Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Interspiritual World Tree

'Interspiritual World Tree' ©Amy Livingstone

On Winter's Margin

On winter's margin, see the small birds now
With half-forged memories come flocking home
To gardens famous for their charity.
The green globe's broken; vines like tangled veins
Hang at the entrance to the silent wood.
With half a loaf, I am the prince of crumbs;
By snow's down, the birds amassed will sing
Like children for their sire to walk abroad!
But what I love, is the gray stubborn hawk
Who floats alone beyond the frozen vines;
And what I dream of are the patient deer
Who stand on legs like reeds and drink that wind;
They are what saves the world: who choose to grow
Thin to a starting point beyond this squalor.
-by Mary Oliver
Deepening into the rhythm of the winter season and carving out time to embrace silence and stillness when ever possible, I am feeling inspired and grateful to back in the studio completing and visioning new works now that my father and stepmother are on the mend. Resting on my easel, the "Interspiritual World Tree (36x36")." From Wayne Teasdale's prophetic book, The Mystic Heart: "Interspirituality points to the realization that although there are many spiritual paths, a universal commonality underlies them all." The world tree with branches and leaves spreading out into the cosmos; roots cradling the earth and reaching out in all directions connects us to the web of life. We are One. The imaginal cells in the womb of the earth portend a transformation symbolic of the caterpillar morphing into the butterfly within the chrysalis. Teasdale writes: "We are at the dawn of a new consciousness, a radically fresh approach to our life as the human family in a fragile world. . . .The awakening to our ecological interconnectedness, with its concomitant sense of the preciousness of all other species, raises the earth to where it becomes the center of our moral, aesthetic, economic, political, social, cultural, and spiritual activities." 

Teasdale was writing in the late 90s and it seems to many that we have arrived at this precipice where the dawn of a new consciousness is finally coming into our collective awareness. The ancient prophecies of the Mayans, the Inka, and the Tibetans for example all speak to this time of transformation. We may not know what is ahead but as we journey through the dark towards the return of the light in the coming weeks, perhaps remembering that each of us in our own way are like the imaginal cells doing the work of transformation can guide us towards this new paradigm of ecological interconnectedness. As we discover and connect with each other around this common vision, beauty emerges out of the darkness. 

If you're still looking for a special gift for someone in your life, I am now offering gift certificates. Visit Sacred Art Studio Facebook page to view them. Original art and prints are also available at

Happy Holydays!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sabbath Poem

While the holiday shopping season gears up here in the states, a poem as a gift for presence, for beauty. For "the world as it was given for love’s sake." From "A Timbered Choir" by Wendell Berry

1979: VII

What if, in the high, restful sanctuary
That keeps the memory of Paradise,
We’re followed by the drone of history
And greed’s poisonous fumes still burn our eyes?

Disharmony recalls us to our work.
From Heavenly work of light and wind and leaf
We must turn back into the peopled dark
Of our unraveling century, the grief

Of waste, the agony of haste and noise.
It is a hard return from Sabbath rest
To lifework of the fields, yet we rejoice,
Returning, less condemned in being blessed

By vision of what human work can make:
A harmony between forest and field,
The world as it was given for love’s sake,
The world by love and loving work revealed

As given to our children and our Maker.
In that healed harmony the world is used
But not destroyed, the Giver and the taker
Joined, the taker blessed, in the unabused

Gift that nurtures and protects. Then workday
And Sabbath live together in one place.
Though mortal, incomplete, that harmony
Is our one possibility of peace.

When field and woods agree, they make a rhyme
That stirs in distant memory the whole
First Sabbath’s song that no largess of time
Or hope or sorrow wholly can recall.

But harmony of earth is Heaven-made,
Heaven-making, is promise and is prayer,
A little song to keep us unafraid,
An earthly music magnified in air.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Offering to the River

Offering our nature mandala from the Festival of Faith event last month to the Willamette River. See previous posts for more photos. May we remember that we are interconnected in the web of creation and care for the living earth upon we all dependent. May we have the vision. May it be so.

A Vision
-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.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Vote for Beauty

From my November newsletter. Sign up at
Our elections may be over and no matter where we stand on the issues or the candidates, we are all in this river of life together. I'm an idealist and believe in my heart that no matter the color of our skin, our faith, our political affiliation, or sexual preference we are each called to bridge our differences in order to heal and serve the social and ecological challenges of our time. This is why I feel blessed to have participated in two interfaith art events in October. First with Sts Brendan and Bridgid Catholic Mission (Spiritus Abbey) at St. Francis in Wilsonville. At the show, "Something Beautiful for God," artists from all faith traditions shared work in support of an ecumenical vision around inclusiveness. View photos here.

The second event was the 7th Annual Festival of Faith presented by The Interfaith Council of Greater Portland at Trinity Episcopal. See photos at previous post! From their website:  

Our vision is to be a local organization that is part of a global movement of spiritual enlightenment, social justice, and peaceful coexistence. Each of these objectives is governed by highly ethical behavior - every bit as present in our path to the future as in the future itself. Our diversity will be defined by the recognition of our parallel paths borne out of differing beliefs, ceremonies and symbolism yet in a community bound by a common sense of humanity and appreciation for all life. We will be a learning community capable of suspending our disbelief as we listen with a new found wisdom that is continually evolving. We will be part of the celebration of a new world understanding, and the perpetuators of appreciation and hope while it is coming into being.

This year's Festival of Faith theme was "Voices of Youth," and included a panel discussion with youth around peace, music, dance, interactive art exhibits, and information from all religious traditions. If our youth can envision peace, there is indeed hope. It was a joy not only to show my artwork but to facilitate a community nature mandala as shown here in the photos. I deeply appreciated everyone who shared their stories, their hearts, with me. When words fail us, art is a bridge where we discover our "common sense of humanity." 


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

So, at the close of this election season, I vote for art. For beauty. For the earth. For dialogue. I elect to continue serving the healing of our world. Together, we have the power. We have a voice as we witnessed through the act of casting a vote and we each have all the creativity within us to make a difference every day. What does that look like for you? What are you voting for?
For love of the EARTH!       

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Festival of Faith: Voices of Youth

Facilitating an interactive nature mandala
Gathering together, we honor all faith traditions.

"Lovers of Creation" and video at the Sacred Art Studio station.

Our youth. Adding their voice for peace, unity, oneness.

Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Indigenous, or Humanist, we add our prayers for peace and healing for the earth to the mandala.


The completed mandala.

Dismantling the mandala. A meditation on impermanence from the Buddhist tradition.

The mandala is gathered up and later offered to the Willamette River to send our prayers to all directions.
I was honored to be part of the 7th Annual Festival of Faith at Trinity Episcopal in NW Portland on October 28th. This year the theme was "Voices of Youth." If our youth can envision peace, there is hope.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Morning Prayer

A morning prayer from Mary Oliver. From her new volume of poetry “A Thousand Mornings.”

A Thousand Mornings
All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

In honor of the Wind

Opened "Love Poems from God" and this poem appeared synchronistically. Seems appropriate with these blustery days in Portland (Oregon). A lovely inspiration for a day in the studio.

On a Day When the Wind is Perfect

On a day
when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a

My eyes are like the sun that makes promises:
the promise of life
that it always

each morning.

The living heart gives to us as does that luminous sphere,
both caress the earth with great

There is a breeze that can enter the soul.
This love I know plays a drum. Arms move around me;
who can contain their self before my beauty?

Peace is wonderful,
But ecstatic dance is more fun, and less narcissistic;
gregarious {S}He makes our lips.

On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open
and the love starts.

Today is such
a day.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

©2006 Machu Picchu Amy Livingstone


I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curing and impossible
slither of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
I refuse it the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
like a moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

-David Whyte

What does it mean to have faith? Faith in god(s)? Faith in science? Faith that our elected officials will indeed make choices that benefit all citizens of this country while passing legislation to protect our ailing planet and all her creatures? Or closer to home: faith that my father will walk without pain and the assistance of a walker? It has been an excruciating few months for us all as both he and my stepmother have been in and out of hospitals, rehab, and seeing countless specialists for one ailment or another. This is a world that most of us, including myself, are ill prepared for and I have ridden every emotional wave one can imagine. Walking a spiritual path is certainly easier when the way is smooth but how do we navigate the physical, emotional, and psychic landscape of our being as we hit the inevitable bumps in the road on this human journey? On a good day, when I'm not exhausted, I know from my history that I am standing in a threshold and that on the other side is, ultimately, transformation. How to keep faith in that?

First. Knowing that we are not alone. That most of us collectively, and globally, are experiencing similar upheavals in our lives and on a much larger scale than my scenario. That we are all standing in a common threshold amidst one of the largest evolutionary periods that has occurred in our human history. According to the Andean prophecy of "The Eagle and the Condor," we are living in a time known as the Fifth Pachacuti, meaning world turned upside down. I first learned of the prophecy when I was preparing to go on pilgrimage to Peru in 2006. Since then, we have been witnessing what social thinker and visionary David Korten has coined the great unraveling in the larger context of the current global economic, political, and ecological crises. As this prophecy plays out on a microcosmic level in our personal lives, how can we find ways to support one another as we go forward? In my workshops and retreats, participants practice compassionate listening and I have seen the power of this seemingly simple act time and again. Listening with an open heart. Out of our own discomfort, we often feel an impulse to give advice or share our experience when the person we love is going through a painful transition. But being silent, listening deeply, is the greatest gift we can give to one another. When we feel heard, we can heal the wounded heart. 

Second. Keeping faith in human creativity which I have written about often here. And a profound belief that art in all its forms contributes to the healing of our hearts and our world. Though my time in the studio has been limited over the past few months, I am excited to share that the short-documentary (10 min) "Journey into the Creation" is complete. "Like" Sacred Art Studio on Facebook to learn more about the symbolism behind the "Lovers of Creation" triptych and watch for opportunities to view the painting and the video.

Sadly, I may not have faith in our political system to change, but like Whyte, I have faith in the moon. Faith in the ability of the earth, Pachamama as she is known in South America, to heal and regenerate herself. Having faith in the wisdom of the earth is a coming home to our place in the web of life and what the prophecy is asking of us now at this time. To remember we are all of the earth and to make those often difficult choices to live mindfully and sustainably on this beloved planet. May it be so.

What or who do you have faith in? As always, I welcome your thoughts. 

For love of the EARTH!      

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

For the Senses

Are you mindful of how you are moving through the world at any given moment? The senses connecting with all that you encounter. The sensuous world is alive. In The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram writes: "Direct sensuous reality, in all its more-than-human mystery, remains the sole solid touchstone for an experiential world now inundated with electronically-generated vistas and engineered pleasures; only in regular contact with the tangible ground and sky can we learn how to orient and to navigate in the multiple dimensions that now claim us." Simply stated: stop and smell the roses today...and every day. Life is sweet and all too short. For me, today, beauty abounds in the summer garden and inspiration from the late Irish poet and mystic, John O'Donohue.

For the Senses

May the touch of your skin
Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you

May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.

May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you you are
A child of the earth.

And when you partake
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.

May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you

May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.

John O'Donohue (1956-2008)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Beauty is the Reset Button

Courting the Sky from Daniel Dancer on Vimeo.

I have been reading Daniel Dancer's book "Desperate Prayers: A Quest for Sense in a Senseless Time." Sacred art in service to the healing of our beloved Earth, Pachamama. He writes: "We are at a point in human history where the entire world needs to get how beautiful it is...Beauty is the 'reset button' at this point in human history, BEAUTY is it." Kindred soul. Watch the video to learn more!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Communing with the Creation

Summer Greetings from my July Newsletter:  
Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. While the rest of the country has been living under crushing heat waves, here in Oregon our rainy season lasted well into June. Given the level of drought not only in the U.S. but around the world, I bow with gratitude for the life-giving rain. But today, on this gorgeous Sunday morning, I'm thrilled to be sitting in my garden, sipping coffee and listening to the birdsong as I write this note to you. Jays, juncos, and spotted towhees make haste to the freshly-filled feeder while others splash about in the bath hanging from a Ponderosa Pine, waiting their turn.

In last months newsletter (see previous post), I shared how "art saves lives," and indeed saved my life twenty years ago. I also believe like many of us that the natural world can also heal our hearts and bring us peace during these challenging times--personally and collectively. All too often though with the advent of technology, demands of family, and the fast pace of our modern world, we don't take enough time to nurture our souls by communing with the earth. There is a common belief that one need be "out in nature," camping or hiking, etc. However, if we can remember that we are always "in the Creation" at any given moment even in the city, we have the opportunity throughout each day to connect to the beauty that is around us. We need only stop what we are doing and be present to that which is before us. To the air we're breathing. The trees we pass on the road. The food we eat. The water we drink. The bird in that tree...right over there.

From naturalist Terry Tempest Williams: "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."

For me, at this time of year, I take my contemplative practices outside. For example, I practice what I call "bird meditation." Here I use the word meditation loosely. Like one of my spiritual teachers, Adyashanti, I consider this practice a form of silent sitting. Most often the notion of meditation is tied to a rigorous practice utilizing breath and body with a desired outcome in mind. Typically "enlightenment" or freedom from some sort of emotional or mental anguish, or suffering, etc. For Adya this is another form of striving much like anything we undertake in our lives which only adds to our suffering. Here, the ego strives for control which ultimately leads to more feelings of failure and self-criticism. Instead, this silent sitting, or bird meditation in my example, allows for simply letting everything be as it is with no striving. You cannot "fail" with this practice. You are simply present to all that is around you, within and without including the Creation, the earth, which is holy and worthy of our reverence.   

In the morning, I spend forty-five minutes to an hour silently sitting which often begins with reading a sacred text such as poetry. In silence and stillness, being with what is in this present moment, grounds me before I begin my work day. You may not have an hour, but even fifteen minutes a day before you turn on your computer or phone, can make a difference and bring some inner peace into your world. Try it and let me know what you discover. 
For love of the EARTH!  
A Beauty Blessing
-John O'Donohue
As stillness in stone to silence is wed
May your heart be somewhere a God might dwell.
As a river flows in ideal sequence
May your soul discover time in presence.
As the moon absolves the dark of resistance
May thought-light console your mind with brightness.
As the breath of light awakens colour
May the dawn anoint your eyes with wonder.
As spring rain softens the earth with surprise
May your winter places be kissed by light.
As the ocean dreams to the joy of dance
May the grace of change bring you elegance.
As clay anchors a tree in light and wind
May your outer life grow from peace within.
As twilight fills night with bright horizons
May beauty await you at home beyond.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Looking at Art

“Looking at art can be as necessary, as nourishing as opening the window, as inspecting one’s soul through the eyes looking back in the mirror. Art offers a window that opens into self and other. Not a literal window as in a Matisse painting, but an opening that allows us to look outside ourselves, into ourselves. Art reflects and transmits light and dark, spirit and soul, awareness, the invigorating, refreshing challenge of a new vision.”

-J. Gendler from ‘Notes on the Need for Beauty’

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Art Saves Lives

From Sacred Art Studio June newsletter:
Driving around town, I often see a bumper sticker that says, Art Saves Lives. And I say aloud to myself--to the universe, "oh yes." I believe in my heart that if it hadn't been for painting, I might not be alive today. Art saved my life and continues to...every day. I've often said this to people (and write of my story often here at my blog) though many may not know the extent of what that means for me. Twenty-two years ago, I was in the darkest period of my life in the wake of my brother's death from AIDS followed by the sudden death of my mother nine months later. Feeling alone in my grief, I began a rapid descent into the underworld, abusing alcohol and sex. I lost count of how many times I drove drunk and thank the gods that I didn't get thrown in jail or worse--kill someone. By this time, I was on collision course with my own premature death. Although I had studied fine art as an undergraduate, I was working long hours at my first design job out of college, so there wasn't much time for painting; although I always had my easel set up in the corner of my apartment. A canvas silently waiting for that one moment to arrive. I learned very quickly that our culture does not deal well (if at all) with death or grief and over time I became more and more isolated. One fortuitous, albeit drunken night, I picked up a brush and began to paint. For me, that painting (shown below) was the start of my healing journey.

Livingstone Daisy with Urn ©1991 Amy Livingstone
My work as evolved over the years and illustrates a slow emergence from the dark into the light to the sacred art that it is today. Out of my grief came deep compassion and a new worldview which has guided me over the years in serving the healing of our world. Art as sacred activism.

Painting (or sculpting) continues to ease my aching heart around the ecological crisis. When I'm feeling despair for the earth and her creatures, painting, creating beauty, is what sustains me. To quote author and environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams: "How do we find beauty in a broken world? By creating beauty in the world we find." The video for the "Lovers of Creation" is in process (coming soon) and am at work on a large "Interfaith World Tree" painting. Lately however, in the early hours of the day, I have been exploring small "Odes to Beauty" inspired by my garden. Art as meditation. (See more paintings at the Sacred Art Studio Facebook fan page.)

Ode to Beauty: Morning Glory
This practice as emerged out of suddenly becoming a caretaker for my elder father and his wife. Witnessing their suffering--both physically and psycho-spiritually--is heartbreaking and challenging. I believe that all the work that I have accomplished spiritually and professionally has led me to this place. I also know from my life's journey that my creative process will continue to be my saving grace as we travel this path together.

I share my story with you and encourage you to pick up a paint brush or a pen. A guitar. Dance. Sing. Imagine a world where art and creativity are valued above war, greed, and material 'success.' My new bumper sticker reads "Make Art. Make Love. Make a Difference."What does yours say?

For love of the EARTH!   

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hope and HeART

From the Sacred Art Studio May newsletter:
Welcome to all the new subscribers, many who signed up during Earth & Spirit Council's Earth Day Conference at PCC Sylvania. It was a sacred gathering of like-hearted beings that brought together our youth and elders to honor the Earth, learn from our indigenous teachers, and find hope and heart during this time of evolutionary transformation. I facilitated one of the many workshops that were presented throughout the day: "Opening the Heart through Art." Expressing our gratitude and/or grief for the living Earth through the creative process, we created personal heart mandalas.

One of the participants shared with us afterwards that during the visualization, she was feeling fear but through the process of creating her mandala she was able to move through it. For me, this once again affirms what I believe to be the power of art to heal our hearts and our world. This illustrates that it isn't about the denial of the fear (or grief, helplessness, anger, etc) but acknowledging it, allowing ourselves to feel it, transforming it through our creativity, and ultimately, inspiring us to action. 
When I arrived for the opening ceremony I wasn't feeling very hopeful (climate change, species extinction, political name it) but by the end of the conference, I walked away inspired and believing that, yes, art matters more than ever now. That we indeed must harness all of our innate creativity in order to serve the healing of our world. Each of us a role to play and it is our job to claim that in whatever form it may take. To quote Buddha, "Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." 
At the conference, when asked what can we as individuals can do, Grandmother Agnes Baker-Pilgrim, one of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, said, "Use what ya got. Keep your eyes and ears open. Then act on what you see and what you hear. Use your voice." Seems pretty straight forward to me! A friend just shared with me an example of this. Walking in a local nature preserve recently, she encountered a father and son carelessly walking through a bird-nesting area. She saw this, and out of deep love for the birds, pointed out the situation. They essential ridiculed her for this and a confrontation ensued, with the father shouting that she was insane. Bereft by their lack of concern, she continued to speak out and though it might not have changed their behavior, she is now in the process of working with local organizations to create some form of protection for these creatures whether through fencing or signage. A small act perhaps but as Mother Teresa said: "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
What is your work? 
What can you give voice to today?
I'm currently having fun preparing for an Art as Sacred Journey workshop that I am facilitating at Unitarian Universalist church in Vancouver on May 5. An annual retreat day for the women of the congregation, the day will focus on reclaiming art as our sacred inheritance, exploring the awe and wonder of creation, opening the heart through sharing our concerns/pain for the earth, practicing art-as-meditation, and finding ways our creativity can serve our world. For more information on my workshops visit my web site here. I'm no longer offering day-long workshops at my studio due to space limitations, but I am available to come to your church, organization, or community. Contact me for more information.  
I am also excited to be in the process of filming my large scale painting "Lovers of Creation" or a short documentary/video currently titled, "Journey into the Creation." Thanks to filmmaker Deb Rodney for co-creating this vision with me. As many of you know who have been following the creation of this triptych (3-panels), it was inspired originally by my grief during the Gulf Oil spill. The painting brings together symbolism from both earth-based spirituality and the Garden of Eden narrative in order to illustrate our interconnectedness in the web of Creation, reclaim our indigenous roots, inspire us to be good stewards, and to raise awareness (and funds) around of the plight of endangered species. And for beauty which I believe can awaken us to new ways of being, new ways of seeing.  
"Humanity's materialistic worldview must transition to a sacred view of Oneness with the environment and cosmos or risk self-destruction due to continued abuse of the life-web. Great works in the creative arts call us to imagine our higher unity as humanity evolves toward a sustainable planetary civilization." -Alex Grey, spiritual artist.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.
For love of the EARTH!  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Prayer in Spring

"Pulgaria Mandala" ©Amy Livingstone
(soul-symbol mandala commission)

From my March Sacred Art Studio newsletter. To subscribe, visit

A Prayer in Spring by Robert Frost

OH, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
To which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends he will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

Spring is gradually emerging here in the Pacific Northwest. The birdsong is abundant, trees are in bud, and the daffodils, in spite of the recent snow, are blooming. New life is indeed emerging after the dark days of winter. I love the interiority and silence during the winter months and yet I feel my inner child again when I venture into the garden, seeking out new shoots of life peaking through the mossy beds covered with leafy debris left in place last Fall to enrich the soil. It's this joy that fills my soul in times of grief and sorrow.

In my last newsletter (and last post here), I was preparing for my annual Living with HeART women's retreat. Twelve of us spent the weekend exploring our sacred creativity, connecting our inner knowing with the ancient wisdom of the medicine wheel, and finding sanctuary from the busyness of our world. It was a holy time. When I returned, I learned that a very close friend had died suddenly while I was away. He had been a close companion and was like a brother to me for many years, so it was quite a shock. Yet he had expressed his world weariness and financial struggles for as long and I do feel in my heart that he has at last found some peace. There will be a gap where his presence once inhabited my daily life but in his death, he has also given me a renewed sense of urgency towards life and purpose. So, in my grief, I find myself a bit impatient with the minutia of daily life and feel an impulse to make some extravagant change as I did twenty years ago after the consecutive deaths of my brother and mother. (I moved to Portland alone with no job, no friends or family.) This time however, it is holding to place, to community, to art, to being, to service...right here, right now. So, I find myself ever more present to the beauty around me in any given moment and to that which is most essential. Which is love as Frost expresses so beautifully in his poem, "For this is love and nothing else is love." As I've shared previously, I do believe, that it is through our grief, that we are able to open our hearts to each other and to the world around us. May all beings be happy. May all beings be loved.

What is most in bud for you right now during this season of rebirth, Spring? As always, I welcome your thoughts.

For love of the EARTH!

The above painting or "Pulgaria Mandala" is a personalized soul-symbol mandala commission. These are unique, one-of-a-kind sacred artworks that are expressions of your soul and support you on your healing/spiritual journey. Read more about these mandalas here at the blog or contact me for more information.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Living with HeART, Earth

Sunday morning rainbow from home.

From my January/February Newsletter:
January has been a time of stillness and spaciousness. Although I have been working steadily in the studio, attending to design projects, and preparing for the upcoming Living with HeART retreat, the month has unfolded slowly. After our annual New Year's Day sweat lodge ceremony at People of the Heart, I emerged out of the womb of the earth and felt that initial impulse, as so many of us do at the start of a new year, to make haste and manifest all sorts of intentions. Instead, I stopped, took a breath, and eased into my days. I have also been reflecting on our ancestors who lived close to the rhythms of the earth. January was a time of restoration, to store energy in preparation for the start of a new harvest cycle. How far we have come from that reality in our fast-paced, 24/7 wired world. So, for me there has also been lots of sleeping this month, 'resting in the grace of the world' to quote the poet Wendell Berry. Energy is now mounting and shifting outward once again, just as we reach the ancient celebration of Imbolc on February 2nd (Read more here.) This is the midpoint between Winter solstice and Spring equinox when our ancestors would begin to prepare the seeds for planting. This is an ideal time to plant the seeds of intention for your new year. What is your soul longing for? What is the heart of your longing? Playfulness, passion, purpose, or perhaps deeper wisdom?

Discover this in a sacred space with a wonderful group of women. I'm excited about offering you the third annual Living with HeART retreat. With my co-leader, Judy Todd, we will be guiding you through the medicine wheel and the four seasons of a woman's life. Drawing on our innate creativity, we will rest, remember, and return renewed, ready to plant the seeds and manifest our soul purpose.

So, why does this matter given the demands of our lives in feeding ourselves and our families? I think most of us would agree that we are experiencing environmental degradation during this time on earth. For me, and many other theologians, the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis. Scholar Karen Armstrong writes: "Perhaps every generation believes that it has reached a turning point of history but our problems seem particularly intractable and our future increasingly uncertain. . . .Unless there is some kind of spiritual revolution that can keep abreast of our technological genius, it is unlikely that we will save our planet."

This may sound dire, but I do have hope in human creativity. I believe that this spiritual (r)evolution will begin with each of us slowing down, being more present to life, reclaiming the Earth as holy, and drawing on all our creativity to serve our ailing, albeit beautiful world. That's my vision. Care to join me?

To register for the retreat, visit Judy's website. We look forward to sharing this sacred time with you.

For love of the EARTH!

The Peace of Wild Things

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.

- Wendell Berry

Friday, January 13, 2012

For the Artist at the Start of Day

View from the studio. January 2012

For the Artist at the Start of Day
-John O’Donohue

May morning be astir with the harvest of night;
Your mind quickening to the eros of a new question,
Your eyes seduced by some unintended glimpse
That cut right through the surface to a source.

May this be a morning of innocent beginning,
When the gift within you slips clear
Of the sticky web of the personal
With its hurt and its hauntings,
And fixed fortress corners,

A morning when you become a pure vessel
For what wants to ascend from silence,

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger,

To reach beyond imitation,
And the wheel of repetition,

Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved

Until the veil of the unknown yields
And something original begins
To stir toward your senses
And grow stronger in your heart

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form,
That claims from time
A rhythm not yet heard,
That calls space to
A different shape.

May it be its own force field
And dwell uniquely
Between the heart and the light

To surprise the hungry eye
By how deftly it fits
About its secret loss.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Living with HeART Retreat

3rd Annual Living with Heart Retreat for Women
Exploring our sacred creativity through the medicine wheel

I co-lead this annual retreat with Judy Todd.
Visit her website for more information.

Saturday–Sunday, February 18-19
Location: Hidden Lake Retreat, Eagle Creek, Oregon
Cost: $220 includes retreat, organic food, restful and cozy lodging, and artmaking supplies. Program facilitation is by donation at the end of the retreat.

here to email me for more information or to register.

Winter draws us inward to remember our deepest sources of creativity and renewal. Remembering takes time, stillness, and preparation—gifts we seldom give to ourselves in the midst of busy lives.

We have designed this retreat to help you slow down while diving deeply into your place of intuitive insights and original perceptions. Together we’ll draw inspiration from the natural world, the four sacred elements of earth/air/fire/water, and the ancient wisdom of earth-honoring traditions.

Earth, or Gaia, will be our muse as we journey around the medicine wheel, open new pathways to our place within the web of life, deepen our connection to the cycles of seasons, explore and co-create in sacred circles.

“The Living with HeART retreat reignited the creative flame in my soul! Since the retreat I have been enjoying making personal art that makes me smile and brings more joy into my life. I recommend this retreat and its leaders, Amy Livingstone and Judy Todd, who inspire love for the beauty in ourselves and our world.” —Rev. Jayna Gieber, 2011 retreat