Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Breathing With My Heart

     I am a walker by nature. To immerse myself in the landscape, rather than merely viewing it from afar, is to experience a real connection to the land, a kinship.

     Perhaps it is my creative eye that constantly seeks out the details of the wonders that hide within the tall grasses and wildflowers, on the woodland floor, or even in a city park; to catch the sparkle of reflected light from the wing of a dragonfly; to trace with my fingers the imprint of a deer's hoof left in the mud of a creek bank; to hear the hollow drum sound of a woodpecker rhythmically tapping against a dead tree trunk; or watching as a hawk drops from the sky, talons first, as he hunts his dinner....all of these things speak to me intimately. Bit more importantly,  being in nature fills my heart to overflowing.

     This earth, I believe, is more than a place that we are merely living upon, separated in our existence from everything else, but rather that we are extensions of a whole and vital organism. We have the power to choose whether we share our gifts and add to the beauty of life or whether we selfishly hoard them and add to the imbalance that is rampant on earth at this time. 

     Walking is a meditation for me. Concentrating on my breath, on the changing landscape, everything falls away. Especially during times of my life filled with stress and pain, loss and grief, walking has literally been a life line, pulling me back up out of the depths of my own darkness into the light of day once again.

     Quite recently I found myself in a situation where I was deeply unhappy. I had made some life changing choices that I quickly discovered were not right for me. The choices that I had made I did not look on as mistakes because when you set out to try and make positive changes one never knows how they will work out. For what ever reasons the situation was not a good fit. When we have invested a lot of time, money and effort we naturally feel hesitant to uproot ourselves once again. Oh what to do, what to do?

Walk. Walk. And walk some more.

     Then, one day, a thought popped into my head. (Thank you guardian angels). Hearts. I have a collection of hearts made from stone, pottery, and glass. I grabbed a few and dropped them into the pocket of my coat and off I went on a walk. I started placing the hearts against the Earth, within the bark of trees, nestled in moss, in a nest, within flowing water and in the crooks of tree branches.

     My eyes scanned the landscape for just the right places to position my hearts. It was a creative outlet. It took my attention away from my problems and quieted my mind so that in the end I was able to truly listen and see with greater clarity which ultimately led me to making more changes.

      I didn't realize at first that a subtle conversation was taking place as I was happily taking my pictures. I was looking for a place for my heart.

     A place where my heart was engaged, full to over flowing, where it was loved and where it could express its own love, a home. Sometimes it takes leaving a place to realize that it was the right place.

     Home IS where the heart is, where it is engaged and nurtured and nourished. It is a place where your own heart is connected to the 'Heart of the Universe' for you.  I also feel that in placing these hearts within nature I am drawing attention to the fact that love is everywhere.

     My heart had decided where it wanted to be...

     (All pictures taken by myself. 2018.)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Healing. Receiving. Opening.

     A lady bug came to visit this morning. I watched as she intently made her way across the window screen above my desk. How apropos I thought as I sat to write and share about my continuing exploration of the "Sufi Book of Life, 99 Pathways of the Heart" By Neil Douglas-Klotz through the pages of my art journal. The symbolism of this tiny beetle couldn't be timelier; She speaks of a time to work on fulfilling your dreams; of letting things flow naturally; of leaving your worries behind you and to not be scared of living your truth; on being spiritually and mentally inquisitive; of opening to rebirth and joy. Thank you little one. I hear you. Yet another "sign" today...

     I love these moments when you have a sudden realization that your life is being mirrored back to you by nature and through art expression. It reminds me to be attentive; to sit in wonder of the connectedness of life and of the beauty in every moment; of the importance of being aware that there is a continuous conversation going on all around me if I will only pay attention and listen.

     With the addition of these three new journal pages I will have explored my heart and spirituality through the first 19 Pathways of the "Sufi Book of Life" this year.  It struck me that these last three pages reflect exactly what I have been experiencing and preparing for in this moment. "Flowing Blessings." "Sustenance." "Opening to Unity's Breath". Healing. Receiving. Opening. I am grateful.

     Nearly a year has passed since I began this project. My life is now in major transition so it is only natural and healthy to spend a period of time in reflection. It is time to take stock, honor the journey, and be open to what I have learned. My boat needs to float before the rowing begins again, which brings us aptly to the pathway, Al-Wahhab, Flowing Blessings.

Pathway 16, Flowing Blessings.

     Pathway 16, Flowing Blessings. This path invites you to enter the Divine Flow of blessings in your life. Flow with it, don't try to paddle, don't fight against the current, just float. Allow it to carry you and trust that it will take  you where you need to go. It's all about trust and relinquishing the egos tight grasp that believes it knows better. Looking on Sacred Unity as a river of love that carries us, we gradually learn to not throw stones that will disturb that flow. Living a spiritual life is about creating a relationship with the Sacred based on love and trust. As the author says it is a friendship that grows slowly or one that he likens to "a fire that is kindled slowly from tinder."

     In my collage I wanted to capture the feeling of movement. One side of the page is a fast moving river in winter, steam hangs over the water, white water is churned up over hidden rocks but the flow continues. And rivers run to the sea so on the other side is a calm ocean with an island, it's craggy spires reaching towards the sun.
I bordered and divided the two halves with gold coin, symbolizing the richness of blessings found in the give and take of this special relationship. Boats filled with brightly colored flowers and food flow from the river to the ocean representing abundance. The radiating flower at the top stands for Unity and connection. Love spelled out in water droplets connects the whole. Trust that the river will never run dry. Right now in my own life I am flowing on a river of blessings as a new tributary has opened up and I don't know where it will take me but I know that I must trust and go. I am grateful. Al-Wahhab, I bathe in a waterfall of blessings. I celebrate all the varied ways of Being.

Pathway 17 Sustenance. 

     Pathway 17, Sustenance, asks you to consider your relationship with how you give and how you receive on all levels. What feeds my soul, mind and body? What are my gifts and how do I share them? Am I being receptive and mindful of the many blessings in my life and am I connecting with the life energy of all that I am consuming? When is enough, enough?

     Every image on this page nurtures me deeply. Mono Lake is one of those places that I have experienced a deep emotional connection. High in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California this remnant of a vast inland sea lies silently in-waiting. Tufa towers rise like spires of fairy like castles
From her waters and on still days you can't tell where the sky ends and the water begins as the clouds are so perfectly reflected in her surface. I always feel connected here, energized, my whole Being filled.

     A bowl of soup, is there anything more nourishing and comforting? Filled with vegetables and steaming broth it warms your body as well as your heart. I think it is also the perfect example of a food that we can share with others especially when it is made with love.  The secret to good soup is in the layering  of flavor, the "trinity" my Mom used to say (and she was known as the soup maker) celery, onion and carrot.
They always went into the pot first to sweat, to mingle, to caramelize a little or a lot depending on the recipe. The making of soup is also a practical and mindful way to use up leftovers, those bits and pieces that may end up being thrown away. When we are not aware we waste precious resources. This can be said of many things in our lives...time, relationships, money and energy.

     The accompanying sound to meditate upon for this pathway is Ar-Razzaq. The root word Ra shows us a raying forth of energy and Zaq shows us the "conscious container created to hold this power". That being said I added a plate of food rising like a sun over the water.  I added a spoon, another container of sorts and a vehicle with which to share. It hovers over the soup bowl.  The spoon is filled with a vibrant spice suggesting that sharing adds depth and flavor to life. We have a responsibility to share and it is becoming more and more evident that for the consciousness of the people upon this planet to change we must lead with love, with giving and with care taking. There is more than enough for all if we will only share. By feeding others we in turn feed ourselves and it is within this balance that we honor both giving and receiving.

     Which leads us to "Opening to Unity's Breath"pathway 18, Al-Fattah. For me this could not be more on target. I have just recently moved to another state. I have said goodbye to family and friends, a place that I really did enjoy living, and a wonderfully supportive spiritual community because I heard this call to do something completely different. It was taking a leap of faith. It wasn't easy, it was emotional, it was painful but as the author says in his book, "what is there to be afraid of?" He asks us to not fear the opening, to instead find they key that unlocks the door to your purpose in life.

Opening to Unity's Breath, pathway 18.
     In the foreground of this page there is a precipice, a rock ledge. Some distance from the edge a beautiful blue door with flowers  at it's threshold hovers in the air. What does it promise? A Goddess symbolizing the Divine Feminine spirit, a halo of light in her hair, breathes outward, Al-Fattah...be opened. In Her breath feathers swirl and encircle a key that will unlock the door. It will take a leap of faith to reach that door. It requires both courage and trust. Are you able to let go of who you think you are? Are you willing to become, to open to something more? Again we return to how we give and how we receive; how we breathe in and how we exhale; one door closes and another door opens. Feel the Divine breath moving through you, guiding you, supporting you but know it is ultimately your choice, but why not, what do you have to lose? Isn't it far worse to stagnate, to have regrets. Take the leap...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Crowning Glories

Lydia. Found in NV.
     I have a weakness for antique photograph's of women, especially for unique and different ones. "Lydia" was the only information written on this striking photo. I love her strength, her intensity. No shrinking violet this woman. She wears this hat with confidence. A natural beauty.

Elegant woman.
     This photo had no name nor even a photographer's logo or city as some do.
This is an elegant woman in an amazing hat
which I would tentatively date to the 1890's to turn of the century. Her chapeau is complete with adornments, velvet and feather plumes. A lovely embossed leather clutch bag as well.

Postcard photo of lady.

     This photograph is a postcard which dates it after 1907 when Kodak made postcard backing available. This new concept made taking affordable photo's more accessible to rural America as keepsakes to share. On the back of this one, never mailed, written in pencil, it says, "from Mother to Huldiu. Was glad to hear from you once again." A day in town or perhaps on a holiday, purse in hand. Ever so slight smile on her lips. Her hat looks as solid and practical as she is.

Modern 1917 woman.

     This striking young woman was in-fashion as she posed for a profile shot of her wide-brimmed, floral embellished, sheer haloed hat in 1917. This  closer fitting
Hat did not need a hat pin and was easier to wear. This too is a postcard but has no message, name or city.

Mother & daughter.
     No they are not wearing hats but you must agree these are impressive, matching hair styles. Truly "Crowning glories"! I just had to share them in this post. No names, city and the photographers mark is too faint to read. Now that is some "big hair"!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Beauty in the Light

"My Sea, My Sister, My Tears by Ntombephi “Induna” Ntobela.

I recently had the opportunity to see the exhibit Ubuhle Women-Beadwork and the Art of Independence, at Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio. To say that their beadwork is dazzling, exquisite, or beautiful is an understatement. Words don't do it justice, nor do my pictures do these pieces their just do, but I had to share because I made a connection with them. Something spoke to me on an energetic level, definitely an emotional one, perhaps even a cellular level. 

The Ubuhle artists community was begun in 1999 as a way to empower women living and working together in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Working with traditional skills they produced a new beading style on  a black cloth called ndwango. Many of the women are single mothers and their art goes to help support their families. The name Ubuhle means "beauty" but specifically the "shimmering quality of light in glass" which also has special "spiritual significance." As someone who also has had a long love affair with the way light reflects through glass ( a childhood memory, see my earlier blog post "It Takes a Village) I totally understand. There is a quality of light that I find meditative, and these brightly colored, swirling designs of tiny glass beads mesmerized me this day.

The playful colors, the textures and patterns, the memories interwoven through out, like this one "My Mother's Peach Tree, speak of the simple joy of life and living. It is exuberant, it is hopeful. What strikes me is that women, even dealing with extreme poverty and illness still see and feel the beauty of life and nature and are desirous to create and share that beauty forward with others. Women always strive to make things beautiful for their loved ones. 

Each woman in the community works in her own style and an average panel can take up to 10 months to complete.

There are a number of beaded works of Bulls and it was explained that each woman spent time with that animal, getting to know it and taking pictures of it so that over the many months of beading work they would be able to remember its characteristics.

As I walked through the first room I read a quote from one of the woman who had since passed away from HIV/AIDS, a disease that has taken 5 women artists now from their collective and has devastated their villages. She spoke of beading throughout her illness, how it helped her get through her days, how she believed she was weaving her Self, her essence, her memory into her art, into the very fibers of the textile she was creating. Something of her to leave behind as she knew she would not survive and for a moment I felt her and all of the women. I saw their collective beauty reflected back in the shimmering light cast from the thousands upon thousands of tiny glass beads. I connected with their joys and sorrows in every flower, animal and bird.

At the conclusion of the main exhibit we were directed to go upstairs to see this final, massive piece entitled "The African Crucifixion" which is 15' high and took over one million beads, and a year to complete. Seven artists made the panels and cross that make up this work. I found that when you moved out from the piece different images came to life that you didn't see up close. Birds suddenly appeared in trees, the stars in the sky above twinkled and patterns came alive in the swirls of space.
It was magical, it was beautiful, it was alive with memories and it radiated love.

"The African Crucifixion."
Thank you for sharing your art, your lives and your dreams with us. You are all truly women inspirit.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Preparing for Transformation

     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

Moving with Focus into a New Existence

     Earlier this year I was inspired to create an art journal based upon the "Sufi Book of Life, 99 Pathways of the Heart" by Neil Douglas-Klotz. This is the next set of collages in that journey. These recent pages are concerned with the concentration and focus needed that leads to the movement of creating, with feeling the radiance of creativity working through us and finally to how we can work with this energy to design a new existence in our lives.
     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.

     Now we are in preparation and planting stage. We are moving our passion into form. We till the soil, amend, and prepare the foundation for the seeds so that they will have the most perfect conditions in which to grow. There are no shortcuts, it takes dedication and awareness to details at this point. This is where we really get our hands dirty.
     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

The Light of Support, Protection, Strength and Restoration- The Art Journal Journey Continues...

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 pathway, Repair and Restoration-Pathway 9, was especially meaningful for me in that I needed to focus upon healing my own heart which was broken from grief and loss. Symbolically I sewed and glued my own heart back together.

     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...