Significance

IMG_0001Remember those days in which you knew you could do anything? That one day you’d grow up and do something very important. Be the President of the United States. Discover the cure for Cancer. Eliminate war and hunger. We all thought this at one time, didn’t we? Didn’t you? Maybe not on such a grand scale; maybe you knew you’d get your parents back together, madly in love. Or submit the best paper in elementary that would be heralded as the Best Ever, printed in the newspaper, and put in a frame at the front of the school. Whatever it was, in those days, we knew we were all powerful; if we just worked hard enough, we could make big things happen almost with the swish of a wand with fairy dust following in a magical spell.

I don’t know when it starts to slowly erase from our understanding. When the fairy dust begins to dissipate. When exactly we become jaded. When we find out we’re actually NOT all that powerful. We have little control after all. Does it come with that first disappointment or the tenth?

I think I’ve always wanted to be *significant* in some way. To stand out. Not that I enjoy being the center of attention – how embarrassing – but to shine in some way that makes a difference. To know that I came to this world and had some significant meaning for being here. To leave my mark in some way.

I’m pleased to learn that I’m not as narcissistic as that sounds. Tony Robbins, world renowned motivational speaker, life coach and author, says that there are 6 basic needs for humanity. One of the big ones: Significance. That our lives have some kind of importance and meaning – whether it’s put into action through negativity, competition, or violence, or met by doing great things or even the simplicity that greatly affects another’s life.

What a relief….it’s not just me!!

As that jadedness begins to fall, like a heavy cloak over our magnificence, we begin to shut doors. “I’m not an artist; I won’t be able to sell anything. Artists don’t make money. There’s too much competition for this to make a difference. There’s really no way to be *significant* here. “ So we drift towards something more practical, more of a sure thing. Typically it doesn’t matter that we are not full of passion as we trudge through in our path to attain it. In fact, it’s likely we’ve forgotten that “childish” zest as the cloak of practicality first began to descend upon us.

When I was a child, I knew early on that I wanted to help others. I was very drawn to those in need – especially those with physical disabilities. And somehow, being intuitive from a very young age, I drifted away from the idea of Physical Therapy (too hard core scientific and exercise-y!) to Occupational Therapy because it included my first love; crafts, arts, recreation. Doing STUFF as therapy. That made sense to me!

In school, I loved to learn. And on that same quest for significance, I loved to get good grades. Whether it was for the appreciation from my parents, being recognized by my teachers and friends as “smart”, or the personal satisfaction of knowing that once again, if I did the hard work, I could still wave the magic wand for my desire. So getting into Occupational Therapy wasn’t difficult, though competitive. I struggled through the Math and Physics pre-requisites and later through the “Physical Dysfunction” area – the area of Occupational Therapy that most mirrored Physical Therapy, which interestingly, is the primary existing sub-area of OT today. I easily drifted towards Mental Health, at one time coining group therapy as “mental masturbation” – it was that delicious and stimulating to me to talk about what was going on behind each person’s exterior.

While working in a psychiatric hospital in my early 20’s, I remember senior administrators asking me to do their prescription for what might be more *significant* in the treatment of the clientele. I remember feeling very egotistical and defensive, as if they had no right to dictate my practice. Whether those suggestions could have been heard with a more objective ear was irrelevant to me – it spoke to me that what I offered was insignificant.

Later, that was compounded by a psychiatrist suggesting that I might feel guilty about collecting a paycheck. That all I do is “play with the patients all day.” I righteously quipped back, “And you? You don’t feel guilty for spending less than 5 minutes a day with a patient just to change a medication?”

We’re all competing for Significance. Who really is making a difference?

Not long ago, in therapy, it was suggested that I might want to choose a totem. Why, I’m not sure, but I’m nothing if not outwardly obedient. If I were to choose, I thought, it’d be a tiger. Sinewy force. Sexy lines, aggressive action, show no weakness!

As I said, I’ve always been intuitive….so guess what shows up as I begin to question and listen?

A freakin’ butterfly. Flying around my head. Landing on my shoulder. Seeing them *everywhere*.

Really? I suggest Tiger and I get……BUTTERFLY?! Can you be any more INSIGNIFICANT?!

I mean, sure. They go through that transformation thing, yea. And yes, I’m doing that too in my life. I get that. Sure, if you follow the Monarch butterfly, you see that She carries ancestral knowledge through to future lives to be able to fly the very same flight to practically the same tree year after year. And yea, she’s a major pollinator, a sharer, a connector in that pollination thing. Yep. Cool. But fragile. Easily squashed. It’s wings torn off by little boys like my brother when he was growing up. Short life. (gulp….looking over shoulder…tossing a pinch of salt) Whimsy. INsignificant.

Shortly after, as I continued to listen and question, this time about “What are you going to do after the kids leave home? What do you really want to be when you grown up?” I stumble, really quite randomly, into Expressive Arts. It’s a great add on to my Occupational Therapy degree – one that furthers me into my direction/my passion. And guess what, makes the art/crafts interest I had as a child more SIGNIFICANT. It taps into my love of “mental masturbation”, even taps into this bent I have for the spiritual using my favorite childhood tool of all. ART. MUSIC. PERFORMANCE. All of it wrapped into one. It couldn’t be more perfect.

And yet, old messages keep tripping back. I’ll listen to others about their stories, their tragedies shared in casual conversation and in my head, I’m already thinking of what I’d “prescribe” if I were doing Expressive Art with them, with the immediate reaction,

“She’s just lost her child. Her husband. And you want her to……..make some ART?! Are you freakin’ kidding me?!!” (big smirk)

There’s a message that comes from our culture that says ART is INSIGNIFICANT. Desperate times requires desperate measures! We have to DO something. Talk it out!

And we do our somethings, we do do do….we talk talk talk…..our minds continue that talk talk talk and it often gets us……nowhere.

There’s a shift happening in this world. Our culture. A shift to more simple. Slowing down. Deeper breathing. Meditation. Prayer. De-clutter. Quality not quantity. Finding meaning.

Perhaps ART, Expressive Art, is one of the tools that helps to bring us there. To get out of our minds. To forget about doing something, producing something (a pretty piece for show or sale), using the process to get out of our head the more we practice in it (to erase that normal critic voice) so that we can heal. Lift the cloak. Swirl the wand while sprinkling fairy dust. Remember our magnificence.

There’s not a “perhaps” in this for me. I know. I personally know that by sitting down to write – just to write, or to paint, or to get lost in music….like meditation, it soothes me. It transports me to another place. And sometimes…..sometimes……if I allow it, it speaks to me. Not like a friend or therapist (though sometimes, don’t we wish the answers were that simple?) But it suggests a word or an image or a phrase that speaks to me. Something that’s often surprising that I hadn’t thought of before. And there. It’s one step outside the box in my head of talk, talk , talk.

THAT’S SIGNIFICANT. Because each small step is a trajectory of change. Indeed, like the Butterfly Effect. The idea in Chaos Theory that says that the simple force of a butterfly’s wing on one side of the continent can cause a tsunami on the other.

For me, it’s been like a giant aha that is so elementary simple. As I’ve begun to accept the seemingly fragile, insignificant – even culturally insignificant FEMALE – in me, I’ve begun to fully understand and wield Her Power. And significance.

And yes, that IS significant.

Surrender

imagesI was in a debate of sorts this morning on Facebook.  The suggestion that if one is to surrender into their weakness, it allows them to fall victim to whatever ails them and claim defeat.

Yet, if surrender is the excuse for accepting failure – I’d suggest in just ONE example of disagreement, millions of successful 12 step members would be back on the streets.

And surely, that is the fear, is it not?  Surrendering is accepting defeat.  To give up!  “Lay down your weapons, you loser.  You’re finished.  Just walk away with your tail tucked between your legs like the sorry sap you are.”

To a western ideal of winning at all costs, succeeding with self determination and sheer will, surrender seems like a dirty word.  Certainly nothing to teach your children – what nonsense would we be instilling into their psyche?  “When the tough gets going….it’s time to give up?!”

We’re a crusty bunch – us Americans.  We’re tough, full of pride – there’s no room for weakness or whiney asses.   Not willing to feel “victim” to anything.  We are in control!  We have free will and choices abound now in history, more than ever!  How dare might one suggest that we are not in full control of our environment and our involvement in it.

Unfortunately it’s just not always black/white.  Our humanity – humanness enters.  We’re always back there behind the curtain, running the show like the Great Oz.  “Just do it” is a failing concept.  Our nation gets fatter, use of antidepressants, and anxiety medications increase, dependence on mood altering chemicals is at an all time high, and we’ve become physically more ill.

Our shadow self remains.  As much as we want to turn away; pretend it’s not there, “tug your bootstraps up and just try harder”…it’s not working.

“What we resist….persists.”

It’s an oxymoron to suggest that surrendering to your shadow characteristics can possibly help.  How in the world can accepting a too heavy frame, an incessant need for attention, a persistent critical voice inside that whispers sometimes not too quietly, ‘Not enough’, be HELPFUL?

Because somewhere in there, is also a voice that says, “You are complete and perfect JUST the way you are in this moment.  Even with the rolls, whines and insecurity.  You are the Beloved.”

Part of Marie Howe’s poem, “Annunciation” reads,

And so it is myself I want to turn in that direction 
not as towards a place, but it was a tilting
within myself, as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where
it isn’t—I was blinded like that—and swam
in what shone at me..”
To be blinded to those insecurities by the admiration of a Greater Being , causing us to tilt ever so slightly.  Shifting in the light of that love.  Becoming paralyzed in that light of utter admiration, all else fading black, knowing there is no other choice but be filled and seen in that wholeness of full love.
We are enough….and yet we need that love from a Higher Being to shine on the All of us.  The warts and less thans, as He sees the ALL of us.  Helping to shine the light on more than our shadows in an all encompassing love.
It’s an oxymoron…..
And a mystery.
“only able to endure it by being no one and so
specifically myself I thought I’d die
from being loved like that.”
we surrender our SELVES til we are “no one” so completely and at the same time, are so completely unique in our flaws and beauty beyond measure……..and then know we can make it through, indeed, be at our fullest potential by “being loved like that.”
That is, I contend, the beauty of surrender.

Christ-like Vulnerability

I was at my “old” church today.  The traditional Lutheran one that I married into and attended for 24 years, alongside my lifelong Lutheran raised husband and children.  I go back under the ruse of still being involved with the music ministry there (today, singing in the Praise Band to lead the contemporary worship), and it’s quite true – I love to sing, harmonize and connect with a congregation in song.  But I could easily do this in my new church as well.  I know it’s family that brings me back as well.  Surely, my immediate family that still attend, but I can’t leave behind the people and faces and hearts that have touched me on a spiritual level over the years.  There’s true friendships there that I can’t leave without turning back.

Yet, it’s been in my last handful of times returning that I’ve actually enjoyed listening to the sermons.  Because, heaven’s above and right here below…..I can hear them so differently now!  I don’t know that I’ll ever go back regularly to a traditional Christian church, but I find such new meaning in the words I hear there when I venture inside now.  Within the words and the fleshing out by the pastor, I can read between the lines.  

I no longer sit and agree or disagree, analyzing why that sentence or another doesn’t fit my picture of faith or theology.  I can listen, tossing what doesn’t fit for me, and seeing what does in a completely different light.

Case in point today:  the sermon being about the verses in the Gospel in which Jesus is crucified.  The mocking of, “If you are King of the Jews, then save yourself!”  Our pastor reflecting on the possibility that THIS King, this might be a King that we can follow because he is NOT the typical King, Lord and Master.  As surely, that is not the American ideal.  We do not want anyone lording over us, we do not want to be controlled, do not want to obey.  But surely, it was in Jesus’ death on the cross, in being willing to sacrifice himself to show us that he is willing to endure unimaginable pain, even death, for us that help us to see him as something different.

Even though I no longer believe in Jesus’ death on a cross for the literal saving of all of mankind for centuries to come, I was overcome in my understanding this morning of how his actions can be salvation for us today. 

I am a crier.  I hate it.  HATE IT!  At the most surprising moments, tears will appear.  I leak!  I often feel proud if I can keep them at bay – especially during an especially touching movie, or if another sheds tears in front of me.  I’d like to show that I’m in control of my emotions and not some weak tit.

Ha.  But lately, I’ve begun to notice how much tears are appreciated by others.  We really do like to see people who allow a tear to show, who brave their emotion to share what’s in their heart.  We certainly don’t want to BE that person, but we love it when others can.  It brings us to a different level.  A level deeper than the world out there.  The one of being tough.  Strong.  Ms. Cool.

So as much as I’ve hated them, I’ve begun to value my leaking.  It pains me when it happens, but I am acutely aware how it brings the group in close.  Like a whisper.  As if to say, ohhhhh.  We’re going there now.  Listen up.  Pay attention.  It breaks people open, that willingness to show your emotion or pain.  It allows them to share on the same level.

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In light of the service this morning, I could see that vulnerability as being Christ-like.  When one is willing to bear that pain and vulnerability openly with one another, it is as if we are hanging our worldly selves on the cross and letting the tears and powerlessness show.  Even Christ’s body posture on the cross…. it is a vulnerable position for us today.  Arms stretched wide, allowing the tenderness of our bodies be open to harm.  Just as we, today, do not value jumping in line behind a powerful Lord, our strength and “coolness” does nothing to help us connect with one another.  Yet, if we are more Christ-like, activating the God Within, and show that vulnerability…….. we open each other to the Christ Within all of us.

It is those tears, the vulnerability, the willingness to bear our pain openly for another that is our salvation today.  It breaks us open.  It brings us to that deeper level.  To that level that is NOT of this world – it is one in which we recognize our frailties, our humaness, our need for something BIGGER.  And a recognition of Oneness in one another.  And an incredible love that connects us all.  In that way, yes, Jesus can be a savior to me.    And I thank Pastor Amy for the enlightening sermon!

Shadow Dancing

I see the beautiful dancing grace that weaves us allhttps://i0.wp.com/media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/3b/6f/c4/3b6fc4793848f1d3bba0c597a27f91cd.jpg

into a fine tapestry of

humor, whimsy, feminine power and release.

We are varied and colorful,

we are the same,

dancing in our shadow,

embracing her, arms wrapped together as we emerge

a more fuller picture of beauty and grace.

Namaste, you beloved beings. 

I see you.

Namaste.

 

Haunted No More

Image(written on picture)

“Once, I walked in the shadow of myself,  lurking down dark hallways, fearful of your light, fearful of being exposed for my nothingness.  I slinked in the corners of the room, drooling in hunger for what you apparently had, hungry for something I didn’t know, hearing whispers of what might be filling but everything turning my stomach, making me shrink away, becoming a transparent film of existence.  Shadows beneath unseeing eyes.  In the light of day, I was a shape shifter, a remolded chameleon, reshaping for your appraising eye, as my insides turned more to dust, sifting away through my fingertips.  Like sand in the hourglass, slowly emptying til I’m left with transparent glass – easily broken.

Until the butterfly flew through the house landing on my shoulder.  The shoulder, so fllimsy and transparent, hardly discernible in the dying light.  Seeing me, daring me to follow.  Her wings bright in color, her gentle winging brushing my cheek.   “Dare to follow, come out in the light! Dare to dream, with a desire so deep, you care not the outcome.  DAre to fly, the fear of falling no more, as you souar and dip and circle and dance in the winds of chance.”  Her colors, my colors, her wings – my own.

Daring girl, you are haunted no more..

Besieged No Longer

***(Written on the page:)

“As a child, I was an explorer of fields, catching grasshoppers in the sway of grasses.  I was a wanderer, drifting off with the wind to connect with friends; getting lost, but continuing to knock on doors.  I dared to enter the dark night to seek what I needed.  I was a singer of songs of my own imagining, a dancer who circled the air, her arms stretched wide.  I danced with the particles floating in a beam of light, delighting in watching them swirl.  I was a creator of beauty from scraps, weaving allure for gazing long.  I was a lover, full of smiles and tears, leaving love notes on your pillow.
ImageAs I grew, I was besieged by your messages to shape up.  Listen up and perform.  Compare and compete, see how you measure up.  Have purpose.  Stack up accomplishment.  Besieged by lines created, imaged by our fear.  Locked up in a cardboard box of our making, besieged from my light.  Shape-shifting by ingesting the white lie – a lie that perfection exists if you fake it long enough.

I am the butterfly!  I flit, I float, I flutter, I dance.  Dance in the winds of chance and possibility.  Sing in the mist of early morning rainbows. Grounding on stability in curiosity, for rest, for wonder, to shine my color – feeling drawn to yours, only to alight again playing in the shadow of my reflection.  Traveling far, carried by faith.  Lifting higher in the winds of a dream.  Besieged no longer.

Be free.

Be seen.”

Robust Humility

Isn’t it strange that as you begin to focus on an area in your life, the Universe begins throwing you darts of information, repeatedly asking you to look again as if to say, “Okay, yes, and what else?”

My life seems to have blossomed into a discovery of living fully into myself, noticing how I’ve fallen short of this for a good part of my life.  Today there’s an intentionality of staying aware and living my life with a robustness that throws a middle finger to fear and doubt.  And a passion, as well, to inspire that in others – especially women – to re-awaken this child-like robustness.  To live life with a confidence in knowing our inner light; that life steals in it’s shaping us up to form.

And then, I get messages that send me the opposing message and I’m left questioning.  Wondering.  Trying not to be judgmental about it, but wondering how it all fits in.  At the risk of being redundant with my learning through art, this story helps to conceptualize the issue.

It was the first weekend of Expressive Arts training; quite possibly the first few hours getting to know a handful of various feminine personalities.  We were positioned around a table after having been facilitated in a dance experience.  “Holding on to that movement that calls to you, keep repeating it in air”, she instructed, “then bring it down to the paper.”  My motion was a large infinity sign, wide across my body, my knees bending so that it seemed to envelope all of me.  A robust action, full bodied.  She asked us to keep our eyes closed as we brought color and motion to paper.

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Without vision, I allowed my marks (in my favorite blue color) to reach wide, over and over.  With instruction to then open our eyes, I could see how my lines reached way into my neighbor’s space.  I looked around the paper and could see how respectfully all my classmates were keeping within their boundaries, while my childish and seemingly disrespectful scribbles confined my neighbor to a tiny space.  I was embarrassed and shamed for taking the instruction too literally; that perhaps my repeated motion could be brought to paper in a smaller box.

I find this is where I struggle at this new stage of my life.  As I re-awaken into myself, I can look over my past and see how I’ve shut myself down, repressing myself for the sake of other’s expectations.  I know I’m not alone in that.  We all tend to  sacrifice that delightful, robust child living into her fullness, to the messages of “Simmer down!”  ‘Be respectful!” “Be quiet!”  “Don’t make a spectacle of yourself!”

And then recently, in an e-course, we talked about the ancient sacred teaching of “Humility” and I laughed.  Here we go again!  How does one live robustly yet maintain humility?  Not occupy too much space or overstep boundaries?

I’m powerfully moved by Marianne Williamson’s quote of not doing yourself justice by playing small, as your light shining gives others permission to do the same.  Being robust, living into your fullness offers an opportunity for others to be brave.  So where does humility come in?  How do I let go of old messages to SIMMER DOWN, by loving this robust full colored, full bodied woman….yet be humble?

I don’t know that I have the answer today.  It’s something that I believe the Universe keeps throwing at me so that I keep wondering.  Noticing without judgement.   Right now I believe that humility has to do with a deep respect for others.  Respect for their own talents and inner wisdom.  I think this has evolved from experiencing this from the other side of another’s robustness and being irritated with their over-stepping a boundary.   I think it’s about staying aware that we’re all part of a whole, a Divine Intelligence that sees a bigger picture.  And being confident  enough in the strength of your own light that you don’t have to blare your high beams to prove its shine.  Certainly, as you gaze upon the finished piece our group jointly completed, stepping into one another’s place to add our own unique offering, you can see the Divine bigger picture at play.

Perhaps it’s just the noticing, the wondering that brings us more fully into awareness.  No need for answers, knowing today’s understanding will likely change tomorrow as I integrate my robust child with humble robust womanhood.  Growing in compassion for others who invade my space with their robust shining, giving light and compassion for my own struggle.

Unapologetically Unfinished

I was at a meeting this morning in which I heard a woman talk about the inability to get a hot dog jingle out of her head, trying to identify the brand name.  When she’d finally identified it, “Armor”, I was immediately sidetracked into my own metaphor, the conversation blurring as I contemplated that word.

Upon walking into the meeting, I had noted that I seem to stand a bit taller now that I have, in my perspective, a “worthy purpose” in this world – ignoring the fact that my “other” purpose, motherhood, is of the utmost value.  Despite my not being entirely clear with how my new business will manifest itself in the world, just being a part of the professional world and  gaining my professional certification back makes me feel a bit more proud.  Able to stand before these women who I’ve admired over the years, indeed, my mentors, and know that I have worth and value purely for the sake of my present goals.  And then, immediately recognizing that for the ego that it was; jotting it down with a smile as I noted its presense.

And then, laugh out loud, the word “Armor” arrives.   OK!  I hear You!  I do take note of how much I am still highly defended.  My most notable suit of armor?  Looking good.  Being productive.

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Showing you how valuable I am.  Jumping through your hoops, and lots of those of my own creation.  I can also see it’s double sidedness, though.  At the same time that I note that the  act of becoming part of a productive, helping structure makes me feel valuable and thereby feeding my ego, I can also acknowledge that being purposeful, in service to others, helps keep me from navel gazing.  And becoming mired in the muck of my own doing, having more time on my hands than is good for my mental wellbeing!

My common default is feeling “less than”, doing whatever I can to help you see that what I feel is false.  I am indeed every bit as good as you.  I wear the armor of looking good; being attractive, keeping fit, attempting style.  I’ve found I feel my best when looking “put together”, sounding as if I got it all together.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so drawn to Brene Brown and living authentically.  She reminds me that the more I struggle in that armor, the more it literally weights me down, it hides my true creativity and value behind steel.  At the same time,  I can just as easily flip into the “better than” armor when I’m especially proud of myself; staying on track with diet and exercise, finishing my professional requirements for certification and licensing, reading my blog thinking, “Damn! I’m good!!  More people should read this!!”

Yesterday, I was reading an email about “playing small” from Lissa Rankin, an online personal development guru.  She talked about our ability to easily see those who are the braggarts, the name droppers, as having a big ego.  But I was shocked to find that those who play small, who are in constant self doubt, feeling less than and questioning, are playing the other side of that same ego.  Feeling that we are separate from All that Is, making us feel that we are somehow distinct and always in comparison as better or less than. Instead of the recognition that we are part of the Ocean, the Great Divine, just another beautiful wave and undeniably human in our similar but different journeys.

I remember one of those mentors saying to me at one time, “ those defenses are likely always going to be there” and thinking, “WHAT?  Are you KIDDING ME? Aint that the shits?!”  As a kid, I can remember thinking that I’d truly be grown up when I didn’t get in trouble with my parents. I think I’m still in the same mindset, that when I truly grow up I won’t beat myself up side the head with my continued faults!

I realized that the answer to our stumbles is forgiveness.  Noticing where we’ve hurt another, namely here, myself, and ask forgiveness.  I am so quick to forgive my neighbor, but offer myself a gang beating for repeated offenses.  We can take notice of where our defenses continue to show up and have compassion for the journey – in doing so, it teaches us compassion for others in their struggle with the weight of their own  armor.

I recently heard a friend describe herself as, “unaplogetically unfinished”.  I like that.  To be authentically “in progress” – not with the attitude of a slobby resignated “I am what I am, so take it!”  Moreso, being aware, open, embracing  the shadow and showing up to your best self in the moment – which at all times is human.  Failing sometimes.  And armored….to different levels at any given moment or situation.   Curious and acknowledging….and then moving forward.

Stuck

One of the brave women in my group talked about the word, “stuck”, that came up for her from one of her art pieces.  How difficult that word felt, thinking that starting over was not an option.

Oh, how I understood this sentiment.  Especially in midlife, don’t we all know the feeling that we should be a certain place by now – whether it’s financially, spiritually, psychologically, or in a particular relationship?  Liking possibly parts of that situation, but feeling more and more trapped within a piece of it.  Unwilling to let go and start over this  “late” in life, or perhaps fearful of upsetting the status quo for the pieces that we are satisfied with.

It reminded me a lot of playing gin rummy.  Finding myself close to going out but never having enough for a discard.  Seeing the solution DEEP within the discard pile, but knowing I’d practically have to pick up the entire deck of cards to get to that desired one.  The risk and fear involved with such a big move, of essentially starting over with a full deck in your hand when you’re down to just a few.   Sometimes, it wasn’t a great move – I ended up losing.  And sometimes, I’d find a number of solutions in my hand; in one turn, placing one grouping after another down which weren’t obviously apparent until I held them in my hand.  And surprise, winning the game!

I recently intuitively painted a picture – it’s a new process that I’m working on that is still difficult for me.  The idea is to allow yourself to paint from within, feeling which color, stroke, or brush – or hand, finger – needs to be used next.  It’s difficult for me to let go like that, wanting to “prove” that I really have some artistic ability in my completed pictures.  I can copy well.  Emulate and add to.  But this stuff from inside, it’s a letting go and a willingness to make ugly art that is just daunting to me!

So this painting, I started with my favorite colors of blue, green and purple and intentionally let go into the finger painting of my childhood.  Lots of swirls and making designs.  But I couldn’t let go there.  I wanted to find something in the swirls.  Make something.  Turning it this way and that, I thought I saw a profile – and honestly, I wanted to experiment with girls’ faces and figures as I see in so many other intuitive painter’s work.  So a profile emerged, and then a beautiful blue eye, which seemed to be crying….so I elaborated on that.    Image

Yet after that, I wasn’t sure what it needed.  It didn’t seem finished.  I tried to let go my need for symmetry, thinking that the face in the far left corner was the need to say it was incomplete.  A wise teacher recently told me that working with dislike in a painting can be a great practice for acceptance in ourselves.  Wanting to continually re-work may well be that nagging sense of perfection, not wanting to share, or even take time to personally look at the ugly, before we “cleaned” up our aestethic.   That certainly hit home with me!

But I still felt a desire to add to her.  So, upon hearing a prompt to “paint with your feet”, I decided this was another great practice for me in letting go.  And an excellent way to get out of that “stuck” feeling with this painting.  Surely, it was a bit scary to think of messing up what I already had, yet on the other hand I thought, it’s just a painting!  That I’m not entirely in love with.  So, go with it!  I loved her eye, her tears.  I’d hold onto that and let go of the rest.

On went droplets of color that spoke to me that morning,  adopting the “warrior” archetype in Angeles Arrien’s book, The Fourfold Way.  The Warrior, she says, is about just showing up, choosing to be present.  So, yes….let’s just march forward and do the work at hand!  The colors I chose: red, black, and purple began to swirl around my feet, squishing between my toes.  And the more I swirled, unintentionally covering her eye, the black began to take over.  Momentarily saddened that I’d totally messed it up, I stood over the picture and began twisting my entire body in a jig over the paper, as an African beat danced out of my speakers.  Giggling at the release.  Giggling at letting go.  Do you remember that feeling of destruction as a child?  It was that kind of feeling.

Oh well!  Here we go again…!

I tried scraping off the black with a knife, knowing the beautiful colors that remained below.  It made some interesting marks, but not enough.  So I added color to my knife and just kept scraping it on.  Beautiful.  Then chaotic!  Sometimes I get the notion I’m going overboard with what I love – and I love so much about color – that it just becomes too involved to see the good stuff!  So, I added black to further define the movement of my knife dragging and a tree? tentacles? sea anenome? began to emerge.  And light.  And more growth in the green below.

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The result to me speaks of just that: growth.  Growth in letting the old story of my tears go and grasping hold of the strength, bravery and power I see in me today.  Being willing to step into the present moment and face the fear, being willing to let go of everything in faith, trusting that what will emerge is what I really need at this moment in my life.  My final piece is not like one of the perfected paintings that I have hanging in my art studio in the basement,

but it speaks to me of beauty and vibrancy and power.   I’ve found that letting go and starting over can really be a place of awakened confidence.

And I’ll take that over perfection any day.

Don’t Cage Me In

Yesterday, in preparation for my Expressive Arts group, I researched mixed media art journalling online.  I was supposed to attend a demonstrative class ahead of time, but there were not enough registrants.  I’ve collaged before, though.  Given that knowledge and my EXA training, I thought I could give enough justice for it to be meaningful for my own group.

There are a tremendous amount of how-to videos posted online!  Several inspirational and beautiful creations with varying styles. I pinned a few on Pinterest, but honestly, it just wet my whistle.  I’m always anxious to just dig in and try different techniques out.

I like the idea of not having a plan in collage, in fact, allowing that to be the goal.  Pick what intrigues you, what triggers you.  And just start mod podging it down to the page without intention or thought.  I felt there were SO many to choose from, so many different techniques in my head; I wanted to try them all.

What I ended up with, in my humble…but critical….brain, was a MESS.  Chaos.  Busy-ness.  With this beautiful wolf left unfettered in the center.  And the words, “Watch Out” standing clearly above her head.

Oh, how I love the wolf.  The image of beauty and fierceness.  I look at her spirit animal meaning and take great honor in seeing, “Sharp intelligence, deep connection with instincts – as well as her feeling threatened – by self and others.”  That certainly resonates with me.  Yet butterflies always show up for me as well.  I have begun to accept her apparent fragility with her amazing messages of transformation.  This I understood as well. I also at the last minute slapped on the words, “living in harmony”, which seemed to fit.  Somehow, I knew this chaos felt…..ok.  Right.

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One of the main tasks of Expressive Arts is to look at the created piece as being separate from you; now created, it has something to say.  And the creator, to look upon it and describe what we see.  Not in judgement as an artiste, criticizing it for its faults, but what now did It have to say to us in Its infinite wisdom.  As corny as it may sound, but I actually see the created piece as God speaking back to me.  If I am to believe that the Divine is within me, as in all things, then this piece coming from my soul, has something sacred – from ME – to offer back.  We know clearly what our head says (ad nauseum) about why we chose what we chose or why we think we made an artwork like we did, but there is meaning in what we notice about that creation.  Our psyche often gets hidden withthe voice in our head working non-stop.  Our creations allow us to see inside in a completely different way.

A common question in Expressive Arts: “What surprised you?”  For this project, the clear message it spoke to me, “Don’t cage me in,” was confusing.  There is nothing in my external world holding me back.  My days are wide open.  My husband has never been more supportive or interested.  So, how in the world am I caged in?

Perhaps, I thought, this dear, wild beast is within me, telling ME, “Don’t cage me in.”  Really?, I double-checked. Am I holding back?  Am I still fearful?  Am I worried about my ability to handle a new business?  How it’s going to emerge?  How I can make it succeed?  Where it will take me?

Hell, yes.  Though there’s an excitement in me that says YES!  I can see this happening!  Even “in harmony” living with the chaos.  But there’s also a part of me that says, “I don’t know if you can really do this.  You don’t know shit.”

Thankfully, the more I talk about my vision, doors keep opening for me.  AND, joy of all joys, my groups keep providing me with tremendous positive feedback.

My brain is filled with the jumbled excitement seen outside the wolf of my collage.  It’s exciting; I want to do it all.  Everyday, I have ideas filling me.  There’s a strong message of “Watch Out!” …..here I come.  I will not be caged or held back.

I feel I’ve been keeping the fear in a harness, holding her back.  Following where I’m lead.  But maybe I’m still doubting.   I do accept that the business part of this scares me!

Is there a place in which you feel you’re holding back in your life?  That you are ready to break forth but either your inner or outer world is keeping you at bay?  What would it take to break that barrier?