Thursday, March 28, 2013

EXPLORING THE NEUROPLASTICITY OF THE BRAIN THROUGH WORKSHOP METAPHOR: Integrating the left and right hemisphere through imaginative thinking

THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF! Hallelujah for growth and expansion of  self! We have it within our power to keep transforming our brains if we say YES to continued learning! (art by Hallelujah Truth)

Hallelujah for NEUROPLASTICITY! Neuroplasticity is the ability for the “brain to change itself”! Hurray that the golden crown—our BRAIN—that distinguishes us human beings from other animals has the capacity to keep changing and BECOMING until we die! That is…if we CARE for and NURTURE it along our glorious journeys here on this Earth!

Last night (March 27, 2013), I had the great fortune to attend a NEUROSCIENCE workshop to learn about the way our beautiful BRAINS can continue to grow throughout our lifetime. Ann Betz, an expert in the NEUROSCIENCE OF LEADERSHIP, conducted 3 hours of fun exploration into our BRAINS through a powerpoint lecture and engaging activities.

My favorite activity? YES! The one we did using METAPHORS (big sigh and giggle) that helped us understand the right and left hemispheres of our BRAINS and to integrate them! But first, what is a METAPHOR?

First of all, a METAPHOR is when we use an image (like a picture) to make an abstract idea more concrete. For example, take these metaphorical expressions:

Love is a rose.
Hope is a yellow brick on the road to Oz.
MOVING ACROSS BOUNDARIES THROUGH USE OF IMAGE AND METAPHOR. As a visual artist, I am fascinated by boundaries. Where does one idea end, and another begin? What do these ideas have in common?(art by Hallelujah Truth)

The abstract idea of love is made much more understandable by the concreteness of what we know to be a rose. A rose is beautiful both in bud and mature flower; it is fragrant, and its presence enriches our lives. We could extend the rose metaphor by acknowledging the presence of the rose’s thorns. That although its beauty embellishes our lives, its prickly stem can also hurt us if we are not being careful!

The other example of a metaphorical expression, “Hope is a yellow brick on the road to Oz,” is much more complicated because unlike the rose, which is pretty universally understood, the concept of Oz and a yellow road leading to it is a cultural one. You must be either a member of the culture or a student of it to understand this visual image and the idea behind it. Let it be said that Oz is a place where dreams are manifested and the yellow road (made of gold?) will take you there. HOPE is a portion of the journey to the realization of our dreams! Hallelujah!

But I digress from the NEUROPLASTICITY exercise USING METAPHORS! Here is a brief explanation of the activity!

First, we know that our BRAINS consist of two distinct hemispheres with different functions. So to begin the exercise we were asked to look at a list of functions that the left hemisphere of the brain manages in our lives—language, logic, planning, past, present…linear organizational kinds of things—and to identify the BEST part of ourselves resulting from our left hemisphere.

For me, it is language and imposing order on random seemingly disconnected ideas (This blog, Coffee with Hallelujah, is an example of this left brain function!). After REVELING in the positive aspects of the left brain function, we were then asked to CREATE a METAPHOR to represent that function.

I chose the metaphor of an architect’s blueprint of a reconstruction of a medieval city! For me this imagistic language captures and holds the feeling of taking “old” information and re-envisioning it to make it “new.” The ancient city renovate to a contemporary inhabitable domain. Hallelujah for left brain functioning!

Yes, so we did the same thing for the right hemisphere taking into account its function of experiencing the here and now, high understanding of aural and visual stimuli, and being creative. As a visual artist, I absolutely love “seeing” images in my mind and “drawing” them. For me, the process is magical and filled with excitement. Therefore, the METAPHOR I chose was that of Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. In this colorful and musical movie, he is THE MAGICIAN!
PROFESSION OF MY DAILY PRACTICE OF INTEGRATING LEFT AND RIGHT BRAINS. Every day, I summon myself to the table or pillow with paper and writing utensil honoring the ideas both verbal and visual. Documenting them through drawing and blogging, I become more complete, whole, and integrated. Yes, I am a practitioner of integrating the left and right hemisphere of the brain. I practice brain health! Do you?(art by Hallelujah Truth)

Are you still with me!? Now…how to integrate these two METAPHORS, each representing a different hemisphere? EASY! I embodied Mickey Mouse (right brain), replete with a magnificent robe, sorcerer’s cap and magic wand. Dancing, kicking up my heels, I waved my wand at the blue print (left brain) and the city sprung to life, becoming three-dimensional! Popping up, medieval towers emerged as tall as skyscrapers! People emerged from buildings onto newly paved streets.

Hallelujah! Left brain, right brain integration through the use of METAPHORS!

Ann Betz will tell you that we are more full alive, functioning, and effective when we are  using our whole brain! That means finding ways to integrate our left and right hemispheres!

Well fellow pilgrims, both left and right brain dominant journeyers, what action will you take today to integrate your brain’s functions? SOUL BLOG with me to share how it feels when you are using your whole brain! How did you get there and what did you experience?

That’s Coffee With Hallelujah!
THE UNKNOWN. Always moving into a new territory, I am certain that I am firing new neuro pathways! It sounds like this: shhhrrrr beeeeeennng, ka ka ka kerchuuuuu!? What does your brain sound like when it is firing new pathways?(art by Hallelujah Truth)

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Thanks to Lesly Fredman for alerting me to this workshop on Neuroscience. Thanks to Ann Betz for being such an awesome presenter and workshop leader. Mucho gracias to Karen Tucker, who accompanied me and participated in the activities with me. Finally, than you to Sandy Voegeli, who got me thinking more deeply about brain health! Hallelujah!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

CAPTURING MOMENTS OF BEING: Glimpses of my Bahamian experience hotel and street walk

NASSAU, NEW PROVIDENCE BEACH. On my last day in the Bahamas, I made the effort to visit the beach, something BNNHC goers had not come to Nassau to do! The sun was warm and the breeze reviving after sitting in windowless session rooms (although the sessions were SO worthwhile). (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
SEEING IS BEING. When we awaken to our surroundings by looking and stepping on the ground with the measured delighted steps of an adventurer, we ARE ALIVE! Although I was in Nassau, New Providence, at the beginning of March 2013 for the First National Natural History Conference of the Bahamas, I PRACTICED looking around me to SEE what beckoned my SOUL!
FUNKY HOTEL. Thanks to friend Sandy Voegeli, we stayed at the small comfortable Towne Hotel in the center of Nassau, a five minute walk from the National Gallery and close to the beach. This clever hotel had lots of art and a bar frequented every night by locals! (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
QUAINT COURTYARD. Upon waking the first morning, I discovered that someone had knocked one of the potted plants into the pool! Sandy and I shared a room on the second floor on the left at the end of the balcony. My darling husband and I skyped every night after I had spent the day on the campus of  the College of the Bahamas. The visual experience was quaint and relaxing.(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

TOWNE HOTEL OWNER IS AN ART COLLECTOR! These images captured here are only a sampling of the numerous pieces of art that the Towne Hotel owner has filled the walls of his lobby, restaurant, and rooms with! It is an absolute visual delight to venture into this hotel and to take in the exciting colors of Bahamian art! (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Dear Pilgrims! Beyond the walls of my hotel, were colorful buildings framed by flourishing flora and expansive blue sky! Here are a few snippets that my EYES saw and longed to record for you in this blog!

There you have it PILGRIMS! Thanking you for GAZING upon the images that capture and express a portion of my LIFE LIVED in Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas at the beginning of March 2013! That is Coffee With Hallelujah! What will you SEE today that you would like to share with me? What have you seen in these photos that CAPTURED your SOUL

SOUL BLOG with me here! I look forward to your comments! 
INTERSECTION WITH SKY AND SEA! (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

DETECTING CREATIVITY EVERYWHERE: Finding the Spirit of Expression Walking the College of the Bahamas Campus

DOORWAY TO EDUCATION OF THE MIND AND SPIRIT! How inviting is this sun-drenched hallway, which allows passage from the front of the campus to classroom buildings and study spaces with picnic tables under the trees! (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
COLLEGE STUDENTS GATHERINGS BETWEEN CLASSES! Imagine attending a college with a temperate climate! Between classes at the College of the Bahamas, the student body meet outdoors with each other to relax, exchange ideas, and study. It was a delight to walk between the venues of the First National Natural History Conference of the Bahamas and witness the camaraderie of the college students.(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah Pilgrims! CREATIVITY IS EVERYWHERE! And it is my mission to SEE it, hold it PRECIOUS, and to connect with the HUMANITY that expressed it. In a recent post, I wrote as the "SOUL's ADVOCATE" as I roamed the streets of Nassau, New Providence. Today, I offer you my CREATIVE FINDS on the campus of the College of the Bahamas.
HIBISCUS EXPLOSION ON A CLASSROOM BUILDING! Traveling from the Performance Arts Center to the Harry C. Moore Library, I was greeted by this lovely mosaic! Is it a random art happening on this campus, or are there other such pleasing surprises? (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
ITS ART ON THE SWIMMING POOL WALL! Along the same trek from the Performance Arts Center to the Harry C. Moore Library, I spied this colorful mural. Later, when I investigated, I learned that a swimming pool was on the other side! This painting of active students serves as a visual backdrop for studying out under the trees, enriching their learning experiences!  (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

TREE ART! What you see here are pieces of decorated canvases wrapped around the trees. Entranced by these intriguing ornamented trees, I asked students to explain the "why" behind their presence. Most students just shrugged. They didn't know. Then one student told me that older students decorated the trees to welcome incoming new students. Whatever the reason, Hallelujah for art being integrated with the environment! By the way, you don't see any students photographed because I took special care not to be an "ugly" tourist and point a I-Phone or I-Pad (of which I had both) at them. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
SIDEWALK ART FUND RAISER. On Thursday, March 7, 2013, while taking a break from the sessions at the Natural History Conference of the Bahamas, I strolled out on the campus and found this chalk art image. When I asked one of the students what the event was, she explained they were raising money for a student organization--was it a literary group? Anyways, she explained that for 5$, students got chalk and as many drinks as they needed while completing their image.(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
BEYOND THE CHALK ART. I confess an absolute love of college campuses! And I fell in love with the College of the Bahamas. Out beyond students creating chalk images, was this intriguing building! From what era? I asked one of the students what it was, and they told me it was an administration building. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
A CURIOSITY! On Thursday, the spectacular banner for the First National Natural History Conference of the Bahamas had come down in the Performance Arts Center Foyer. I found this mannequin reposing on the floor. What creative project had it been a part of? Who knows! But fellow pilgrims, it is worth everything to SEE and ASK the question! (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
FLAG OF THE BAHAMAS. The national flag (center) of the Bahamas represents the unity of the Bahamian people, the sun and the sea. The other flag (to the left) you see is the flag of the College of the Bahamas. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! What CREATIVE ACT will you witness today? Share it with me when you SOUL BLOG with Hallelujah!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

FOR THE LOVE OF THE BAHAMAS: The First National Natural History Conference

THE COLLEGE OF THE BAHAMAS. The first National Natural History Conference of the Bahamas took place on the beautiful campus of the College of the Bahamas, located in Nassau, New Providence. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas! Hallelujah for a chain of islands rich with flora and fauna spread out for 180,000 square miles in a jeweled aquamarine sea! In 2013, as the Bahamas is celebrates its 40th year of independence, the Bahamas National Trust hosted the first National Natural History Conference of the Bahamas!
WELCOME TO THE CONFERENCE. In true Bahamian manner, a beautiful banner greeted natural history conference participants at registration on Tuesday morning, March 5(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
The mission of this first natural history conference? First and foremost, it took place to highlight the importance of research, conservation and environmental stewardship in the Bahamas. And I was delighted to be a part of this gathering of knowledgeable people to learn from them and share what I know about the way CREATIVITY (see my blog) plays a powerful role in connecting all of us to our natural environments!

Below, I happily share with you only a few glimpses (Yes, I include a snippet about my participation!) I captured of this historical event in Nassau, New Providence, while I was there between March 5 and 8, 2013.   Just think, the Bahamas National Trust made this event FREE to anyone! And ANYONE could attend! ANYONE!
THE RIGHT APPROACH TO THE ENVIRONMENT. Prime Minister Perry Gladstone Christie elevated the importance of this natural history conference by speaking at the opening ceremony. He stated that the children of his country must understand the significance of the environment. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF THE BAHAMAS. The Harry C. Moore Library on the campus of the College of the Bahamas was the site of many of the sessions of the natural history conference(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
CONNECTING WITH THE NEXT GENERATION. Hosting the natural history conference on the College of the Bahamas campus, the Bahamas Natural Trust strongly encouraged student attendance for the talks and poster sessions(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

QUEEN CONCH, STROMBUS GIGAS. College students had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with a creature that is commonly consumed for a snack or meal in the Bahamas. The queen conch population is declining and may disappear altogether if legal harvesting laws are not followed. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
THE ENDANGERED ALLEN CAYS IGUANA. Dr. John Iverson, of Earlham College, gave an incredible talk on Allen Cay Iguanas based on 30 years of researching them in the Exumas. He told us about this iguanas diet, its longevity, the  natural causes of death, and the impact that mice, barn owls, and tourism has had on their populations. A note of warning to tourists: Be careful about feeding iguanas if you have red nail polish! Iguanas will bite your toes(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
ENGAGING CHILDREN WITH THEIR ENVIRONMENT THROUGH CREATIVITY! Dear Pilgrims, along with Sandy Voegeli, I spoke at this conference in the name of CREATIVITY! Here is the abstract of our talk:
Let’s inspire children to be caretakers of their environments by celebrating the living jewels of the land, sky, and sea! Songs, stories, and art are three viable ways of inviting children into lively discussions about their role in conservation, while also educating them about Bahamian plants, animals, and environments. We will introduce and demonstrate activities developed from a newly published Bahamian animal-conservation story, The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia, which can be used in elementary or secondary school classrooms or at home to teach Bahamian children about these topics. Among the activities we propose using are a song, Living Jewels of the Land, Sky, and Sea, which has a clear conservation message about many animals native to the Bahamas. This song was later expanded into the book, The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia, which focuses on the main character from the song, Maria, who is a Bahamian hutia (Geocapromys ingrahmi). Artwork developed for the book engages children in learning more about the life and habitats of marine and terrestrial environments of the Bahamas, including a map of the Bahamas that shows Maria’s journey. Some of the black-and-white illustrations of Bahamian animals from the book were used for coloring activities at the 2012 Sea Camp on San Salvador, and we plan to provide more of these illustrations in a supplementary coloring/activities book. A combination of song, story, and art can thus help lead Bahamian children to be in awe of their environment and build the foundation for their stewardship.
(Since my Chiboogamoo, aka Tony Martin, was not there to document my participation, sadly there is photo of Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

RESTORING ECOSYSTEMS ON ALLEN CAY. Deputy Park Warden Cameron Saunders presented his work for Bahamas National Trust  evicting mice from Allen Cay. The presence of this invasive rodent has been attracting a larger and mightier predator to Allen Cay--the barn owl! And the owl's presence has been devastating to populations of the shearwater, an endangered bird. It was wonderful to hear Mr. Saunders' first hand experience. Sitting behind me in the auditorium were about 40 junior high school students who benefitted from hearing a fellow Bahamian speak about conservation. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
HALIMEDA--ENGINEERS OF THE ECOSYSTEM. What is halimeda? Good question! Deborah Freile, professor at New Jersey City University, talked about  the significant role this macroscopic calcareous algae plays in creating sediments in the Bahamas. What would happen to the environment if this important algae were unable to photosynthesize and in its life cycle be unable to produce sand? This organism is way under appreciated! (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

WELCOME RECEPTION. Conference participants celebrated the first day of the conference at the Bahamas National Trust and in addition to wonderful food and drinks were entertained by a Junkanoo band. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I acknowledge Eric Carey, Executive Director  of the Bahamas National Trust, for bringing this First National Natural History Conference of the Bahamas to fruition. Congratulations for a wonderful event, allowing for a wide sharing of information and important connections to be made. I am excited for the future of environmental stewardship in the Bahamas. I also want to recognize the enthusiastic educators I met who are affiliated with various organizations: Bahamas National Trust, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), and Ardastra, the Zoo, Gardens, and Conservation Centre. Thank everyone for delving into the pages of The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia, written by Ron Shaklee and illustrated by me, Ruth Schowalter. It is my greatest wish that this young hutia's journey will serve as a fun educational tool nurturing young environmentalists to care for their beautiful land, sea, and skies of the Bahamas.
FELLOW TRAVELERS AT THE FIRST NATIONAL NATURAL HISTORY CONFERENCE OF THE BAHAMAS. Hallelujah for sharing this amazing life journey with such wonderful friends who are so wise and capable! I continue to admire Sandy Voegeli for her love and dedication to the environment and her strong sense of efficacy--our conservation efforts make a difference (she is sitting directly behind me). I am so thankful for having the opportunity at this conference to get to know professors Deborah Freile (to my right)) and Melanie DeVore  (top left)better and to learn about their teaching and work in the Bahamas.  (And in case you didn't know, I'm the woman in the green dress  and am the Hallelujah Truth of the blog, aka Ruth Schowalter)(photo by Conference Participant)