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...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More Pathways of My Heart- the Journey Continues

     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.

     Sacred Space, Pathway 4, found me experiencing a flow of peace and serenity which I believe I caught in the feel of this page. It encourages us to step out of the flow of busyness in our lives. It asks us to look at what we take the time to create space for in our you make space for what brings you joy?

     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.  

     Peace at the Beginning-Pathway 5. I wish this picture showed the depth of this page, the texture. It is the night sky and under the pastel colors of black, purple, green and blue there are embossed stars, stars upon stars. This was a meditation upon peace, what it looks like, feels like, how it is both changing and unchanging. This pathway reminds us that our ancestors looked up into the same night sky and believed the universe was very much like the "caravan of life". To look on the passing of time as a constant movement with the past before us up ahead and the future behind us. It gives one a different perspective into how we look at life and how we move. Does not our past lead us into our future and not always for the best? So it behooves us to look closely at what we are allowing to dictate our movements. If it is fear based we need to take a second look and clarify that what we are creating for our future is full of potential.

    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

An Inheritance of Thread

         Signe Widestrand, my Grandmother, age about 17.

      Women have always been the needle weavers, the creative 'adorners' with an eye for 'dressing up' even the simplest and most mundane of objects in order to make their homes, their clothes, and the lives of their families more beautiful. A needle or a loom, some colored threads or yarn and a bit of time and a room could be transformed from dull to extraordinary.

      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.
      This is the decorative hem of one of Signe's sheets. In cut work and drawn thread work the linen is cut away and then the holes are bound or filled, or just the weft or warp threads are removed and the remaining threads bound into patterns. Her initials in Satin stitch are above. I have a set of her sister Margit's sheets as well.

Detail of embroidered blouse.
     The fine, light blouse, so delicate, blooms with flowers. Perfect for a warm Mid summer day.

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.
 Scandinavians used a lot of cross stitch patterns; garlands, deer, butterflies, crowns, and flowers. Runners, linen bags of all shapes and sizes to keep handkerchiefs, under wear and collars flat and tidy.

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

Pathway to My Heart

     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,
metamorphosis, joy.

Starting out on the journey...collage/watercolor

     A peaceful watercolor scene, a branch with a peacock
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.    
                                                                              The Yes and No of Existence, Pathway 0 and the
                                              "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
                                                never alone.

The Sun of Love, Pathway 1
     Pathway 1 The Sun of Love

     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

The Essence of Time

      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 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. 

" The Human Being is not in control of his feelings, but he is in control of his movements."-Jilani

                       "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...