What I love most about teaching

15 Sep

Tools of the TradeWhen my student is beyond excited. When they have that look in their eyes. When I know that something clicked, an alignment occurred with their soul. We are together for an instant in this blissed out moment that feels like the entire universe exhaled an immense and satisfied ‘YES!’

Last week, Jim asked if he could take his picture home to work on. He was so excited to show his parents his work in progress. He’s been in class close to 16 weeks, developing his style; drawing, painting, penciling what he loves- reptiles, lizards and snakes. He is a walking encyclopedia on everything reptile. He is also a connoisseur of morning glories. His enthusiasm is contagious.

Recently, he’s adopted a new tool- Derwent Inktense Ink pencils. He uses an easel, inventing his style of working as he goes- experimenting with different papers, pencils, techniques…and last Thursday- BOOM! Lightning struck and he was hooked. The muse had him by the tail and it was just the coolest thing to witness. He grew exponentially, expanded beyond his old story of his ability and I was able to see THAT MOMENT.

‘Oh wow’ he said to himself, looking at his picture, his hands full of pencils and paintbrushes, ‘I love this. I love this.’

When class was over, as he’s walking out the door, I saw that he also had the case of the studio’s Derwent pencils. Around $150 worth of these amazing things, cradled to his chest.

So I’m like, ‘Er…you’re taking the pencils too?’ A bit hesitant to let these things walk out the door.

His face was absolutely shining, as he said so seriously – “Yes! I promise I’ll be careful with them. I promise! Is it ok if I borrow them, since no one else is using them?’

In that moment, I could see the monetary value of those pencils was absolutely nothing compared to the value that they had to him, this gifted 13-year-old artist who had just discovered an entire world of wonder and awe in a case of pencils. We had discussed the price of him buying the exact set earlier in class that day, so he knew what he was asking.

‘Yes.’ I said.

He didn’t even say thank you or goodbye, (which he does every time, because he’s a polite and gracious kid) he instead just turned and floated toward his mom, clutching the pencils and his drawing.

Is that not connection we’re all longing for? A direct pipeline to joy? This is what is sustainable. Find the things that expand you, that inspire you to become more of who you are. It’s not about ‘Am I ‘good’ at this or any other external marker. It’s about what fulfills you. And that is always an inside job. How do you find a way to let the radiance out? What is it that tickles your fancy, that you do just for the sheer delight of exploration and creativity?

‘Oh wow’ (you overhear your soul say), ‘I love this. I love this.’

And honestly, it feels exactly like the entire universe is exhaling an immense and satisfied ‘YES!’ -through you.

I love prismacolor faces!

23 Mar

I think she’s here. Have another layer of white pencil to do- that’s it for her face, I think. It for now anyway.

Excited for background- purples, fuschias, lime greens…

Have these gorgeous tapestry scarves- I photographed them in the airport in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. So some inspiration for the foliage on black background.

Ho’oponopono Card Two

22 Mar

The second card in my Ho’oponopono Deck. Work in progress!

Representing, resonating with the Mother Aspect of us that nourishes, protects and looks after us with tenderness and love.

The part that provides a resting place; a safe haven.

For me, ‘she’ isn’t representing my actual mom, or myself as a mother, but that universal force which for me, most often shows up as the feeling state of flow, gratitude, timelessness, spaciousness, boundlessness. A place for me to be.


To me this is the most female of expressions- space.

We all have it, have access to it. It is the untended, overflowing, crazy loveliness of a garden springing into life. It is life, Eve, The Empress, Brigid, Isis, Mary, Shakti – and all the multitude of images, stories and poetry that have tried to convey the inexpressible aliveness you feel when you are in this very feminine feeling presence.

Space that is full and empty at the same time. Pure potential. The pregnant virgin. Possibilities. Never been seen before’s. Excitement. Danger. Adventure. Life.

The Ho’oponopono is about this alignment, us with ourselves, in the way of a mother in alignment with her child. The conscious part of us taking full responsibility for our inner childs well being.

It starts here, this kindness to ourself. This sanctuary already exists for us, as a haven, a space for ourself in the midst our world.

It is, as John O’Donohue said, a land out beyond the house which is fluent unto itself. Or like Tír na nÓg, the Welsh land of eternal youth, it is here, but you have to look for it. It takes some effort to create a moment in your perception, when the light is just right, in which you can see it.

The original Magic Kingdom. The Garden of Life.

Ho’oponopono. Be Inspired.

13 Feb


It has the elegance of a mathematical equation, it’s cool water on a hot day; rain on a desert.

I’m sorry

Forgive me

Thank you

I love you

That’s it. That’s the ‘formula’. Start whispering it to yourself.

You’ll see you have a CHOICE:

  1. be eternally blind-sided by habitual reaction
  2. be eternal

The operating system is already here. Ho’oponopono is another beautiful way to position yourself to catch the big wave.

Experiencing ‘Other’

12 Dec

I meditate a lot. At least an hour a day. It’s really been ramping up lately too – the call to meditate is loud now, as opposed to a quieter time when it seemed more like a choice. For me, meditating is listening deeply. I do not necessarily quiet my thoughts or use a breathing technique. I just show up, and usually ‘IT’ shows up as well. I usually experience a quiet state of relaxation and often will get impressions, mainly in words or ideas that I write down if I need to. Not a lot of color, not a lot of detail. The calm I experience walks with me and lingers behind me in indescribable ways. (I think this feeling-state is what St. Patrick was describing – using the words that made sense of it to him – a feeling of presence surrounding you anyway you look at it.)

I meditate mainly because I think it helps. For me locally, and for the world in general. Basically I figure that if I’m in a feeling state of internal kindness and warmth, I am also emoting that vibration out into our collective breathing space, making it a little easier for someone else, including myself.

Today, I tried something new.

Background: In previous classes and groups, we have discussed postures and their effect on ourselves, demonstrated it with Vanessa’s horses, and intended a class structured around ancient power postures. No wonder this book caught my eye at Half Price. Got it Sunday, started reading it last night. Had my first encounter today.

The Book: The Ecstatic Experience, Healing Postures for Spirit Journeys

Authors Belinda Gore and (Felicitas Goodman) open a door to ‘Other’, believing that we as humans are hardwired to connect with it. (Mystics, shamans, and ancient peoples practiced this same living, totally available technology) Ritual postures create a ritual bodyspace. An amazing, ‘no brainer’ (as in no thinking) – all feeling, smelling, touching,tasting, intuition, body, senses, sensual -based feminine/body-oriented) totally experiential way to engage ‘Other’. Yum. Seriously.

Here is what ‘happened.’  wrote down my impressions after a 15 min experience:

My tribe. Men. Glorious dancers – red body paint – shoulders

                                                          chest, face

                                               with white stripes on face,

                                                          under eyes

dancing. Around me.

Looking at me.

Wanting me to recognize them –

My little brother – the drum- also my son,

     dancing, hooting, strutting head thrown back howling

in wolf fur.

       I’m out of shape, losing form – healing me

      They are healing me

    removing my disguises

      it will take time they say

     Sitting there absorbing in this posture.

Blessing me, the hot sun warm, the rattle

     the drumming of the feet, the boots – moccasins

     with beads red, white some blue. Fringe.

  Good boots. I had boots like this. I am one of them.

They are my tribe. They are re-cognizing me thru all

          my disguises – and they are willing me to re-member

them. They Keep looking at me, so surprised to see me

show up like this. One really keeps interrupting his dance

(they have drums) to peer at me, as if I were barely recognizable

But once they recognized me they were laughing – little brother, son

     knew it was me straight away though. They’re laughing delighted

Change the World?

4 Dec

Can we change the world? Or is it our perspective that needs changing? I created this presentation to try to clarify for myself how my external world and internal world are elegantly fused and insanely intertwined. How change in ‘my’ world affects change in the ‘outside’ world…

As we change our mind, practice a higher vibration, fall in love with our intimate beautiful selves, I believe that the world will reflect our attitude right back to us. All things change when we do. 
I’ve used images and words to help shift conscious awareness from local to universal and back again. Let me know what you think. 
I’ve also included the meditation to be read at Slide 9 ( yep – old school- but what do you call it if not a ‘slide’?!) click the link at the very end for the meditation.

Please click the link below to watch my Change the World presentation:


This was our discussion last night at class – a slide show on changing the world.

Whew…three weeks since our last Monday night class. Snow days, Chicago film screenings, lots of happenings! 

Great to be together in the same space again  : ) 

Much love,


It’s ok. Everything is fine.

18 Nov

Here’s a story Andy Goodman told me about a friend of his:

Tom was a psychologist. He was fascinated with why people did what they did. He found people doing weird things everywhere, and he didn’t hesitate to ask them what they were doing and why. He was also a little disheartened with how impatient people were with each other and had been recently focusing on caring and honoring others in his practice.

On his way home one day, he stopped at the grocery store toget something for dinner.  As he entered the store, he heard the shrill crying of an upset child. He smiled. Determined to be open and accepting, he took a cart and headed towards aisle seven. As he opened a carton of eggs, the screaming child rounded the corner, sitting miserably in her mother’s cart.  As the mother continued by him, he heard her saying, “It’s ok Jennifer. Everything is fine. We’re just going to get a loaf of bread, some milk and a few other things and then we’re going to go home.”

This did nothing to pacify the child who was still howling.  As she turned the corner, he heard from the next aisle, “It’s ok Jennifer. Everything is fine. We’re just going to get a loaf of bread, some milk and a few other things and then we’re going to go home.”

Amazed, Tom started after them. She was being so patient. As he pulled into the aisle, an elderly couple was blocking his way. He waited as they moved, but the mother and her child were gone. Following the cries, Tom quickly moved down the next aisle. He was parallel to them, and could hear over the aisle, in between the sobs, “It’s ok Jennifer. Everything is fine. We’re just going to get a loaf of bread, some milk and a few other things and then we’re going to go home.”

He turned around and went around the back way, hoping to meet them in the next aisle. He saw them far down the crowded aisle entering the checkout. By the time he made his way to the front of the store they were already heading out the door.  He left his cart and hurried outside towards the howling child.

“Excuse me,” Tom said. “I just wanted to congratulate you on the incredible patience you have with Jennifer. It’s truly amazing.”

The woman looked puzzled and said “I’m Jennifer.”

This story melted me. I can sooooo identify! Some days it’s all I can do to keep from muttering to myself that it’s going to be ok. You know? Then I’m that crazy lady talking to herself in Aisle 4…


Monday Night Circle. Or Cycle

30 Oct

The Life Cycle 12 x 12

Exploring Being / Discussion Notes. Whee!

Yesterday marked the beginning of a new cycle-(a circle caught in the act of breaking its circumference to go on a journey.) A new learning session!

I think the biggest thing that came up was the way we humans entertain concepts rather than having a practical, bodily experience of our world. In so many ways we hold ourselves back from the world, as if afraid to dig in and get ourselves a little dirty. In terms of the lunar cycle, which was our discussion topic last night, it becomes apparent that we are very distant from the moon; we just don’t relate to it the way we did 10,000 years ago. Or even 200 years ago. Nor should we. Where I live, outside Chicago, our perception of the world has changed and most of us are no longer even remotely immersed in the physical world. We take our waking and sleeping cues from alarms and the end of TV shows, we don’t hunt our food, we camp out under the stars occasionally, for fun, and see the Milky Way if we’re very lucky. The Moon is a reality when it is full and bright, but most of the time, it remains a concept, an abstract idea that has little if any relevance to our daily life.

What if we revisited our ancient curiosity and wonder of this cycle, not through the eyes of our distant ancestors, but from our own modern vantage point?

What if we could use the Lunar Cycle as a metaphor? As a way of understanding and connecting to the rhythms and cycles of our physical bodies? This seems to be the junction where our modern mental world hits hard against the physical existence of our ancestors. Every bit as creative as we are, they innovated, achieved, and conceptualized, seamlessly integrated within a very present and real physical world. To me, judging by the artwork, artifacts and stone monuments left they behind, they may have had an immense sense of wonder, awe and meaning as well.

It’s easy and not fair to project one’s modern state of consciousness back onto the past, assuming similar attitudes and conditions, or idealizing or romanticizing what we can’t possibly know. So I’m going to leave it at that, while noting that I too have an immense sense of awe wonder and meaning in the face of the physical world, bordering and crossing far over into the spiritual. This I think I may have in common with a human being gazing up at the moon once upon a very, very long time ago.

For me it isn’t a conceptual, or an abstract idea, but a bodily feeling. It’s hard to put in words, as are all peak experiences or moments when we are ‘in the zone’, in ‘flow’. We are in a brain space of images, not language, ‘It was like this’ we say, falling unconsciously into the poetical, metaphorical images of myth. An embodied state of awareness arises, when I am keenly conscious of my delicious connection with, to and of the earth. It’s an experience of my bodymind, balancing the lifeless abstract provided by my mind alone. It is fulfilling, enlivening, and expanding. I am connected. This exactly, is the sore spot. Is it possible to feel connected to a world we view as out-of-control, off-kilter, disaster ridden? Is it really possible to maintain a sense balance, let alone cultivate a sense of meaning? Could following an inward focused cycle be more beneficial than following the current outer chaos?

If we take the lunar cycle as metaphor, we can discover a deeper sense of rhythm and pattern – both are deeply craved by our brain. A need of belonging, pattern recognition and our own circadian rhythms have been with us since our birth and a disruption of any of these cycles causes distress. A cyclical pattern gives us repetition, the chance to consciously begin again, the familiar patterns and signs along the way are oddly comforting.

A cycle in its oldest sense is not necessarily bound. The circle often, rather unexpectedly, opens out into a spiral, allowing for evolution, transformation and growth. This is magic – when into our old familiar ways of doing things, there suddenly appears another option, and we find our self striking out into what has all the markings of adventure.

This is the marvel of the cycle. In familiarizing yourself with a cycle (menstrual, circadian, agricultural, liturgical, lunar) you immerse yourself in the nature; the essence of the thing, and realize that here is a land, fluent unto itself.

The repetition in anticipation, the comfort in sameness inevitably give way to that auspicious moment when a dormant seed suddenly takes root. Sure, this happens every day, cycle observer or not. But when you are immersed in a cycle, paying attention to the rythm, the moment when a potential manifests into reality is easily recognized and celebrated. It’s heightened awareness. You’re on the prowl for a difference; an infinitesimal sniff of change in the air. That first sliver of crescent moon can prompt us, if we’re aware, to wonder what this particular cycle will bring. What are the possibilities ahead of us in the coming 29.5 days? Are we using conscious awareness of how we affect what happens to us- or not? Are we moving towards joy?

If we have been watching our fertility cycle and suddenly find that a seed has sprouted and at the end of this particular cycle, there will be a change; a baby – well? We start consciously caring for our self, becoming more inner focused. Metaphorically too, this seed of change, an intention- has more chance of sprouting and coming full-term if we likewise care for ourselves. With our attention- therefore energy- sacrificed on external events, how do we cultivate the inner awareness where all real change is made? How do we grow a world, let alone healthy children and adults, animals; a life, our life? Where are we expecting our blinkered, straight, goal and achievement-oriented path to lead us? Always relentlessly onward, into the light, forward, progress at all costs. Yet seeds typically sprout in the dark. And this brings us full cycle.

The second two weeks of the lunar cycle tells us after all our running around, to rest, to re-connect, to nurture ourselves. Clearly not an invitation from the linear, driven path our culture is on. A hell of a lot of good has come from our days in the sun. But basking in the reflective light of the silvery moon has a lot going for it. It allows a breathing space, a restoring in-breath balancing the out-breath of action and accomplishment, the opportunity to weigh up our situation, take stock and release what no longer is needed. Self-care. A two-week period in the moons’ monthly journey for reflection and re-connection.

Yep. Tell your boss that. I know. I get it. It’s not practical. But for our little Monday Night Circle, it’s 5 minutes a day. Attention to the cycle for 30 days, 5 minutes a day. 5 minutes of focus just on yourself, for yourself. A little bit of paying attention to your rhythms, your needs. Nothing extravagant. No big promises. Paying attention has its own way of creating small but significant change. And the changes that are created out of care, understanding and a certain quality of attention have a way of being very satisfying. The hard work is in the discipline required to make and take the time, doing the attending. What emerges depends on the kind of seed you plant, the tending and pruning you’re willing to do. We have to dig down deep and allow ourselves to climb out of our heads and spend a little time with the earth, connected to our bodies and their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Since we all have had the experience of the planting cycle, we can feel the soil in our hands, have eaten the fruits of the harvest, and are intimate with it, I added the life cycle of a flower to my Lunar Cycle. Planting and harvesting are not abstract ideas, but a reality that produces tangible fruit. Sometimes looking at a concept in a different way makes it suddenly something we can incorporate; embody; feel. That is my wish here for you. The dance of the lunar cycle as the celestial partner to the earthly plant cycle that we already know through our hands and heart. It’s about creating an opening, an opportunity for awareness, involvement.

This sense of awe and wonder manifests in us, much as Dante saw love as the mover of the planets and stars. As we tend to ourselves and practice experiencing the cycle of the moon as a visual metaphor for a new possibility, a new way of understanding our life – we may find ourselves overflowing with the meaning, awe and wonder of exquisitely small moments, observed and celebrated.

class ideas

26 Oct

Ahhh! Haven’t posted for AGES….

But, life has been percolating away as always, just undocumented.

I’ve been teaching an amazing variety of students, and classes. Exploring ways and methods of communicating and understanding.

For art instruction, I’ve settled on colored pencil and drawing techniques ’cause they are my absolute favorite to do therefore to some degree, to teach.

I teach  Colored Pencil I (beginners) and  Colored Pencil II (advanced) from 1 – 4 on Fridays. Since most of the students stay for both classes, my husband Rob asked if that makes all the students ‘average’. Which makes me laugh – then I wonder- if anyone of us stands up during class,  are we automatically above average? We discussed this in class last week and laughed our asses off as usual. The average age is 65 – so we share a lot of stories from vastly different paths and journeys. I love it. I love the dynamics of ‘group’ – the participation and delight that emerges. Also sad stuff, like death, sickness and other challenges that we encompass in our little accidental art family.

I’m also teaching Chakra classes, Celtic Art and this semester, trying out:

Exploring Being  
Explore meditation, consciousness and being. An open discussion class of self discovery.  Meditative coloring available.  –Inst. Janet Balboa
MON 5:30-7pm  Age 18 & up (this IS what’s on the site- but the actual time is 7-8:30)

That’s the official description right off the school’s website! How about that for just diving in and trusting! I’ll tell you how it goes. I’m so excited about it, I have so much ‘stuff’ and this is forcing me to unwrap it and get it written down in an easily explainable format. And I love the trust of my students who are signing up for God-knows-what.

Some class topics: The Moon Cycle: moon board final

I’ve had this idea in my head for ages, and posted this moon graphic on Instagram last year some time. Not a following of the Moon as such, but a resonance with a cycle- something we forget in our hard-pressed linear existence. there is comfort in repeat-ability, in a turning, a re-volving that is predictable, knowable. Using a cycle to evolve rather than being stuck in countless repetition- rather like bad habits, outworn beliefs…a cycle gives us a platform for change, which ultimately is growth. and that dark part of the moon cycle…used to be called The Shaman’s Rest…a bit of wisdom there right? Maybe resting, reflecting, re-orienting would calm our frazzled nerves and give our body a much needed chance to just BE instead of BEing driven relentlessly. I digress…

So there’s going to be a lot of meat here, and discussion. Other stuff I want to do: Burkhard Heim, how he established the placement of archetypes and the God dimension- fascinated by this. A expansive discussion. mentally challenging. and best of all, no conclusions, just creating an opening.

Meditation – not so much a new technique, but a different method for relating to the outcome- approaching meditation as an interval in eternity- accessible from the present moment.

The Feminine. Where, exactly is the Mother? Is it the Goddess returning? has she left? Are we to be content with the concept that ‘Father’ as Jesus uses it- also includes Mother? The beyond-duality concept of the creative principle? Is this a moot point? These kind of discussions.

Then there’s a weird little ‘story’ that has caught my interest and imagination that runs through the playing cards and therefore the minor arcana of the Tarot. Not using these cards for divination, but for a teaching/ reflection, which I’m guessing was the original purpose, Albigensian in origin or not. Exploring and opening this up a little- why has the protector of woman, the fight for my ladies honor, the holder of ‘woman as ideal’ rather than ‘woman as object’ (much like Mary, but highly individualized, think Dante’s Beatrice…) the Knight – gone missing from our playing cards… the when is interesting in itself.

So. That is where I find myself right now. Creating openings, holding space and excited to see who and what show up. I’ll be posting my class notes and teachings here too. So I also welcome you to the labyrinth of our meanderings.

Bon voyage!!!

The Three Hares

25 Apr

may that which is unified and whole

find its expression in you


may all things coming in and out of being

be encouraged by your presence


may you be a source of blessing

for all that is unfolding and awakening around you


may you find yourself as the center of a vast circle of light

recognizing no distance or barrier


may the eternal dance resonate in your holy body

as your voice fills the longing of the universe


~janet balboa 



A blessing for the stranger

22 Apr

The first step in awakening to your inner life and to the depth and promise of your solitude would be to consider yourself for a little while as a stranger to your own deepest depths.

To decide to view yourself as a complete stranger, someone who has just stepped ashore in your life is a liberating exercise.

This meditation helps to break the numbing stranglehold of complacency and familiarity.

Gradually, you begin to sense the mystery and magic of yourself.

You realize that you are not the helpless owner of a deadened life but rather a temporary guest gifted with blessings and possibilities you could neither invent nor earn.



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