Life as Pilgrimage & the Art of Transformation

From my September newsletter:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anais Nin
Butterfly has long been a totem animal for me and for many of us who have undergone a similar transformation through the dark night where we enter the chrysalis of our grief, then re-emerge reborn with a new way of seeing and being in the world.

No surprise then that butterfly woman (see my first mandala at this link) is reappearing at this threshold of my life as I embark on the next stage of this journey and navigate my second Saturn return. This 29-year cycle is often a time of disruption and transformation, and a necessary shedding occurs that opens space for the new. Has this been true for you? My first Saturn return was marked by the deaths of my brother and mother that initiated me into a new awareness of the preciousness of life, prompting my relocation to Portland 25 years ago.

I have been blessed to call this place home all these years and it has been through a long period of discernment that I have decided to move back to the East coast. It’s a leap into the unknown which is at the heart of any pilgrimage. And as pilgrims on the path, we must follow the call of the soul. This doesn’t mean it has been easy or without grief and many sleepless nights but the signs are clear. It’s time to spread my wings.

The signs were emerging four years ago, during an Animas Valley quest into the wild indigenous soul but I was caring for my elderly father and was unable to make a move at that time. This came via email recently from one of my teachers and guides on the quest, Bill Plotkin:

“Alongside our greatest longing lives an equally great terror of finding the very thing we seek. Somehow we know that doing so will irreversibly shake up our lives, our sense of security, change our relationship to everything we hold as familiar and dear. But we also suspect that saying no to our deepest desires will mean self-imprisonment in a life too small. And a far-off voice within insists that the never-before-seen treasure is well worth any sacrifices and difficulty in recovering it.” Read his full message here.
As I simplify materially, I sense more joy and blessings to come and it feels like time is of the essence. My commitment through my work, Sacred Art Studio, will continue to evolve and invite you to come along on this journey with me. I am looking at Asheville or Durham, North Carolina both of which are affordable, have thriving art scenes, spiritual community, and are progressive.I will continue to keep you updated and remain grateful to all of you–my friends, family, and supporters of this holy calling on behalf of our earth, other beings, and our creatures.

If you’re in Colorado, I’ll be back to Mile Hi for the closing of my show on September 30th. Hope to see you there!

In gratitude and love,
Amy

Love and Threholds

Butterfly Woman Mandala (Spring): 2003/2016, 24x24" Acrylic & Jewels
A friend recently loaned me Paulo Coelho’s The Valkyries. It’s always interesting the synchronicity in which relevant insights or messages show up in our lives via books or other means just when it is needed most. As I close out this decade and prepare for the next chapter of this amazing journey called life, I have been spending time in reflection as is natural when crossing any threshold that brings us to another level of consciousness or growth. While in the same breath, I wrestle with my Buddha nature that insists that I remain in the present moment. So, I surrender the battle and allow to be as it is and trust that some pearl of wisdom will come forward that needs to be expressed through me. It’s not terribly comfortable in this place—this liminal space, betwixt and between—where there is potential for a symbolic death before a rebirth. Like the quintessential symbol of transformation, the butterfly in the chrysalis, awaiting its emergence to the light. Butterflies have always been a spirit guide for me (long before I knew what that meant) and always appear during times of transition whether through my drawings as a teen, more recently in this mandala as seen above, or like today in my meditation. So, I wait…I reflect. I believe Kierkegaard was correct that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Which leads me back to the Coelho book.

The Valkyries is an autobiographic account of his 40-day pilgrimage into the Mojave Desert to find the answer to: “Why is it that we destroy the things we love most?” The Valkyries are spiritual warriors in the guise of a motorcycle gang made up of leather clad women, led by Valhalla. They are messengers who ride through the desert preaching of a new world to come, one that is grounded in love. (The book is rich with symbolism and I highly recommend reading it.) According to Coelho, we enter into pacts with ourselves and the world around us that keep us from pursuing our dreams.

Ultimately, he adds, out of fear we end up sabotaging our relationships and our potential for success. While reading, this also reminded me of Marianne Williamson who wrote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” The story unfolds like that of an indigenous rite of initiation that includes a tripartite process of separation, transformation, and return. In the book, there occurs what appears to be a ritual cleansing of sorts at the start of the journey where he and his wife go into the desert and nearly die from heat stroke. Separation from reality into non-ordinary reality.

Coelho and his wife then enter a cave (the chrysalis of transformation) with Valhalla and recounts the pact he made with himself when he was in his twenties to stop believing in magic, love, and his gift. He emerges into the light and later receives forgiveness during a ritual theatre encounter. By the end of the novel, Coehlo makes a bet with his angel—a blue butterfly—to believe again. Acceptance and return. A symbolic death/rebirth occurs and the initiation process is complete. We often hear this referred to as the heroes journey to the underworld and his/her triumphant return bearing gifts for the world. In Coehlo’s parable, we discover it is love that is our greatest gift.

He writes: “We, at this moment in history, must develop our own powers. We must believe that the universe doesn’t end at the walls of our room. We must accept the signs, and follow our heart and our dreams. ” And, “The day will come when love will be accepted…..Our defects, our dangerous depths our suppressed hatreds, our moments of weakness and desperation—all are unimportant. If what we want to do is heal ourselves first, so that then we can go in search of our dreams, we will never reach paradise. If, on the other hand, we accept all that is wrong about us—and despite it, believe that we are deserving of a happy life—then we will have thrown open an immense window that will allow Love to enter. Little by little, our defects will disappear, because one who is happy can look at the world only with love—the force that regenerates everything that exists in the Universe.”

A deep soul immersion, or pilgrimage, to the Utah desert has been calling me for some time but taking 40 days out of my life right now isn’t an option. So, I ask myself, how can everyday be a pilgrimage towards opening more fully to love—right here, right now. Love is at the heart of all spiritual traditions. Love for the beloved, the neighbor, for God/Spirit. And for me, love of the Earth. Twenty years ago, I underwent a journey to the underworld and returned transformed out of the darkness. Since that time, I have broken the pact that had prevented me from living my life as an artist but I wonder where are the places in my life where I have prevented love from entering amidst my ambitions, my fears? How do I sabotage my own happiness at times? So, I wait. Sit in the unknowing of this threshold time. I reflect on my life. Learning to accept, to forgive the past, and open more fully to love in the present moment. As Valhalla says, “There is no sin but the lack of love.” What is the pact you have made that prevents you from living your dreams? What is the pact you made that prevents you from believing you are worthy to love and be loved? These are the questions that I am asking of myself these days. Never give up on your dreams or love!

The Truelove by David Whyte

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals,

who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them,

and how we are all
waiting for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly,
so Biblically,
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love,

so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don’t

because finally
after all this struggle
and all these years,
you don’t want to any more,
you’ve simply had enough
of drowning,
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness,
however fluid and however
dangerous, to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.