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The Art of Self Expression

DarciSelfieThe year was 1844. The Romantic Movement originating in Europe had reached America. The country was discovering it’s independent voice, surging idealism and a passion for Romanticism. In his essay, “The Poet,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “For all men live by truth, and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.” In 1985, Madonna summed it up for me when she sang the words,  


“Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free.” 


From cave paintings and petroglyphs to ancient body piercing and Henna tattoos, the quest to express one’s individuality has been noted in time. Self-expression is an internal impulse or a personal vision put into external form. Over the centuries humans have utilized an array of art forms for the purpose of communication.  Etching, drawing, painting, dancing, singing, sculpting, sewing, photography and film-making are not only artistic but expressive means of communicating a message. 


Self-expression and creativity are universal functions of the human experience. Our willingness to express our thoughts from a place of personal truth is scary - it can leave you vulnerable to opposition, ridicule and this ugly thing called “bullying”. However, I cannot imagine a life without the full experience and the freedom to convey my truth as I see it - as well as the ability to see the world through the eyes of others.


Every issue of Élan, regardless of it’s theme, is driven by a purpose to liberate understanding and inspire experience. Our Arts Issue is no different, exposing you to a vast variety of creative forms that all stem from a burning passion for self-expression. From discovering a fire for Flamenco dancing, in-studio audio book recording, and the portray of American history, to the extraordinary view through a camera’s lens, there is diversity in every page. And, in celebration of our 8th Anniversary we asked our readers to participate. In a very personal eight page spread, we share with you some of their images, thoughts and vulnerabilities. What they delivered was beautiful ... just as they are!


“Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment,” said the Nobel Prize-winning author, Pearl S. Buck. Sharing of one’s “self” fully is the ultimate in generosity. On a deeper level, it is vital for peace, happiness and fulfillment. Create the space to experience it. You may just find yourself dancing more often. 


Darci Hansen

Founder, Editor in Chief


Just Sayin' - I'm A Simple Man

Just Sayin...

I'm A Simple Man

Although Tim Shelman lives in the northwest, he and his family work and play all across the southwest, making countless friends everywhere they go. When he added the following post to his Facebook page we couldn’t resist sharing his perspective; sincere, honest...real.

I’m a simple man, as my wife will attest, with multiple faults that many will agree to. I speak from the heart, and for a living, with sometimes I’ll regard for being “politically correct”.

I grew up earning and still achieving scars from actions that “normal” people don’t acquire. I live life so I will have no regrets. After 24-years of marriage to the most amazing person and raising our daughter that not only respects us, but loves our company along with a mother who will support us through anything, has enlightened me of a few things.

I have jotted down a few things and added hashtags so the next generation can follow a little easier:

Show your family and friends that they are loved and needed thru interaction. #notatext #phonemakesvoicesoundstoo

Try new things. Don’t get in the cattle call waiting for the day to end. Make it happen, don’t watch it happen. #dintseeitdidit #gooutside

3-second rule: More like 3-day rule in our house. We don’t get sick because we expose ourselves to everything. #yousmelllikepurell. I have worked in conditions that would make a maggot vomit, still fine. #gasstillwontgetitoff

Don’t protect me from myself. I have made it this far with way better life stories than you have “seen on YouTube”. #keepyourminivanoutoftheleftlane

Give a firm handshake, annunciate and make eye contact when meeting someone, unless you don’t want them to remember who you are. #momstillcutsupyourveggies

Show respect to everyone until they show they don’t deserve it. My buddy Rick puts it perfectly “there aren’t any strangers, just friends I haven’t met yet.“ #smileandsayhi

Children need parents that give guidelines and stick to them, not trying to be their friend - that is a pushover. Limits will be pushed and chaos will ensue. #iwillmakeyoutapout

Express your feelings, but if all about the drama, keep that crap to yourself. Surround yourself with good people and talk to them often. You are what you speak. I don’t watch the news because its all bad news. I can’t change what’s happened and there is always better news from my family. 
#turnthecrapoff #familyisrightinfrontofyou

For those of you who are close to me, you already know my opinions on these subjects. I am not a “typer” so this has taken some time which I normally don’t have. It is 4am and I cannot sleep so a TPQ Blog or Rant has been executed ... I’m a simple man.


Tim Shelman


The Holiday Issue 2013 - Beautiful Bliss

The Holiday Issue 2013 - Beautiful Bliss It was one of those mornings out of the ordinary. The air was clean. The sun’s rays were brilliant yet its warmth was tempered by the arrival of the cooler season. Holding the hands of my three year old twin granddaughters, we hurriedly tried to keep up with my vivacious five year old grandson who was already ‘on the hunt.’ We had been collecting rocks along the banks of the lower Colorado River, the location of our little condo that we lovingly call, “the river house.” All of their work led up to this morning when we would engage in an artist’s palooza of rock painting. “This one is pretty GiGi,” they would shout with pure excitement. “Look at this one!” “GiGi, I got another pretty rock!” The picnic table that sits along the rivers edge is where we spread out all of our ‘fabulous finds’ and began to select which ones we would each paint. My daughters and I played as well, simply enjoying the moment. As we sat that beautiful morning along the river, I marveled at the baby quail scurrying behind their mama just a few feet away from us. The Roadrunner, who frequents my patio, made an appearance to see what we were up to. Even the fish wanted to know what was going on, leaping out of the water to take a glance. The children, now covered in paint, were keenly aware of the wildlife surrounding us. As I took in the moment, I counted my blessings for the ability to see the beauty in all things - and the pure bliss that comes from acknowledging so. The holidays provide us with a unique opportunity to see things differently. Although there is much to be cherished about traditions and routines, I have also discovered the exceeding joy in changing up the norm. Perhaps it’s the creative process alone that ignites my bliss. The Holiday Issue of Élan provides a sparkling view of traditional things made new. It’s a collaboration of creative ideas from our talented contributors that make the pages so yummy (and the reason why I couldn’t keep my fingers out of the cake at our photo shoot). From fresh ideas for your holiday decor to historical places still waiting to be explored, the pages of Élan are as exciting as a child seeing the beauty of a rock...”Look at this one GiGi!” Gather your family and friends this holiday season and create new memories. Celebrate life by seeing things from a new perspective. Design a holiday that feels fresh and alive. All of us at Élan encourage you to feel the fire of surrounding yourself in beautiful bliss!

The Fall Issue 2013 - The Dance of Time







“Things worth telling - take time.” - Nicholas Denmon


“Once upon a time...” Stories have existed long before recorded history. And history is but a series of stories that, when shared, can teach, inspire, enlighten and even entertain us. From cave paintings to novels, from songs and dances to movies, stories have always fascinated mankind. Each time a story is told, it breathes renewed life into our culture.


Without history, without chronicled stories, mankind would never learn from his mistakes, would never dream to emulate past heroes, would never see anything but the now. There would be limited inspiration for the future. Each story in its own way fills in a section of the larger narrative, giving us a fuller sense of life. 


“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” 

- Harold Goddard


Brand marketers have repackaged “storytelling” as a sellable new concept. When in fact, the very narrative of the earth’s creation itself has been documented with footprints and artifacts miraculously preserved throughout time.


Storytelling is a tool for inclusion. Our stories connect us to one another. And while we are immersed in a story, something magical happens. We can see the world through someone else’s eyes. 


In this issue of Élan, we reflect on those whose personal stories have left a mark on life’s landscape. These individuals have charted their own course of history evoking evolution and change. Our pages are filled with inspiration that encourage you to explore the value of time -  to appreciate the journey of another and what their story has left behind. 


“Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale of all.”  - Hans Christian Andersen


We all have a story that evolves with age. To embrace the dance of time is to feel the fullness of our purpose - and that’s powerful stuff!


Darci Hansen - Founder

Editor in Chief


Savor the Essence of Life





We’ve all experienced delicious moments in our lives, when we feel touched by and connected to the essence of life. These essence moments come when we are truly at peace, feeling that life is good and we have enough, we are not rushed, and we are connected to amazing people. It may be during a family reunion, a romantic dinner with a partner, an overdue catch-up conversation with a dear friend, or even a moment of solitude in nature.  You know these moments – you feel them down to your toes and your heart smiles.


I’m convinced that these moments are the fountain of well-being. In fact, the popular concept of being mindful or more in the present moment stems from our soul’s yearning to have more of these precious essence moments. The challenge comes in making room for such experiences. Our modern world moves so fast with input coming from multiple sources that it may seem impossible to welcome the essence moments into your life. The good news is there are several simple steps you can take to capture and savor them even amidst the hectic pace of daily life.


One of the easiest ways to have an essence moment is to decide you will have one, at least once a day. Commit to creating and enjoying a sweet spot in every day. You could find a nourishing way to wake up in the morning. I am known for my slow wake up ritual. Maybe because I had to wake to the 6 a.m. alarm and be ready for legal battles by 8 a.m. for many years as a trial lawyer, I now relish a full hour to wake up slowly. I try to stop every day for just a minute and soak up the joy I get from my morning ritual. You might find the evening time is your sweet spot. A hot bath before bed is a no-fail way to capture and enjoy a few good moments.


Sometimes the essence moments come to us serendipitously when we take a few detours from our expected life path. One of my favorite classes in college was a seminar about the history of LA architecture.  Every Friday we took a bus to visit some of the iconic buildings in Los Angeles and discuss the history of that period. This class had nothing to do with my major, which was Political Science, but I took the course to fill my electives. What a great twist! That class awakened in me a love of architecture and design that has brought me many essence moments admiring a skyline or an historical building. When the inner voice urges us to explore the path less traveled, we need to pay attention and be prepared to be surprised and delighted by what we find along that unplanned path.


Leaving pockets of open time in your schedule is a fun way to experience more essence moments. Try being a little early to your next few appointments – say 15 or 20 minutes early. When you arrive early, stop and take a breath. Realize you have ten whole minutes to check your phone, return a call, brush your hair and get to your appointment with a sense of ease. Just having the time to pause, catch a breath, and feel ease will become a very special moment. Of course it won’t last, but you can take the essence with you.


The majority of my essence moments have involved members of my tribe – the friends, family members, partners and colleagues with whom I laugh, cry, break bread, drink wine and love life. If your tribe does not feel as full as you would like, you can build up your tribe.  Think about the people you really enjoy, the ones that fuel you, and list their traits. Consciously decide where more of these types of people would be, go there, and challenge yourself to make a few connections. This is the “tuna” theory.  If you wanted to catch a tuna, you could drop your pole anywhere in the ocean and you might get very lucky to get a tuna. However, if you found out where the tuna swim, you could drop your pole there and most likely get one. So think about who is your tuna, your tribe, and how you can connect with them often.


My favorite way to enjoy the essence of life, for a moment, is to have a real conversation with a live person who is actually sitting next to me. I believe there is a primal need to make human contact and share from within. Our technology driven world makes this hard.  We try to substitute human contact with Skype, text, e-mails and the rest, but it is not the same. The key is to pick a time for a pause, turn off the beeps and phone chimes, get close enough to feel the person’s energy and connect. Share a story from the day, ask for advice, or just enjoy listening to someone else. The chatter in our own head gets tiring. It is nice to pause and listen to what someone else is experiencing. This is an especially valuable skill when attending family gatherings. The event can go by in a blur of people and activities, but it can be a much richer visit if you take the time to pause and have some real conversations. Those moments will most likely be what you remember most!



Cindy Clemens is a life coach and motivational speaker who helps people redesign their lives and savor every moment. Find out more at