The New Gospel (of Earth)

The Translator: 2014, 36x36" Acrylic (Inspired by "Walking the Borders" by William Stafford)
The Translator
(Inspired by William Stafford’s Walking the Borders.)

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

  1. The World is a Sanctuary.
  2. You were born creative.
  3. You hold destiny in your hands.
  4. You have the responsibility to do your part.
  5. The web of life includes all forms of life, human and non-human.
  6. Be compassionate to others.
  7. Be gentle to yourself.
  8. Be mindful how you treat your body.
  9. Be mindful of what you think and what you eat.
  10. You were born into a beautiful world.
  11. Your nature is divine.
  12. You divinity must reveal itself in your action.
  13. Suffering cannot be avoided.
  14. The fact of death cannot be avoided.
  15. Celebrate! The universe is in a state of self-celebration.
  16. What is your path of liberation? To begin with, you need to take yourself seriously.
  17. Oikos (Eco)—A Sacred Enclosure (oikos is Greek for ‘home.’)
  18. Achieve wholeness through your own effort.
  19. We are meaning makers.

ARTheology

 IMG_1241“Lovers of Creation” ©Amy Livingstone

“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

Intention and The Great Work

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

The Journey
One day you finally knew  
what you had to do, and began,  
though the voices around you  
kept shouting  
their bad advice- 
though the whole house  
began to tremble  
and you felt the old tug  
at your ankles.  
“Mend my life!”  
each voice cried.  
But you didn’t stop.  
You knew what you had to do,  
though the wind pried  
with its stiff fingers  
at the very foundations,  
though their melancholy  
was terrible.  
It was already late  
enough, and a wild night,  
and the road full of fallen  
branches and stones.  
But little by little,  
as you left their voices behind,  
the stars began to burn  
through the sheets of clouds,  
and there was a new voice  
which you slowly  
recognized as your own,  
that kept you company  
as you strode deeper and deeper  
into the world  
determined to do  
the only thing you could do- 
determined to save 
the only life you could save.
-Mary Oliver 
  
My intention around expansion for the new year seems to be manifesting these days. (See previous post). I am having a show of my artwork at the Doll Gardner Gallery inside the West Hills Unitarian during the month of March, my ‘Ganesha’ is the featured artwork on the cover of New Connexions magazine, and I also had a wonderful interview recently with Robyn Purchia at EdenKeeper.org. You can read her article here. We share a similar passion and mission around the connection between religion and the environment. 
We all know the power of intention and holding a vision even when it’s not quite clear where it will lead. This is the path of radical trust and faith. I appreciated revisiting this poem from Mary Oliver that speaks to that calling we each have inside us to follow our heart in spite of the voices, or culture, shouting their bad advice. I believe deeply that we each have a gift to bring forward in service to what the late eco-theologian Thomas Berry called the Great Work of our time. We need all hands on deck if we want to ensure a liveable planet for future generations. When I spoke aloud my vows at the end of a ten-day training with environmentalist Joanna Macy in 2002, I committed my life to serving the healing of the earth and the welfare of all beings–human and non-human. That has seemed overwhelming at times but it remains the underlying intention for my life and work in whatever form that takes. Will you join me? 

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.   
Always, it is my love of the earth, beauty, and the intersection where art, spirit, and earth healing meet that feeds my soul. What feeds yours?

New Year. New Painting.

From my January Newsletter: Sign up at www.sacredartstudio.net 
Here we are again, starting off a new year. A new beginning. There always feels to be an expectancy and urgency at the start of a new year, that perhaps somehow things will be different than last year, or the year before that. That somehow we’ll get it “right” or “better” this year. We’ll be more disciplined in our health, finances, work, relationships, or finally answer that call to something greater than where we are right here, right now. Then when things, i.e., life, doesn’t change as quickly as we might like, we fall into disappointment or resignation. Sound familiar? Remembering that we are enough at any given moment takes feral courage. I know this has been true for me especially around my work as an artist and the time it takes to create some of these paintings like the “Wheel of the Four Winds” shown here on my easel (learn more below). In a production-oriented society, when the expectation is to churn out a bunch of paintings every year, my work is devotional and paintings take time to come to life on the canvas. Consider Tibetan Thangka paintings or Christian iconography for example. Art as a sacred practice. In this way, it is a challenge to make a living only with my art but this is where I am called to be right here, right now. Through my training in non-violent communication (NVC), I have learned the practice of self-empathy and am trusting in the journey even when it feels at times that I am failing in comparison to cultural expectations, or my own.

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?

For love of the earth!
Amy

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.

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:

16×20″ archival-quality art prints available.   

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, 
Amy

Tilling the Soil of Your Soul

From my, Sacred Art Studio February Newsletter: 
To sign up go to: www.sacredartstudio.net
 
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

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 (36×36″).” 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 www.sacredartstudio.net.
Happy Holydays!

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’

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!
Amy

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