You are Whole • Creative • Healing

prayer painting process pic, Hali Karla

It feels like a long time since I shared a collective prayer painting video.

As always, it’s a tender glimpse of my heart and practice, home-made with love. Prayer painting is a practice of vulnerability and truth, healing and joy. It is both a way of tapping into connection and the playfulness of expression.

This one is for the women who have traveled through RELATE with one another this fall, strengthening our sense of a global sisterhood through thoughtful intention, attention to self-truth and creative ways of being with one another – if even simply in our hearts.

And it’s also for you – and every prayer you hold, tend, and release in this season.


Thank you for your presence and witness.


prayer painting, created with prayers from women around the world, click through for video, Hali Karla Arts



Beloved Woman, this is a sacred invitation *for you*…

About four and a half years ago, I found myself going through a *bit* of a crisis. What I thought would work for my livelihood, my day to day, just… wasn’t the right fit. It was good, hard work being a hospice nurse, and I laid my head down every night knowing I had done something good with my day. Working in end-of-life care cracked my heart open to love, service, spiritual growth and human resiliency in a way that is still impossible to fully express. And yet, there came this mysterious Truth, rising in me, growing until I could no longer deny what I *knew* to be true for me… that I was meant to be doing something else.

Problem was I had no idea what that was or what I even enjoyed anymore. I was burnt-out and lost in my own skin.

I’m the type that when I know what needs to be done, I can’t deny it for long. My inner guidance is not passive, and until I do what she says, things can feel quite unsettling. So I’ve learned to follow her instructions when she speaks up. Change for the better begins when I do, though not without growing pains and fear.

Long story short, that was the year that I began to truly realize the profound beauty of connection possible via the internet. One synchronous step after another found me back home in my skin as an artist, and also meeting brilliant, raw, inspiring, real women from all over the world via online workshops and circles. There was instant chemistry with some of these women – soul-sisters from other lands that I would’ve never met had I not been in a time of searching and seeking, ripe for transformation.

I was intrigued, curious if the sense of connection would translate in real time – and eventually had the chance(s) to meet many of these women in the flesh. Those bonds and friendships were not some fictitious illusion of a virtual reality. Far from it. Some of the greatest friendships in my life have come from opening myself to online learning and relationship. Along with that came complete inspiration at the profound impact that global connectivity could have on healing and empowerment.

That is a big part of the reason why I now create and gather women for online offerings, and participate in collective efforts doing the same when I can.  My life is and continues to be transformed by the brilliant women that are reaching out to one another from distant places – saying, yes, I see you, I hear you, I get you, you are not alone. To be part of inspiring new perspective, helping like-minded people find one another and empowering creative expression is a service I am lit up to call my work in the world.

What I found, when I personally needed it most, was women from all walks of life, who shared their stories with me, and witnessed my story in the midst of healing, darkness and transformation. We found in one another comfort and echoes of answers, and more questions – the kind that can be held with peace-in-mystery when we know we are not alone in our shape-shifting perspectives of life. My story is still unfolding. So is the story of every other woman out there.

Maybe you are also in a time of ripe readiness, full of fear and courage, like I was four years ago, and like I continue to be every day I choose to live life on terms with my truth and vision, supported energetically by a global sisterhood hearing the call to explore what it means to come together in un-ordinary circles – in the name of vulnerability, truth and connection. If so, to you I say…


Beloved Woman, this is a sacred invitation *for you* (click here)…



visioning feelings, art journal collage

This isn’t how I usually work in my art journal daily practice, but I seem to do it a few times a year – and each time a spread is created that will continue to whisper something delicious through time.

It works like this: First, find a page with some paint smeared on it (I have lots of those in waiting). Then, gather up some magazines or junkmail for fodder. Have a prompt you are working with in reflection or contemplation – typically something that is more about a feeling than about being able to capture it in a container of tight words. Light a candle or put on a playlist or movie that makes you feel good.

Sometimes, I time myself – like fifteen minutes – to keep it raw and fresh. That’s a great way to warm-up to a visual, intuitive practice. Other times, like for this page, I like it to move slower. The timing usually reflects the feeling I’m trying to express.

Then, have at it. Trust the images and words that pull you in – don’t over-think it. In fact, as little thinking as possible is best. Move them around and see how they talk to one another on the page… always coming back to a felt intimacy or resonance. How do the words play with the images? Or the images with the words in proximity, color, composition, and overall feeling? Always keeping it an intuitive response, creating lyric for the feeling.

Once the pieces are glued on, there may be finishing touches to add. They tend to somehow already be on the page before they are – like the stars and the birds in the tree on this one. They were just there, before my pens outlined them.

This spread is a response to some prompts in Hannah Marcotti‘s Community Grace ecourse. I’m appreciating the way her facilitation leaves space for my own rhythm – and also the beautiful souls that have gathered to connect and contemplate about this topic. I don’t take a lot of online classes anymore because the energy and time I have reserved for the computer is spent making online experiences myself, or helping others make them. But I felt called to this one – as a gesture of my own commitment to stay aligned with how it is I want to feel inside my own skin when I’m holding space, and how it is I’d like the communities I create and participate in to feel. That’s exactly the heart of what Hannah has us circling around and playing with – so it’s been a good fit for my own soulwork this month.

The reflection becomes… What do I want people who circle with me to walk away with inside their own hearts? What do I hope we can begin to reflect back and forth to one another if we share space and intimacy? What helps me find my own sense of equanimity in presence as a guide or mentor?

My notion of community seems to extend beyond people-to-people… there is relationship and unity with nature and place, plants and animals, with creative source and energy, with my own body-mind-spirit. They all feed one another in the weaving of interconnection – and awareness of each becomes helpful for centering and tending. Yet at the core essence of how we relate, they are one and the same, the whole picture of how we show up, give and receive.

The conjuring of {the} feeling is a cycle of creative breath. The more aware of it I am, the more it seems to grace my awareness.


prayerpaintingoct2014 wip

For today’s check-in, I offer a little rhythm-tip for your creative practice – one that we are using in RELATE this year and that I am personally loving. I also just touch on a few things happening that I will elaborate more on here at the blog over the next few weeks – including the evolution of my personal prayer painting practice and tending our visions for community and connection.



courage, focus, walk - Hali Karla Arts

The single, greatest teacher of Courage is Mama Earth herself.

Resiliency, Vulnerability, Strength, Transformation
To do that which is right for us, that which we have to, despite the possibility of loss or harm

She, and all of Nature, model the amalgamation of these gifts to us everywhere we turn.

To do so with fierce grace
To courageously tell the story of who and what we are by LIVING it, even in the face of fear

What I love about Nature, is that she reminds us that fear only holds power over us when we give it our attention and energy,
and every time we choose to re-direct our focus toward the beauty of our mysterious truth and organic, inner knowing,
everytime, we grow… stronger, wiser, more resilient than our minds often allows us to believe we can be.

We grow into that which already exists within us, waiting to be awakened, activated and honored.

We are working with the sacred teaching of Courage right now in RELATE. 25 women from around the world are bringing intentional moments of prayer and reflection to their creative practice – each with their own sacred making of what this means. It is an honor to hold space and collectively raise energy beside them in this way.

When I create from a place of conscious contemplation and relationship – it seems to be inevitable that I crave communion with Mother Earth to supplement my exploration and discovery.

It is our Nature to grow, create and evolve, to hope, heal and thrive.
To do so with grace, I believe we must partner with our Nature – that which is in us, of us, all around us.

I cannot teach or tell you what a relationship with Mother Earth will feel like for you… that is between you and Her.

But I will say that it is soulwork Medicine, undoubtedly, and that Courage and resolve are part of it.

So what I offer you today is a simple invitation to take a Silent Walk and commune with Nature around you sometime this week. You can do this right in your yard, around your block, or even better yet – take a short trip to an uncrowded, secluded space or trail. Try this first thing in the morning, or in the dark of the night – these are potent times, when our worlds and minds are quieter and our bodies more receptive to the mysteries.

Walk with soft eyes, quiet thoughts, open heart. Walk slower than your usual pace… deliberate with each step.

Imagine this space, this time, as a temple with the potential to call forth the ringing of your deepest truth.

Notice how She responds to you. How you respond to Her. Breathe with Her. Breathe these moments as if they were your last meal, noticing every texture, color, smell, sound, rhythm… this is how Nature greets and communicates with you.

If it helps to quiet your mind, name that which you see…

…leaf, twig, stone, bug, moth, cloud, squirrel, dirt, tree, moss…

Perhaps, reach out and touch it as if you’ve never seen it before. You might find that you never really have.

Follow your intuition. Feel. Listen.

Nature Speaks a language you know deep beyond words.

Meet Her and take the walk.


Thank you to those of you walking with me through RELATE this year. We made a donation to Tree Sisters this week from your investment in your practice!




There is much in my heart about my time in South Dakota at the Gather the Women (GTW) circle. As it is with circling, in coming away and reflecting, it’s as if parts of our unfolding story are cleansed and clearer, nestling in our hearts like puzzle pieces in right place, and affirming with new perspectives what we’ve already *known* down deep in the center of us. With it comes fresh resolve to express that truth in a way that aligns our inner and outer worlds more clearly. Sometimes others will notice, sometimes they won’t. It doesn’t really matter. The path we are here to walk, and how we seek and find meaning on it, is a matter between Self and Source only.

That said, we are humans here, together, experiencing humanness and connection alongside one another – and my gratitude for walking a path that has led me to the strong & beautiful (though they don’t always see it), deep-diving, seeking women I have met is beyond adequate expression.

I find an interesting cycle within myself about sitting in circle, particularly in women’s circles. I sense it is about my own part in healing patterns that don’t work between us on a collective level, combined with my own stories and limited perspective, of course. Before I go to circle, I reach a point where I think of many reasons to back out. Even though I know by now how deeply beautiful and filling it is if I will just get myself there – just show up and speak from my heart.

Then, once there, I go through an initial elation, like a home-coming. I sense that this is part of that deeper knowing that pulls me there to begin with – it feels womb-like, like a cellular memory of yes, this is how we communicate in a good way, this is how we see and honor one another. Women’s circles are no new thing. Our bodies know this.

Next, once we begin or maybe a little bit into it, my mind creeps in, full-force. I start to feel irritations, resistance, little judgments… you know, the usual patterns that show up as our ego fights change and exposure in the name of all the things we “ought” to be doing with our time and how we might look to others if they see us how we really are. The thoughts aren’t from my heart’s truth at all, and they certainly feel old and junky. This is the part where the real healing begins (or continues). Having done a few rounds with this over the past two decades, I know this is the test – am I going to be here, present, in this? Will I speak the truth of my process even if I shake or cry or sound babbly, or will I gloss it over or just watch the clock? Can I surrender to where I am – to what I truly hold faith in – which is that Creator/Universe leads us right to where we need to be, as we are, but that it won’t matter one bit if we don’t Open to Receive it with full presence.

So when those moments creep up, I choose Trust in the greater process – the one I may never be able to explain or even fully understand. I am grateful to get to choose Openness again and again in this way, in these sacred places we create for just this work of connection. Because the Circle meets us, right there in the center of our heart, when we do.

South Dakota was no exception to my own cycle of healing, realization, surrender and coming back into a deeper awareness of our inter-connectivity. Despite the incredibly warm welcome from the very first minute I met the planners at their pre-gathering breakfast (I arrived early), I still had moments of resistance to it all on the first day. I’m grateful to be in a place of awareness and curiosity about this, where I know how to ride those waves, and to let flow from my lips and heart the real issue my spirit is processing (which is different every time, and never related to the circle itself or the people within it).

That is what I did in South Dakota when I felt the struggle coming on, and ego trying to disguise it behind masks I don’t hold in my heart. So I opened when the moment presented itself, and poured the truth of my real pain to an elder I had only just met the day before, and she did not flinch, seeing beyond my words and trusting her own presence in the moment wholeheartedly. More than that, she helped me heal a story I had been carrying for over a decade, while simultaneously calling me into my own power to Step Up in devotion and leadership from the true story of my path – the one given to me by the Great Mystery herself.

Maybe some day I will share that story with some of you – most likely in person, if at all. But let me just say the word that keeps tugging at my heart about it: Initiation.

Our voices matter. Our stories matter. Our pain and healing matter. Our connection with Spirit matters, however it looks. Every part of your story and experience belongs to you; it is your right – don’t let anyone try to take that away from you. I write that because I sense some of you may need to read it, like I needed to feel it.

At GTW, over forty women, all ages, sat in circle, with shawls on their shoulders to represent the sacred wisdom and stories of our ancestors that each of us carries with us as well. We were in a land where medicine grows everywhere you walk, on soil that whispers of sorrow, blood, and the rites of great spirit love.

I had a realization of sorts that weekend, between laying on the earth and sitting with women who’ve been called together – about the importance of cross-generational connection. Of course, it is important for those of different cultures, spiritualities, gender-identifications, interests, socio-economic classes, etc – to have connection and open conversation, with respect and kindness. Absolutely. But in that weekend, I also felt how our culture is so deeply dis-connected from true honoring of our elders and their voices.

I have felt this truth calling before. Once, years ago, I felt called to work with the elderly and those facing end-of-life care and the human condition. So I went into nursing and learned a great deal. Only to find it was really a call to sit, spirit to spirit, with others, to slow down enough to learn of spiritual resiliency and the seeing of one another that is beyond our forms.

As I sat in circle at GTW, I realized with a wave of truth that I wasn’t called to work with the elder-ly per se, but to sit and work with and honor the wisdom of our Elders – to really be with them, to see them as myself, and be part of the remembering of what they have learned on their own spiritual journey, despite any differences in details or beliefs we might have. To help heal that lost connection, spirit to spirit, and to bring it with me into the other relationships of my life.

I am all for new ways of doing things, for holding great vision as we evolve and transform. But it also seems to me that this all too often comes from a very dreamy place with great blindspots. Let’s shift into a new world, by all means, and new ways of being together with great possibility, but let us not forget what those who have been around a lot longer have seen and experienced or we just might find ourselves inadvertently planting seeds for the very cycles and results we are running from and hoping to prevent.

Our elders hold a key to this. Our grandmothers and grandfathers. I believe the land itself does too, if we listen close. Our ancestors as well (a notion that is waking inside many of us in this time, I know). The stories of our people, of the places we land in, and the reality of their experiences matter. We cannot afford to lose touch with these gifts of perspective from the generations that participated in the creation of the world as it is today. We would do well to apply some of it more readily to our interactions and ways of sustaining life and relationship. It would also be wise to listen and honor them so that we remember WHY we are choosing to leave behind ways that do not work.

When I participated in Ojibwe ceremony/community for a time, I remember distinctly a couple of Sundances where the women would sit and talk about how we needed grandmother wisdom – their fierceness and tenderness, their courage and guidance on how to be with one another in ways that honor feminine energy and bring harmony to the often out-of-balance masculine energy that guides so much in our time. We all felt this emptiness, this ache for lost elder knowing about flow and fluidity and nurturing grace while facing questions of faith, tradition and new vision.

At GTW, I remembered that ache, and realized not only was I sitting in a circle of beautiful women, of which most were my elders, but that my life had come full circle in finding harmony for what I’ve personally experienced. I realized I was sitting in a circle of grandmothers, and that I needed to hear their stories. Their anger, their tenderness and fierce resolve, their memories, and their own journeys of healing and joy from times that look different from now. It is my honor and responsibility to carry their stories with me because they are planks of connection on a fragmented bridge that deeply needs our attention – for humanity, for our earth, and for our sense of well-being in our own skin and families (of blood or beyond).

I also needed that sister + grandmother wisdom to witness me, as a younger woman, taking back her own spiritual story and trying to make sense of what it means to be called to work with women in new ways of being together, to gather women for this very purpose of creative, honest healing and soulwork. It is grounding to honor both our vision AND that which came before – it is like watering the seeds we are planting and learning the songs of seasons and trust.

The energy of circle is timeless in this way.

It is good work. I am so so grateful to each woman I sat with at GTW this year, and to all the wise people in my life who remind me what matters most. The way we listen to one another, share from our vulnerability, and apply the heart-touching truth of that to the living of our lives is the ultimate medicine and hope for our world.

Circles are needed. Gather your people. Join them. Sit and See each other for awhile, open hearts. Pray together. Step into how it changes you, how it calls you to BE. It matters.




In South Dakota I was invited to be Regional Coordinator for Western North Carolina Gather the Women, and I have joyfully accepted. What this will look like for 2015 is unfolding. You can stay up to date on announcements or events through my mailing list RIGHT HERE.


different pages, same art journal, hali karla arts

If I had to offer one piece of wisdom about art journaling, it would be to remember that it can look different every day, and that the more it becomes an everyday practice, the more we begin to see the connection between our creative expressions and the integration of conscious presence and engagement into our daily life and relationships.

I’ve been fluffing content for my online Creative Women’s Circle that opens tomorrow, and last year in RELATE, I shared with the women a bit about my own Everyday Art Journal practice – in reference to using our own intuitive wisdom to make and break our very own rules about creative expression. Touching in with words or colors each day helps me develop a relationship with the insights and patterns that reveal themselves throughout my day to day in the interactions and experiences I have.

An everyday {art} journal – one that you carry with you as much as possible – is a way of keeping track of the breadcrumbs in your life – you know, the little shimmers and synchronicities that vibrate in a moment but can be so easily forgotten as the moments move on.

I can say that deciding to carry an “everyday art journal” was a game-changer for me. It’s really just an art journal or sketchbook that goes with me everywhere. It has to be small enough to fit in my bag. I carry a white pen, a black pen, and a glue stick always – and, if I get real honest, a whole bag of pens with my favorite goodies that might be considered optional for some.

I actually broke up with my standard planner after getting to know my everyday art journal (it really never worked out between me and the conventional planner no matter how hard we tried anyway). My everyday art journal holds monthly or weekly  calendar pages for me now, that i simply draw or glue in.

everyday art journal1

I use it to jot down ideas, sketch or doodle when I have time to kill or need to pause and be present, to tack in photos and fodder, or capture wise or inspiring words from others that may come my way. Sometimes I write prayers in it, or recipes. I even keep my lists in it. To-do lists, not-to-do lists, shopping lists, gratitude lists, travel itinerary details – all of which can be painted or glued over later if I feel the urge. I paint in it and paste in collage-stuffs as an ongoing vision book – a way of trying on feelings and impressions.

It really isn’t just an everyday journal – it’s an everything journal for me.

The real beauty of it, though, is that having it all within one cover, over a period of time, makes it really easy to begin to see patterns in my life. Connections that I might otherwise miss – about what is going on inside myself and around me for that period of time in my life. By engaging with it everyday, it carries the dynamic energy of my life unfolding.

I keep other art journals, too (like the one at the top) – and they often have a variety of styles and flavors within the pages. Yet, while the everyday journal isn’t the prettiest journal I keep, by any means, it’s one of the most precious to my journey – helping me to discern what holds meaning for me, what needs attention and what is calling my heart. I feel it is a living artifact of my intention to live my life as the ultimate work of art-in-process – to come again and again to what it means to be present to creative energy.

everyday artjournal sample2

RELATE begins again tomorrow. Join us?


[This post is in response to Connie's invitation for some Art Journal Wisdom sharing as part of her free 10 day workshop HERE]



prayer pages, art journal, hali karla

Some of my favorite pages in my art journal, when all is said and done, are the simplest ones. The ones that started out as “palette pages” (extra paint on my palette gets slapped on them and moved around with little to no thought). They are the ones I come back to later, that remind me of the inherent beauty in primary colors or odd combinations, bulky brushes, sloppy smears, goopy strokes, and the hidden gift in not always having time to put lots of effort (or too much thought) into a spread. There’s a wonderful freedom in that.

This is one of those pages. An intuitive palette page made while traveling, that I came back to and sat with in prayer as I added some simple lines. The prayer written on it was shared at the Gather the Women circle in South Dakota. I don’t know who wrote it, but it has been sitting in my heart… resonating with the spaciousness it implies and offering such comfort.

It really can be this simple, this free.