Spiritual Ecology Convergence at UBC

IMG_1127
The art exhibit is in the lobby of the Liu Institute for Global Issues. Behind the mandala set up is a framed, giclee print of “Lovers of Creation” that I shipped earlier for the show.
IMG_1128
First Nation’s Beau Dick is a Canadian Northwest Coast Native artist of Kwakwaka’wakw descent. He opened the Wednesday talks with the creation story of his people and a blessing prayer for the day. 
IMG_1133
The Japanese Gardens around the Asia Center are stunning and peaceful. The whole UBC campus is really beautiful.
IMG_1134
Nice start to our community mandala.
 
IMG_1137
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim from the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology via Skype introducing their documentary “Journey of the Universe” that is narrated by Brian Swimme.

IMG_1140
Art opening and discussions continue.
 
IMG_1144
Beauty making.
 
IMG_1147
Walking the universe story.

IMG_1155
Learning to make fire (without matches or lighter) from Nikki Van Schyndel of ‘Becoming Wild.’
 
IMG_1157
Our final mandala offering that will be remain in the lobby of the Liu Institute until the show comes down in November.
 

Last month I journeyed north to attend and participate in the first Spiritual Ecologies and New Cosmologies Convergence at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. It was a wonderful and inspiring gathering of people who care passionately about our beloved earth to envision and plan how we might join in solidarity to ensure a liveable planet for future generations and all our species. A wide variety of topics and speakers ranged from First Nation’s, Judaism, Muslim, Hinduism, Buddhism, Unitarian, Thomas Berry and the new cosmology, shamanism and art, Christianity and Bioregionalism, Occupy Vancouver and intentional community, and one of my favorites, “Jesus as Shaman.” I also brought the nature mandala ceremony to the event and participated in the group art exhibit which will remain up through November. You can learn more about the artists and speakers at this link http://holyscapes.wordpress.com/spiritual-ecologies-and-new-cosmologies-convergence/ Bow of gratitude to Jason Brown of UBC for bringing us all together in conversation.

People’s Climate March 9/21/14

kids and mandala march scene Climate March Mandalame climate march
Bow of gratitude to all that contributed to the co-creation of our gorgeous community mandala during the People’s Climate March. We added our blessings, gratitude, and intentions to this offering that was gifted to the river, sending out our prayers for the healing of the earth and her creatures in all directions. This process is a meaningful symbol of our solidarity and interconnectedness in the web of life.

May this day ignite action in the hearts and minds of people around the world to begin the necessary ecological reparation to ensure a livable planet for future generations and all creatures. For love of the earth!

Mihrab Tree of Life & Sacred Geometry

Mihrab Tree of Life: 2014, 36x48," Acrylic & Jewels. Inspired by the Islamic Tradition
Mihrab Tree of Life: 2014, 36×48″ ©Amy Livingstone

“The artist attempts to make inner truths visible, audible, or sensible in some way, by manifesting them in the external, material world (through drawing, painting, song, etc.). To produce their finest works, artists lose themselves in the flow of creation from their inner worlds. The visionary artist creatively expresses her or his personal glimpses of the Divine Imagination.” -Alex Grey, Visionary Artist 

Although many visionary artists employ entheogens to ignite visions of the transcendent, my work emerges out of a profound mystical experience that occurred twelve years ago. This awareness of our radical inter-connectedness in the web of creation continues to inform the thread that I follow around my life and work. From this experience and wanting to better understand the historical roots of our religious traditions, and how Western civilization had become dis-connected from our place in the life web, I attended graduate school at Marylhurst University here in Portland. It was post 9/11, I was mid-forties, a lapsed Protestant, and knew very little about Islam except for the poetry of Rumi. To my surprise, Islam emerged out of the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity in 610c.e. So much of what the media puts out around Islam is misleading. Sadly, there are fundamentalist groups in every religion and I think it’s important to remember that Christianity also has a long history of violence against the other including women and the genocide of Native Americans on this continent. I often contemplate what the original founders, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, would think of the ways their visions around love for God and the neighbor have been distorted over the millennia. I hold out some small hope that as Catholics and Protestants eventually found peace, so perhaps shall the Sunni and Shia. In the meantime, I pray for the innocent civilians in Iraq and those in Israel and Gaza who are suffering.

So, how does art contribute to this conversation?
I’ve always loved the beauty of Islamic art and had been researching this sacred art for some time in preparation for the painting shown above. Because there can be no representations of Allah(God), the sacred art of Islam is expressed through sacred geometry, arabesque (the winding vines), and calligraphy. The mihrab is a niche inside a mosque, facing east towards the Kabba in Mecca, and the direction that Muslims must pray. According to my research, the mihrab is also considered the place where the divine presence dwells on earth. So, my vision was to find a way to bridge the immanent (cosmology) and the transcendent (God) within the Islamic tradition.

I began studying sacred geometry and for any of you who have explored this realm you know that it is a vast landscape where one can spend an entire life wandering. Shown here is my drawing of the “Seed of Life,” the seven intertwining circles that represent the seven days of creation. From this, what emerges are two intersecting triangles that form the Star of David (Judaism) and the Seal of Solomon (Islam). The seed of life rests amidst the cosmos/stars on the floor inside the mihrab. The arabic in the heart of the compass within the tree of life translates as love in Arabic.
sacredgeometry_mihrab

It might also surprise some to discover that the Prophet Mohammed was considered an environmental steward. The Hadith, a companion text to the Qur’an, details reports of statements or actions of Muhammad that include his philosophy on the natural world. I saved this issue of Parabola magazine with articles on religion and the holy earth from grad school: “The Prophet’s (SAW) environmental philosophy is first of all holistic: it assumes a fundamental link and interdependency between all natural elements and bases its teachings on the premise that if man abuses or exhausts one element, the natural world as a whole will suffer direct consequences….The three most important principles of the Prophet’s philosophy of nature are based on the Qur’anic teachings and the concepts of tawhid (unity), khalifa (stewardship) and amana (trust).” -Francesca De Chatel, from Environmentalism and Islam, Parabola, 2007.

I hope you find this as interesting as I have during the research and creation of this sacred art. If you have any thoughts about what I have shared, please feel free to send me your feedback. Part of creating peace is starting the dialogue and finding the common threads of our shared humanity.

Mihrab and Tree of Life

IMG_0866 IMG_0870 IMG_0871
Good day in the studio yesterday. Putting the final details on the ‘Mihrab Tree of Life’ (working title) painting inspired by the Sufi/Islamic tradition. I so appreciate all the meaning and symbolism behind each pattern of sacred geometry. It’s no wonder the works of art from this region feel so holy. To quote the late poet John O’Donohue: “God is beauty.” ‘Arabesque designs, or islimi in Persian, are complements to the geometric patterns. They aim not to imitate the plant kingdom naturalistically but to distill visually the essence of rhythm and growth it manifests, recalling the archetypal Gardens of Paradise.’ (from Islamic Designs, by Daud Sutton). The five pointed star, or pentagram, crosses numerous spiritual traditions including Islam (as well as Wicca!) and embodies numerous interpretations. It also appears on mosques and in their religious icon. It’s amazing to me that we humans share more similarities than we are often aware of, if we could only look beyond differences and dogma.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi