Awakening the Dragon


by Roy Ringel

Twenty-one years ago, the Dragon rose within my father’s body and killed him.
Two years ago, the Dragon rose within my mother’s body and killed her.
I remember how their spirits collapsed as they felt the Dragon’s teeth sink in…their resignation as they left me behind and then, walked alone into the darkness.

Last year, the Dragon rose within me.

Each day, I feel its burning teeth bite into me and yet I will stand in the face of my pain, my grief, and my fear. I will not yield. Instead…
I lower the shield of my anger and honor the rising wavelike voice of grief and the deep aching loneliness of being too afraid to trust; of being too afraid of my fear to feel my fear.

My grief for the shortness of life reawakens my love for this moment and, even in the midst of the Dragon’s burning breath in my body, helps me open my heart into the upwelling tsunami of fear. As I swim within my fear, there comes a beginning of compassion and so, perhaps, of a true courage.

In accordance with both modern physics and the teachings of Buddha, reality and how reality is shaped and unfolds, is essentially relational. So, what matters most is how honest and intimate I am with my pain, with my emotions and (of course) with my Dragon, as each moment flows into this endless present (or is it presence?).

• Such honesty arises from a persistent and intimate awareness.
• Such intimacy arises from the courageous compassion required to be truly open-hearted.
• Such courageous compassion arises from my honoring each experience as it appears.
So, I let my embodied spirit bow-in-respect to my pain, to my emotions and to my Dragon…as equals who face one another in my heart’s inner dojo. Thus, I honor all experience; I honor all beings; I honor the memory of my parents; and I honor myself. As I honestly engage in this intimate practice my experience transforms, thus transforming me, into someone…else.

Who might that be? Who is this self…who notices this Dragon bowing in response? The story of this awakening has no true ending, for every apparent ending is simply a new beginning.

Author’s note: This piece was written this past January (2018), while I was attending an online TLA workshop in pursuit of my TLA certification, and while I had just begun various treatments for cancer. The prompt given was “Turn something that frustrates, confounds, annoys, or disturbs you into a real or imaginary creature. Write the story of how you confine it, or become comfortable with it, or change it, or destroy it, or simply let it go. Illustrate your creative ideas, if you want.”

royAbout Roy Ringel:Roy has a Bachelor of Arts in English (Summa cum Laude) from the Lee Honors College of Western Michigan University and has practiced multiple forms of Swordsmanship and Martial Arts for over 40 years.  After retiring from a long career in nonprofit operations management (including Health Care, Education and Mental Health Services), he has become a poet, story-teller and writer of short stories and creative non-fiction as well as having recently received the following certifications:

  • Transformational Language Arts Foundations (Introductory Certification) – through the TLA Network
  • Professional Awareness Coaching – through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching
  • Coach Mastery Training in Relational Awareness – through the Arbinger Coaching Network

He has a fundamental conviction in the power of narratives to transform lives and has begun to wonder whether or not we are all, each one of us, a story that we tell ourselves about who we think we are.
So he asks…what might happen when we change the narrative?”


Call For New TLA Blog Editors!


Are you passionate about Transformative Language Arts? Are you seeking ways to serve the TLA Network, become more involved, or network with other practitioners?

The TLA Blog is currently seeking 1-2 editor-curators. These people should be invested in learning more about TLA practice and the TLA Network. Excellent editing and proofreading skills, as well as prompt, professional, and mindful communication with our community of artists and practitioners, is required. Experience with WordPress and social media preferred.

Your service will be approximately 3 hours each week, editing and promoting posts, seeking contributions, and participating in TLA Network discussions and calls (how this time is divided between editor-curators is up to you).

Duties would include:

  • Updates to the blog weekly, maybe more
  • Working closely with authors and interviewees to present their best work
  • Serving on the TLA Network Council in discussions on the promotion and growth of the Network and TLA work at large
  • Remember, you are both a practitioner and a curator, so other ways to serve your practice and the network are also valuable!

Posts would include:

  • TLA in Current Events
  • Posts from Practitioners of TLA, including conference presenters and online course teachers
  • Social media promotions of TLA Network events
  • Your own reflections on your practice of TLA
  • Contributions from those seeking certification

If you are interested, please email  with your information and any questions.


The Art of Affirmation – Words and Pictures


by Stefanie M Smith

One of the things that led me to looking at how powerful words can be in regard to someone’s mental health was discovering affirmation cards around 15 years ago. I was visiting a friend and needed to use her bathroom; tucked into the side of her mirror was an affirmation card, and there was another propped up on the windowsill. They were beautifully decorated and each had a positive phrase inscribed on it. I asked her about them and she explained that they were from a card deck produced by the late Louise L Hay. At the time, although I thought they were lovely I couldn’t really see how they could possibly be effective, but I was intrigued enough to want to learn more.

Now, a few years down the line, I am a great believer in the way that using positive affirmations can help to change a person’s outlook on things; but this is with the proviso that the person has a true connection with and a belief the words affirmation itself.
Like most people I’ve seen the many different products available that portray affirmations as the be all and end all to change your life. I may also be guilty of buying a pack of cards and then putting them somewhere to come back to later, only to rediscover them months down the line, still unopened and obviously having had no impact on my life other than perhaps my bank balance.

I have found the best way to actually get the benefit of positive affirmations into your life is to actively engage with them, and this, for me is where creativity comes into play. I love Art Journaling and creating Mixed Media artworks that incorporate positive thoughts and firmly believe that the process of creating them actually builds a greater resonance with the message they hold. The beauty with creating in this way is that you don’t have to share what you have created with anyone else, and it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Yes, there are many beautiful, and daunting examples all around the internet but please don’t let that put you off.

The process of creating art with a personal meaning in some way combines both sides of our brains, the left, more logical side and the right, more intuitive and creative side; I believe that this helps the positivity lodge more firmly within our thought patterns, therefore keeping the message closer to the surface.

A good way to get around any nerves or self-criticism about your creativity is to try something like collage or perhaps found poetry. You may want to buy a cheap pack of playing cards, paint one side a plain colour and then use cut out pictures and words from magazines to create a message that resonates with you; or you could find an old book in a second hall shop, pick a page at random and circle some words that stand out to you, draw connecting lines between those words and then black out or doodle across the rest of the page and you may surprise yourself with the meaning that comes through.

For those who really don’t wish to get involved with glue, paint and scissors; and I do realise that it isn’t for everyone; I would urge you to at least fully engage with the affirmations you use. Don’t leave a card in the same place for weeks on end until you no longer see it, set yourself a daily, weekly or fortnightly time when you pick a fresh affirmation, take some deep breaths and read it out loud several times, then place it somewhere where you can repeat this daily, pick it up, breathe and read it again; read it out with confidence and belief, and finally remember to love yourself.

(Editor’s Note: This is Stefanie’s fifth blog post in fulfillment of her Transformational Language Arts Certificate.)

stefanieStefanie M Smith, is a 47 year old former nurse and qualified hypnotherapist who has lived in Lincolnshire, UK, since childhood. Unfortunately in 2009 her health took a nosedive, and she now deals with fibromyalgia, depression and other chronic health conditions on a daily basis. During this enforced rest period, Stefanie has been able to re-ignite her love of the written word, especially poetry and will shortly having a selection of her poems published in an anthology. Having noticed a marked benefit to her health through her own writing practice, Stefanie is now re-training in the therapeutic and transformational uses of language with the aim of sharing this phenomenal tool with others.

WATCH: Sparks replay-Empowering Human-Trafficking Survivors

If you missed this last Sparks meeting, watch the replay featuring an interview with special guest, Jennifer Jean, discussion, and open mic!

Jennifer Jean is a poet, educator, activist, and consummate “literary citizen.” Her debut poetry collection is The Fool (Big Table); her poetry chapbooks include: The Archivist, and In the War. Jennifer’s newest manuscript, titled Object, was a finalist for the 2016 Green Mountains Review Book Prize. Other honors include: a 2018 Disquiet FLAD Fellowship; a 2017 Her Story Is residency, where she worked with Iraqi women artists in Dubai; a 2016 Good Bones Prize; and, a 2013 Ambassador for Peace Award for her activism in the arts.  As well, her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in: Poetry Magazine, Waxwing Journal, Rattle Magazine, Crab Creek Review, Denver Quarterly, Mud City Journal, Solstice, Pangyrus, and more. She is Poetry Editor of The Mom Egg Review, Managing Editor of Talking Writing Magazine, and Co-director of Morning Garden Artists Retreats. Jennifer teaches Free2Write poetry workshops to trauma survivors, and she teaches writing at Boston-area universities.

Jennifer Jean’s website for more information is: