You might say Terry Mueller – who celebrated the grand opening of her Creative Changes: Process Painting and Healing Arts Studio in January – was born again. Twenty-four years ago she was driving on an expressway when a car going 90 miles an hour rear-ended her, causing her car to cross three lanes of traffic, bounce off a wall, flip upside down, skid 150 feet and turn over facing traffic.

In those slow motion seconds when her life flashed in front of her eyes, she realized how little control she had of circumstances, not only in that moment but also in life in general. That awareness opened her to process painting, which she encountered several years later.

As its name implies, process painting focuses not on the painting’s final product but on the process itself. The point of process painting is not to produce a “pretty picture” but to get in touch with your intuition. “It’s not what’s on the paper,” Mueller explained, “but what’s happening for the person who’s doing the painting.”

“I had no idea what I was getting into in the beginning,” she said. “I was just so happy to paint and create and express myself. After a couple of years, my facilitator said, ‘I think you’d make a good teacher.'”

That comment led Mueller to taking master classes with Michelle Cassou, who pioneered process painting in San Francisco, then becoming a teacher/facilitator and opening her studio in the Arts District on Harrison Street.

She noted people get stuck all the time doing process painting. When that happens, she tries to free them to open up to their intuition by asking questions like, “If it didn’t have to look good, what would you paint next?” or “If it was OK to paint like a child, what would you paint?”

The reason people get stuck, she said, is they’re focusing on either control, the product or the meaning of what they are painting and not letting their intuition flow.

“Intuition doesn’t have a censor,” she said. “The mind has a censor. Working with intuition is a process of trust in yourself and in your own internal knowing. We paint and then we bump into ourselves. Intuition brings us to our wholeness. When I as a facilitator ask the right question, the person painting will feel something and might gasp, ‘Oh, of course!'”

In that sense, Mueller’s place on Harrison is an awareness studio where she uses not only process painting but also body work – body-mind integration work, nutrition and wellness coaching.

She also sees her studio as a community resource center. During her grand opening, she had Kenny Koltes come in to lead an hour-long gong meditation. As Koltes played the gong like a kettle drum or made it whine like a jet engine or buzz like a bee, the 10 participants responded in a variety of ways. One man sobbed in apparent catharsis. Another performed a Tai Chi-like dance to the vibrations. Others lay on the floor or sat with closed eyes in chairs. Afterward, participants described their experience in terms of healing or a feeling of unity with all things or energy or an expansion of boundaries.

Mueller applies the word “spiritual” to what she and Koltes do. “By spiritual,” she said, “I mean our wholeness in its purest sense. I see God, or whatever you want to call it, as infusing and enlivening everyone. We’re all connected through God. I feel like God is not an external force that’s going to judge me and punish me if I’m bad. God is in everyone equally whether they know it or not. We’re all connected to the same God.”

She has a broad vision for her studio. She wants it to be a place where she can facilitate wholeness not only in individuals but also in the community. To that end she will be sponsoring educational programs and affordable entertainment for the community. On the Friday of her grand opening, she hosted a party with Brazilian music, and on Valentine’s Day, Dr. Chris Johnson led a mindful meditation course.

Creative Changes is located at 140 Harrison St. Call 805-2441 for more information.

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Tom Holmes

Tom's been writing about religion – broadly defined – for years in the Journal. Tom's experience as a retired minister and his curiosity about matters of faith will make for an always insightful exploration...