Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Blog Has Moved

Greetings Followers, Friends, and Visitors:

My blog "Mystical Musings" has moved to its new home at my web site. Visit to continue the conversation here around art, beauty, spirituality, religion, deep ecology, and earth healing. 

For love of the EARTH!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Artist as Translator

"The Translator" 

My latest painting inspired by this poem "Walking the Borders" from William Stafford. (See below) The painting became a sort of self-portrait for me as my work centers around creating a new, visual language through sacred art that illustrates our interconnectedness in the web of creation. You can see her holding in one hand a skull and paint brushes in the other. 

Walking the Borders
Sometimes in the evenings a translator walks out
and listens by streams that wander back and forth
across borders. The translator holds a mint
on the tongue, turns it over to try
a new side, then tastes a wild new flavor,
a flavor that enlivens those fading languages
of cursing and calling each other those names
that destroyed millions by swinging a cross
like an ax, or a crescent curved like a knife,
or a star so red it burned its way over the ground.

The wild new flavor fades away too,
but lingers awhile along borders for a translator to savor
secretly, borrowing from both sides, holding
for a moment the smooth round world
in that cool instant of evening before the sun goes down.

The background shows the Ten Commandments, a moral doctrine that for me is the fading language that has separated us from each other and from the Creation. The new language is one of interdependence in the web of life and the coming ecozoic era where we come back into balance as foretold in the ancient prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor, shown flying here wing-to-wing in the sky. In the center, the Hebrew word Ah-ha-VAH translates as Love. (Note: I chose Hebrew as it is the first of the Abrahamic traditions followed by Christianity and Islam.) 

Stafford was a pacifist and conscientious objector during WWII. In his poem, he is referencing the Abrahamic traditions: “those fading languages of cursing and calling each other those names that destroyed millions by swinging a cross (Christianity) like an ax, or a crescent (Islam) curved like a knife, or a star (Judaism) so red it burned its way over the ground.” If we look at history, human beings have been killing each other over religious differences for thousands of years. Consider the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust. And more recently, the white supremacist who killed three people outside a Jewish community center. So, in going back to the Ten Commandments which inform the Abrahamic faiths and culture on some level even if one is secularist/atheist. I was contemplating the sixth commandment (it’s also in a different color in the painting, though hard to see that at this size) that says “Thou Shalt Not Murder.” So my painting, and the poem, is questioning what it means to live by a doctrine that hasn’t worked to ensure peace among us. I honor all paths to God, the Divine, but the question for me is how do we create a new “language” that recognizes our interconnectedness in the web of creation that puts aside our differences in order to ensure a liveable, peaceful, and sustainable future for life on earth?


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Signs of Spring, Song of the Lark

Trillum at Tryon Creek Park


...Whoever listens in this silence, as she listens,
will also stand opened, thoughtless, frightened
by the joy she feels, the pathway in the field
branching to a hundred more, no one has explored.
What is called in her rises from the ground
and is found in her body,
what she is given is secret even from her.
This silence is the seed in her
of everything she is
and falling through her body
to the ground from which she comes,
it finds a hidden place to grow
and rises, and flowers, in old wild places,
where the dark-edged sickle cannot go.

Excerpted From:
In RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

Monday, March 3, 2014

Intention and The Great Work

New Connexions Magazine. Ganesha ©Amy Livingstone, 2014
Show at the Doll Gardner Gallery. West Hills UU Portland
Opening at the Doll Gardner Gallery. West Hills UU Portland

The Journey
One day you finally knew  
what you had to do, and began,  
though the voices around you  
kept shouting  
their bad advice- 
though the whole house  
began to tremble  
and you felt the old tug  
at your ankles.  
"Mend my life!"  
each voice cried.  
But you didn't stop.  
You knew what you had to do,  
though the wind pried  
with its stiff fingers  
at the very foundations,  
though their melancholy  
was terrible.  
It was already late  
enough, and a wild night,  
and the road full of fallen  
branches and stones.  
But little by little,  
as you left their voices behind,  
the stars began to burn  
through the sheets of clouds,  
and there was a new voice  
which you slowly  
recognized as your own,  
that kept you company  
as you strode deeper and deeper  
into the world  
determined to do  
the only thing you could do- 
determined to save 
the only life you could save.
-Mary Oliver 
My intention around expansion for the new year seems to be manifesting these days. (See previous post). I am having a show of my artwork at the Doll Gardner Gallery inside the West Hills Unitarian during the month of March, my 'Ganesha' is the featured artwork on the cover of New Connexions magazine, and I also had a wonderful interview recently with Robyn Purchia at You can read her article here. We share a similar passion and mission around the connection between religion and the environment. 

We all know the power of intention and holding a vision even when it's not quite clear where it will lead. This is the path of radical trust and faith. I appreciated revisiting this poem from Mary Oliver that speaks to that calling we each have inside us to follow our heart in spite of the voices, or culture, shouting their bad advice. I believe deeply that we each have a gift to bring forward in service to what the late eco-theologian Thomas Berry called the Great Work of our time. We need all hands on deck if we want to ensure a liveable planet for future generations. When I spoke aloud my vows at the end of a ten-day training with environmentalist Joanna Macy in 2002, I committed my life to serving the healing of the earth and the welfare of all beings--human and non-human. That has seemed overwhelming at times but it remains the underlying intention for my life and work in whatever form that takes. Will you join me? 

Macy speaks to three areas of engagement during this era of transformation, or the Great Turning. Perhaps one of them will speak to you. Holding actions (boycotts, civil disobedience); creating new (sustainable) structures and institutions; and shifting consciousness around the reality of our collective interconnectedness in the web of life which has been my primary focus though I have also participated in numerous events and demonstrations around social/ecological justice over the years including the current campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. This year, I plan to share more about ways you might be inspired to get involved though I know so many of you are already doing such great work on behalf of our world.   
Always, it is my love of the earth, beauty, and the intersection where art, spirit, and earth healing meet that feeds my soul. What feeds yours?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Year. New Painting.

From my January Newsletter: Sign up at 
Here we are again, starting off a new year. A new beginning. There always feels to be an expectancy and urgency at the start of a new year, that perhaps somehow things will be different than last year, or the year before that. That somehow we'll get it "right" or "better" this year. We'll be more disciplined in our health, finances, work, relationships, or finally answer that call to something greater than where we are right here, right now. Then when things, i.e., life, doesn't change as quickly as we might like, we fall into disappointment or resignation. Sound familiar? Remembering that we are enough at any given moment takes feral courage. I know this has been true for me especially around my work as an artist and the time it takes to create some of these paintings like the "Wheel of the Four Winds" shown here on my easel (learn more below). In a production-oriented society, when the expectation is to churn out a bunch of paintings every year, my work is devotional and paintings take time to come to life on the canvas. Consider Tibetan Thangka paintings or Christian iconography for example. Art as a sacred practice. In this way, it is a challenge to make a living only with my art but this is where I am called to be right here, right now. Through my training in non-violent communication (NVC), I have learned the practice of self-empathy and am trusting in the journey even when it feels at times that I am failing in comparison to cultural expectations, or my own.

So, during our new year's meditation and sweat lodge at my spiritual community, the word that came to me for the year was expansion. This intention is general enough to hold spaciousness for what unfolds this year in relationships, work, and in life, but without too many expectations loaded on to it. Am I playing it safe in not wanting to be disappointed if I don't touch as many people with my work as I would like or don't meet the love of my life? Maybe, but for me trusting in the path is the path and right now I am simply staying open and listening for guidance. What about you? Any intentions for the year?

For love of the earth!

About the Wheel of the Four Winds:
I finished Wheel of the Four Winds (30x48") during the last week of the year and is shown here on my easel. Although I read Rabbi Gershon Winkler's "Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism" several years ago, I didn't actually start putting paint to canvas until January of 2013 after a long gestation period. This has been a 4-season journey and I have traveled psycho-spiritually around the medicine wheel myself this past year finding myself once again as we begin this new year in a place of visioning--around life and my work. This insight, however, did not become fully clear to me until I was coming to completion on the piece. Such is the mystery and healing power of the creative process. According to these teachings which draw from the  mystical wisdom of Kabbalah: The North (eagle/Uriel guides), element of water, is the place of soul/mystery out of which we emerge. Journeying left to the West (bull/Raphael), element of earth, we experience a death or period of darkness at some point. Within this landscape we journey to South (human/Michael guides), element of fire, for cleansing and reflection. Emerging in the East (lion/Gabriel), we find ourselves at the place of balance and new beginnings. We then arrive back in the North, the place of vision. Repeating again and again until we reach a higher consciousness. Resonates with my life's journey. How about you? There is a lot of animal medicine in this shamanic painting including the panther, the guide of the upper realm (the place of giving), and the bear, the guide for the lower realm (the place of receiving). While working on the horses pulling the chariot or merkava (medicine wheel) with silver reins, I discovered that this in the year of the Horse in Chinese Zodiac! The transliteration of the Hebrew is tifaret, the place of beauty and balance that lies in the middle on the "Tree of Life" and at the very center of the medicine wheel.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Giving Thanks

©2013 Amy Livingstone, Munay Pachamama
Gratitude bestows reverence,
allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies,  
those transcendent moments of awe that change  
forever how we experience life and the world.
-John Milton (17th c English poet)

Beauty abounds this time of year with flaming reds, burnt umber, and yellow ochre spotting the landscape, now giving way to stark silhouettes of graceful limbs swaying against the autumn sky. Barren trees. Silent sentinels. Having just passed into my 54th year of life, I am ever more present to the preciousness of each day passing day and give thanks for the blessings in my life. Like any human being on this journey of life, I've had my share of grief and disappointment (and have shared them with you here over the years), yet I continue to believe that any descent into the dark is an opportunity to break open our hearts and to live more deeply in the midst of life. Or to quote Thoreau, "to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life."

As I was sharing with a friend recently, for me living fully hasn't been about bunging jumping off a bridge or climbing Mt Everest but about being as present to life as I can be and answering the call of my heart at any given time which has also lead to some unique adventures! Sometimes I have risked my heart for love but isn't it better to take the risk than protecting oneself for fear of being hurt? The practice becomes learning to embrace it all which is the heart of so many of our spiritual traditions. Grief and praise. 

One calling in my heart was to travel on pilgrimage to Peru in 2006. I attended a lecture the previous year with writer and environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams who had just returned from Rwanda. Her book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World came out of that experience. She spoke of her journey to Africa in the wake of her brother's death and her initial resistance in going because of her profound grief. She went on to say, "We can never know where we are called and we can not deny our own evolution or education." Those words and her journey inspired me and felt that it was a message to answer my own call which I had been contemplating for some time. When I returned home, I emailed my confirmation to travel with dear friends from Canada who have a deep connection to Peru and a community there who are sharing the ancient Andean wisdom of the Q'ero with those of us in the North. It was a meeting of the Eagle and the Condor as foretold in the prophecy of the same name.
It was a deeply meaningful journey for me and the teachings continue to inform my life, spiritual practice, and art, as you can see from my new painting shown here. The Andean people are so innately connected to their cosmology and express reverence and gratitude by making offerings of cocoa leaves to the water, to the earth, or an Apus (Mt Spirit) as they journey through their day. At the ruins of Tipon, our guide poured a little touch of water from his canteen on to the Earth before drinking. Our Q'ero teacher did the same. Giving thanks to Mother Earth, Pachamama, for her sustaining ALL life on this precious planet. Very simple. As we gather to share in the love of family and friends this Thanksgiving day, may we remember the gifts we receive from the Earth. May we honor both the dark and the light. May give thanks for the bounty and beauty that abounds in this season of life!

About "Munay Pachamama"
Munay (MOON-eye) means love in Quechua the native language of Peru and is the first principle of the Andean spiritual path (knowledge and action being the other two). Munay is an all-encompassing love that also signifies tranquility and beauty. Pachamama is Earth Mother in space-time. The Inka Cross (or Chakana) is an ancient symbol with very complex cosmology and symbolism woven throughout. Here, it was the spirit guides representing the three realms that came forward in my vision. The condor representing the Hanaq Pacha (the upper world of spirit), the puma representing the Kay Pacha, (the world of our everyday existence) and the serpent representing the Ukhu Pacha (the underworld or unconscious). The hummingbird is also revered in the Andes as a symbol of joy, beauty, and resurrection.

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