Yours for the Asking 

Finger painting and visualization are toys and tools at Kerry Hargraves' "Playdates."

The notion of "creative visualization" — in which deliberately imagining something can make it manifest in the real world — is a practice almost as old as the idea of magic itself. These days it's back in fashion, thanks mainly to The Secret, Rhonda Byrne's mega-bestselling 2006 book and film based on the premise that if one wants something passionately enough and thinks about it intently enough, the "law of attraction" will deliver it. Adherents claim they've visualized and received everything from love to health to wealth. A typical visualization video, released under Byrne's auspices and scoring more than 2 million YouTube views, intersperses images of money falling from the sky and marble statues turning into gold with all-caps assertions such as "I AM A MONEY MAGNET," "MONEY FALLS LIKE AN AVALANCHE OVER ME," "I AM RECEIVING UNEXPECTED CHECKS IN THE MAIL," and "THERE IS MORE MONEY BEING PRINTED FOR ME RIGHT NOW."

Kerry Hargraves was practicing creative visualization long before The Secret made money fall like an avalanche over its author. Hargraves remembers relishing Shakti Gawain's book Creative Visualization and other such New Age classics more than twenty years ago. "It was one of those things that come into your life and then you get busy and you forget them and then they come back into your life years later," says the Oakland resident, who now leads monthly "playdates" for adults in which visualization exercises are followed by freeform finger painting. Hargraves' next Art of Being Present Creativity Playdate is set for Saturday, July 18, at the Flamingo Surprise Warehouse (809 50th Ave., Unit 6, Oakland).

The idea arose a few years ago at a women's networking retreat, where corporate-manager-turned-professional-sign-painter Hargraves was asked to create an activity for the group: "I suddenly thought: We ought to finger paint." After guiding the dozen-plus participants into a visualization, "I said, 'Okay, try to finger paint the feel of a pine cone. Finger paint the taste of a peach.' The feedback afterward was phenomenal."

She believes that visualization "works," within limits: "Sure, there is a certain amount of what you would call magic." But to make things manifest in the real world, "there's also a bit of what you would call action." Even after the most fervent visualization, she says, "you can't just sit on your behind. You have to go out and do something." Acquisition of riches and spouses, The Secret-style, isn't her workshops' main goal. Just as important, Hargraves says, is the power of art and visualization to "bring your concentration into this moment, right now, channeling feelings from the mind through the body into the hand. It's very relaxing as the everyday dreck we have to deal with falls away."

She supplies paper and water-soluble tempera paints, and plans to add acrylics soon because "that way, we can get into the metallic colors — and people really like the shiny things." Participants can finger paint on standard sixteen-by-twenty-two-inch sheets or on gigantic sheets two feet high and nine feet long. Participants are encouraged to wear clothes they don't mind spattering with paint — but for those who forget, Hargraves has a pile of "great big men's shirts to cover up with, like you did in kindergarten." 1:30 p.m., $25; free if you bring three friends.


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