|“It’s absurd to think of artists simply as ‘painting nature.’ . . . For them, nature is a medium, a language by which they reveal their world. What genuine painters do is to reveal the underlying psychological and spiritual conditions of their relationship to their world. . . They have the power to reveal the underlying meaning of any period precisely because the essence of art is the powerful and live encounter between the artist and his or her world.” -Rollo May|
I recently picked up and began re-reading Rollo May’s The Courage to Create that I first encountered back in graduate school. It’s an inspiring manifesto for the artist around the importance of art and creativity in a societal context as well as unconscious obstacles that are necessary to overcome in order to give birth to our artistic vision. For example, the relationship between creativity and death, our immortality, and what he refers to as “an active battle with the gods.”
Not unlike Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, it means moving past resistance and trusting in the process. That the “gods” are actually on our side. Showing up even when it’s challenging. Not always easy but it is possible at any stage of our life.
It takes courage, which comes from the French root coeur or heart, to show up for creative work. A very talented friend of mine recently picked up a paintbrush again after 30 years. She entered her gorgeous painting into a juried exhibition and it was accepted. It’s never too late to pick up a brush, or the pen.
I can recognize when I’m hitting resistance in my process usually when nearing completion. While working on the above (from the Where We Stand is Holy installation), I needed to surrender for a time and then wrestle with the angels or demons that kept me from moving forward. It’s a breakthrough moment and am now in the finishing stages of this piece that shines a light on the creatures of the Arctic regions threatened by climate change. Where are you resisting your creative expression?
If you read or subscribe to the Science of Mind magazine look for my article, “Sacred Art. Sacred Activism.,” in the August issue.
Happy Interdependence Day!
Challenging Hate Speech and Violence panel. From left: Shariff Abdullah
(Commonway Institute), Sat Hanuman Singh Khalsa (Sikh), Harris Zafar (Muslim),
Joanie Levine (Compassionate Listening/NVC), and Rev. David Alexander
(New Thought Center for Spiritual Living).
An inspiring day on Sunday (re)connecting with people from all faith traditions and activists working for social and ecological justice. It was one year ago that many of us gathered in Salt Lake City for the Parliament of World Religions and am feeling re-energized from being present for this gathering. Also honored to have my painting “All Nations Tree of Life” grace the cover of the program and share my work with this community. The three panel discussions were around Climate Change (forgot to take a photo!), Indigenous Wisdom, and Challenging Hate Speech and Violence–all interrelated with the urgent call to shift collective consciousness from separation to unity/harmony. The day was closed with music and of course, dance. Bow of gratitude to all the presenters and organizers for this special event. For love of the earth and all beings.
Peace. Salam. Shalom.
It was an inspiring weekend at the Climate Arts evening and Earth Care Summit as the Interfaith community gathered to celebrate the arts in breaking open our hearts to the beauty of our world and to honor Mother Earth last month. Poet Kim Stafford, son of the late Oregon poet William Stafford, shown below gave a very moving presentation that included stories of his life and his poetry.
We had a nice conversation during which I was able to share with him the painting, The Translator, inspired by one of his father’s poem Walking the Borders. He was very enthusiastic and supportive of my work and am touched by his generosity of spirit.
The amazing cellist, folksinger, and fellow artivist Anna Fritz also led us in songs that touched our hearts. Especially moving was her last song, Into the Fire, that tapped into our grief around the damage being perpetuated against the earth and the necessity to find joy where we can. You can listen and purchase music at her website.
Take this heaviness from my heart.
Throw it into the fire.
Let me learn to be joyful.
Lift my soul up higher.
Overall a beautiful evening and inspiring weekend that gave me hope. Dr. Randy Woodley, a Keetoowah Cherokee and professor at George Fox University, gave the keynote shown here about indigenous world view versus our Western, post-Englightenment orientation to the natural world. And after attending numerous City Council meetings over the past year or so, it was fun to meet Mayor Charlie Hales. Here, he is speaking with Muslim eco-activist Nana Firman. Attended her break-out session that was very informative, sharing passages from the holy Quran that address care for all creation.
Gratitude to Oregon Interfaith Power & Light and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon for organizing this yearly event and University of Portland for hosting.
For a New Beginning
In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
From my January Newsletter
New Year Greetings:
I hope this note finds each of you well in spirit and in health; invigorated by what O’Donohue calls “the grace of beginning;” of what is yet to be as we enter the new year. Aren’t we often ripe with expectation during these first weeks of January when we contemplate what may unfurl in our lives? We plan. We set intentions. We resolve to do, and to be, the best we can. I often feel like I’m at the starting gate ready to run a race and remind myself that life isn’t a marathon but an unfoldment of each moment, each day, each year. As we walk the path, the journey unfolds before us. This is a lovely reminder from the late Henri Nouwen:
We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises.
This can be a daily spiritual practice around gratitude given that life does throw obstacles on our journey and we live in a culture driven by fear. An acupuncturist once shared with me that fear and excitement embody the same level of energy but that ‘fear is excitement without the breath.’ Have you noticed that? In fear, we tend to hold the breath. So, when I begin to feel anxious about the future, the economy, climate change, or any of the myriad crises facing life on planet earth at this time, I stop and remember to breathe in and breathe out. Then I take the next step and continue to walk this path of art, beauty, and service.
The wonder is this: that, as we walk it, the path becomes clear. We have only to trust it into action, then truth reveals itself, shining all the brighter for the darkness of our time. -Joanna Macy
In the studio, I have been continuing with the “Where I Stand is Holy” series (see previous posts) but this sweet little painting, “Andean Dreams,” (above) wanted to be born through me and is inspired once again by my Peru pilgrimage. It’s no accident that hummingbird (Kinti) appeared again in my work as he is a potent symbol for holding our core in stillness amidst the busyness of contemporary life. There is also an urgency in our work on behalf of the living earth and all her creatures. I feel this and know many of you do as well but if we don’t take time for silence and stillness, burnout is inevitable. Breathing in and out? In the Andes, hummingbird is also a symbol of resurrection. New beginnings. Like this moment, this day, this new year. All pregnant with new possibility. What is calling to be born through you?
For love of the EARTH!
there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi
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.
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!
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