Friday, March 7, 2014

Creating a Vision: Astrid Uryson

     But sometimes magic takes a little longer to get where it’s going.
                                            -- Cynthia Rylant, The Van Gogh Café

About 14 years ago, Astrid Uryson was cleaning houses and making pottery on the side in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “I had a very small apartment at the time,” recalls the artist, who was born in Argentina. She now lives in Killingworth, Connecticut. “I was a single mother with a teenager and a toddler….I wanted a house.”

Then she met a feng shui practitioner who suggested a trade -- housework in exchange for lessons in feng shui. The practitioner taught her the basics: how energy moves, working with colors and a vision board, and creating a protection bubble round her front door. Six to eight months later, Uryson was approved for a loan for the first time in her life and bought a house for her daughters and herself. And, as soon as she could, she began taking feng shui classes.

Today, Uryson owns Feng Shui Co-Creations and guides her clients “in creating art objects specific to your desires.” She has studied at the Ayurvedic Polarity and Yoga Therapy Institute in Santa Fe; has an advanced certification in soul coach Denise Linn’s “Interior Alignment” feng shui; and roughly 30 years’ worth of experience working with aromatherapy, yoga, and shamanic healing.

All of this helps her tremendously with her work, naturally. But talking with Uryson, you can’t help feeling that she brings more to it than all that. There’s her artist’s eye. A keen intuition. And a whole lot of life experience that keeps her very grounded.

“I really loved cleaning houses,” Uryson says, looking back on her earlier life. “It was the beginning of my feng shui, helping people clean and de-clutter.”

She learned to go with her strengths. She remembers sitting down with a life coach and putting together a list of what she could do – gardening, cooking, cleaning, and yoga. And, oddly enough, those were the things that led her to Mike.

Divorced, Uryson also began focusing on “my feelings about relationships and what I wanted.” Within the year, Mike, a widower, moved to Santa Fe. He happened to go to a meeting that her life coach was at; and during that meeting, he stood up and asked if somebody could help him get settled.

Uryson could. It was love at first sight for him. “Though, of course, he didn’t show it at first. We went shopping for furniture -- it was a lot of fun. Eventually, we became best friends.” They spent every day together. “He would take me to the park, and we would read poetry. He enrolled me in being a true lover of the heart. He became a real advocate for me….Yeah, he still is. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.”

Marriage to the right guy freed her up. Feng Shui Co-Creation took shape much the way that the elements in a story come together for a writer. Traditional feng shui "didn’t resonate with my heart”; instead, she found herself drawn to Denise Linn’s work.  Sacred Space and Feng Shui for the Soul appealed to the artist in her. “I was ecstatic that there was something that encompassed many traditions as well as common sense and intuition,” Uryson recalls now. “When I was reading it, it was like ‘Oh, right, this makes sense.’ I felt I understood, and my whole body went ‘Yeah.’”

So she took a more fluid, more individualized approach. And her clients appreciated that. “I witnessed her circumnavigate her varied talents but was fascinated to watch her put many of them together in her new practice of ‘Interior Alignment’ feng shui,” wrote one such client from her New Mexico days. “She has helped me in my own home several times, and her sensitivity is profound and accurate, without embarrassing me with the depth and intimate nature of what she notices! I think she has definitely found a practice that embraces her whole being, and one that she can aptly embrace.”

Uryson has continued to build on that. What she would really like to do, she says, is something “which, in New Mexico, people are more used to”: a salon or workshop for the more spiritually inclined. A sort of feng shui house party, as it were. The difference here would be that “you’re buying the package. You’ve already got me there in your home. People can talk to me afterwards or even before. You know I am flexible.”

In a few words, she sketches it all out for me. “First, I would give a little introduction on feng shui to give the relationship between the environment and us. I would do a fun exercise with movement to loosen them up. It would be tailored to their needs and wants.” There would also be a writing exercise that would help them “release all the clutter they have in the moment – all their concerns, whatever they’re thinking that is in the way of their being present. They’d get something right away -- they’ll go home with something. They’ll know the basics of feng shui.”

But there’s more. She’d have the host tell the guests in advance to bring magazines or pictures they’re drawn to, Uryson explains, her voice burbling over with enthusiasm. She herself would bring a few boxes of magazines, boards…and paints, just in case “somebody is artistic.” And they would work on vision boards, the way she did when she was trying to create a new life for herself and her daughters.

Other workshops would focus on creating water fountains or mobiles. The fountains “would bring the energy of water into their space, and the mobiles would bring the energy of air. You would hang your intentions onto it [the mobile]. Sometimes, when you have too many things, you have to work balance in.”

Uryson then tells me about a workshop that she once did with some Native American teenagers in a New Mexican school. The subject: mobiles. “They were very reserved in class – didn’t ask a lot of questions,” she recalls. “Then when I saw what they did, I could see they were engaged….I want people to be self-motivated – to be there because they truly want to learn. I love it when people are engaged, and they are truly present. I don’t want to herd cows.”

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Robert Price said...

This was a very pleasant read this fine late winter Saturday morning.

Thanks for posting.



T. J. Banks said...

Thanks, Robert! It was an extremely pleasant interview to do -- more of a conversation, really -- and I guess some of that comes through in the article. It's really amazing when you think of what Astrid has accomplished.

Gwynn Rogers said...

I am guessing that Astrid lived in Taos, New Mexico, the heart of spirituality there. What a lovely story hearing about the success she built for herself through doing the things that she loved. Feng Shui is such an interesting craft too. It has been many years since I have known anyone that practiced it.

Your story is heartwarming and I applaud Astrid's success.

T. J. Banks said...

Thanks, Gwynn. Only determination and vision could carry someone this far, and Astrid has plenty of both!

Samantha Mozart said...

I feel as if you wrote this piece just for me, T.J. What Astrid -- and isn't her name a perfect fit for her nature and pursuits? Charles Dickens couldn't have done better -- what she has accomplished is what I intend to do, combining my experience and spiritual bent into leading my Blue Deer Writers Workshops and my Scheherazade Chronicles nonprofit.

I enjoyed being a party to your conversation with her. It recalls wonderful conversations I have had with my spiritually inclined friends in days gone by. So special.

I admire Astrid for believing in herself and following through.

Your story is beautifully composed, as always.


T. J. Banks said...

Thank you, Samantha. Yes, I definitely see many parallels between the two of you. It's all about knowing where your strengths lie and building from there, which is something both you and Astrid do beautifully.
Btw, you're right about the name. Definitely has a Dickensian flavor.

Susan Scott said...

Oh this was lovely to read TJ thank you. It seems that aligning one's self with its true purpose is also aligning with nature and what one surrounds one's self with.
I'm sitting in my friend's garden in Phoenix - Paradise Valley - surrounded by plants and hearing bird song and I feel this must be the embodiment of feng shui. When I get home I will look at my own home to see where there could be improvement in terms of beauty and peace.

T. J. Banks said...

Thanks, Susan. I think you're right about aligning one's self with nature -- whenever I do that, I feel that I'm moving in the direction that's right for me.