Sunday, December 1, 2013

Giving Thanks

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

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

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

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

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

Giclee Prints, $125:
16x20" archival-quality art prints available.   

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Art as Prayer

From my October newsletter. Sign up here to receive the latest information about shows/events, new art, upcoming workshops, inspirational poetry, and more!

And so begins the turning of the wheel into the darkness. The rains return. All is silent at last. Preparing the landscape for the inner journey of the soul as we move into autumn, direction of the west, and the element of water. As a Scorpio, Autumn is my most beloved season and love rising early before the sun, before the world wakes. I start each morning in the studio with a ritual of lighting candles, with an offering of incense and a prayer for the healing of all beings and for the healing of the Earth. Art as prayer.

In Derrick Jensen's brilliant and heartbreaking A Language Older Than Words, he writes: "Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam. Every day I tell myself I should continue to write. Yet I'm not always convinced I'm making the right decision. I've written books and I've been an activist. At the same time I know neither a lack of words nor a lack of activism kills salmon here in the Northwest. It is the presence of dams."  

I hear his frustration and feel his despair around the extinction of so many species and for the devastation that is occurring on our beloved planet as well as his conflict between activism (albeit quite radical) vs. art, in his case writing. With the recent adolescent squabbling about a shutdown of the US government, it seems like things will continue to be business as usual in Washington. I ask myself almost daily what is my role during this planetary time? What is the role of art in the face of climate change and environmental degradation? I believe deeply that we each have a role to play in what the late eco-theologian Thomas Berry calls the Great Work of our time and so many are now hearing the call to work in service to the healing of our world and to co-create new ways of being in community that are sustainable. This gives me hope when it seems our actions often fall on deaf ears with those in power. Yes, we must continue to take actions, write letters, "Draw the Line" against the fossil fuel industry, and make mindful choices around products, etc. but for me, like many of us, the underlying crisis is a spiritual one. (You can read more about this at my Facebook studio page under Notes)  
In an interview with Jensen in his book of interviews Listening to the Land, Berry said, "If nothing is sacred, nothing is safe." The earth is not sacred to those who continue to destroy our rain forests, contaminate our water, pollute the air, and kill endangered species for sport. How can a society grounded in materialism and greed reclaim and remember that we are all interconnected in the web of creation? How can our religious traditions inspire their members to reverence the earth, "God's Creation?" This consciousness is already occurring in many temples, synagogues, churches, and mosques around the world which is a great start. Since the beginning of time, humans have been giving expression to the Divine/God/Goddess through art as a way to connect the viewer to the Sacred, the holiness of our existence. Can contemporary sacred art re-sacralize our world and inspire new ways of being? My work is a prayer and a contribution to this conversation.   

How about you? What is your Great Work? 

For love of the Earth, 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Song for Autumn

Greetings and Happy Fall Equinox. Shown here: "Harvest Moon Mandala." The harvest moon is the moon at and about the period of fullness that is nearest to the autumnal equinox. (she was stunning this week!) Here, two goddesses hold up the moon. And as Autumn is also a time of turning our energies inward, the bears represent the hibernation or inwardness of the spirit as they march to the west which is the cardinal direction associated with the 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 all phenomena are intimately connected.

Song for Autumn

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

—Mary Oliver

(Original painting and prints are available of this mandala. Contact me via for more information.)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Feeling the seasonal shift approaching. That instinctual turn inward like nature herself as the garden begins to die back. Autumn is my favorite season and love rising early before the sun, before the world wakes. I start each morning in the studio with a ritual of lighting candles, making an offering of incense, and saying a prayer (or an intention) that my work may serve the healing of the Earth. May it be so.

Artist’s Prayer

Creator of the Universe,
How infinite and astonishing
Are your worlds.
Thank you
For your Sacred Art
And sustaining Presence.

Divine Imagination,
Forgive my blindness,
Open all my Eyes.
Reveal the Light of Truth.
Let original Beauty
Guide my every stroke.

Universal Creativity,
Flow through me,
From my heart
Through my mind to my hand.
Infuse my work with Spirit
To feed hungry souls.

—Alex Grey, “Art Psalms”

Monday, July 29, 2013

Poem for Inspiration

From one of my spiritual teachers in the Buddhist tradition, Adyashanti.

The Innermost Table

You want me to speak of love
and so I will.
But the Love of which I can speak
costs me all my coins of illusion
and so I cannot compromise its virtues
nor quibble over its price.

This Love is Divine Nectar
a wine found only at
the innermost table.
It has seen endless days
of rain and sun and harvest.
It has been made wise and mellow
by the passing of time
and its refined taste
is uncompromising to those
who prefer their wine young
and overly sweet.

Although at times you may
appear to be swept away
by its dizzying effects
you will find that you have
the clarity of a diamond and
the reflexes of a falcon.
You will remain capable of compassion
and ruthless decisiveness alike.

In one hand
you will hold a feather
and in the other
a sword.

Drink the wine of this Love
and your life will change.
Instead of being a gatherer
of the Divine Light
you will be its shine.

It will be the end of you
and the beginning.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Poem for a Summer Day


A little inspiration for this scorching hot summer day in Portland, Oregon. I never feel alone when in the company of stones, the river, or a daisy. You?

The Waking

by Theodore Roethke

I strolled across
An open field;
The sun was out;
Heat was happy.

This way! This way!
The wren’s throat shimmered,
Either to other,
The blossoms sang.

The stones sang,
The little ones did,
And flowers jumped
Like small goats.

A ragged fringe
Of daisies waved;
I wasn’t alone
In a grove of apples.

Far in the wood
A nestling sighed;
The dew loosened
Its morning smells.

I came where the river
Ran over stones:
My ears knew
An early joy.

And all the waters
Of all the streams
Sang in my veins
That summer day.

Monday, June 17, 2013

World Environment Day Portland Oregon

The UN chose our beautiful city, Portland, Oregon to be the host city for World Environment Day on June 5th. World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. We gathered around the world to celebrate, educate, and inspire and to share our contribution(s) around sustainability and ways to serve the healing the earth. I had a booth at the Waterfront, RoZone area and brought part of my "Return to the Garden" installation. Native American drumming and dance opened the festivities. The children enjoyed co-creating the nature mandala which was later offered to the Willamette River, sending our prayers of healing for the earth in all directions. (See more photos at my Facebook page.) The poem that I shared in closing was one I found on the web from Sara R., gr. 4, Red Wing, MN. I dedicate this work to our children, for it is their future we are all working for...and for future generations.  

Earth Dancer

Earth, if you are the land,
then I am the dancer dancing with you,
my toes tickling your nose.

I am the dancer 
I dance all around

I am the salmon
You are the water
I am the salmon who fly in the air,
I am the salmon who dance up the waters

I am the dancer 
I dance all around

I am the bird who dances in sky,
Oh, look at me fly!

I am the dancer 
I dance all around

I am the turtle who goes oh so slow,
But if you look closely you’ll know
that when I do move I’m doing a dance.

I am the dancer 
I dance all around

I am the frog that hops on a log,
Oh, look at me! I’m dancing along.

I am the dancer 
I dance round and round

I am the stars that dance in the night,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
I wish I might dance all this night.

I am the dancer 
I dance round the round

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nurturing the Divine Feminine into Being

"Eve" from "Lovers of Creation" Triptych, ©2013 Amy Livingstone
I bow to all mothers on this day. . . past present and future and for all of those (women and men) who are nurturing the Divine Feminine into being. Here is the talk I gave last year on Mother's Day:
Nurturing the Divine Feminine into Being
Abundant Life Center,
Mother’s Day. May 13, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day. It’s fitting that that the talk today is on the Divine Feminine. A day when we honor, celebrate, and remember mothers. What better symbol of the divine feminine than that of the mother. She who nurtures a new life into being. Who BIRTHS…FEEDS from her own body, LOVES, and NURTURES the soul of a child into adulthood.

From the late Irish philosopher and poet, John O’Donohue

Your voice learning to soothe
Your new child
Was the first home-sound
We heard before we could see.

Your young eyes
Gazing on us
Was the first mirror
Where we glimpsed
What to be seen
Could mean.

Your nearness tilled the air,
An umbilical garden for all the seeds
Of thought that stirred in our infant hearts.

You nurtured and fostered this space
To root all our quietly gathering intensity
That could grow nowhere else.

Formed from the depths beneath your heart,
You know us from the inside out.
No deeds or seas or others
Could ever erase that.

Mother…. Symbol of LOVE. For me, this is the heart of the Divine Feminine. Remembering and nurturing the Divine Feminine into being is a journey from head-to-heart. From hatred to love. From power over to power with. From meaningless consumption to a renewed sense of reverence for life and beauty. This will require a radical shift in consciousness to a new way of being in relationship to each other and our world….to the Earth.

There’s a lot being written about the Divine Feminine these days. One of the many voices contributing to this conversation, is spiritual teacher Andrew Harvey. He writes: “The Divine Feminine is initiating a crucial new phase in our evolution: urging us to discover a new ethic of responsibility toward the planet; bringing us a new vision of the sacredness and unity of life.” I believe that without THIS vision...this evolution…our planet remains in peril, and our very survival is at risk. Most of us know that we are facing ecological, economic and social crises around the world. Climate change, species extinction, threats of nuclear war, toxic food sources, and the list goes on. Social thinker David Korten, calls this the ‘great unraveling.’

What we are experiencing is the result of a dominant masculine paradigm, that emerged alongside the rise of monotheistic religions that placed one male God in a position of authority over all humanity and creation. Attempting to extinguish the Goddess in all her incarnations, the Abrahamic traditions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam suppressed the feminine and subjected women to an inferior position beginning with our first archetypal Mother, Eve. However, what I have discovered through my own spiritual explorations and graduate studies in religion is the way in which these original sacred texts have been subjectively interpreted over the millennia to serve those in power.

For example, the Creation story is believed to have been written during and after the Israelite’s exile in Babylon (what is Iraq today). The ancient creation myths—Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh—were part of the oral tradition in that region. Theologians believe that in an attempt to understand the source of their own suffering and place in the cosmos, the early writers of the Torah borrowed from these ancient myths to write their own story of origin. Therefore, the notion that we are born into original sin, as we have been indoctrinated to believe in Christianity, was not the intention behind the Garden of Eden story. Those of the Jewish faith don’t believe they are born into original sin but original goodness. But without the notion of the Fall and original sin, what is the role of Christ as redeemer? What is the role of the Catholic Church? For me, Christ’s message of love, service, compassion, inclusivity, and a willingness to challenge the military authority of his time, is a beautiful example of the Divine Feminine in practice. Love. Compassion. Inclusiveness. Unity…all lie at the heart of the Divine Feminine. What has excited me in researching these sacred texts, is that we also have the opportunity to rethink, and reinterpret, scriptures in a way that is reflective of our own time…and in support of a more progressive spirituality that IS inclusive.  

Although most of our religious traditions have worshipped male deities over the millennia—Yahweh, Christ, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, etc., the feminine face of god has existed alongside them all along and are now becoming more recognized and gaining in popularity…certainly in the West where the Judeo-Christian tradition has been dominant in our culture. Women and men are seeking out alternatives to traditional religions that are more inclusive and less dogmatic.
• In Judaism, and the mystical teachings of Kabbalah, Shekinah is the feminine divine presence.
• In Christianity, Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and also Eve as first Mother, are all now being honored as representatives of the divine feminine 
• In Islam and Sufism, Fatima, wife to the Prophet Mohammed, and the Beloved
• In Buddhism, Kuan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, is worshipped all over world including the United States.
• In Hinduism, there are 330 million gods and goddesses. Although Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu are the three primary male deities, in the pantheon of goddesses, Shakti, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali, Durga to name a few all represents aspects of the divine feminine.
• Of course, there is also a whole pantheon of Greek and Roman goddesses, so we are not lacking for images that represent the feminine face of god but we are now at a point in history where the recognition of their own Divinity can support us in bringing back into balance the masculine and feminine energies. We need the masculine as much as the feminine but as we have experienced the scale has been tipped too far towards the masculine--causing wars and ecological degradation around the world. This is why it is so important to nurture the divine feminine into being.

Outside of these religious traditions there has also been, since the feminist movement of the 70s, the revival of the most ancient goddess of all…that of Gaia. Mother Earth. What our indigenous brothers and sisters have always known, is that the Earth is our first Mother. The embodiment of the divine feminine, she is the giver of life. Sustainer of life and worthy of our reverence and devotion. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case given the first commandment to have no other gods than the one god of the Abrahamic traditions. And there are those who strongly hold to their beliefs that those who honor the Earth are pagan, devil-worshippers, and will go to some version of hell. It’s part of the conversation, too, but I feel hopefully that many of our religious leaders are now embracing and encouraging good stewardship of the Creation among their followers. Through a number of mystical experiences, I have come to a deep awareness that no matter who or what we worship (be it a god, goddess, or science)—we are all interconnected and we are all of the Earth.

I want to mindful of not painting an idealized portrait of the Divine Feminine. Love may be the heart of the divine feminine. And yes, a mother’s love is tender and nurturing but it is also a fierce love. This is the marriage of light and shadow. The Goddess, as Gaia, is a giver and sustainer of life, but she is also the destroyer of life as we have been witness to in the large-scale natural disasters that have become more prevalent. And all of you who are mothers know you would protect your young at all costs. When Marianne Williamson speaks she often uses the story of the hyena mother who guards against the rest of the den of hyenas until all her young are fed. In her analysis, females are anthropologically wired to protect their young. For me, the emergent Divine Feminine is likewise asking that we harness both the tender love and fierce love to awaken, heal, and transform our world from one that is unsustainable to one that is life-sustaining—where our children are fed and bombs are no longer necessary.

We now know that the Divine Feminine has been present throughout history but how do we nurture it fully into being? Through us? How do we mid-wife this new era into consciousness? As I stated in the opening, this is a journey from the head to the heart for all of us—men and women. What I’ve learned is that it requires us to break open our hearts to each other and our world. To compassion. To love. To Oneness. Again. Those attributes of the Divine Feminine. I know what it feels like to have my heart broken wide open from my own experience through loss and grief when I was 30. Today is Mother’s Day and I’m thinking about my mother, Jane. She died unexpectedly 22 years ago. Nine months after my brother died from AIDS. It was a very dark time in my life but through my suffering, the dark night of the soul to quote St John of the Cross, I was able to open my heart to compassion for others, for all life. There were many gifts that came out of this period in my life for which am now grateful, though it was hell on earth for a time. 

Breaking open our hearts doesn’t have to happen to so tragically, though it often does happen that way, doesn’t it? But let us not wait for a catastrophe to open or hearts to our world. In my workshops, the first step I offer on this journey of the heart is to slow down, take time for silence and stillness. Contemplation. Coming into awareness of the revelatory miracle of Creation. Mother Earth. There is so much beauty around us at any given moment, if we would we allow ourselves the time to simply BE. Beauty breaks open our heart. Think of a time when you became aware of this. …… pause.  In “Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World,” author and Jungian Jean Shinoda Bolen writes: “Seeing beauty, loving what is beautiful, and nurturing and sustaining it all go together. It is also the ability to sense or intuit potential beauty and, through love, encourage it into existence.” Sounds like the Divine Feminine to me.   Beauty is available to us everywhere even when we’re stuck in traffic. Last Saturday morning, I was crossing the Vancouver bridge to lead a workshop at the Unitarian. It was the first time in 19 years of living in Portland, that I got the bridge lift. Though concerned for a moment at being late, I just turned off  my engine and sat, watching the birds play  in the rafters above me. Listening to their bird song, I breathed deeply into the present moment. I had no control over the situation, so I just allowed everything to be as it was. Allowing ourselves to be more present to life—being with both with the joy and the grief that may emerge when we finally step off the speeding train that is contemporary life—is key to breaking open our hearts and inviting in the Divine Feminine. I believe the most radical thing we can do is to slow down. In this way, we are better able to be present to beauty, to our feelings, to the people in our lives, to God, to bear witness to what is happening in our world and then take action from a place of LOVE.

As an artist, of course, one of the primary expressions for me to nurture the divine feminine into being is through my artwork. First, in the creation of clay sculptures, primarily of the feminine form, much like our ancestors who sculpted the goddess during the Neolithic period. For example, I’m currently completing a series of ceremonial sculptures that represent three seasons of a woman’s life—the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Painting has been my primary medium since my teens and although at one time my work emerged out of the darkness and disappointment in my life,  I now create sacred art that draws from the holy well of all spiritual traditions. Today it is beauty that is my gateway to the Divine. Over the past year, I completed a large-scale, three-panel painting that re-visions the Garden of Eden narrative through an indigenous lens. The overarching theme for the piece became “the Garden is right here, right now.” Paradise is not in some unknowable future, but right here on this glorious planet…we need only remember the holiness of this place we call home. Bringing together symbolism from both the Genesis narrative and those of our earth-honoring ancestors, the painting is a visual scripture that reveals our innate interconnectedness in the web of Creation. Here, Adam and Eve representing the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine, reclaim their roles as stewards of Creation.    

The creative process brings us into the present moment and I believe with all my heart, that we each have a creative gift to bring to the world what ever that may look like for you. I’m awed by people who make art in their kitchen. Fruits and vegetables are so gorgeous!  Creativity is our sacred inheritance. As we are born into a creative universe, so we are all co-creators in our evolutionary history. To quote theologian and founder of Creation Spirituality, Matthew Fox:
To allow creativity its appropriate place in our lives and our culture, our education and our family relationships, is to allow healing to happen at a profound level. The intimacy of creativity corresponds to the mystical experience itself. Mysticism bespeaks union, and there is an ongoing union of us and the Divine (Feminine) precisely during the process of giving birth in any form whatsoever.”
Creating life, being a mother… a parent….is one of the most creative acts a human being can undertake. And I bow to you all on this Mother’s Day. Our indigenous teachers say this is the remembering time. A time to remember our relationship to the Earth, our first Mother… that we are all interconnected in the web of life. I also believe it’s a time for remembering your innate creativity in whatever form that may take to serve the healing of our own hearts…our families…our world.

We may be living amidst the great unraveling according to David Korten, but in the words of my teacher, environmentalist Joanna Macy, we are also in the midst of the Great Turning. This is a time of great transformation foretold by many ancient prophecies when the divine feminine and masculine will come into balance again after a period of near extinction and initiate a new phase of evolution ushering in a renewed vision that honors the sacredness of all life on Earth. May it be so.

In closing, a poem that speaks to me of the emerging Divine Feminine:  

Beauty is the Messenger

Beauty is the messenger
Calling love out from forgotten places
Hidden by worry and fear,
And misplaced under the illusion of scarcity.

War, pain and conflict are all too evident
Between border towns, strangers and commuters.
But LOVE grows exponentially faster.
It IS the speed of light.

So, kindness reaches its destination
Infinitely faster than the time it takes
For the heaviness of cruelty
To chafe across toughened skin.

Beauty is the messenger
Waking up the sense of wonder,
Rounding up our wholeness into connection beyond ourselves
And increasing our capacity for limitless love.

Beauty is the messenger
Proving the incompatibility
Of splendor and malice;
Showing simply by example…

What is possible. 

(-Deb Rodney)

May all beings know peace. May all beings be loved.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Every Day is Earth Day

From top: 1-2. The installation in the PCC community center. 3. View from the mourning wall side, large posters of endangered species hang from the clock sign. 4. Early start on the nature mandala. 5. Altar to the direction of the East, honoring air and winged creatures. 6. Final mandala before dismantling and offering it to the earth in gratitude for the gifts we receive from her. You can see more photos at Sacred Art Studio Facebook page. 

Earth Day PCC
I was the featured artist on Earth Day at Portland Community College (PCC), Sylvania Campus in SW Portland. A beautiful day to celebrate Earth Day. Below is the brief introduction to my talk. My vision is to bring this installation to communities around the PNW and beyond. If you or someone you know might be interested in hosting me and this interactive installation "Return to the Garden," please contact me via my website I can also offer an accompanying workshop which you can also read more about at my site.
"Happy Earth Day. Shouldn't every day be Earth day? Where we celebrate daily the air we breathe. The water we drink. Clean water. Unlike so many around the world who don't have safe water to drink. Gratitude for the soil, the seeds, and the sun that grow our food so that we may life. Gratitude for the beauty. Spring. Look at all the gorgeous trees in bloom right now. The birdsong. And gratitude for all the abundance the earth provides for us. Every thing comes from the earth (our clothes, this table, chair, minerals that are in our cell phones and computers). Earth day was first celebrated in 1970. Today, 43 years later, humanity still isn't doing the job of being good stewards of the creation though I am grateful for the individuals and organizations that are working tirelessly to slow the damage and create new sustainable systems. But, where I think the environmental movement has missed the mark, is in our spiritual connection to the land. As a species, we seem to have forgotten our profound interconnectedness in the web of life. It's why I believe deeply that the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis and why we're also seeing a resurgence of Native American and indigenous ways of knowing returning so that we may remember that the earth is sacred and worthy of our reverence. But I also believe that each of us has this wisdom within us, it is only been forgotten over thousands of years by religions that place a transcendent god above instead of fabric of our every day lives and within the natural world. What is being asked of us today is a merging of the two. A spirituality that is both immanent and transcendent...

My we remember that we are all interconnected in the web of life. May we give ourselves permission to mourn, and may we celebrate the beauty of the Earth, today and every day. And finally, may we harness all our innate creativity to serve the healing of our world." A. Livingstone 

For love of the EARTH

Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Bloom

From my morning reading. Spring blessings.

How to Bloom

The almond trees in bloom: all we can accomplish here is to ever know ourselves in our earthly appearance.

I endlessly marvel at you, blissful ones—at your demeanor, the way you bear your vanishing adornment with timeless purpose. Ah, to understand how to bloom: then would the heart be carried beyond all milder dangers, to be consoled in the great one.

-Rilke, Uncollected Poems
(Translation Macy/Barrows)

Art: Vincent Van Gogh, Almond Tree Blossoms

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Love all Creation

As the earth begins her resurrection from the depths of winter, the revelatory miracle of creation is omnipresent. These holy days, I commune with the creation. The birdsong is so abundant in the garden, it makes my heart sing. For anyone following this blog or my Studio Facebook page, you have probably discerned that I love birds. For me, they are also messengers from Spirit. Spotted a bald eagle in the neighborhood last night which speaks to me about keeping attention on the larger vision of my life and work. Above, the Stellars Jay, one of my spirit helpers and a regular visitor to the feeder. For my daily devotional reading, I picked out "One River, Many Wells" by Matthew Fox, a compilation of sacred texts from all our wisdom traditions. Opened to this page which seems appropriate. Love all creation...and I do. How about you?

Love all Creation.
The whole and every grain of sand in it.
Love every leaf,
and every ray of light.
Love the plants.
Love the animals.
Love everything.
If you love everything,
you will perceive the Divine Mystery
in all things.
Once you perceive it
you will begin to comprehend it better every day.
And you will come at last
to love the whole world
with an all-embracing love.”

Dostoyevsky, from 'Brothers Karamazov'

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tilling the Soil of Your Soul

From my, Sacred Art Studio February Newsletter: 
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February 1st just passed and already the first sign of spring has arrived with daffodils emerging from the still slumbering earth. A mild winter in the Northwest but we are still only half way to the Spring Equinox. Tomorrow is Imbolc which originated within the pagan tradition and is one of the cross-quarter days which falls between the Solstice and the Equinox. The day also became associated with the Celtic goddess Brigid, the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered in Christianity as St. Brigid. Originally, Brigid's festival was known as Imbolc or Oimelc, two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer overlaps both pagan and Christian celebrations. I love finding these threads between our earth-honoring ancestors and our religious traditions (and the intention behind my artwork) because I believe humanity must remember and reclaim these ancient roots to begin reverencing the earth in such a profound way that we (in developed countries) choose to walk more lightly upon the earth in order to ensure a liveable future for all beings...and for other species!    

In secular culture this time of year became known as Groundhog Day--which was a big deal growing up in New Hampshire where the winters were fierce and we kids yearned for the sun to return so we could play outside again. Growing up, I did not know this yearly visitation of the groundhog had its roots in the ancient ways of our ancestors. Imbolc was a time to start preparing the fields for the first planting and to bless the crop seeds saved and stored from the last harvest. This is the time for purification and renewal. Today, we might begin to till our actual gardens but we can also symbolically till the soil of our souls by letting go of something (or some action) that no longer serves us and plant a seed of intention to bring into our lives what we most want to harvest this year. This year I'm feeling a pull outward, which is in stark contrast to my introverted nature, so am setting an intention for more adventures. This may include travel to some regional conferences with my artwork and/or to offer workshops around these themes. 

Growth and opportunity are abundant in this landscape. During the winter season, we rest in the darkness of the womb and the sun will now purify and bring energy and light to a new vision for ourselves and our world. What are you longing for? What would you like to see bloom more fully in your life, your work, your relationships? Plant the seeds of intention now, nurture the ground, and harvest the gifts as we journey through the cycles of the seasons in the coming year.
Brigid is the goddess of healing, inspiration, and poetry. This poem, "Song" from Wendell Berry-farmer, tiller of the soil and soul, seems appropriate:
Within the circles of our lives 
we dance the circles of the years, 
the circles of the seasons 
within the circles of the years, 
the cycles of the moon 
within the circles of the seasons, 
the circles of our reason 
within the cycles of the moon.
Again, again we come and go, 
changed, changing. Hands 
join, unjoin in love and fear, 
grief and joy. The circles turn, 
each giving into each, into all 
Only music keeps us here,
each by all the others held. 
In the holds of hands and eyes 
we turn in pairs, that joining 
joining each to all again.
And then we turn aside, alone, 
out of the sunlight gone
into the darker circles of return.

As always, I welcome your feedback!
For love of the EARTH

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ganesha in Progress

Ganesha ©Amy Livingstone, Sacred Art Studio 2013

New devotional painting in progress (you can follow along at the Sacred Art Studio Facebook page). Ganesha, from the Hindu pantheon--worshiped throughout India and around the world as the remover of obstacles. He is certainly bringing a playful energy to my studio as I bring him to life on the canvas. So, it's no surprise that this poem from the Sufi mystic, Hafiz, emerged this morning during my morning contemplative practices. Learn more about Ganesha here.


Where does the real poetry
Come from?

From the amorous sighs
In this moist dark when making love
With form or

Where does poetry live?

In the eye that says, “Wow wee,”
In the overpowering felt splendor
Every sane mind knows
When it realizes—our life dance
Is only for a few magic

From the heart saying,

“I’m so damn

(From “The Gift.” Translation by Daniel Ladinsky)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year’s by the fire savoring Mary Oliver’s new volume of poetry, “A Thousand Mornings.” Like many of you, I ritually take time contemplating the year’s end and visioning the new one ahead. Journaling the highs and lows both professionally and personally. Recording the memories of a life. Exploring deeper questions around the meaning of existence. A process that often feels contradictory as I ponder the notion of time as invented by humankind. After all, the trees, the birds, nor the moon experience the same yearly passageway (with all its expectations) on December 31st. Nature reminds us daily of the transformative cycles of life and, through her beauty, offers us the gift of presence. Like art and poetry, both likewise bring us into the present, which is all we ever truly have. For me, balancing intentions with present moment awareness can provide some inner peace no matter where this journey takes us in 2013. May you be blessed this day, and every day.

The Gardener

Have I lived long enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I
come to any conclusions?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.

from Mary Oliver’s new collection of poems “A Thousand Mornings.”