Flower Mandalas

Nasturtium I
If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
– Buddha

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© 2008, David J. Bookbinder

Morning Glory
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me.

– Emily Dickinson
Morning Glory: Hope is the thing with feathers…
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Image © 2008, David J. Bookbinder,

Art & the Art of Managing Pain
by Billy Bob Beamer
Much of this article first appeared in FMOnline
I graduated from college in the early 70s, having completed a degree in sociology, with a focus in the sociology of art. I didn’t take any studio art courses, but immersed myself in art history, especially the art of the Middle Ages, and sought to understand how cultural values are formed and reflected by the arts of any given age. Essentially self-taught, I began to draw and paint after college graduation. But I had no idea that one day my art hobby would be as important to me as my 30-plus-year career in the field of social services and social services administration. That is because I did not know then—-and didn’t know for most of my professional career–what I would one day learn: that I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome (FM/CFIDS). Thanks to art, though, these disorders don’t have me.
How it began: In the 70s I became frustrated by the “floaters” in my eyes. Those who, like me, are nearsighted will understand how infuriating these floating cells in the eyeball can be! But I have always found myself interested in most things (and people), even frustrating ones. And that included my floaters—-what I later learned are called “entopic” images or imagery derived from the body or body processes when used in art. I began to draw these little floaters, and over time, began to see that they arrived on paper as linguistic signs and symbols. I continued to paint traditional landscapes, portraits, and even abstractions. But I always came back to the “floater drawings,” which I started calling “Messages” to reflect what I understood as their linguistic base.
Jump forward 20 years. I had been growing increasingly ill, and was finally diagnosed with FM/CFIDS. Through the years I began to—-and continue to—-participate in many treatment modalities including medications, osteopathy (OMT), massage, and biofeedback. It was while participating in biofeedback that I learned I could induce a trance-like state by the act of repetitive (some say obsessive-compulsive!) drawing, i.e., my “Messages.”
My works visually explore mystical ideas and prayer/meditation/healing processes, as well as my intuitive understanding of string theory, the vibratory interconnectedness of all things, and multiple universes. Like all art, though, the works are ultimately about themselves and the viewer’s involvement with them. At this time, I am concentrating on drawing–that most basic mode of communication–in a small format. To paraphrase Blake: “the universe lies in a grain of sand.” My best way to realize incalculable enormity is to create its contrasting opposite, seen in the often faintly drawn, small-to-smallest lines, signs, and symbols. At some point, the viewer needs to see my works through magnification–not a gimmick but a major part of the interactive process. This method becomes a way of revealing initially unseen details in the drawings, as well as random miniscule particles, fingerprints, and detritus–the latter arriving unexpectedly onto the glass and frame surfaces and interacting with the drawings in unplanned, ever changing, interconnected ways.
However, it is the process of creating the ink or pencil messages—-the tiny interwoven lines—-that causes the trance-state to which I refer. Other pictorial elements are created first, or added later, as suggested by the weaving lines themselves. I have not been involved in active research of this altered consciousness phenomenon, but in discussion with psychologists and others, I suspect that not only am I creating a distraction from pain, but am also affecting alpha waves in the brain. Certainly the creative process of “messages” drawing creates an alert but relaxed state—-and, most important, reduces pain.
I hope to be able to help others by teaching the methods of my activities—-similar perhaps to knitting, crocheting, etc. I am pleased that my work continues to attract the attention of galleries and collectors, which also allows me to share my FM experience.
John Yimin of Outsider Art has written that my work “lies in a world, somewhere between what you see and what you think.” I don’t think I can top that. Those interested in reading about and seeing more of my art from the last several years can go to There, a link is provided to U*Space Gallery in Atlanta, Ga., which is one of several galleries that represents my art in the US.
Contact Information:
U*Space Gallery
Outsider Art
email Billy Bob Beamer
Art & the Art of Managing Pain
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Cultivating Creativity group
Flower Mandalas Project group

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© 2008, Billy Bob Beamer

Another Train…
Recently, the song “Another Train,” by British balladeer Pete Morton, has been going through my head repeatedly, particularly the chorus:
“There’s another train, there always is. Maybe the next one is yours, step up and climb aboard… another train.”
I’ve always liked this song — its optimism about not only second chances, but third and fourth and fifth… a sequence of chances to get on another train if you’ve missed the one you thought you needed. The song seemed prophetic when I heard it on the radio the morning I was scheduled to see a client who had lost many things — his business, his health, his savings, many of his important relationships. I’d been working with him to find a new direction, and, through a variant of the “miracle question” exercise we’re using in the “Cultivating Creativity” group, we’d discovered that his internal flywheel, the thing that kept him going when the going was tough, was reading train magazines. Though it was probably a year before he’d even mentioned trains to me, he knew more about railroads than any person I can imagine who was not a historian of the subject. He’d been fascinated by them since boyhood and had never let up in his studies. His “next train” could, we realized, literally be a train or, more precisely, a job on the railroad.
After this realization, my client spent months trying to make connections with people in the railroad business. Several people he knew had some kind of rail transportation in their background — commuter rail, Amtrak, the subway system, marine rail. He pursued these connections.
More time passed, and gradually his enthusiasm began to wane. He grew despondent. Then a call to come for an interview came — when he was 2000 miles away, dealing with an ailing sibling. Had he blown his only chance? Had he missed his train — again? Was this whole idea of starting out in the railroad, in the midst of middle age, just a foolish pipedream?
I gave him a copy of the lyrics to “Another Train.” I talked about my own second chances, and those of friends and clients I have known. We brainstormed additional ways he could find his way into the railroad system. He left the session somewhat heartened, tentatively acknowledging that maybe “there’s another train, there always is,” and perhaps the next one could be his.
The following morning, I came into my office to a message from this client. He had, he said, good news. The railroad had called two hours after our session, and he was getting an interview for an available position the following week! When I saw him today, he said the interview went well, and he thought he had a good shot at the job. But he also had a backup plan, just in case. You guessed it — another train job for another railroad.
I’ve started to see that second chances are everywhere. In Hollywood, for instance, actors seem to be in every film that opens for a few years, and then many of them disappear, only to arrive on the scene some years later for another run. John Travolta and Jon Voigt come to mind, but there are many others. Their initial trains went off on a siding, but eventually another train came along, and they stepped up and climbed aboard.
In my own life, I’ve come to see the value of the “Another Train” philosophy. I now see losses not so much as tragedies but as unexpected forks in the road. Relationships, jobs, other “lost” opportunities are also opportunities, one door closing so another one can open. Photography disappeared for 20 years, but when I picked up a camera again it returned with freshness and vibrancy. Writing has come and gone many times. I have a strong fathering instinct, but have no children of my own. That fathering instinct, however, has come into play many times with the clients I work with, many of whom need a kind of re-parenting. The next train for them is me, the good parent figure. The next train for me is them, the child — often in an adult’s body — who needs a good father.
Loss, now, is followed by a period of mourning for what was lost and for what I imagined would be yet to come, and then by an absence of regret. There’s another train, I tell myself. And, in one form or another, there always is.
What inspires you to get up and climb aboard? When, in your life, have you found another train?
More anon,
– David
David J. Bookbinder, LMHC
Another Train
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© 2008, David J. Bookbinder