I was re-visiting my first book of eco-philosophy today, A Sacred Place to Dwell: Living with Reverence Upon the Earth by Henryk Skolimowski, that I discovered in 2003. Reading this sacred text was life changing and inspired me to go on to graduate school to study spiritual traditions and ethics within an interdisciplinary framework. Although I had considered an MFA and a Master’s in Art Therapy at the time, I felt called to this other scholarly path to better understand the disconnect between humanity and all of creation— philosophically, theologically, sociologically, and psychologically, etc. I wasn’t interested in being part of a contemporary art world driven by the notion of art-for-art’s sake or the pathologies of dis-ease associated with art therapy, though I bow in gratitude to those who follow the latter calling. My artwork has been a response to this original inquiry and The Translator especially speaks to the creation of a new language, what some are now calling “the new story,” of our interdependence and reverence for the earth. You can read about the painting here.
Skolimowski put forward this “New Gospel” and share that here with you.
For love of the EARTH!
The New Gospel
- The World is a Sanctuary.
- You were born creative.
- You hold destiny in your hands.
- You have the responsibility to do your part.
- The web of life includes all forms of life, human and non-human.
- Be compassionate to others.
- Be gentle to yourself.
- Be mindful how you treat your body.
- Be mindful of what you think and what you eat.
- You were born into a beautiful world.
- Your nature is divine.
- You divinity must reveal itself in your action.
- Suffering cannot be avoided.
- The fact of death cannot be avoided.
- Celebrate! The universe is in a state of self-celebration.
- What is your path of liberation? To begin with, you need to take yourself seriously.
- Oikos (Eco)—A Sacred Enclosure (oikos is Greek for ‘home.’)
- Achieve wholeness through your own effort.
- We are meaning makers.
“ARTheology is the transmission of spiritual guidance through the arts. The arts have played a crucial role in parable and the recounting of iconic moments from all world religions. Theology, or the collection of knowledge related to the study of God, has influenced the sacred art of every tradition….Sacred art is clothed in the language of the essential truth of that faith. When the purpose of art is our own salvation or liberation, we trust the good intentions of the author that art is being performed for God’s sake. How can art be redemptive in a post-modern, pluralistic, trans-denominational world? If art’s mission is to make the soul perceptible, then all expressions are redemptive for the artist. Creation IS redemption. To complete the soul being perceived by another, the art must be shared. The social context of art is necessarily an ethical arena where the intentions of the artist toward the beholder are central to the message in the work. An artist fulfilling the sacred legacy of their profession, dedicates their work to the liberation of all beings. Their art is uniquely suited to be a tap root to the collective psyche and zeitgeist of the moment, to potentiating an historic evolution of consciousness.” -Alex Grey, Visionary Artist. www.alexgrey.com
|New Connexions Magazine. Ganesha ©Amy Livingstone, 2014|
|Show at the Doll Gardner Gallery. West Hills UU Portland|
|Opening at the Doll Gardner Gallery. West Hills UU Portland|
Macy speaks to three areas of engagement during this era of transformation, or the Great Turning. Perhaps one of them will speak to you. Holding actions (boycotts, civil disobedience); creating new (sustainable) structures and institutions; and shifting consciousness around the reality of our collective interconnectedness in the web of life which has been my primary focus though I have also participated in numerous events and demonstrations around social/ecological justice over the years including the current campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. This year, I plan to share more about ways you might be inspired to get involved though I know so many of you are already doing such great work on behalf of our world.
So, during our new year’s meditation and sweat lodge at my spiritual community, the word that came to me for the year was expansion. This intention is general enough to hold spaciousness for what unfolds this year in relationships, work, and in life, but without too many expectations loaded on to it. Am I playing it safe in not wanting to be disappointed if I don’t touch as many people with my work as I would like or don’t meet the love of my life? Maybe, but for me trusting in the path is the path and right now I am simply staying open and listening for guidance. What about you? Any intentions for the year?
About the Wheel of the Four Winds:
I finished Wheel of the Four Winds (30×48″) during the last week of the year and is shown here on my easel. Although I read Rabbi Gershon Winkler’s “Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism” several years ago, I didn’t actually start putting paint to canvas until January of 2013 after a long gestation period. This has been a 4-season journey and I have traveled psycho-spiritually around the medicine wheel myself this past year finding myself once again as we begin this new year in a place of visioning–around life and my work. This insight, however, did not become fully clear to me until I was coming to completion on the piece. Such is the mystery and healing power of the creative process. According to these teachings which draw from the mystical wisdom of Kabbalah: The North (eagle/Uriel guides), element of water, is the place of soul/mystery out of which we emerge. Journeying left to the West (bull/Raphael), element of earth, we experience a death or period of darkness at some point. Within this landscape we journey to South (human/Michael guides), element of fire, for cleansing and reflection. Emerging in the East (lion/Gabriel), we find ourselves at the place of balance and new beginnings. We then arrive back in the North, the place of vision. Repeating again and again until we reach a higher consciousness. Resonates with my life’s journey. How about you? There is a lot of animal medicine in this shamanic painting including the panther, the guide of the upper realm (the place of giving), and the bear, the guide for the lower realm (the place of receiving). While working on the horses pulling the chariot or merkava (medicine wheel) with silver reins, I discovered that this in the year of the Horse in Chinese Zodiac! The transliteration of the Hebrew is tifaret, the place of beauty and balance that lies in the middle on the “Tree of Life” and at the very center of the medicine wheel.
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!
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.”
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.
|‘Interspiritual World Tree’ ©Amy Livingstone|
“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’
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