Saturday, August 19, 2017
Before we set off upon a new journey, whether it be a physical one, a fresh course of study, starting a new job, moving to a new city, or even pursuing a new spiritual path we need to spend time preparing ourselves.
Friday, July 14, 2017
Pathway 10 is entitled Concentration. Focusing in on what is important in my life right now helps me to see opportunities that I may be missing. I fortunately am good at finishing projects that I begin but I do realize that at times I take on too many projects at one time and at times projects that are merely distractions from what I should be working on; the all important lesson of learning boundaries and how to say no.
|Pathway 10 Concentration.|
So this is about embodying focus and my mind immediately goes to nature and in particular gardens and flowers. We envision what we want to grow and we plan. A contained garden is a symbol of our own soul held within our bodies and at its center is our heart. Preparing this page I knew I wanted to have a garden in the background with a lovely gate. So there is a very subtle water colored garden beyond. I found an image of this wrought iron scrolled gate in a magazine, it was an ad for a purse. Using an exacto knife I concentrated on the task of cutting it out which took a fair amount of time. The peony and butterfly symbolize focused awareness, joy and transformation. So this page reminds me to focus on what it is that brings me joy...yeah sometimes we forget, get off on a tangent, but that's okay because sometimes we need to explore other possibilities, gain a new perspective by stepping away.
There are accompanying meditations with each pathway and in this one the author says to ask your self some questions as you focus upon your body and breath. I learned what wants to be expressed in my life next and how, if I listen to my body and intuition it will not steer me wrong.
The next pathway takes our envisioned inspiration and gets it moving, Carving and Forming, pathway 11.
|Pathway 11 Carving and Forming.|
In the background of this page you will see a geometric configuration and stars in different sizes and shapes, this represents the pieces of existence and of my life. The large arched jeweled bracelet symbolizes the art and skill of creating beauty. The hand covered in paint the creative action needed to carve out an inspired life and within the hand a magic wand to remind me of the mysteries and awe that I feel within the creative process. It is actually an image of a floor lamp!
So we've envisioned and started working on our project, what's next? Radiating Creativity, pathway 12!
The author writes, "Feeling the potential to create something completely new and different from nothing." So this is about the process, about the creation of movement. So naturally to me I think water, fluidity.
|Pathway 12 radiating creativity.|
This process mirrors the idea that our expression is a reflection of the Divine but one that is not stationary, rather it is always moving like a breath. So to my mind when I create the movement it is as natural as swimming through water, like breathing.
So in my collage a woman swims outwards from a large oyster shell, coming out of her shell to express her light, her gifts which are precious pearls. There is freedom in her movement, she is liberated from her confines. "...being like a fountain, or a spring bubbling from deep within. When we dive into art it has the ability to transport and transform us. Is it any wonder that I just had to add glitter to this page because I so understand and resonate with this pathway!?
Life is all about movement. What will you put in to motion today? What pearl of creativity wants to be brought up into the light of your expression? String them one by one around your neck and wear them near your heart because we all know that pearls must be worn close to the skin in order to bring out there full lustrous beauty.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
|Pathway 6 Support.|
I am loving the process that is taking place within as I explore each pathway from "The Sufi Book of Life, 99 Pathways to the Heart" by Neil Douglas-Klotz, through art. As I have explained in two earlier posts I was inspired to take my exploration of this book and its teachings deeper through various mediums within an art journal. So here are the next 4 pages.
Pathway 6- Support. Something that my Mother instilled in me as a young child was her constant love and support and the importance of encouraging those around you. As a child I knew I was loved, that I was cherished, and that in turn gave me confidence and the feeling that I was safe. This image reminded me of her, she always had a halo of flour and bits of dough in her rings upon her hands. She guided me in life as she did in the kitchen when she taught me to cook. Her hands have always been a symbol of love to me because it was through her hands that she expressed that love, and in every thing she did. The quote is one that I came across that I felt my Mom would have agreed with whole heartedly; that it would have been "a deprivation to not be able to give one's gifts to those one loves most."
This teaching is about trusting that the support of the Universe, of Unity, is always with you, faith. And it's funny because my Mom used to say that she always struggled with the concept of faith, yet she, to me, embodied that principle entirely.
Through symbols I have included "amen" which this pathway translates as meaning, "We affirm that what we have just said will be the ground of our actions, the earth from which our new growth will spring." I love that definition which means more to me because it creates a living movement between the words of my heart to the actions that are a result of my intent. Sharing takes on a new level of holiness.
|Pathway 7 Protection Blanket.|
Protection- Pathway 7, I immediately envisioned the Universe as a blanket so I created a collaged quilt out of blue and white papers, a color scheme that I especially love, to wrap around myself. I especially connected with the idea that we are both separate from yet a part of the greater whole. Everything comes from the Universe yet we must act our part, be the expression, create movement. We can't just hide under the blanket and hope for the best. We can wear the blanket about our shoulders for comfort and strength but we still have to do our part to care for ourselves and for others.
|Strength of Form, Pathway 8.|
Strength of Form- Pathway 8 is about knowing that the strength that flows through the Universe, that is moving through your own being at this moment, is the same strength that moves in every living thing.
I immediately envisioned this page earthy in color and texture so it is collaged in brown and rust tones, birch bark paper, stone and of course, center stage is an elephant with tusks and leathery skin, the epitome of wise and gentle strength. This is about matter, our physical form and that yes we will be scarred and bruised from our journey, our 'hide' may become thickened to feeling emotions because of it, but we must move and work with this energy to the best of our abilities. We can gather strength from the earth to help us create lives of purpose.
Al Aziz translates to meaning "compressed life breath" which leads to strength but you must be aware that this can also lead to arrogance. So be mindful... your strength does not come from you but rather from the Universe around you.
|Repair & Restoration- Pathway 9.|
This is a proactive pathway...meaning you need to heal thyself; do whatever it takes, gather your strength from the Universe, get creative and allow it to help you heal your self. For me art and writing, creating with my hands and being in nature have been instrumental in my own personal journey of healing. The green background symbolizes this healing energy; the pink grape paper of the heart stands for fruitfulness; the open wild roses for blossoming love; and the Bee for extracting the sweetness of life, for industry and my connection with the Divine Feminine. Love letters to myself can be found in the small envelope and tucked within my heart which I sewed together with green thread. To me this page hums with energy and hope.
|Love letter to my Self. I am...|
In conclusion, Support, Protection, Strength and Restoration- all qualities that we have available to us and that we need to experience in our lives and ones that we need to embrace ourselves within our daily lives. They all ask us to embody movement. I like to think of this movement as Light- 'Support your light', 'Protect your light', 'Strengthen your light' and 'Restore your light' and in doing so you will then be able to 'Share your light.' In much love and light...
Thursday, June 15, 2017
|The Moon of Love Sufi Pathway 2.|
The journey of exploring the 99 Pathways of the Heart from the Sufi Book of Life, through the expression of art, continues. I will be sharing four more art journal pages in this post.
As I make my way through the book I find that I have the distinct feeling that I am not alone as I explore my spirituality through art. Sometimes I feel a real pull to start right in on a page and then at other times it seems that it takes days, sometimes even a week to fully prepare and all along the way I feel this presence leading me, sometimes pushing me forward. All of a sudden I know when it is time to sit down and create. Pieces seem to naturally come together.
The Moon of Love, Pathway 2, asks you to look at how you receive love and compassion in your life. It is about creating a space within your self large enough to receive as much as you give. When I think about giving and receiving I realize that I am much more comfortable with giving than I am with the receiving and the levels of both need to be balanced in our lives, a continuous flowing stream of give and take. I especially loved the accompanying poem by Sufi Hafiz, which gave me the inspiration for the collage;
"The Sun is the wine, the moon is the cup. Pour the sun into the moon if you want to be filled..."The liquid movement you pour into your life fills you with ecstasy, joy, and compassion. How do you look at what you receive...are you thirsty for more or are you parched from lack? Is your heart overflowing, bottomless. It reminds us to reflect this love to help transform our world.
|The I Can Power of the Cosmos, Pathway 3.|
I felt like I was "diving into the depths" with this one, Pathway 3-The 'I Can Power of the Universe.' Hence my little diver preparing to jump in to the blue-green clear waters. This pathway invites you to just go for it, get your hands dirty. Be who you are, express yourself, create your life whole heartedly. Stop "playing it safe". Bloom. Be vibrant, alive, be awash in color, stand tall. Look at life with a different perspective, a unique eye.
I found this image of a model in a beautiful gown and cape with a light that made her look ethereal, ghost-like. I fell in love with the image. She is confident, radiating light. This pathway asks us to realize our own power and then take responsibility for it. We must go the distance, dive in and immerse ourselves in life if we are ever to realize our own full potential. I had fun working with watercolors on this one. The painting in the background I continued on the page with paint, letting it flow and grow, something that I am doing in my own life. Envision it. Yes, you can!
|Sacred Space, Pathway 4.|
I broke out the watercolors again and painted a peaceful and calm lake of blues and lavenders. At the bottom of the page is a rivers bank with stones to step out on to. In the center of the page is a round, focused landscape of a mountain with its reflection clear in the waters below, which to me symbolizes our connection to the Divine. This reminds me that I must have a clear vision of what I want to create in my life. I have always been searching for peace and truth. I must feel peace in my 'heart glass' and reflect that clearly outwards if peace is what I want to create in my life.
What do I make room for in my life? I have many interests as I am curious and want to explore this life fully. So all of the things that I make a conscious effort to include are creativity, friends, family, my writing, collage, meditation, and my dear animals amongst other things. I will always have a flow of interests. There are also things that I know I need to bring more intention to, like more love and being fully mindful. All of these things are blessings as they are sacred and need to be treated as such.
"When dust clouds your heart glass how can the mirror clear? Remove the dust and rays reveal your real face."
Peace at the Beginning, Pathway 5.
This pathway reminds me too that at one time there was nothing but space so why do I waste time worrying about problems and petty difficulties? Life is a precious blessing, I am grateful. I am thankful for all of the people who have helped me throughout my life. Peace be with all of you...
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Signe Widestrand, my Grandmother, age about 17.
My maternal grandmother Signe Widestrand Russell, 1898-1993, was quite a talented needle woman and weaver, amongst other things. I inherited her trunks full of hand made sheets and pillow cases, drapes, towels, clothes and table runners of varying shapes and sizes. As I pull the individual pieces from the trunks now I imagine her and her younger sisters all sitting together, heads bent to their intricate work, dreaming of their futures as they worked on the linens that would fill each of their own dowry trunks. My fingers lightly follow a line of tiny, fine stitches. I marvel at how the backs of cross stitched runners are as neat and tidy as the fronts. I wonder at the hours that were invested to create the geometric folk art designs on the rugs.
|Cut work trim on a sheet.|
|Detail of embroidered blouse.|
|Blouse with embroidered details.|
I didn't know of my grandmothers skill until I was in my teens. I discovered her treasure trove of handwork held within two trunks in her bedroom when we were moving her from Massachusetts to Southern California. My father's job with the Department of Defense was transferring us to San Diego.
I remember pulling a long woven rug from one of the trunks and falling in love with the earthy tones and the geometric folk art pattern's. One rug after the other I unrolled, followed by an assortment of woven pillow covers. My exclamations brought my Grandmother into the room. She promptly rolled them all back up and stowed them away once again, her mouth a thin, straight line. These things were not to be used, nor touched. I could not understand then or now why anything so beautiful would not be shared. What was the point of making them if you didn't use or at least display them? Eventually I convinced her to at least hang a few of her weaving's on the walls and during the holidays the Yule runners finally saw the light of candles and twinkling lights, even if it was for a brief time once a year.
|Signe and Lill-Sie, my Mother. 1936.|
Early on I was drawn to embroidery which was a wonder as my Mother, Lill-Sie, hated anything to do with a needle and/or sewing. She had memories of being forced to sit and sew in school and had no further desire or really any aptitude for it she admitted as she was too impatient. Somehow it was never mentioned that her mother was so adept until my find.
|fragment of an embroidered runner.|
Signe used to go to museums and copy patterns. Some of the runners, now so very fragile and torn, were un-salvageable, so we saved at least blocks of designs which I hope to attach to other things. Later during the 1920's and the popularity of Egyptian designs she made a number of drapery panels embroidered with scarabs.
|Cross stitch decorated handkerchief bags.|
|Cross Stitch floral pattern from a runner.|
Grandmother rugs and pillow covers with fringe, in earthy tones and traditional patterns.
|Hand woven rugs and pillow covers.|
As for now I refold and roll and put the linens and rugs back in the trunks. I can't help but wish that my Grandmother had taken the time to pass on her knowledge and skills to me. It would have been perhaps a way for us to connect with each other on a different level as a crafts person teaches a student. And perhaps sitting together she would have reminisced about her sisters and her childhood, something she never talked about either, it was her memories and her family and she didn't want to share them either. She was the eldest of 10 children and the only one of her family to come to the United States in the 1920's. She lived in her adopted country longer than her homeland.
Threads interwoven to create beauty and perhaps too they were the warps and wefts that kept her connected to home and family as she created a new life in a new land. Stitches in time, laid one by one, woven together with memories and now they grace my life but I will share them forward and celebrate my Grandmother's skill. Tack sa mycket.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
A wonderful book came into my life 2 years ago, "The Sufi Book of Life- 99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish" by Neil Douglas-Klotz. Every day I have used the book in my eclectic spiritual practice believing that if you find a truth that resonates within you then you are supposed to use it in your life. So I thought to share the pages as I create them from time to time in small groups. I won't go into all of the details of each page but rather share highlights. They all contain my thoughts and personal journaling musings.
Sufism is the mystical side of Islam and though I am not a religious person, I am quite spiritual and I find the pathways to be beautiful, wise and quite meaningful at this junction in my life. The pathways have brought me peace and comfort in my own personal journey through grief and many life changes. That being said earlier this year I had an inspiration...what if I started at the beginning and explored each pathway through art? So I decided to start a new journey in an art journal created just for my Self, my heart path's.
To begin I needed of course to find a journal and I had a thought one day that there was an old scrapbook of my Grandmother's packed away in an old leather suitcase that was never used. I dug it out and it was a bit worn and tattered from being packed away for at least 60 years, but it was time it was used. I created a new collaged cover for it and appropriately enough "Explore" is across the top. Incorporating techniques from Soul Art I started this project with meditation, intent and body mapping. My hand, cut out from birch bark paper, holds a nest with a gold finch and three eggs. One of my very favorite poems about healing in the book is by Shabistari (Sufi poet and teacher) and says "...only here the bird of your breathe can nest and rest in the palm of the Beloveds hand...".
The goldfinch symbolizes awakening to nature, deepening your perceptions, listening and communicating on all levels and energy and movement, all things very important to me. The dragonfly represents the power of light. The nest is a personal symbol of hope and the number three represents the soul, communication and joy. The iris is another long time symbol in my life and represents wisdom and passion and the happy- faced pansies, free thought.
The first chapter of the book is called "Setting out on the Journey".
This too I decided to explore with, "we begin by remembering, the sound and feeling
of the One Being, the well spring of love..."
A butterfly emerging seemed apropos; transformation,
|Starting out on the journey...collage/watercolor|
symbolizing watchfulness and vision, the ivy for growth and resurrection, and a symbol of the Divine Feminine, always included in my art.
"Every being is born for a certain purpose and the light of that purpose is kindled in its soul." Saadi
|The Yes and No of Existence, Pathway 0.|
"waves broke, awareness rose again..." This pathway is about knowing
yourself and finding the balance between your light and shadow,
emotions and intellect, it's about letting go, immersing yourself in
"unity's ocean." We are alone but we are also a part of creation and thus
|The Sun of Love, Pathway 1|
Again I used body mapping, using my heart, since this pathway explores compassion, radiating love. From behind the heart, rays of sun shine forth and from the center a sun
rises. Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion looks on and a
quote by Wesley reminds us to "Do All the Good You Can..." A yellow peony, beauty, completes the page.
At times in our lives we must let go of who we think we
are in order to feel more deeply, in order to let our own light shine, so that we can move on to a new expression of our selves and our experience. We put limitations upon ourselves when we hold on to out dated images of ourselves. We must extend a hand of compassion to our own spirit before we can extend it outward to others.
"Knower and known are one..."
I encourage you to explore your spirituality through art, it will add a whole new level of understanding for you. Explore!
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Time has been on my mind this week. Not in the sense of not having enough of it nor of being aware of even its passing but rather as a subject that keeps coming up in conversations and when a reoccurring theme keeps persistently poking at my attention I take it as a hint and listen.
In a recent conversation I was told by a friend that she felt our spiritual community did not have the time for the depth of connection that I was looking for (hmmm, this gave me pause for thought.) Another conversation with a complete stranger, a harassed phlebotomist in a lab who, spurred on by an impatient person before me who stomped out, went on to consider people and their concept of taking too much of their time. This led to her considering how fast time was fleeting in her own life. She concluded her review with the intention to take three whole days off for her wedding anniversary to celebrate with her husband. Maybe they would even take a weekend trip to Amish country to buy her husbands favorite cheese she stated. Again and again the theme of time played on as I often would overhear snatches of time related comments, read about time in articles, social media, and in the messages of emails. Time is on every one's minds these days it seems.
What is time and what is our perception of time? The definition of time is the "indefinite continued progress of existence", the measurement of a sequence of events. Before mechanical clocks time was measured by sand, wind, candles and shadows.
Twenty four hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute. Our existing time keeping methods date back to the Sumerians in 2000BC and is called a sexagesimal numeral system
with a base of 60. It is also defined as the "duration regarded as belonging to the present life as distinct from the life to come or from eternity, finite duration." To say we are watching the "progress of our existence" seems to give it more respect, more weight to our measure of it.
Even in our language we use words to describe our relationship with time, all of which have an edge of movement to them...you can be "behind the times" or "ahead of your time"; in a "race against time", or perhaps even "arrive in the nick of time"; We look forward to the "times of our lives" or "have too much time on our hands" and occasionally we all need a "time out." We are directed to "bide our time" in case we "have a devil of a time" but then again it is "only a matter of time." "Time will tell," "all in good time". Grab life when the "time is ripe" and someday you may even "hit the big time." Will your love "stand the test of time" and "oh, how time flies." "Time heals all wounds" we are told yet too, "time is of the essence" and if you are in doubt "the third time is the charm." But of course "you have all the time in the world." Statements about time can be used as judgments accusing others of "wasting time". But who is to say what is a waste of time to another?
Nearly everyone seems to define their lives now in relation to their "busyness" level. The definition of the word busy is " to be actively and attentively engaged in work or a past time." The key word I believe here is "attentively". Are we busy, truly mindfully, of what we are doing or are we just living from one reaction to another?
|Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory with the famous melting clocks.|
A truly generous and caring friend gave me the gift of "time to breathe" (her words) four years ago. Deep in grief, reeling from life changing events, with a profound sense of loss of my own identity, physically and emotionally exhausted and having experienced my own 'dark night of the soul' I came here to gain a different perspective, to exhale. Sometimes we just need to come to a full stop.
In the Sufi Book of Life there are 99 pathways to Unity and one in particular is called "Returning to Rhythm". It calls for one to stop and let go so that the heart can return to its natural rhythm. When the dust settles we can see more clearly and we are better able to make decisions about the next steps to take. Coming to a full stop I was able to reassess my life and the direction it was going in at the time. I gradually came to understand that I had taken a detour, had actually been going in the opposite direction of my own nature. Finally able to hear the whispers of my own heart I charted a new path and began to heal. Swept up in years of busyness I had allowed the ego voice of fear to dictate my actions. Standing in the center of my own being in silence reawakened parts of myself that had been stifled and closed off. The light of focus and concentration gave them strength to reemerge.
"What your heart can hold, the body can accomplish."-Jilani
Concentrating on what is important to you in your life opens you to experiences that will help you to express your passions and share your unique light. Yes, you may still have to do the grocery shopping, cook dinner and take out the trash but it's about finding balance and when you are in the flow of expressing your bliss everything you do is charged with the light of happiness. Being focused helps you to make each step count. How you begin, carry through and complete your expression is a teaching about your own inner strength. When you can feel the potential of your own creativity you will radiate with confidence. You will no longer be just busy, you will be fully engaged in your own growth.
"It means developing the energy of the heart, which is planted with interest, sprouts with affection and then blossoms into something for which the word love is only a shadow." Neil Douglas-Klotz
If I hadn't stepped off the treadmill of my old life I may not have found the trail that led me back to my passions and the dreams that I had buried deeply within my heart. Once I embraced my new sense of right timing I reconnected to my own natural rhythm and I now breathe with a renewed sense of purpose. When I think of the past four plus years now I am reminded of the Charles Dickens quote from his novel "A Tale of Two Cities"..."It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." for as we grow we need both the shadow and the light . We need the essence of both in order to become whole, in order to breathe. In order to find and pursue our purpose we must be willing to stand in our center and let time pass us by. Let your minutes and hours be ones filled with genuine connection. May the time you have be just enough time...