Expressing Love

Nothing shows us how each of us expresses and experiences emotion differently quite like Valentine’s Day. So many expectations, hopes, dreams fueled by marketing and cultural stories.

What if we do it differently?

When I strip away all the media hype, I like the idea of taking time to intentionally focus on the love in our lives. To stop and appreciate the simple as well as the profound. How can we do this with images?

First, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. I know I can get concerned my creative expression isn’t good enough to truly represent how I feel. Or that if I try to write something it comes off as corny or mushy or just plain weird sounding.

Try visuals

Any of the VisualsSpeak tools can be used to show someone appreciation. Or you can gather photos from magazines. Spend a few moments thinking about a person in your life. Quickly thumb through photos selecting those that say something about what you love about that person. Arrange them on a piece of paper (you don’t need to glue them down, you can just snap a quick photo with your cell phone.)  If the person is there in person, you can just tell them the story of your image.  If they aren’t you can write out a description, record a quick audio or video to send with the image.

Don’t fuss over it! The faster you do this, the more what you pick will come from a core place. Speaking from the heart touches other people, with all its imperfections. The essence of your feelings can shine through.

Appreciate each other

You can do this with other people as a powerful way to speak things to each other we don’t always take the time to say. With a partner, you can make images about each other. With a larger family, you can make images about the person sitting to your right. Same with a group of friends.

Keep it simple

image expressing love Here is an image I did using the Exploring New Options set for my husband. It took less than five minutes to arrange and photograph. Some of the things I love about him:

– love of nature
– spiritual connection and practice
– ability to play and laugh
– coexists with differences
– willingness to do things differently
– his ground to my air

I can share this with him (and in this case the world here on the blog), but it can also be the start to a conversation. He can ask for more details, or clarifications. It can be a way to deepen our connection.

Express love often

None of us can get too much love. Bring it into your life and the lives around you by keeping it simple. Expressing it in multiple ways. Taking a few moments at any opportunity you find. It can take 30 seconds or a few minutes, but can make a difference way beyond the effort it takes.


Using VisualsSpeak in prayer

One of our favorite things is hearing how our customers use Visualsspeak, esp when they do it in a creative way.  Here’s a note we got this week describing how a community are using the images in prayer.

Dear VisualsSpeak Team,

Greetings from Chicago! I have been very happy with all the materials I purchased from VisualsSpeak in two separate orders, and I wanted to write you to tell you about one of the ways we used them.

I live in a Christian community of 16 people and we pray twice a day. Normally we use some form of Scriptural prayer but we are open to other prayer styles and last week I decided to use some of the VisualSpeak photos for evening prayer.

I spread them out on our prayer table and when the community members entered the prayer space, we recalled the presence of God and then I gave them the following instructions:

There is a collection of photo-images on the table. Some are self explanatory. Others are more evocative and invite the viewer to imagine and explore more deeply.
• Choose a photo that evokes a response in you, that suggests something about our life together in our community for the second semester.
• Reflect on it for a moment and be prepared to pray what you desire for us at the moment of bidding prayers.
• Show your photo to everyone, and as you set it down on the table, explain your choice, and pray your intention.

The participants were very taken with the images and spent some time choosing the one they wanted to pray about. Most of them chose photos that were symbolic rather than self explanatory. It was fascinating to hear how the images moved all of us to a deeper understanding of our relationships in an intentional Christian community and our projection to the broader community around us. Though none of the images was explicitly religious, the inherent sacramental quality of our world became evident as we prayed.

Your website states that the images can be used for Personal, Professional and Organizational development, and you probably did not intend the use to which we put these images. Nevertheless, they also helped us to focus our community development and to sharpen our perception of God’s presence in our lives.

I have appreciated the prompt and personal service and hope to continue our relationship in the future. I will also recommend your images to other teachers and members of our communities.

Michael G. French

Thank you so much for sharing with all of us Michael. What a beautiful way to use the pictures.


Exploring Your Strengths

“Good morning friend, I got the “Exploring Options” deck yesterday and this morning during my meditation time I used them. WOW! Since it was a quiet time for me, I decided to write out my learnings/insights rather than to talk them out –tough for me, as you know talking is my default mode of communication! ;-)”

Using my new tool from VisualsSpeak — the “Exploring Options” card deck.

I chose to focus around the “Exploring Strengths” question prompts — asking the following questions of myself,

“What are my strengths when it comes to my Professional Speaking and Training work?” “What do I do when I speak?” “What does my audience get out of it?”

Going through the deck I chose 5 cards:

  • Painting of a person standing facing to the left of the card. There is light coming from (or going to) heaven/the clouds. This light connects in two places with the person, the head and the heart.
  • A photograph of a campfire at night. No people, just the burning fire.
  • A photo of a wooden foot bridge – the kind you wold find up in a hiking trail in the mountains.
  • A close up photo of blueberries . . . with one lone raspberry in the middle of them.
  • A photo with the bank of a river in the foreground and barren trees/grassy patch in the middle.Towards the top of an incline there are stick frame outlines for 3 buildings. The photo was taken in late fall or winter (itʼs a clear day, but no snow). The outlines of the buildings may have been drawn in by someone.- a photo of exploding fireworks.

Here is how I tell my story

My professional speaking helps people connect what is in their heart with what is in their mind. The ultimate purpose is to also connect their head, heart and actions — what they believe, what they are passionate about and what they “DO”. (Purpose, passion and behavior)

The way I do this is in connection with a form of human engagement that goes back to the beginning of humankind — the story around the fire. Retelling stories,talking about the day, sharing wisdom and humor around a fire has a primal quality about it — interacting around the fire is one of the oldest forms of human interaction –the fire provided warmth, light, sustenance (cook our food), and a space for humans to share what was important to them.

COMMUNITY. When I speak I like to take people on a journey — like hiking on a trail. The trail may be familiar or it may be brand new — every step is unique – whatʼs around the next bend? How does the sunlight shining through the forest feel on my face?

One of the things that people are able to get out of working with me is the ability to see, understand, and celebrate their own uniqueness. Each of us is different, and itʼs the difference that makes life interesting and fun. My work helps people answer the question, “What makes you special?”

I focus on finding and sharing your unique value proposition.Very often people have an “ah ha” moment during/after hearing me speak. They get inspired to share more of themselves with each other and the world. They gain a moment of clarity around their unique purpose and how to live/what to do (next). They are ready to explode — making a unique and beautiful impact on the world.

Thanks Sean for sharing your experience!If you’d like to share your experience with the VisualsSpeak tools, we’d love to hear it!


Unplugging at the Oregon Coast

If you’ve been following our video series, you may want to know more about the Oregon Coast and why it makes for a great place to get unplugged.

Jalene and Christine talk a little bit about the Oregon Coast  in this last video.

If you haven’t checked out the Women Unplugged retreat page, please do, it gives all kinds of details about the retreat.  This is a one time opportunity to get Christine and Jalene together to help you unplug, get creative and have fun in a relaxing and restorative setting. 




Connecting With Your Inner You

If you are anything like me… you probably have some really cool projects and hobbies.  My office is filled with journals and sketch books, moleskines and pastels, watercolor paper and charcoal, photos and cameras, colored pens and pencils and yes, in the corner a guitar.

My partner’s desk is filled with electronic parts and little robots, drafting paper and sketch pads, catalogs and books.

Our creative endeavors are different to be sure, but the one thing they have in common… dust.

When I do think about working on “arting” up a photo or playing with some pastels the pile of invoices on my desk reminds me that I have bills to pay, inventory to buy, calls to make and, well, work to do.

The worst part is this, as long as I’m near my desk, 24 hours a day, weekends included – the work pulls me in and keeps me from those real pleasures.

We all need away time.  The closer we are to our work space the harder it is to get that away time.

Imagine a few days of reconnecting with your inner you… Having time to remember the stuff you really love to do and do it.  Maybe just reflecting on how to incorporate it more fully.  Maybe just figure out a way to make it a bigger part of the day.  And what about all those new ideas that you jot down and never get to?  What if you had time for those?

You do.  You can.  It’s what the Women Unplugged Retreat is all about.  It’s about connecting with you, the most important person around.

Join Christine and Jalene for a weekend of reconnecting you won’t forget.

Now… just to figure out how to get the guitar and pastels in the suitcase…

Let’s hear Christine and Jalene tell us more about the connection side of the Women Unplugged Retreat.


Remember:  Early bird registration ends August 31st.  
Click here for more info and to get registered.


On Getting Unplugged and Reclaiming Yourself

There aren’t many ways to truly unplug from the here and now which is why we long for it.

But it’s not just about getting away from work, responsibilities or life.

Unplugging has important implications.  In his book Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind, author Guy Claxton made popular the idea that most of our best “thinking” takes place in the unconscious mind.  And the unconscious mind has a hard time working unless we make an effort to slow down and unplug.

It is at the root of this idea where the Women Unplugged retreat hits the mark so powerfully.

In the below video, your retreat hosts, Christine Martell and Jalene Case talk about why they created Women Unplugged and what it means to them.

If you are looking to reconnect to your inner self, to rejuvenate your tired spirits or just want some time to remember what you love, the Women Unplugged retreat is for you. 

You’ll unplug from the here and now and plug into you.  The Women Unplugged retreat is about Relaxing, Remembering, Rejuvenating, Reconnecting and Restarting.  With the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop you’ll be refreshed and more importantly ready to restart!

Here’s Christine and Jalene:






Brene Brown at WDS 2012 in tweets

I attended the World Domination Summit last weekend. It’s about changing the world by doing good, not some ulterior motive to take over. This experience is seeping in slowly. I know it has shifted something in me, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. What I do know is what I planned on doing this past week no longer made sense. Yet, the new form isn’t quite here yet.

Brene Brown

Brene Brown opening keynote at WDS 2012 (credit Armosa Studios)

Brene Brown served as the opening keynote. What she said was inspiring, but her presence is what made her so effective. She’s a master at slightly leaning into the audience and conveying a sense of meeting each person where they are. Her slides were simple and well done, and complimented her presence.

Here are snippets from her talk, or at least what I heard and wrote down. Her actual words were probably slightly different. Hopefully you’ll get a sense of what she shared. If you click on them, they’ll post to your twitter account.

She also got 1000 people singing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing before 10 am. Impressive.

No one belongs here more than me @BreneBrown #wds2012

What currency do we use? @BreneBrown #wds2012

Be uncool @BreneBrown #wds2012

Walking with cell phones send the message you can not talk to me @BreneBrown #wds2012

Cool is self protection @BreneBrown #wds2012

Connection is from movement @BreneBrown #wds2012

Only real currency is when we are being open  @BreneBrown #wds2012

You have to believe you are worthy @BreneBrown #wds2012

We are afraid to be open and vulnerable @BreneBrown #wds2012

Your experience cannot exceed your willingness to be vulnerable @BreneBrown #wds2012

 OK, this one is too long to tweet, but was too good to leave out:

We associate vulnerability with shame, scarcity, fear, anxiety but it is really the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, hope, empathy, curiosity, innovation, creativity, gratitude, accountability and adaptability

Vulnerability is the cradle of the most important things in our life@BreneBrown #wds2012

The opposite of scarcity is not abundance, it is enough @BreneBrown #wds2012

What I am doing is enough @BreneBrown #wds2012

Joy is the hardest emotion @BreneBrown #wds2012

When we lose our capacity for vulnerability we lose joy  @BreneBrown #wds2012

Only way to lean into joy is to be vulnerable @BreneBrown #wds2012

Joy is fleeting, but we can store it by practicing gratitude, expressing gratitude @BreneBrown #wds2012

Creativity over comparison @BreneBrown #wds2012

Unused creativity creates grief, it is not benign @BreneBrown #wds2012

DON’T GRADE ART!!!!!! @BreneBrown #wds2012

Studying trauma around learning, 50% is creativity based  @BreneBrown #wds2012

Contribution over criticism and cynicism  @BreneBrown #wds2012

At the end I want to say I contributed more than I criticized @BreneBrown #wds2012

Aim for belonging- show up to be seen, no shame, membership is shared memory moments @BreneBrown #wds2012

Avoid fitting in- adapting, do I become who they want me to be? @BreneBrown #wds2012

I accept criticism from people who are also out there in the arena getting their ass kicked. @BreneBrown #wds2012

Who you are trumps who I think you should be @BreneBrown #wds2012

Question and Answer Session

I also attended Brene’s breakout session. She took questions from the audience, and was just as amazing as she was in her prepared keynote. She captures the essence of the human condition, and speaks it authentically. I think that is why she resonates with so many people. It’s like the essence of ourselves being spoken with kindness and compassion.

Here are a few nuggets from the answers:

Fear of vulnerability leads to mistakes @BreneBrown #wds2012

In your workplace, do you get to say I don’t know? @BreneBrown #wds2012

Vulnerability is not disclosure or TMI. We share vulnerability with people who deserve it. @BreneBrown #wds2012

When people overshare it keeps people away, comes from woundedness @BreneBrown #wds2012

 Meaningful vulnerability is intimate @BreneBrown #wds2012

Shame is not embarrassment. Shame is I am bad. Correlates to addiction and depression @BreneBrown #wds2012

To develop shame resilience us the word shame. It hates being spoken. Naming and sharing cuts it. @BreneBrown #wds2012

Shame is a paralysis with feelings of not enough, never good enough, who do you think you are? @BreneBrown #wds2012

Do not speak when in shame. You can’t ignore it, it gets louder. Decide later how to deal with it. @BreneBrown#wds2012

Family of origin is where most shame buttons are set. @BreneBrown #wds2012

We shame when we are in shame @BreneBrown #wds2012

What is worth doing even if you fail? That’s who you want to be. @BreneBrown #wds2012

Need to relax, recharge and get clear? Join me for Women Unplugged: A Retreat for Connection and Creativity. September 21-23, 2012 on the Oregon Coast.



Using images for personal development

Using images is a great way to get past the places of stuck. You know the times when you try looking at a particular situation or problem from many angles and no solutions emerge? Doing an exercise with photographs can help you tap into your inner wisdom and get past the place of stuck. Here are some tips on how to get some breakthroughs.

If you are a coach, counselor or therapist, you can do this exercise with your clients to help them get through a particular challenge.

art toolsWhat you’ll need

  • 2 pieces of background paper
  • Any VisualsSpeak image decks or your own collection of images
  • Writing paper
  • Pen

Choosing a good question for yourself

Choosing a good question is one of the keys to having a successful experience. It should be broad enough to incorporate a wide range of possibilities. It can be focused on a specific challenge but make sure there is some room for your mind to move.

Try one of these:

  • What do I need to move on?
  • What do I need to do to solve this problem?
  • What is the piece of the puzzle I am missing?

Here’s how you do it

Lay out the two pieces of paper side-by-side with a little space between them. The paper on the left represents where you are today and the right represents where you would like to be in the future.

Give yourself a maximum of five minutes to go through your images and choose the ones that jump out at you. Don’t over-think it. Then arrange the images on the two pieces of paper. Again, don’t think, do.

Write it down

After you complete arranging your images, use your  paper and pen to write down the story of everything the images are telling you. Pay particular attention to any new ideas or sparks. Now walk away from the writing and your collage for a day.

Do it again

When you later return to your collage, ask yourself the same question and rearrange the same images in a different way. Do you notice anything different? Write these other insights down. You can repeat this process for several days if you choose.

Talk it out

Another way to approach the telling of the story is to share it with a trusted friend. Sometimes putting these thoughts, ideas, and insights into words can add extra power to the process.

The last and most important step

This last part is crucial for the successful outcome of your exercise. I want you to stand on your head and scream like a monkey. Just kidding. I only wanted to see if you would do it. But please, send pictures anyhow. :>)

What was the experience like for you?

I would love to hear about your experiences doing this exercise or anything similar. Leave a comment. Thanks for reading.



Using images to figure out what to write

I often get stuck when I am coming up with ideas to write about. I stare at the blank screen and wonder what I should say. Using visuals I can get clear and come up with things to write about. This is how I do it.

Why do you want to write?

Think about why you want to write. In the example I will share here, I’ll focus on identifying important things to share about the work we do with images. We need these ideas for this blog, and for our biweekly newsletter.

Once you know what you are trying to achieve, craft a question that starts where you are and moves you toward what you are trying to do. I’m always looking to get clearer about what’s important to say about the work we do. I ask:

What is important to communicate about our work?

Select images that say something about the question

What is important to communicate about our work?


Go through your collection of images and select ones that spark something for you. It could be something that reminds you of what someone else said, or it can be something that sparks an idea. The possibilities are endless. Just allow your mind to wander, but work quickly. You don’t want to think too much.

Once you have selected your pictures arrange them on a table or desk in any way that makes sense to you. This is your collective image in answer to the question you asked.

You can use any of the VisualsSpeak tools for this exercise. I set up a session on the online ImageCenter to explore my question, and chose the Developing Great Leaders Deck.


Reflecting on what you see

There is information in the stories of the individual pictures as well as in how the images relate to one another. For this question, I used virtual sticky notes and wrote notes about what the images said to me in relationship to the question I asked.


What else do you see?

Look back over your image to see what else you notice. I started to think about how our tools and processes form a spine of techniques, that can branch off in many directions to achieve different outcomes. There are core processes that have been tested, but they remain flexible and able to respond to whatever you encounter with your participants. Any content can be explored or deepened with visual methods.

My conclusion: Visual tools are as versatile as you are.


Need blog ideas? Get inspired with visuals

I often get stuck when I am coming up with ideas for my blogs. I stare at the blank screen and wonder what I should say. Using visuals I can get clear and come up with things to write about. This is how I do it.

Why do you want to write a post?

Think about why you want to write a particular post. In the example I will share here, the charter membership for the VisualsSpeak VizPeeps Community is ending at the end of the week. I want to have a series of posts that talk about why people would want to join us.

Once you know what you are trying to achieve, craft a question that starts where you are and moves you toward what you are trying to do. I’m not clear about all the reasons people want to be VizPeeps, so I ask:

What is the value of being a VizPeep?

Select images that say something about the question

Go through your collection of images and select ones that spark something for you. It could be something that reminds you of what someone else said, or it can be something that sparks an idea. The possibilities are endless. Just allow your mind to wander, but work quickly. You don’t want to think too much.

Once you have selected your pictures arrange them on a table or desk in any way that makes sense to you. This is your collective image in answer to the question you asked.

I set up a session on the ImageCenter to explore my question. Here is a 2 minute video showing what I selected.

Describe the image

Once you have created the image, go back and reflect on what the pictures you selected mean in relationship to the question. You can do this by writing or speaking. I often record what I say, then go back and listen to it. It creates a bit of space, which helps us see things slightly differently.

Here is my description of the image I created. The video is 6 minutes long.

Reflecting on what you see

There is information in the stories of the individual pictures as well as in how the images relate to one another. I like to use mindmaps to get an overview of the ideas.

Often times the central image holds particular significance. In my example, as I talked about the picture of the potter, I realized there is something about the ability to collaborate- to create something together with other people, that is important to me and part of the value offered.

Take a break

Next do something else. The best thing for me is to do something physical where someone else is affecting what I do. I go to a yoga class, bike ride with other people, walk with a friend. Second choice is to do one of these things alone, play with my cat, or take a shower.

This is for two reasons. First, you change the way you are engaging from visual and verbal to kinesthetic, so it uses other parts of your brain. Second, it provides some space for other ways of knowing to emerge. Fresh eyes often bring fresh insights.

Revisit the visuals

Using the ImageCenter, I can print out a copy of the image I created and use it for journaling. It’s the process of going from visual to spoken verbal to visual to written that can release new insight. It’s similar to what happens when you work with a coach or a friend to help you see new perspectives.

Look for emerging insights

As I mentioned before, the central image often holds something important. It’s almost like your subconscious puts it there to get your attention. It’s a good place to dig into a bit.

In my example, after going through more of the process, I’m seeing the significance of the central image differently. I have always struggled with making art just for the sake of doing it. I’ve always had an easier time creating things that have purpose or a use. This is one of the reasons I love VisualsSpeak, I finally have a use for all the work I create.

This ability to use visuals to create something for yourself or with clients is a big part of the value of the ImageCenter. It’s a co-creation process where the coach or facilitator brings their best selves, adds them to the images, and offers them to the participant to create something uniquely theirs.

Generate a list of ideas

Look back over your image, your mindmap, recording, or journaling. Make a list of possible ideas you can use as a starting point for blog posts.

Here’s a few of my ideas that came out of this process.

  • A visual tool as versatile as you are
  • Revitalize your coaching practice with visuals
  • Co-creation in coaching conversations
  • Deepen your professional practice by adding visuals
  • Attract new clients by expanding your capability
  • Tangible or digital images, what are the similarities and differences
  • Similar tools, different outcomes

Next you just have to write all the posts. When you do, remember to look back at the images you selected to give you ideas for the visuals to illustrate the post.