little girl inside of me called out. And her voice was pure, free and innocent.

The next day, when we were at Stinson Beach, Garrett and I had a few minutes of unexpected down time. I told him about my talk with Leslie, and I asked him to help me create a new self portrait. Without expecting it, I was in a new place. The self portrait I had brought to the workshop was no longer relevant.

I wanted this self portrait to have movement in it. I wanted to somehow show the hands within me that care for me, reach for hope, and give me ease. I wanted to somehow capture the motion of feeling at rest, and yet alive and vibrant at the same time.

Remember how I started my statements out with “I am fire.”? Well, we happened to find a red door. And even though I felt incredibly self conscious, I tried moving my arms and hands in a way that represented my statements. Garrett was so great and encouraging, and he shot away until we found what we were looking for. This was all WAY out of my comfort zone. But look at what we captured.

That is me. It’s hard to believe. I’ve never been at that much ease in front of a camera. It’s been years since I let my body move with a purpose to discover more of myself.

And then the huge “Aha” moment came (on top of all the others), I often ask my clients to move freely, relax, while I’m taking photos of them. But how little freedom do I have with myself? And how can I lead someone to being free in front of the camera, if I don’t possess it?

What do Self Portraits and Discovering the Artist Within have to do with your photography business?

Answer: Every Thing

If workshop attendees are comfortable posting them, I would LOVE to hear what your “I am” statements were. I’m working on Day 2 and Day 3, so you can have a window into those days too.

And last but not least, Happy Mother’s Day this weekend to all the beautiful, spirited, brave moms who follow this blog. Some of you are coming to the Seattle Workshop in June, and we are so excited to work with you!

xoxo, Me Ra

p.s. Wait! I owe all the dads two ideas for making Mother’s Day perfect!

1. Here are some of my favorite things that we’ve done for Mother’s D
ay…a trip to the nursery for flowers and a hanging basket, Brian once bought some colorful place mats and made me breakfast–the new place mats was the icing on the cake! And Brian says, “Get a card and tell her ways that you think she is a good mom.” (he’s trying to score points with me at this moment :))

2. You can still purchase our Award Winning DVDs (yep, they won a major award! More details to follow!). If you want her to have them by Sunday, you can purchase the download version. Or, you can purchase fast shipping and have the DVDs delivered by Mon/Tues!

3. Let’s make it THREE, in case you missed Monday’s ideas. I did a live Q&A for Sony on Monday night. The topic was 10 Tips to Capture the Perfect Mother’s Day Moment. The forum is still posted on Sony’s Backstage Learning site. To read the tips, go to this blog post for the directions on how to access the interview. Tip #8 is my favorite. Leave a comment on there and tell me what your favorite tip was!