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Embracing My Visual Voice with Spring Photography

Spring 2012 001, originally uploaded by anandaleeke.

Last week I decided to practice what I learned in photographer Diane Cu’s BlissDom conference workshop on digital photography.  So I carried my digital camera everywhere I went in hopes of capturing images that made me think of springtime. This photo represents the meaning of springtime.  It was taken in Crystal City, Virginia.

What do you think?

What images remind you of springtime?

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Ananda is speaking at 8th Annual Spelman College Leadership and Women of Color Conference in May

Photo Credit: Spelman College

Guess who is going to speak at Spelman College in May?  Yours truly!  I AM SUPER EXCITED!  It will be my second time speaking at Spelman.  Last year, I spoke at the Digital Doyennes event sponsored by Spelman’s Digital Moving Image Salon and the Women in Film & Television Atlanta.

So here are the details about my May visit.  I will be speaking on a panel with Patricia Cesaire of Black Enterprise, James Anderson of SocialPeople.tv, and Roland Martin of CNN, that will discuss how social media can help women shape their leadership brand at Spelman’s 8th Annual Leadership and Women of Color Conference on May 17. Check out the Pinterest board I created about personal leadership brand (will add more information in April and May).

The Leadership and Women of Color Conference begins on May 16 with an opening session on Leading with Purpose and the Legacy of Leadership Awards Dinner.  A networking breakfast, opening session with testimonies from the field, and panel discussions, and workshops will be held on May 17. Click here to see the full schedule.

Speakers include Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Dr. Jane E. Smith, Tai Beauchamp, Josefina Bonilla, Henna Inam, Angela Fletcher, Katherine Giscombe, Kym A. Harris, Nicole Roberts Jones, Kathleen McGhee-Anderson, Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, Deborah Owens, and Andrea Riggs. Click here to register for the conference.

Be sure to follow Spelman and the Conference on Twitter @SpelmanCollege and @SpelmanWOCConf.

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Coming Home to Myself

Ananda at the Artists-in-Residence Retreat sponsored by Smith Center for Healing the Arts in May 2010

This morning I woke up thinking about a collage book that I made during the Artists-in-Residence Retreat sponsored by the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in May 2010.  I remembered I posted photos of the book on my Flickr page.  So I used my smartphone to access the site.  My eyes were drawn to three images with wisdom messages that spoke to my heart.

Photo Credit: Always Open Your Hand to Receive Collage and Photo by Ananda Leeke

Image #1 Wisdom from Yours Truly: Always open your hand to receive.

Photo Credit: Ananda Leeke's collage of author Clarissa Pinkola Estes' wisdom quote

Image #2 Wisdom from poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes: “In the face of ‘too much’ we gradually become dry, our hearts get tired, our energies become spare, and a mysterious longing for – we almost never have a name for it other than ‘a something’ rises up in us more and more.”

Photo Credit: Ananda Leeke's collage featuring author Madeleine L'Engle's qisdom quote

Image #3 Wisdom from author Madeleine L’Engle:  “Every so often I need OUT.”

These messages represented a Spring wake up call:  Continue practicing awareness of what I need.  They also invited me to return to the first page of my 2012 journal.  Here’s what I wrote on January 1.

Photo Credit: Road Home by Ananda Leeke (2010)

2012 must be different from 2011. I must return to the deep, juicy space of creativity that I discovered in 1992, the year I baptized myself in poetry, meditation, journal writing, self publishing my own work, art, daydreaming, museum and gallery visits, and travel adventures. I must come home to myself. What road must I take?  When I start walking along the road, how do I come home to myself? Through fierce living from your creative heart. What’s that?

Fierce Living is

F – Finding your

I – Inner women inside of you by

E – Exploring who they are and

R – Receiving them into your life as your

C – Community of

E – Expression and

When you tap into your inner women be sure to

L – Listen to them because they offer

I – Intuition

V – Vulnerability

I – Imagination

N – Nurturing and

G – Growth opportunities

This acronym of fierce living from my creative heart has become my personal theme for 2012 and a reminder of what I need to do to come home to myself.

Coming home to myself has allowed me to spend time reconnecting with my eight inner women otherwise known as archetypes and personalities. We’ve known each other for many years now. They include Ancestor, my wise woman; Ananda, my spirit woman and mystic; Kiamsha, my creative woman; Madelyn, my CEO woman; Cheryl, my balanced woman and peacekeeper; Puf, my girl child and Black American Princess; Sapphire, my warrior woman and sexy vixen; and Broomhilda, my inner critic.

Since January, we have reconnected through mindful meditation, Reiki healing touch, yoga, journaling, collage making, writing an intention statement, playing with six-word memoirs, going on creative adventure dates and walks, reading magazines, listening to music, shopping for our favorite things, and playing dress up in my closet. This investment of time has helped me deeply listen to myself.  So far, I have discovered that I need to do a better job of taking care of myself.  I need to practice self-compassion.  I need more ME time to just be, to rest, to daydream, to imagine, and to create.  I need to set better boundaries with my time, energy, resource sharing, and relationships.  I also need to say NO to certain people and requests so I can have space to say YES to the people and things that nourish my creative heart.  Today, I discovered coming home to myself is a daily necessity and an essential part of my life journey.

Copyright 2012 by Madelyn C. Leeke. All Rights Reserved.

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My Creative Process: Art Making and Memoir Book Writing

Ananda writing at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts

I am in the middle of writing my second memoir, Digital Sisterhood: Fierce Living Online for 25 Years.  It’s my third book in five years!

My creative process is magical, messy, and SLOW right now.  I am struggling with the fear of writing a new book and wondering how it will be received.  I have turned to my artwork for comfort.

My creative soul has found sanctuary in Collagetry.  Collage + Poetry = Collagetry.  It is a technique I developed while working as an artist-in-residence for Smith Center for Healing and the Arts at Howard University Hospital.

Ananda's art supplies
Ananda's art supplies
Ananda's art supplies

A few weeks ago I created several Collagetrys (my made up word) for patients I was working with at The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  I took photos of the collages because they spoke to my writing fears and life as an artist.  See below.

Collagetry

This Memoir Collagetry reminded me to own my story and voice in my writing process.  It also reminded me of the collages I made during my first memoir writing process and the energy and inspiration I received after creating them.  So I made a mental note to make more time in my writing process for collage.

Healing Artist Collagetry

The message of this Healing Artist Collagetry really touched me: Self-expression.  This is you. This is now. Healing artist. Your heart. Watercolor landscape.  It offered me permission to use my healing artwork as a path back to my  memoir writing.

Six-word memoir Collagetry

I adore six-word memoirs and have used them in my work as an artist-in-residence.  This six-word memoir’s message states: The Creative Kingdom. Healing Ways Soothe.  It led me to do a Google search for blogs written by collage artists who use words in their work.  My search introduced me to artist/blogger Kelly Rae Roberts and her book, Taking Flight: Inspiration And Techniques To Give Your Creative Spirit Wings

Taking Flight: Inspiration And Techniques To Give Your Creative Spirit Wings by Kelly Rae Roberts - photo credit: Amazon.com

After reading the book’s description on Amazon.com, I ordered a copy.  I started reading the book and have enjoyed the journaling exercises which are forcing me to confront my writing fears.  One of my fears is running out of inspiration.  So I have turned to Pinterest. I created two inspiration boards for my art and writing.  I use them on a regular basis to stay energized.  Check out the links below.

I also started listening to TED Talks about writing and creativity.  Two of my favorites include author Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on a new way to think about creativity and novelist Amy Tan’s talk on where does creativity live.

Photo Credit: Poets and Writers, February 2012

I returned to reading Poets & Writers on a regular basis.  The February issue focused on inspiration. I have been rereading Frank Bures’ article about creating inner space for inspiration.  It reminds me to UNPLUG from technology, my to do list, my writing deadlines, etc.  Unplugging creates more time to relax and recharge.  When I do it, I am able to surrender.  SURRENDER is the key that unlocks the door to my creative process.  So wish me luck as I practice the art of surrender from now until the fall season, make Collegetrys to overcome my writing struggles, and complete my  fabulous Digital Sisterhood book!

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Post #BlissDom – Embracing My Visual Voice with Animoto Video

My Animoto Video.

My photo of BlissDom arrow advertising Girls Night In event

My BlissDom 12 Conference experience inspired me to embrace my visual voice passionately.  I learned that lesson while attending photographer Diane Cu’s “Storytelling and Embracing Imperfection: Empower Your Visual Voice with Photography and Video.” Diane talked about how powerful it is to express your authenticity and tell stories with imperfect photos. During the session, I sat next to Ellen Seidman, founder of Love That Max blog.  Ellen introduced me to Animoto, an online  service that turns your photos and video clips into professional video slideshows in minutes.  I have been playing with Animoto for the past few weeks. Today, I created a very short video that documents what I learned during Diane’s session.  It’s my first video with photos, text, and music.  It was really easy to make! Click here to watch it.  Let me know what you think.

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#BlissDom12 Conference Blog Recap Part 5 – My Heart of Haiti Moments

Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti photos

Some of my best BlissDom Conference moments were spent supporting and celebrating the Heart of Haiti Campaign, a partnership between Fairwinds Trading, Macy’s, and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.  It was created to provide sustainable income to Haitian artisans impacted by the January 2010 earthquake.  Through the partnership, the artisans create artwork that is sold as the Heart of Haiti collection in Macy’s stores.  The sales from these hand-made products including quilts, metalwork, paper måché, painting and jewelry generate the sustainable income and provide trade instead of aid to the Haitian artisans.

Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti Photos

As soon as I arrived and settled into my room at the Opryland Hotel on February 23, I tweeted the Everywhere team, Danica Kombol and Britton Edwards, to let them know I was ready to put on my Heart of Haiti Blogger Ambassador hat and support their Heart of Haiti booth in the BlissDom Handmade Marketplace.  When I saw the booth, I was in complete AWE! Why?  Because these ladies know how to make a conference booth attractive and fun to visit.  And it’s not hard when you have the beautiful Heart of Haiti collection to work with.  Danica and Britton gave me a brief update on the new items in the collection and showed me photos from the #Bloggers4Haiti trip to Haiti in January.  Check out the photos below.

Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti photos
Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti photos
Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti photos
Ananda and Danica Kombol - Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti Photos
Ananda and Britton Edwards -- Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti Photos

While I was at the Heart of Haiti booth, I met and chatted with BlissDom attendees about my experiences as a Blogger Ambassador and February 2011 trip to Haiti.  Many of the attendees told me about their passion for using social media for social good and plans to support the Heart of Haiti.  Those conversations reminded me how important it is to tell people about the Haitian artisans who are using their creative gifts to make their lives and country better.  They also reminded me that I have got to get to Haiti in 2013!

Ananda and Emily FaliLv - Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti Photos
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BlogHer 2012 Women and Social Media Study

Photo Credit: BlogHer 2012 Study

Yesterday I learned that BlogHer published its 2012 study of women and social media. What timing! I was hoping the study would come out in time for me to include in my last chapter of my Digital Sisterhood book. The Internet geek in me is jumping for joy. Time to read the study and learn more about digital sisters!

  • Click here to see the BlogHer SlideShare presentation.
  • Click here to read more about the BlogHer 2012 Study.
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Headed to #BlogHer12 as a Podcasting 101 Speaker in August

BlogHer Speaker Badge

Guess what?  I am so excited about BlogHer coming to New York City in August.  Why?  Because I get to speak about one of my digital loves — Podcasting 101 with several dynamic women on August 3 from 1:15 pm to 2:30 pm at the Hilton New York in NYC City. I am also excited that this year’s conference will mark my fourth BlogHer adventure! WOOO HOOO!

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Ananda is speaking about her work with wounded warrriors at the Veteran-Civilian Dialogue Project on March 15

Intersections International logo

Great news! I will speak about my work with wounded warriors as an artist-in-residence for Smith Center for Healing and the Arts at The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on March 15 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Veteran-Civilian Dialogue Project held at Smith Center in Washington, DC.  Veteran-Civilian Dialogue is a project sponsored by Intersections, a New York-based non-government organization that works at the intersection of communities in conflict The Project brings together veterans and civilians to discuss the impact of war in their lives and others.

I started working as an artist-in-residence for Smith Center in 2000.  My first residency was based at Howard University Hospital where I served people living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other health challenges from 2003 to 2009.  Click here to learn more Smith Center’s artist-in-residence program.

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#BlissDom12 Conference Blog Recap Part 4 – Reflections on My “Fierce Living from Your Creative Heart” Session

My BlissDom bag

The morning of my BlissDom session on February 24 began with meditation, prayer, yoga, and Reiki healing touch in my lovely room at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.  During my morning spiritual practice, I focused on opening my heart and surrendering to Creator’s highest good.  I made sure to say a prayer of thanksgiving for blessing me with an opportunity to share my gifts as a creative professional with an amazing community of women and men bloggers.  Afterwards, I got dressed, packed my conference bag with my workshop materials, and headed to breakfast.

The Bliss Chicks - Photo Credit: BlissDom Flickr Group Photos

Breakfast was yummy! I ate plenty of delicious fruit and two chocolate muffins as I watched the powerful opening video and listened to the “Bliss Chicks” Allie Worthington, Paula Bruno, and Barbara Jones welcome everyone to BlissDom.  The morning got better as I sat writing notes during author and blogger Jon Acuff‘s keynote address.  It ended with entrepreneurial inspiration from Allie and Ana Roca Castro’s introduction of Picha Global, a social media business they formed with Barbara Jordan and Megan Jordan.

Jon Acuff - Photo Credit: BlissDom Flickr Photo Shoot
Ana Roca Castro & Allie Worthington - Photo Credit: BlissDom Flickr Group
Jeannette Kaplun - Photo Credit: BlissDom Flickr Group

The positive BlissDom brekafast energy followed me into Jeannette Kaplun’s amazing session, “Living (and Embracing) the Best of the Life You Have Created for Yourself.”   Jeannette reminded me to choose joy, grace, gratitude, ease, acceptance, forgiveness, and peace in my daily life.  What a beautiful gift!

The morning events filled my heart with so much joy and positive energy, and affirmed that BlissDom was indeed the perfect place for me to share my insights on how I discovered fierce living from my creative heart during my afternoon session.

Me speaking at my BlissDom session - Photo Credit: Holli, founder of AWonderingSpirit.blogspot.com

Before I began my session, I took a minute to take in the faces of the BlissDom attendees.  I smiled inside and outside.  Why? Because we were about to learn and grow together!

My session began with the following introduction.

Welcome to “Fierce Living from Your Creative Heart.”  Fierce Living is a journey worth taking in 2012.  It begins with an open heart in the present moment.  When you breathe intentionally and deeply, you invite yourself into the present moment.  You also create space to discover who you are from the inside out and what’s happening in your creative heart.  So let’s get started.

The yoga teacher inside of me always makes sure that breathing exercises are included in my workshop sessions.  Check out the breathing exercises I shared with the BlissDom family.

Join me in taking 10 deep breaths. We inhale through our noses and exhale through our mouths.  Feel free to make sounds like hah as you exhale.  You can get loud too.

  •  Take a deep breath and inhale self-love.  Exhale anything that gets in the way of you experiencing it.
  • Inhale self-care. Exhale anything that gets in the way of you experiencing it.
  • Inhale self-expression. Exhale anything that gets in the way of you experiencing it.
  • Inhale self-discovery. Exhale anything that gets in the way of you experiencing it.
  • Inhale vulnerability. Exhale anything that gets in the way of you tapping into it.
  • Inhale intuition. Exhale anything that gets in the way of you tapping into it.
  • Inhale imagination. Exhale anything that gets in the way of you tapping into it.
  • Inhale inspiration. Exhale anything that gets in the way of you tapping into it.
  • Inhale creativity. Exhale anything that gets in the way of you tapping into it.
  • Inhale gratitude. Exhale anything that gets in the way of you expressing it.

 In this sacred place, quietly set an intention for your session today.  An intention is a statement about what you want to experience. When you are done, open your eyes.

Photo Credit: Smith Magazine

The next exercise focused on one of my favorites: six-word memoirs.  I asked the group to write a present moment six-word memoir which is composed of six words that expressed how they were feeling in the present moment.  During the group sharing circle, I listened to the authentic, beautiful, creative, and vulnerable statements people wrote.  It was powerful to witness!

Check out the six-word memoir that Katherine Malone, founder of Buckhead Betty … on a Budget blog, wrote:  Energized, ready for a new adventure.  Click here to read her BlissDom blog recap.

Beth Zimmerman shared her six-word memoir @betzimmerman on Twitter. See below.

Fierce Living via @digitalsisterhd at #Blissdom – My 6 Word Memoir: blessed, happy, tired, achy, wondering, grateful

After the six-word memoir writing exercise, I gave a five-minute talk that discussed my 2012 wake up call and realization of fierce living from my creative heart.  It is also an excerpt from the last chapter of my next book, Digital Sisterhood: Fierce Living Online for 25 Years (2012).  See below.

My 2012 Wake Up Call  (Copyright 2012 by Madelyn C. Leeke. All Rights Reserved.)

On the first day of the new year, I wrote in my journal: 2012 must be different from 2011. I must return to the deep, juicy space of creativity that I discovered in 1992, the year I baptized myself in poetry, meditation, journal writing, self publishing my own work, art, daydreaming, museum and gallery visits, and travel adventures. I must come home to myself. How? How do I come home to myself? Through fierce living from your creative heart. What’s that?

As I wrote in my journal about the meaning of fierce living from my creative heart, an acronym emerged. It has become my personal theme for 2012 and a reminder of what I need to do to come home to myself.

Fierce Living is

F- Finding your

I – Inner women inside of you by

E- Exploring who they are and

R- Receiving them into your life as your

C – Community of

E- Expression and

 

When you tap into your inner women be sure to

L- Listen to them because they offer

I – Intuition

V – Vulnerability

I – Imagination

N – Nurturing and

G – Growth opportunities

During January, I reconnected with my eight inner women otherwise known as archetypes and personalities. We’ve known each other for many years now.  They include Ancestor, my wise woman; Ananda, my spirit woman and mystic; Kiamsha, my creative woman; Madelyn, my CEO woman; Cheryl, my balanced woman and peacekeeper; Puf, my girl child and Black American Princess; Sapphire, my warrior woman and sexy vixen; and Broomhilda, my inner critic. We spent time reconnecting and getting to know each other through mindful meditation, Reiki healing touch, yoga, journaling, collage making, writing an intention statement, playing with six-word memoirs, going on creative adventure dates and walks, reading magazines, listening to music, shopping for our favorite things, and playing dress up in our closet.  This investment of time helped me deeply listen to myself. What I discovered was I needed to do a better job of taking care of myself. I discovered I needed to practice self-compassion.  I discovered I needed more ME time to just be, to rest, to daydream, to imagine, and to create.  I discovered I needed to set better boundaries with my time, energy, resource sharing, and relationships. I discovered I needed to say no to certain people and requests so I could have space to say yes to the people and things that nourish my creative heart. 

The session continued with more breathingand writing exercises that invited each attendee to explore what their creative heart looked and felt like, what their creative heart needs and wants in 2012, who their inner women are and what they want them to know, and their definition of fierce living.   The group engaged in deep discussion after each exercise.  Aha moments, tears, sighs, laughter, joy, and a range of emotions and thoughts were shared.  At the end of the session, my creative heart was filled with humility and gratitude for each person in the room.  The experience reaffirmed my calling to do creative coaching and write and publish my books.

SESSION COMMENTS FROM THE TWITTERVERSE:

  Aminah Hanan Aminah Hanan ‏ @AminahHanan – I’m loving this @DigitalSisterhd Fierce Living space @BlissDom. @anandaleeke is bringing it up outta these Sisters. #blissdom
 Britton Edwards Britton Edwards@brittont13 –  Sometimes your creative critic takes over. Use your own internal critic as a guide but don’t let it rule. #Blissdom via @AnandaLeeke


Britton Edwards Britton Edwards ‏ @brittont13 Love that @anandaleeke is helping me define my inner woman #blissdom

Liz Kelsay

Liz Kelsay ‏ @lizkelsay – Love this quote from @digitalsisterhd, “I must come home to myself” #Blissdom

@TheGreatAskini: Right?!? RT @postpartumprogr I’m already in love with @DigitalSisterhd. This session is amazing. #blissdom

 ash ash ‏ @AshleyASmith – I must come home to myself. (thankful for  @digitalsisterhd, which started the unpacking of discovery) #blissdom
Laurie White
Laurie White ‏ @lauriewrites – Six-word memoirs with @digitalsisterhd…surprisingly scary exercise right now, but very good.
katie
 katie ‏ @motherbumperWoah. Totally being challenged by the Fierce Living from Your Creative Heart session with @digitalsisterhd This is awesome. #Blissdom
Mocha Moms, Inc. Mocha Moms, Inc. ‏ @mochamoms – There is healing taking place in this room #Blissdom @digitalsisterhd
Beth Anne
Beth Anne ‏ @heirtoblairThank you to @digitalsisterhd for a lovely writing workshop. #blissdom
Megan Tietz Megan Tietz ‏ @SortaCrunchy – Had no idea I would be crying my make-up off in the Fierce Living from Your Creative Heart session. incredible @digitalsisterhd #blissdom
@KelleHampton Fierce Living from your creative heart by @anandaleeke @digitalsisterhd oh my goodness
  Tina LeAnn Erdmann Tina LeAnn Erdmann ‏ @TinaLeAnnPhotog@DigitalSisterhd Ananda, you changed my life at #Blissdom Thank you for all that you do!
JuliaRoberts1
 JuliaRoberts1 ‏ @Juliaroberts1Loved the session with @digitalsisterhd. Except you know, the CRYING. #BlissDom
Jenna Farelyn
 Jenna Farelyn ‏ @frelle – My friend @DigitalSisterhd gave an AMAZING writing class today. wow. Thank you, Ananda!!

SPECIAL THANKS:

Many thanks to Holli, founder of AWonderingSpirit.blogspot.com a/k/a @thegreataskini on Twitter, for sending me the photo she took during the session.

RESOURCES:

1) Check out my #BlissDom12 Fierce Living from Your Creative Heart Pinterest board for creative writing exercises, videos, and images that can help you tap into the power of fierce living from your creative heart.

2) Visit my Inner Women Pinterest board to learn more about my inner women and to get inspiration on tapping into your inner women or men.

3) Watch a 19 minute video of my Inner Women talk given in January 2011.

4) Learn more about my journey as a creative woman by purchasing my book, That Which Awakens Me on Amazon.com.