Monday, December 20, 2010

Season of Light

From my December Newsletter: To subscribe visit www.sacredartstudio.net

During the holy month of December when many of us celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and/or Solstice, I've been reflecting on light. This time of year is often referred to as the 'Season of Light,' wherein we drape an array of lights throughout home and hearth. In the Jewish tradition, the menorah is brought out for ceremonial lighting. These days I've been imagining what it was like two thousand years ago for our ancestors before electricity and the ubiquitous presence of illuminated devices nestled neatly into the palms of our citizenry. Sitting before the blazing fire in the wood stove today, I was thinking of those dark nights many moon cycles ago. I reflected on the ancient Jewish celebration of Hanukkah and of the oil that 'should' have burned for only one day and the miracle that it lasted for eight. I imagined three holy men, or Magi who were Zoroastrian (from Persia, what is now known as Iran) priests and astronomers following the stars to honor the birth of a vessel born to bring light in a time of darkness. Jesus, bearer of love and hope. I envisioned our earth-honoring ancestors celebrating the darkest night of the year around a sacred fire while remembering the return of the light over the coming months.

While studying the world's spiritual traditions in graduate school, I was surprised and de-lighted to discover the many common threads that weave themselves throughout all our faith traditions including those with our earth-honoring brothers and sisters. These sacred texts affirmed for me that no matter what path we are called to follow, we are all interconnected in the web of creation. We are indeed all One. May all beings know peace, may all beings know love. May it be so.

Mother, Father, God, Universal Power
Remind us daily of the sanctity of all life.

Touch our hearts with the glorious oneness
of all creation,
As we strive to respect all the living beings
on this planet.

Penetrate our souls with the beauty
of this earth,
As we attune ourselves to the rhythm
and flow of the seasons.

Awaken our minds with the knowledge to
achieve a world in perfect harmony
And grant us the wisdom to realize that we
can have heaven on earth.

-Jo Poore (Earth Prayers from Around the World)

How are you celebrating the light this season?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Dark Hours

I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that's wide and timeless.

So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots
embrace:

a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.

--Ranier Maria Rilke
(Rilke’s Book of Hours:Love Poems to God, trans. by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Art and Science of Belonging

From Orion Magazine article: Field Books: Working the liminal space between art and science.

“Science, I sometimes think, is a language of explaining, whereas art is a language of belonging. These are complementary endeavors, not exclusive ones. Explaining is, after all, a way of belonging, And art, like science, is a way of understanding the world. However, it increasingly seems that the sciences and humanities are retreating into specialized vocabularies that make each discipline foreign to the other and both of them inaccessible to the general public, who nonetheless must be moved by science and art if we are to have any chance of forestalling catastrophic changes in the natural world. Now more than ever we need those rare individuals who can navigate both disciplines, the artists and scientists who can observe, represent, and call our attention back to the living world.”-Erick Reece

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Garden

From Terry Tempest Williams' book Leap: "Hieronymus Bosch put his finger on the wound. What is the wound? Our wound, separation from the Sacred, the pain of our isolation, may this be the open door that leads us to the table of restoration, may we sit around the table, may we break bread around the table, may we stand on top of the table, may we turn the the table over and dance, leap, leap for joy, all this in the gesture of conserving a painting, conserving a landscape, conserving a spirit, our own restored spirits once lost, now found, Paradise found, right here, on this beautiful blue planet called Earth."

Leap is one of my favorite books by Williams. It is her personal journey through the landscape of this painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by the 15th c painter Hieronymus Bosch. There has been much speculation about this painting since that time which she explores throughout the book. However, being a naturalist and passionate advocate for the Earth, Williams' interpretation is a tour de force that brings together faith, art, and history to awaken our senses to the beauty, to the sensuous world around us...that is present right here, right now. If you have read any of this blog you'll know that this is also the heart of my life and work as an artist. Art in service to the Sacred, the healing of the earth. I have been so inspired by Bosch's painting and Williams account of it, that I have been at work on my own version of "The Garden" in the form of a mandala at the center and two outer panels. It has been slow going as I listen to the call of the muses and the creatures who are asking to be included in this piece but I've had a breakthrough in the last couple of days and look forward to sharing what emerges.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bodhisattva Vows

I believe we all have a soul path that we are born to make manifest in this world. For me, as a young child I liked to draw and had a desire towards art before I knew what that meant. As a teen, I wanted to join the Peace Corp and be of service to others. Later, I studied sign language and wanted to teach deaf children. (None of these early aspirations were encouraged—as viable vocations—by my family of origin.) As a young adult, I found myself supporting friends, lovers, and co-workers through the vicissitudes of life, love, and often much drama. Recently, I have been reflecting on my near-death experience from appendicitis when I was sixteen. Had it not been for visiting family friends, who encouraged the emergency room, I may not be here today. We'll never know for sure, but my appendix ruptured as I lay on the operating table. On an unconscious level, I believe that experience likely altered, or deepened, my orientation to life and purpose. Later, on the eve of my thirtieth birthday, I was ravaged by the loss of my brother, mother, best friend. Family. After the initial descent into the dark night, my heart broke open to the world. I was reborn again in many ways. To compassion. It was a long journey home and by no means an easy one but I'm grateful for the wisdom that emerged out of that long transformative passageway. Ultimately, it opened a pathway to service offering AIDS education/outreach and later facilitating grieving children at the Dougy Center here in Portland. It also created space for me to emerge as a spiritual artist and to answer the call of Spirit to manifest beauty in the world.

I'm sharing my personal story here to illustrate what I believe to be a universal truth...that we each have a unique calling in life and to encourage others to listen deeply to that inner guidance, even when no one around you affirms it to be so. I remember a few voices from the past including my late brother Richard and others who often didn't really 'know' me, strangers in fact, who reflected back to me my potential and what they saw 'in me' that was possible. It made all the difference and gave me confidence to follow the muse where ever she would lead me.

In 2002, Spirit guided me to environmentalist and Buddhist scholar, Joanna Macy. And to a ten-day despair and empowerment intensive that broke open my heart to the suffering and beauty of the world which was, in every way, a spiritual homecoming to my place in the web of life. At the close of our training, we were invited to speak aloud and declare these Bodhisattva vows for the healing of our world. These vows are what continue to guide me in life, in my work, and in my HEART. For love of the EARTH, Pachamama.

I vow to myself and to each of you:

To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.

To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products, and energy I consume.

To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future beings, and my brothers and sisters of all species.

To support each other in our work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.

To pursue a daily spiritual practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my hart, and supports me in observing these vows.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Love and Living

The Hope of Loving
Meister Eckhart

What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?

I think it is the hope of loving,
or being loved.

I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey
to find its source, and how the moon wept
without her lover’s
warm gaze.

We weep when light does not reach our hearts.
We wither
like fields if someone close
does not rain their
kindness
upon
us.

I've been reading the late Thomas Merton's Love and Living of late and found his words of wisdom to be profound. In a world where work and material wealth are most often our primary indicators of 'success,' it is love--loving and being loved, that I believe is the true measure of our wealth. What a different world it might be if love, not money or fame, was the primary purpose for our lives. As is often the case, no one on their death bed says they wished they had more money or stuff in life. On the one year anniversary of Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion (watch the video and sign it!), may all beings know love and compassion for ourselves, each other, and our world.

From Merton:
"Love is, in fact, an intensification of love, a completeness, a fullness, a wholeness of life. We not live merely in order to vegetate through our days until we die. Nor do we live merely in order to take part in the routines of work and amusement that go on around us. We are not just machines that have to be cared for and driven carefully until they run down. In other words, life is not a straight horizontal line between two points, birth and death. Life curves upward to a peak of intensity, a high point of value and meaning, at which all its latent creative possibilities go into action and the person transcends himself or herself in encounter, response, and communion with another. It is for this that we came into the world--this communion and self-transcendence. And this must not be confined only to sexual fulfillment: it embraces everything in the human person--the capacity for self-giving, for sharing, for creativity, for mutual care, for spiritual concern.

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone--we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. And if this love is unreal, the secret will not be found, the meaning will never reveal itself, the message will never be decoded. At best, we will receive a scrambled and partial message, one that will deceive and confuse us. We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love--either with another human person or with God."

And I might add, falling in love with the earth! Out of love for the earth, may we walk lightly upon her and care for all her creatures. May it be so.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Making Prayer Flags at SAS





"Prayer Flags are inscribed with auspicious symbols, invocations, prayers, and mantras. Tibetan Buddhists for centuries have planted these flags outside their homes and places of spiritual practice for the wind to carry the beneficent vibrations across the countryside. Prayer flags are said to bring happiness, long life and prosperity to the flag planter and those in the vicinity." To learn more go to: www.prayerflags.com

Gathering in circle to join our prayers for the healing our world through sacred art. Prayers were invoked for earth healing, for our animal brothers and sisters. Beauty. Unity. These photos were taken at the class held at my studio on Saturday. Coming together in circle to create sacred art is one of my greatest joys. Much gratitude to Sandy, Gretchen, Linda, Gary, Jon, and Jayna for their reverential and artful spirits. With a prayer for healing, my flags were hung this morning as seen at top. From left: Om, peace, love of the earth, inka cross, and beauty. May all beings know peace, may all beings be happy. For love of the EARTH!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blessings for the Human Animal

I've been reading David Abram's delightful new book, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, an exploration of our creaturely selves in relationship to the rest of the animate world and this morning I came upon this blessing poem by the late Irish poet and philosopher John O'Donohue. These two voices speak directly to my soul in relationship to my experience of the non-human world. I often feel more kindred with the trees, the elements, the four-leggeds, and the winged-ones than the two-legged variety. And likely why I'm drawn to the shamanic and indigenous tradition(s) from around the world. I recently heard Abram's speak at Trinity Episcopal and he used the term "omnierotic" as a way to define a way of being in love with ALL the world that is beyond any duality associated with the feminine vs masculine dialectic. I find that fascinating and the concept is still gestating within me. Today, on Global Oneness Day, may we remember that we are also one with our non-human friends on this beautiful blue planet. That our fellow brothers and sisters of all species, including our own, need our compassion and protection. May we remember that we are indeed all interconnected in the web of life. May it be so.

To Learn from Animal Being
John O'Donohue

Nearer to the earth's heart,
Deeper within its silence:
Animals know this world
In a way we never will.

We who are ever
Distanced and distracted
By the parade of bright
Windows thought opens:
Their seamless presence
Is not fractured thus.

Stranded between time
Gone and time emerging,
We manage seldom
To be where we are:
Whereas they are always
Looking out from
The here and now.

May we learn to return
And rest in the beauty
Of animal being,
Learn to lean low,
Leave our locked minds,
And with freed senses
Feel the earth
Breathing with us.

May we enter
Into lightness of spirit,
And slip frequently into
The feel of the wild.

Let the clear silence
Of our animal being
Cleanse our hearts
Of corrosive words.

May we learn to walk
Upon the earth
With all their confidence
And clear-eyed stillness
So that our minds
Might be baptized
In the name of the wind
And light and the rain.

From To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sacred Cello

Divinely inspired music for the healing of our world. Absolutely stunning. Check out Michael Fitzpatrick at his web site.

Monday, October 4, 2010

View from the Studio

I love the early autumn mornings when there is a nip in the air but it is still warm enough to have the studio door open and hear the profusion of birdsong. Spider webs linger about on the hydrangeas and the sun drenches the garden as it begins to fade back in preparation for winter. My cat, Henri, holding vigil by my side. At these moments, in the words of the poet Wendell Berry, "I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." Here, you can see the edge of one of my current paintings...a very large "Creation" mandala. Early stages. Trusting while wrestling with the muses. A state of blessed unrest, perhaps?

One of my favorite quotes, and one I have framed in my studio, from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille. For all artists out there who are following their vision and working (sometimes struggling) to bring that to the world. Keep the channel open!
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Film to inspire the world

I watched this documentary yesterday and it is a must see for anyone who believes that they have no power to change their circumstances and, on a larger scale, the world. After decades of civil war wherein systematic rape, unimaginable violence, and poverty permeated their lives, the women of Liberia (both Christian and Muslim) came together to stand for peace. It is heart-wrenching to bear witness to the suffering shown through interviews and archival footage and awe-inspiring to see these women not only end the civil war but get the first female head of state elected to an African country. I was both weeping and cheering by the end.

From the web site:
Thousands of women — ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters, both Christian and Muslim — came together to pray for peace and then staged a silent protest outside of the Presidential Palace. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, they demanded a resolution to the country’s civil war. Their actions were a critical element in bringing about a agreement during the stalled peace talks. A story of sacrifice, unity and transcendence, Pray the Devil Back to Hell honors the strength and perseverance of the women of Liberia. Inspiring, uplifting, and most of all motivating, it is a compelling testimony of how grassroots activism can alter the history of nations.

Their story gives new meaning to what Margaret Mead said: "Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed citizens to change the world. Indeed, it has never been done otherwise." The women of Liberia, the Suffragettes who fought to guarantee women the constitutional right to vote, Gandhi's non-violent actions to end British colonialism, and or course, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. Jesus' message of love for all beings. Great moments in history that often took decades of committed citizens to alter the course of history. They were (extra)ordinary citizens who stood up and challenged the status quo and, tragically, many often paid the ultimate price with their own life. We are more powerful than we know. Lest not forget that especially now with all the political rhetoric saturating our airwaves during this election season. It is still business as usual for those in power but we the people, have the power to change our world. This film was a reminder to me of that. I don't get political in my blog but I'm feeling passionate enough after seeing this film to speak out. I'd like to see our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and our sisters from all faith traditions join the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers and storm Washington DC to stand up for the Earth and all her creatures. Demand from our leaders immediate legislation that would force corporations and individuals here and abroad to reduce carbon emissions and begin the move towards sustainable energy now. Global climate change is a reality and we have no time to lose. For love of the earth, and for our children and their children's children...may it be so.

350.org and Four Years Go are also two grassroots organizations that are doing amazing work on the ground to make this transition happen. Get involved for the 10/10/10 work party with 350.org! Read an article on the difference between men and women on global climate change.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Keeping Quiet

As we turn inward during these coming days of Autumn, I am struck by this stunning poem that I discovered while looking through some papers today. From Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. The photo was taken at Machu Picchu during my 2006 pilgrimage to that holy land. I love these llamas. Such beauty. Peace.

Keeping Quiet


Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.

The fishermen in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.

What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.

If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,

if we could do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would
interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and then everything is alive.

Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Harvest Moon Mandala

In honor of the stunning harvest moon last night on the Equinox! The harvest moon is the full moon at and about the period of fullness that is nearest to the Autumnal Equinox. Here the two leaf goddesses, representative of the Sacred Feminine, embrace the moon while the bears symbolize hibernation or the inwardness of the spirit as they march toward the west which is the cardinal direction associated with Fall. The dream catcher in the center adds to this theme where the jeweled net of Indra (from the Buddhist tradition) invites us to remember that we are all interconnected in the web of life. Prints are available. Please contact me through my web site for more information.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reading Poetry

This quote is from one of my favorite movies. Dead Poets Society. "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race and the human race is full of passion. Medicine, law, business...all noble professions but poetry, beauty, romance, love...this is what we stay alive for." - John Keating (played by Robin Williams)

I remember being very inspired by this film twenty years ago when it came out. In the midst of my grief and searching for answers to the meaning of life I found poetry. Poetry speaks to my soul and continues to inspire me daily as any reader of this blog will discern as I share many poems here. Here's one from one of my favorite contemporary poets. Feel free to share one of yours!

Self-Portrait
by David Whyte

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mystic Awareness and 9/11

From my September Newsletter:
On the eve of 9/11, I feel called to share again this painting inspired by a mystical vision that I experienced following the "Day of Remembrance" ceremony that took place in the wake of the terrorist attacks. It feels relevant in light of the controversy surrounding the current threat to burn the Qur'an and the building of a mosque near ground zero. Both of which fuel more divisiveness at a time when we need to come together as a people in order to best serve the healing of our world--this beloved Earth and her creatures (human and non-human) which are in peril during this evolutionary time.

There is a long history of mystics from all our religious traditions and many books written on mysticism, with an equal number of definitions unique to each individual. For me, the few moments of mystical awareness that I have been blessed to experience have included a feeling of non-duality and oneness with all creation: opening the heart to love and compassion for all beings. In The Mystic Heart, Wayne Teasdale writes:

"Mystical spirituality is also unitive; it seeks integration with the infinite. All theistic types of mysticism are interested in this integration, for the goal is to be invited into a permanent, divine union with God. This unity is the heart of all mysticism. It is awareness of non-duality and non-separation, of no distance between ourselves, the ultimate mystery, and all other beings."

The last sentence, especially, speaks to my experience. Such was the case during the "Day of Remembrance" ceremony facilitated by leaders from our local Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Native American communities. There was such love present in the days and weeks following the tragedy of 9/11 and people of all faiths (and no faith) came together as One. That was the world I wanted to live in. A world with heart and compassion for all our fellow citizens. I had a vision of this painting, of holding the love, while riding the MAX home that night. It is a reminder for me of the love that we all felt during those dark days--and a vision of hope for the future.
My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks, a temple for idols, and a Ka'ba for the pilgrims; it is a tablet of the Torah, and the book of the Koran. I profess the religion of Love, and whatever direction its steed may take, Love is my religion and my faith.
-Ibn Arabi, 12th c. Sufi
As always, I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Beingness

On the importance of carving out time to simply be. "More and more I find that is the issue: how to create time, how to create buffers around us so that we are doing nothing. I think that may be our biggest disease right now--the disease of busyness. With all these modern conveniences that are supposed to be time-savers, I think we've never had less time. So I think creating open space, time to do nothing, time to love, time to be, time to dream, to think, to walk, is its own act of civil disobedience." -Terry Tempest Williams (In an interview with Michael Toms, New Dimensions Radio.)

I haven't posted here in weeks. Carving out time in the fading days of summer to "be" without stress nor the desire to do more than that while attending to the necessities of everyday living. Some activity in the studio--new sculpture and painting in progress--but allowing time to dream them into being. Spaciousness. Silence. Even though fire is the element of summer what I have been most alive to has been the element of air. The wind. The feel of it on my skin, watching the movement of the leaves in the trees, the birds playing at the feeder, and the breath. Spirit. In Hebrew, Ruah is the word for breath but also for spirit. Air, breath, spirit are one. Air is the one element (out of the four including earth, fire, water) that we can not see but is most essential to life itself and perhaps most taken for granted. In The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram writes, "The air, we might say, is the soul of the visible landscape, the secret realms from whence all beings draw their nourishment. As the very mystery of the living present, it is that most intimate absence from whence the present presences, and thus a key to the forgotten presence of the earth." By being present to the air we breathe, we remember the sacredness of life, in this present moment. I have often felt that the most radical thing we can do is slow down and the quote above by Williams reinforces that for me. It is an on-going practice. And not always easy as it can open up emotional wounds that have been suppressed by the busyness of life. (A therapist or spiritual director can be of support during this time as it has been on my own journey.) Slowing down doesn't mean we are lazy or that we don't do our work in the world. We tend to our lives but we become mindful of the places where we create more stress than is necessary? In the desire for more stuff, more money, or the search for fame or the perfect partner? All the striving, which the Buddha recognized as the source of our suffering (along with our aversions). Simplifying our wants and our desires in order to live a more balanced, peaceful life. We only get one twirl around the dance floor of life so, for me, I want to be as present to life as possible. To beauty. Love. Art. That's what's been on my mind these last few weeks. How about you?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rilke: Poet and Mystic

I read poetry nearly every morning as part of my spiritual practice. It is a way for me to ground into the present and connect more deeply to the Sacred through the holy words of the poet. Of course, Mary Oliver is one of my patron saints and quote her here often. Also David Whyte, John O'Donohue, and John Keats. Poets, past and present. For me, poets are mystics and this is especially true of Rainer Maria Rilke. I adore his Duino Elegies which are earthy yet transcendent. Such beauty. The last few days I've been reading his "Sonnets to Orpheus." Here is one that speaks to me and the lightness and the darkness of being.

II, 29

Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I'm flowing.
to the flashing water say: I am.

Translation: Stephen Mitchell

Friday, August 13, 2010

Loving the World

From my August Newsletter. To sign up for my monthly newsletter, go to www.sacredartstudio.net

August. For our earth-honoring ancestors, this is the month of Lammas, a time of thanksgiving which marks the middle of summer and beginning of the harvest season. Because of our wet Spring, harvest season arrived late here in my garden but there has been an abundance of lettuce and the tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini are finally coming in albeit slowly. Broccoli not so good. I'm still learning but everyday I go into the garden with delight to check on their progress while realizing that growing food, simplifying, and learning the ancient ways connects me to the ancestors. I like that. Our spiritual teachers tell us this is the remembering time. So, amidst the oil spill, global warming, the economic crisis, and the overall challenges of modern life, I'm acutely aware of the sacredness of each day and am mindful to not take this one "wild and precious life" for granted, to quote the poet Mary Oliver. In Messenger, she writes:

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Oliver speaks so exquisitely to the holiness of our world. Seeing and paying attention to that which is at hand is at the heart of the creative process. "Standing still and learning to be astonished." Beauty. To create art, we must "learn to see" which requires slowness and attention. I remember my first art instructor during my undergraduate years who wadded up a large piece of white paper, threw it on the model stand, and told the class to draw it. Perplexed by the unglamorous nature of the subject, I remember that being one of the most challenging assignments I was asked to undertake. White was not just white. Under the light, and with more scrutiny, I saw colors of yellow, gray, pale blue, and lavender. Light and deep shadow. It was a valuable lesson in seeing and one that provided an early context in which to view the world around me. Not so many years later, my vision would be transformed once again but through grief and loss. Both the light and the dark invite us into a more intimate encounter with the world around us.

An exercise for practicing the art of seeing:
· Choose an object from nature or let it choose you.
· Sit in silence. Contemplate its characteristics.
· Notice the shape, color, texture, light, dark, edges.
· Feel it, smell it, and roll it around in your hands.
· Draw the object without looking at the paper.
· Or write a poem. Or move with it.

What did you notice?

How are you encountering the world? Are you taking time for the sunflowers and the hummingbirds? For creativity? To write? To draw? To dance? To grieve? To quote Oliver, all the ingredients are here, which is gratitude. Like our beloved poet, my work and, indeed, our work is in loving the world.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Praying by Mary Oliver

Once again, Mary Oliver for inspiration this morning. Like the vibrant Prism Violet splashing across the canvas in the early hours, paying attention to color, the silence, beauty....praying, praising...giving thanks.

Praying

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

-Mary Oliver, from Thirst

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Despacho Ceremony


In 2006, I went on pilgrimage to Peru to learn and partake in the ancient spiritual teachings of the Andean people. This was a life-changing experience for me and their wisdom continues to inform my spiritual life. I've written about some of these teachings and the intention behind the journey (based on the Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor) on my blog. Click here to read more. One of the most sacred rituals performed there is the despacho ceremony which are ceremonies of gratitude and thanksgiving to Pachamama (Mother Earth) or an Apus. While in Peru, we were told that the despacho is also considered a work of art, or a painting. It was at that moment I had a vision for the painting above. I knew when I returned home that I would create my own despacho, and then paint it as an offering to Pachamama.
The “despacho” is an ancient ceremony performed in the Andes. These are offerings to either Pachamama (Mother Earth) or an Apus (mountain spirit). The former is distinguished by an abundance of red objects/flowers, the latter by white. They typically begin with a shell in the center to represent the feminine, a cross to represent the masculine, and Kintus (3 cocoa leaves grouped together). In the Andes, additional items might include money, food items, ribbons, alcohol, dung, or a llama fetus. These are determined by the paqo or shaman performing the ceremony which is very elaborate and includes praying, group cocoa exchange as well as music and sharing of the pipe. Overall this was a magical and mystical experience for me and words just don't do it justice. For my painting, I went to the local market, chose items I felt would please Pachamama, and created my own despacho which I then painted as an offering. My process is one of devotion and is a prayer for the healing of the earth. Ayni, or reciprocity, is at the core of the Andean way of life and rituals like the despacho honor our relationships to the earth, the living energy, and to each other.
This past weekend, I was invited and honored to share this ceremony with my spiritual community, People of the Heart, during one of our shamanic training retreats. I substituted the cocoa leaves, which are illegal in the States, with another of the leaf family but included many sweets, grains, seeds, herbs, jewels, red flowers, and miscellaneous goodies that I felt would please Pachamama. Drumming and rattling. With reverence and gratitude, we each offered these gifts as prayers for healing ourselves, each other, and our world. Singing. When the ceremony was complete I bundled up the despacho, wrapped it in ribbon, and placed it in a cloth. Sending the bundle around the circle, we blew our breath and our prayers into the despacho. Drumming. After blessing everyone in the circle and a closing poem, we then buried the bundle on the land.

I feel humbled by the simple beauty of this ritual as a gift for the healing of our world, and the Earth. I give thanks to my teachers: dear friends and guides Carol, Jim, Terence; don Sebastian of the Q'ero; and the Winay Taki for sharing their wisdom with me/us.

In a time of returning, we give voice to the heart of the Earth.
With countless others awakening we walk upon Her now.

We are One Remembering

Women of Vision speaking to inspire what follows.

Love is our word

Men of Heart embracing, to shape new ways to live.

Communion

With each other making us One

And sustaining our interconnection with all life.

Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth, and Great Mountain Spirits.

Vision and heartfelt action benefiting all life

We are one of many within us all

We are restoring our story…


From Carol Stewart’s poem “Rainbow Threads”




Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eden

Less words these days. Perhaps it is the languid pace of summer. Simply reveling in the beauty of the Earth. For me, the garden, Eden, is right here and right now. From poet and author Susan Griffin:

This earth is my sister;
I love her daily grace, her silent daring
and how loved I am -
how we admire this strength in each other,
all that we have lost, all that we have suffered,
all that we know;
we are stunned by this beauty,
and I do not forget;
what she is to me,
what I am to her.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Art of Waiting

From my July Newsletter:
In last month's newsletter I wrote about contemplative living and the practice of slowing down and being present to what the late Trappist monk Thomas Merton referred to as the "spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life." (Click here to read the issue). Another aspect of contemplative living is practicing the "art of waiting." We live in a world driven by productivity, so the notion of waiting can feel uncomfortable and generate some anxiety within us. I was noticing this for myself recently after having come through a very fruitful time, artistically and intellectually (post graduate school). I wanted to keep the momentum moving; instead, my energy waned and my efforts in the studio came to naught. While I attributed part of this inertia to my despair over the Gulf crisis, I discovered that it was necessary for me to surrender, to rest in the unknown, and to wait. Instead of trying to push my agenda forward, I had to trust in Spirit...have faith in Divine Imagination. It was about this time when I was drawn back to Sue Monk Kidd's "When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life's Sacred Questions." In a chapter entitled, Quickaholic Spirituality, she writes:
What has happened to our ability to dwell in unknowing, to live inside a question and coexist with the tensions of uncertainty? Where is our willingness to incubate pain and let it birth something new? What has happened to patient unfolding, to endurance? These things are what form the ground of waiting. And if you look carefully, you'll see that they're also the seedbed of creativity and growth.
This also brought to mind the poet Rainer Maria Rilke's advice in "Letters to A Young Poet." He wrote:
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Even though it can feel uncomfortable, even chaotic at times, the "art of waiting" (like gestation) is the natural state prior to giving birth. To our Self. To our art/creativity. To a new chapter in our lives. And collectively, giving birth to a new vision for humanity. For me, this is a vision grounded in our interconnectedness in the web of creation and our co-creating a world that works for all. We are living with much uncertainty these days but our spiritual leaders also speak of this time as a period of great transformation and that we are all part of this evolutionary process. The art of waiting...with patience and kindness towards Self...creates space for listening to the soul, discerning inner guidance, developing creativity, and answering the call towards healing ourselves and our world. So, the next time you feel overwhelmed that life isn't progressing as quickly, or in the way you had envisioned it might...surrender, wait, listen. And remember to breathe!

To sign up for my monthly newsletter, go to www.sacredartstudio.net

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hummingbird poem

Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. The garden is bursting with color and the vegetables are singing with delight. Meditation in the garden this morning, watching the birds play and feed, the bees loving on the roses, listening to the birdsong, and reading Mary Oliver. Gratitude for life. Being present and inspired by Beauty. Look! says Mary Oliver. Look!

Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine
-Mary Oliver

Who doesn't love
roses, and who
doesn't love the lilies
of the black ponds

floating like flocks
of tiny swans,
and of course the flaming
trumpet vine

where the hummingbird comes
like a small green angel, to soak
his dark tongue
in happiness--

and who doesn't want
to live with the brisk
motor of his heart
singing

like a Schubert,
and his eyes
working and working like those days of rapture,
by van Gogh, in Arles?

Look! for most of the world
is waiting
or remembering--
most of the world is time

when we're not here,
not born yet, or died--
a slow fire
under the earth with all

of our dumb wild blind cousins
who also
can't even remember anymore
their own happiness--

Look! and then we will be
like the pale cool
stones, that last almost
forever.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Contemplative Living

This is from my June newsletter. To sign up for my monthly newsletter, visit www.sacredartstudio.net

What does it mean to be a contemplative in the modern world? Most often people associate contemplative living with the austerity and isolation of a monastery. At one time, that was true. Although there are still monastic communities around the globe, many of today's contemplatives participate in the world but bring with them a deep sense of reverence for life, the Holy, into daily life. Like the mystics from all spiritual traditions, there exists an an awareness of the numinous presence that infuses every aspect of our lives. While Buddhist teachings and meditation guide me in deepening my awareness into the present moment, two teachers that also speak to me around contemplative living are Caroline Myss and the late Thomas Merton. In her book "Entering the Castle," Myss offers a guidebook for answering the call of the soul and she coins the phrase "Mystics without Monasteries" to describe this new way of being in the world. Click here for an excerpt from her book.
And in "New Seeds of Contemplation," Merton writes: Contemplation is the highest expression of man's intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, an awareness of the reality of that Source. Click here for more on Merton.
Living a contemplative life doesn't require that we renounce the world but it does require choosing a new way of being in the world. Slowing down, unplugging from the technology (at least periodically), and learning to be with the silence in order to create space for encountering what Merton called the "spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life." Why is this important to those of us who live in the 21st century? As we know, we live in a fast-paced and enormously stressful world. Carving out time in our personal lives for contemplation can open up new possibilities that nurture our spiritual life, our creativity, our relationships (to each other and to the Earth) and bring more calm into our daily lives. I've walked the stressed-out, workaholic lifestyle and know that world, too. For all the uncertainty that may come with following my soul's calling, every day I wake feeling grateful...for life, for beauty, for this present moment...which is all we ever truly have.

I live much of my day in silence, except for the abundant birdsong coming in from the garden, but this may not be possible for those with the demands of family and workplace. So, where to begin if you are just starting out? I recently heard spiritual teacher August Gold interviewed and thought she had a great framework in starting a practice if you don't have one. She suggests beginning every day with 15 minutes in this way:

· 5 minutes reading inspirational materials
· 5 minutes journaling what is most alive in your heart
· 5 minutes of silent sitting (no TV, radio, computers!)

I would also add, 5 minutes of sketching, doodling, or collaging to tap into your creative source!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Radical Joy Ceremony on June 19





On Saturday, June 19th, a group of us in the Washington/Portland area met at a clear cut near Lake Merwin damn to honor Mother Earth and celebrate Beauty as part of the worldwide effort that was envisioned by Radical Joy for Hard Times. This is from their web site:
Radical Joy for Hard Times introduces a new, more intimate environmentalism for all citizens of the Earth. Together we go to wounded places to bear witness to what has happened, share the stories of our experience, discover beauty even in the midst of wound and waste, and create Acts of Beauty there.
Our local gathering was organized and facilitated by Judy Todd of NatureConnect Excursions and Julie Doll. Sacred space was created by prayer flags and silence as we walked into the clear cut area. Once there, with a stunning view of the valley, a drumming circle invited us in to being present to this holy land. With the discarded gun shells, the empty beer cans, the garbage, and the Beauty. During our time together we walked the land, sang together, shared our stories, drummed, read poetry, and made offerings to Mother Earth for her healing. We picked up trash (including a car fender) as you can see in the photo above. We bore witness to this wounded place and created radical Acts of Beauty. I was surprised to discover that although there had been violence perpetrated upon this hillside, there was life emerging amidst the ruins. The very smallest of creatures and wildflowers were finding there way back. This gave me hope. I brought this poem by Wendell Berry which always moves me to tears:

A Vision
by Wendell Berry

If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run
clear, as we will never know it,
and over, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is it possibility.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Solstice Eve Poem

A Sacrament

Become the high priest,
the bee. Drone your way
from one fragrant
temple to another, nosing
into each alter. Drink
what's divine --
and while you're there,
let some of the sacred
cling to your limbs.
Where you go
leave a small trail
of its golden crumbs.
In your wake
the world unfolds
its rapture, the fruit
of its looming.
Rooms in your house
fill with that sweetness
your body both
makes and eats.

-Paulann Peterson

Spreading the Divine nectar of beauty on this eve of Summer Solstice. Gratitude to my friend, Eleanore, for sending this poem to me. Image from the Endangered Bee website.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Celtic Tree of Life Mandala

©2010 Amy Livingstone

“Celtic Tree of Life Mandala” for Mary M.

When I met with Mary, she said “When I look at my mandala I want to feel JOY.” Gratitude for life right here, right now in this present moment. As a pagan, shamanic healer, and lover of trees, and with her roots in the Celtic tradition, the Tree of Life and the Triple Spiral called to me for the center of this mandala. The ancient Celts envisioned the cosmos in form of a great tree—the roots deep in the earth and branches stretched to the heavens. The Celtic Tree of Life is the symbol of balance between these worlds; the unification of above and below. Spirit and Earth. It is a sacred symbol of balance and harmony. Within the center and in the larger mandala, the night/dark/new moon and the day/light/sun represents the balance between the masculine and feminine which she is learning to balance through her recovery from cancer.

The number three, as in the shamrock and triple spiral, is significant for Mary, so the three half-circles surround the center mandala represent that number. Within these shapes lie a world of magical creatures that inhabit our world. Often they are too small to see at a passing glance, like a slug or lady bug, but when we slow down and come more fully into the present moment, we are able to appreciate the miracle of all living things and find joy and gratitude in the moment. The hummingbird, butterfly, and dragonfly are symbolic of transformation, beauty, and love. The red flowers are impatiens which are symbolic of “motherly love” which I discovered after being called to paint them when a hummingbird visited these flowers outside my studio door. Synchronicity, spirit guiding my hand. They are reflections of Mary—with her enormous love for your family, community, Mother Earth, and the women she supports in recovery.

The cat—and cougar who curled up with her in the sweat lodge—sleeps quietly as a reminder of her spirit guides. Finally, she spoke of the power of herbs and the importance of rosemary. Framing the mandala are sprigs of rosemary to guide and support Mary on her journey of healing and JOY!

I feel honored and great joy to create these personal, soul-symbol mandalas for others on their journey. When I am immersed in the process of creation, I feel the spirit of the Creator working through me and am enormously blessed to be a vessel in which to birth each of them into the world. For more information about soul-symbol mandalas, please contact me through my web site at www.sacredartstudio.net or call 503.239.9671.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Crisis and Opportunity


Like so many of us, I am completely bereft at the environmental crisis unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. I sob watching the news or while listening to radio commentators pontificate endlessly on who is responsible for this? Yes, BP and ultimately, greed, are responsible. But I also ask myself, aren't we all responsible on some level? With the world's desperate need for more and more oil to maintain lifestyles that are not sustainable, I wonder what is the price we are willing to pay for that? How many species will we need to lose before we (in developed countries) radically alter our way of life? Listening to those around me, I hear anger, frustration, grief, despair, and hopelessness. Some are praying. Others turn away. It's too much to bear. I've written much here about the importance of bearing witness but at times like this it can be difficult. I wonder daily if this will be the collective wake-up call humanity requires in order to shift our allegiance, and addiction, to fossil fuels and move more quickly towards sustainable energy. I hope. I pray, too. I simplify.

One way that I am working to reduce my fossil fuel footprint is to limit buying vegetables that are grown (most often with pesticides) and shipped from other parts of the world such as Mexico and South America. For years I have only bought organic, but over the past winter I purchased my vegetables locally or within one state away whenever possible which reduces the amount of petroleum necessary for shipping long distances. Okay, an occasional cucumber slipped by, but for the most part I was consistently checking labels as to where my food was coming from. Here in Portland, we have thriving farmer's markets throughout the city and many of us are now growing our own food which is great. And there is often a friend or neighbor with extra to share and fresh eggs, too! For me, the choice to be mindful around my food source has also been an opportunity to expand my creativity into the kitchen. Instead of tasteless tomatoes shipped from Mexico, I use other ingredients with salad greens which expands my culinary repertoire while attempting in some small way to lessen my footprint on this beautiful Earth. To quote artist Lily Yeh: "To live your values is political." (Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams) The food also tastes better and what a wonderful opportunity to bring more creativity into our daily lives. Food growing and creation is truly an art form. This year I am expanding my vegetable garden and am excited to see what delights I can create out of this richness. I'm currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which has quickly become a sacred text for me. It is her families account of how for one year they only ate what they could grow or buy from local farmers. It's very inspiring as well as educational about the food industry, farming, and growing. (Food, Inc. is a documentary worth viewing as well.) The book includes recipes and Kingsolver writes with great humor and insight. Well worth reading if you haven't checked it out!

In the meantime, life goes on for the rest of us who aren't immediately affected (not yet anyhow) by the crisis unlike the residents along the Gulf. My heart goes out to the many communities whose lives depend on the waters and her creatures for their livelihood and survival. Many years ago as a young adult, I lived on the coast of Florida. It's pristine sandy white beaches, aquamarine waters, dolphins, and stunning sunsets were all part of the landscape in which I walked, worked, loved, and played. It was a magical time, in a magical land. May it be saved and preserved for future generations. Pray it may be so. Aho!

The Peace of Wild Things
— Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


Monday, May 17, 2010

In Praise of the Earth

A poem from the late John O'Donohue on this gorgeous Spring day for inspiration and gratitude.

In Praise of the Earth

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth.
That knew early the patience
To harness the mind of time,
Waited for the seas to warm,
Ready to welcome the emergence
Of things dreaming of voyaging
Among the stillness of land.

And how light knew to nurse
The growth until the face of the Earth
Brightened beneath a vision of color.

When the ages of ice came
And sealed the Earth inside
An endless coma of cold,
The heart of the Earth held hope,
Storing fragments of memory,
Ready for the return of the sun.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed's self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.

The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.

The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

~ John O'Donohue ~

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gifts from the Mother

"Jane's World" 2001

Jane Blackie Livingstone (1925-1990)

Although my grief has subsided over time, I can't help but feel a few pangs of sorrow on Mother's Days. Like many of us, I am missing mother love from the woman who gave birth to me. Hard to believe it will be twenty years next month since my mom died suddenly from heart failure. I was out of the country at the time and returned home a day too late, to find her gone—poof—vanished into thin air, or so it seemed. It had only been ten days since I left but it felt like I had just waved goodbye to her as I headed to the airport for my vacation to Bora Bora. The last thing she said to me was: "I hope you have so much fun that you don't finish your book." Then she was gone. She died nine months after my brother's death from AIDS. Not being a mother myself, I can only imagine how heart wrenching it was for her to see her only beloved son suffer in such pain in those final weeks, days, moments. I felt the anguish having been present as well but not through the lens of a mother. Friends who are parents now tell me it is their worst nightmare. I couldn't ease her pain. During that same period of time, my brother's partner also died as well as a very close friend of mine from a brain hemorrhage. There was so much death around me. I was broken and ill prepared at that age to deal with my grief. I also didn't have guidance or the wisdom to find my way through this emotional landscape and I began a rapid descent into darkness. To the world, I probably appeared to be functioning but on the inside and when alone, I was nearly suicidal. St. John of the Cross and what is now commonly referred to as the "dark night of the soul" were unknown to me then but looking back I see that descent as the initiation into my spiritual journey and it took a decade to fully emerge into the light—a dark cloud having comfortably settled in above me over the years. Aside from the possibility of a few guardian angels, I believe what "saved" me early on was finding a compassionate therapist and the act of painting. [Shown here is my painting that honors what my mother loved most. Her wedding dress (my father), gardenia (her favorite flower), our home in New Hamsphire, and her five children.] This is why I believe so passionately in holy listening and creativity to transform the wounded heart and why I feel called to bring these healing modalities to others on their journey as well. This is the gift that has emerged out of my dark night of the soul. Gifts from my mother. Compassion. Being of service to others as well as to the healing of the Earth.

There are many gifts that emerge out of our suffering and numerous examples of this happening in our world today. In our grief, we often begin to ask deeper questions about the meaning of life. Why am I here? What is my purpose? How best can I serve? Our suffering brings life more fully into focus and enlivens us to what is most essential. For most of us, that is LOVE. Love of the other, family, the beloved, God/Spirit. And for me, love of the Earth. Tomorrow we will celebrate and remember our mothers. I honor my mother and bow to all mothers around the globe for their tireless devotion to raising our children—our future generations. What a sacred task they have in our world. Blessed be! And may we also celebrate the Great Mother of us all, Mother Earth who gives and sustains all life. May we honor and protect her from harm. May we send a prayer of healing to the Gulf of Mexico and all the creatures who are and will be affected by this crisis. In gratitude and love.

Here is a poem written by my late brother for my mother:

In my mother I see this lady of grace
An uncertain mystery ‘neath filmy lace.
She is mine and she is yours, shining
Like twin suns in our own starry night.
Unconquerable and undiminished, she is our light;
And so, guiding us through rocky terrain
As if only ‘twere casual summer rain.
How my thoughts do run to thee
In any chosen season, be it shimmering
Spring or a faltering fall, you visit
Me in my peaceful sleep like the
Kiss of sweet angels sent from heaven
To be my recompense in the long nights silence.
Rejoice, my fragrant soulful woman,
womb of this all too solid flesh,
Celebrate the love of all whom you know
And I will see you when summer breezes blow.

–Richard H Livingstone, Jr. (1974)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth as the Great Work of Art


Gorgeous tulips from the garden, gifts from the Earth, Pachamama. Earth, art, eARTh. Earth and art, together. Healing our hearts, heARTs, and our world. Every day is EARTH day.

Beannacht / Blessing
–John O'Donohue

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Among the Trees

A little inspiration from poet Mary Oliver today. Remember to walk slowly and bow often during this beautiful season of rebirth and renewal. New friendship tulips blooming in the garden!

When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Theosis and Sacred Art

Reading Alex Grey's Art Psalms as I begin my days in the studio. His voice and vision encourage me to go on in spite of lingering fears around the challenges of making a living as an artist (and a spiritual artist!) in this world especially within the current economic climate. Making a living these days is difficult enough for many here and abroad and with so many cutbacks, the arts and all creative sectors have been hurt badly. However, once we answer the call there is no going back and it takes fierce courage to stay the course. I believe if we as artists answer that sacred call, it is important to nurture your relationship to the Divine, the universal creative energy that guides each of us, and continue to walk 'confidently in the direction of [our] dreams' to quote Thoreau. It's what is being asked of us during this evolutionary time where new ways of being are emerging as old structures break down. Never give up on your dreams....I love the first line of this mystical rant as he calls them. Art CAN transform the way we see ourselves and the world. Yes!

From "Theosis" by Alex Grey

Art can transform the way we see ourselves and the world.
Sacred art has always depended on this possibility.
Theosis means coming closer to God by contemplation of icons.
New ways of seeing lead to new ways of being.
When your being is transformed,
The world occuring to you transforms.

Contemplation of a Buddha or Christ
Implants the possibility of our own enlightenment.
Icons of a United World, a Sacred Plant
Are essential now, to implant
The possibility of saving our collective lives,
Reverencing our Mother Nature Goddesself,
The One WorldSpirit of all plants and creatures.

Note: There is another stanza between these and I highly recommend buying the book in support of your sacred art calling. As an artist, I try to be mindful of copyright laws for other artists as well even though there is so much available on the web. www.alexgrey.com.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Aesthetic Religion

Beat Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

One of my favorite books and a treasured companion in the studio is Umberto Eco's History of Beauty. An historical and philosophical exploration around the notion of beauty over the ages through the visual and literary arts. Referring to the mid-19th century, Eco writes:
Confronted with the oppressiveness of the industrial world, the expansion of the metropolis swarming with immense anonymous crowds, the appearance of new classes whose urgent needs certainly did not include aesthetics, and offended by the form of the new machines that stressed the pure functionality of new materials, artists felt that their ideals were threatened and saw the democratic ideals that were gradually making headway as inimical. Thus they decided to make themselves 'different.' This led to the formation of an authentic aesthetic religion, and amid a spirit of Art for Art's Sake the idea became established that Beauty was a primary value to be realized at all costs, to such a point that many thought that life itself ought to be lived as a work of art.
This movement towards the aesthetic was a response by artists such as Dickens and Rossetti to the ugliness they experienced with the rise of industrialization and expanding capitalism. Artistic movements come and go throughout history but this particular period resonates for me in its devotion to Beauty as a "primary value." These visionaries from the past speak to my own artistic vision and life's journey. Call me a romantic! I am. With the rise of our technological and consumer society, contemporary artists have an opportunity to reclaim what might be defined as a neo-aesthetic religion. Like those artists before us who believed in the "religion of beauty," I believe it is time once again to bring beauty back into the conversation pertaining to art and as a relevant contribution within the art historical landscape. With the evolutionary shifts that are occurring now around the globe, now more than ever, beauty through the arts can be a call to awaken the human heart and inspire the soul. In the words of the late philosopher John O'Donohue:
When we awaken to the call of beauty, we become aware of new ways of being in the world. We were created to be creators. At its deepest heart, creativity is meant to serve and evoke beauty. When this desire and capacity come alive, new wells spring up in parched ground; difficulty becomes invitation and rather than striving against the grain of our nature, we fall into rhythm with its deepest urgency and passion. The time is now ripe for beauty to surprise and liberate us. From “Beauty: The Invisible Embrace”
Check out the art and beauty of Rod MacIver's work at Heron Dance http://www.herondance.org/

Note: For the other side of the story, check out Eco's On Ugliness.