Beauty blessings during this transition to Autumn in the Northern hemisphere. A belated Shana Tova to my Jewish friends. I’ve been contemplating this painting “Wheel of the Four Winds” again since Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Especially, the direction of the West, where the Archangel Raphael, symbolized by the bull, is our guide and teacher in navigating the darkness. Feels appropriate given the collective traumas of this year and the coming darkness of the autumnal season. In our earth-honoring traditions, this is a time for going within—though most of us have been living this all year! But perhaps we can do this more intentionally, asking ourselves what is asking to be released, like the leaves from the trees, to create the compost for the coming year? Breathing into this. Join me?
This painting is inspired by Rabbi Gershon Winkler’s book “Magic in the Ordinary: Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism.” In the Jewish shamanic tradition, “the West is death…the dream place where all the doing ceases and has a chance to process, to become seed for tomorrow’s newness.” And the bull “symbolizes majesty and determination, unrelentingly pushing forward into tomorrow, into the next moment into destiny, against all odds and with a sense of surety and knowing…this is the place of wisdom and understanding.”
The Hebrew transliteration is “tifaret,” or beauty, which sits at the heart of the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life at the center of the medicine wheel. In the four corners Hebrew letters—aleph, mem, and shin—representing the elements of air, fire, water, and earth which Kabbalists ceremonially chant.
Art: “Wheel of the Four Winds.” 2014, 30×48” ©Amy Livingstone. You can read more about this painting here: https://www.sacredartstudio.net/new-year-new-painting/
The Holy Longing
Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this:
to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.
From April 10 newsletter. Happy Easter and Passover to all those who celebrate this holy time. Given this archetypal celebration of death/rebirth, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, the Sumerian goddess of fertility and wisdom seen emerging from her chrysalis and womb (Vesica Piscis) felt appropriate to share. Her mythic journey to the underworld is symbolic of a death and rebirth like that of Jesus and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. For me, I resonate with the transformational journey of Inanna and the caterpillar into the butterfly. I’ve been drawing from this theme of being in the “chrysalis” over the past month as we quarantine during this global pandemic.
In the ancient myth, Inanna passes through the seven gates of the underworld, forced to give up one symbol of her power at each gate until she arrives in the underworld stripped bare of all worldly possessions. Ultimately, she is killed, but then she is revived with the food and water of life and returns bearing gifts of wisdom. The story speaks to me of what we are each collectively undergoing psychically during this time of darkness. We are like the imaginal cells inside the chrysalis, shape shifting in preparation for our emergence.
Could this be a global initiation? Will we emerge from our cocoons bearing a new vision of living in sacred reciprocity with each other and the living earth. After traveling myself into some dark places around the unknown and tracking the news endlessly, I’ve settled into my interiority and asking myself, what am I being asked or forced to surrender? Sitting with the question. What about you?
Nature Mandala Offering: Day 10
I began this nature mandala offering for the healing of all beings and mother earth on April 1 and will continue to add prayers until the end of the month or until our return. Many of you are familiar with this ceremony that was inspired by my pilgrimage to Peru in 2006 which I have brought to events and installations over the past decade. If you’re not, you can see photos and learn more at this link. Feel free to email me a prayer and I will add it to our mandala in your stead.
With love and gratitude,
“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 poet.
Welcome new friends! As I await Hurricane Dorian’s impact here in my adopted state of NC, contemplating this painting “Reverence.” They say Raleigh-Durham area shouldn’t experience too much damage but sending out prayers to those devastated in the Bahamas and coastal areas. The awe and fierceness of Mother Gaia.
While working on this painting a few years ago, what kept coming to me was “Why Do We Crucify Ourselves?” (in the face of the climate crisis and ecological degradation) but what ultimately came through was “reverence”. How do we reverence the earth so profoundly, that it changes “forever how we experience life and [care for] the world?
I’ve always been drawn to the Celtic Cross when I see them scattered throughout old cemeteries–standing there majestically with their beautiful, ornate designs. Here, I added the Celtic knot pattern inspired by my own ancestral, Scottish homeland and symbols of the four elements (air, fire, earth, water) used by alchemists. I love drawing from the wisdom of the ancients, who have much to teach us about balancing the transcendent with the sacred imminent woven throughout the everyday.
It was a delight to have people from 350 Triangle come together in my new studio space to co-create in preparation for the upcoming Climate Strike here in Raleigh, and there are actions all across the globe. It’s been many years since I’ve had any workshops in my space due in part to caring for my elderly father until his death and then the transition to move back to the East coast. Feel energized again to start offering workshops again this fall. Visit my workshops page to learn more: https://www.sacredartstudio.net/events/
With love and gratitude,
“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” -Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
Solnit’s book has become my manifesto during these troubled times. This week here in the U.S. has been particularly grievous with two mass shootings grounded in racism and misogyny further dividing our country. I send out love and a breathe of solidarity to all feeling the heartbreak of this trauma.
If you have been following my work, you know how deeply I believe in our fundamental interconnectedness and oneness with all beings including the more-than-human world. In my grief and outrage, it would be easier to just give up and the last few days have tested my faith in the healing power of art. At the same time, I have continue to show up in the morning and paint my heart on the canvas. What else am I to do, I ask?
I also agree with one of my spiritual teachers, Marianne Williamson, who is running for President. The forces of hatred are so strong that we must LOVE with the same (or more) intensity and conviction. Love of self, love of the neighbor & stranger, love of beauty, love of mother earth.
I don’t know how Julian of Norwich (who inspired the painting above), who lived as an anchoress during the Black Death in Europe, was able to say: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well” but it helps to remember that there have been other dark periods in our human history. And that art and beauty have likewise prevailed. Will you join me in this revolutionary love?
If you would like to support this ministry, you can purchase prints, posters, blankets, and note cards at my online store.
With love and gratitude,
“Sacred Art. Sacred Activism” in the August issue.
From the introduction:
We are living in a time of great change: racial, economic, and political polarities continue; climate change is contributing to record wildfires, drought, and other natural disasters across the globe; and mass shootings are sadly becoming normative to our daily lives.
There is much to grieve as we bear witness to our changing world. In tandem with what has been defined as the great unraveling, many of us are already participating in the birth of a new evolutionary consciousness as the Science of Mind community has long affirmed. Out of this darkness there is a collective rebirth yet to come with the light of love as our guide. As we navigate this threshold between a dying paradigm and a world that works for all, can art hold out a mirror to the truth of our oneness and the sacredness of all creation? Can art inspire hope and action on behalf of the living earth?
Throughout history, human beings have given expression to God, the Divine. Consider the cave paintings of Lascaux, the Hagia Sophia mosque in Turkey, or the golden icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church. To quote the late Irish philosopher John O’Donohue: “God is Beauty.” Sacred art is born of the marriage between the Holy and the creative imagination.
The Science of Mind magazine is available at Barnes and Noble and by subscription. https://scienceofmind.com/
|“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!
“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
It has been a slow unfolding here since my last newsletter. Settling into my new home and studio here in Panther Branch Township just south of downtown Raleigh. It’s now six months since I pulled out of Portland and headed back East to begin a new chapter of life. Something I swore I would never do after moving alone to Portland in 1993. It was hard then and I was in my early 30s. It took time to make a life but a beautiful life it was and remain so grateful for all the many gifts over the years.
Never say never. Here I am approaching 60 and starting over again! Natural concerns about finding community, making meaningful connections, and making a living linger but life–and loss–have taught me too many times that everyday is a gift. Some days I am lonely but on this day of life, I am following my soul. Where it will lead remains a mystery. This is the journey of a pilgrim. Will you join me? “Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life” to quote Oliver. Where are you being called to expand and take a step toward your soul calling? Artistically or otherwise?
Right now, I am committed to finishing the “Where We Stand is Holy” installation by the end of August to begin exhibiting in the Fall. I began the series of paintings around endangered species and landscapes several years ago but got put aside while care taking my father prior to his death and with the cross-country move. Prints of the first two panels (Lauds: Prayer for the Birds and “Sext: Prayer for the Desert”) are available at my shop.
The new studio seen above looks out over a quiet piece of land with wild trees, a little pond, and an abundance of Cardinals and Eastern Bluebirds. I traveled 3000 miles to find peace. Om shanti. Though I do look forward to returning to Portland to visit friends!
For love of the EARTH,
It has been a slow emergence from the cocoon this winter season as I ground into my new home state of North Carolina. Now we’ve passed the New Year, Imbolc on February 2, the mid-point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox in the Celtic tradition, and the start of the Chinese New Year-the year of the Pig. If you’re this sign as well, visit this link to learn more. Looks to be an auspicious year!
There are stirrings of creative energy around the coming season of rebirth as trees begin to bud and bloom here. Perhaps you’re feeling this impulse, too? New paintings are percolating, several are in process, and I recently completed the painting above. When I first painted in the golden crown, I wasn’t clear why until I deepened into the piece. An ancient Sumerian goddess, Inanna’s underworld journey is an archetypal symbol of transformation and rebirth. I first discovered her 18 years ago during another time of deep transformation and if you would like to learn more about her, this is a great text.
Here, she emerges from the yoni, or womb, of the Vesica Piscis, the two intersecting triangles that are considered the “seat of creation” in sacred geometry. One circle representing the transcendent/Sacred and the other, the material/profane. Two circles lead to seven intersecting triangles that become the “Seed of Creation.” This being the foundation for the six-pointed Star of David in Judaism, the Seal of Solomon in Islam, the Shri Yantra in Hinduism, and the hexagram that appears throughout Nature, like the honeycomb seen here in the painting.
I love learning more about sacred geometry as it offers another way to communicate the Sacred that is woven throughout the fabric of our everyday lives. We are interconnected beings. Bridging religion and science, we can discover more commonalities than differences especially among our faith traditions. From Albert Einstein: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
New studio space coming!
I’ve also been in the process of looking for a new home and studio space and am scheduled to close on a new property March 19, right in line with Spring Equinox. This is the photo below of the converted garage that will be the new home of Sacred Art Studio, based in Raleigh.
I continue to feel profound gratitude for your support of this holy ministry and Mother Earth for her beauty and abundance. I’m also feeling hopeful these days with the changes in our Congress and the growing climate awareness/actions especially from our young people. They need our support for their future! As always, I welcome your thoughts.
With love and gratitude,
From my December Newsletter:
There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.
Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.
Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.
Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen
nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.
-David Whyte. Excerpt from “All the True Vows”
After returning from the Parliament of the World’s Religions last month and a whirlwind time closing my home/studio and visiting friends, I arrived in Durham, North Carolina ten days ago. It was difficult to leave Oregon after 25 amazing years there but Portland is no longer the livable city that I fell in love with and was guided to make a radical change in order to continue following my soul’s journey where ever it may lead. I continue to ask, “How best can I serve our ailing albeit beautiful world with what is mine to offer?” This has been a leap into the mystery and the territory of faith.
I’m not sure Durham will be my new home ground but have a short-term lease on house that is my transition space to ground back into my work, make connections, and explore the region. As we approach the Winter Solstice, this is an ideal time to carve out some precious time in your life and go inward, reflect on the passing year, and vision for the new. What is the “one life that waits beyond all the others” to borrow from Whyte? If you had one year to live, what changes if any would you make in your life?
Our time in this bodily realm is so ephemeral and sitting with this again as another dear friend and colleague enters his dying time. Allowing the grief and present to the preciousness of existence. There was also an urgency that came through at the Parliament from every corner of the globe around climate change. That we must join together as people of faith and conscience–in the spirit of MLK, Rosa Parks, and Gandhi–to ensure a livable planet for all beings and future generations. I returned inspired by so many voices contributing to a more inclusive, loving, and sustainable world.
I also spent a lot of time in the Lodge of Nations and was deeply inspired by the generosity of our First Nations peoples to share their ancient knowledge and affirm the importance for each of us to rediscover our own indigenous roots. To quote Anishinabek elder Elder Jim Dumont: “We have to believe in the beauty of this world.” Still processing this but look forward to sharing more soon around what art/actions may emerge….
Bow of gratitude to all the friends who drummed and prayed for us all the way across this beautiful country. And angels that guided us as we navigated snowy mountain passes, the Mojave desert, and heavy construction through major cities. We felt your support all the way!
A blessed and joyful holiday season to all.
In gratitude and love,
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:
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!