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Starry-Eyed

starry-eyed

I’m retreating to the relative anonymity of my blog, after guest writing for Charles and the Storm Wisdom blog, last week and again this week.

I felt pretty confident about last week’s post, “More Questions Than Answers” and admit to having some high hopes for affirmation of my spectacular writing skills, more fans for my blog, your pretty basic delusions of grandeur.  Starry-eyed indeed.

The pressure I feel writing this week’s post (for Storm Wisdom) seems extraordinarily high, I have postulated, pondered and pouted.  The post is written, I have edited it twice, the accompanying mandala has been produced and waits for its cue.  What changes the experience so dramatically for me when I imagine the audience is more vast?  Am I less willing to be authentic?  (No)…Vulnerable?  (Maybe)…More worried about judgment and rejection? (Definitely)!

Oh, the vanity!

So last night I’m sitting in class (Computer Graphics 101) and waiting for the instructor to come my way and explain to me why I can’t make Photoshop obey me with the ease and dexterity he demonstrates.  I can’t move forward so I reach for my notebook and begin to doodle.  Oh, the relief when I see something flow forth from my pen, no matter how humble.  The star is prominent, eye shapes surround, and something like a checkerboard top hat shows up, a visual expression of “Starry-Eyed”.  The instructor reaches my station, swiftly resolves my Photoshop dilemma, and the crisis passes.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to express, through doodles and scribbles, through rambling thoughts and heartfelt rants.  I don’t know how I would make it through without these gifts.  I’m thankful to you, my intimate and tolerant audience, for the privilege of authentic, vulnerable, judgment-free disclosure.  Thank you and goodnight.

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Where’s the Love?

I am hearing more stories these days of people reacting harshly to others, speaking unkindly, and of course, if you are in the habit of watching the news, there is no shortage of evidence that all manner of horrendous behavior is being exhibited.

As I check my interior world, I find anxiety almost constantly running at a low to moderate level, spiking quickly at the slightest provocation.  In addition, I am noticing a lot of self-judgment and scolding.  I’m feeling raw, vulnerable and unsettled.  My snow globe has been shaken once again and everything feels off-balance.

As often happens when distress levels rise, I will not have had (or made) much time to paint, prioritizing instead the demands of the outer world, otherwise known as “real life”.  Retreating to the safety of the studio, I began a little piece to sort things through.  I thought it was to be a more conventional mandala, but the gift of higher wisdom and inspiration made its way through my walls of fear and resistance, and “Where’s the Love” began to take shape.  I was totally confused at first, as arrows were pointing every which way and I felt the now familiar grip of terror when I don’t know what to do, the indicator of my deepest fear, a descent into dementia, which I witnessed for both my mom and dad.

Persistence brought the blessing of the (also familiar) reassurance that once I relax into the creative energy, the magic unfolds before me, in spite of my fear, and gratitude rushes in as I behold a creation that I could not have birthed on my own.

“Where’s the Love” features a heart which is made up of color, black and white checkerboard, and spirals. One of the arrows points to an “X” marking a healing wound on the heart.  The words are actually written out and as I wrote, the arrow on the bottom right was already providing the “v” shape for the word “Love”.

This processes for me what I am witnessing both inside myself and in the world today.  The fear has reached epidemic proportions.  It is imperative that I begin a new relationship with my fear.  Acknowledge it, feel it, honor it and then challenge it. Is it true?  How can I know it’s true?  It is more likely that fear is rising up from deep inside, from a place that has not been given credit for keeping me safe at some point in the past.

I will be doing my best to honor my fear, with the knowledge that as I do, I can open to more love, for myself and in so doing, be the change I hope to see in the world.wheres-the-love-color-web

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Bruised Reed

bruised-reed-color

So less than 48 hours after the post in which I cavalierly proclaimed my willingness to get on the roller coaster and fully experience the ride, a large German Shepherd nearly shredded my right hand with his teeth and I went from complete (okay, relative) calm to total panic in less than 30 seconds.

Pain is a pretty challenging thing with which to stay present and vulnerable, especially when you add the part about not resisting or judging.  The very teachings I have been reading about were being offered up in a real life situation and I can’t say I passed the test.

I was hyperventilating as my son drove me to the emergency room (on which we decided after finding that no urgent care options due to the fact it was Labor Day).  The pain was definitely a 10 on the scale, I would say 11, but that’s just annoying since it is NOT on the scale.  It was a good 3 hours before I got anything for pain (4:30 pm to 7:30 pm) and me without so much as a single Advil in my purse.

Mantras were employed, as well as the eight verses I have learned as part of my Qi Gong practice, along with deep breathing.  All the while my intention was to get as far away from what I was feeling as I could, the polar opposite of the practice I had hoped I was learning.

Accompanying all this was the fear of what had happened structurally to my right hand, my painting hand.  For full effect, I am adding the photo from the emergency room here.

dog-bite-right-hand

After receiving IV antibiotics, morphine, lidocaine injected locally and a saline IV, having the wound x-rayed, cleaned out and bandaged, and paying my $1,300.00 co-pay, I was on my way home to continue the healing process.

9 days later I completed “Bruised Reed”, a mandala to help work through the trauma of the experience.  Yes, I can still paint, thank God.  This mandala is different, lots of teeth, blood and tears.  It is somewhat erratic and fiery, but also contains some cool and calm places of respite, as well as the yin and yang, for harmony and balance.

I’m not terribly interested in getting back on the roller coaster again.

 

 

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Feel Better

I’m about halfway through “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown and feel that the book is providing information I would consider as the “Missing Link” (also the title of the mandala below).

Missing Link - color

The concepts are difficult to verbalize, and writing about them at this point is likely premature, but part of the practice is dropping the “vulnerability armor”, perfectionism being one shield.

For a very long time I have been seeking what will help me to feel better…the shortest most efficient path away from intense emotions I have labeled “bad”, grief, anger, sadness, fear, envy.  I considered pain as a signal that something was wrong.  The desire to avert any future situation that might cause any of the above emotions became almost an obsession.  Different teachings came to my attention that this might not be the true path, “The Presence Process” in 2009, and more recently “Letting Go” .  Both books speak powerfully of the futility of avoiding emotions/feelings and recommend the practice of surrendering deeply to whatever is being felt, promising  true freedom and an increased capacity for joy as rewards.  From “Letting Go”, “We surrender a feeling by allowing it to be there without condemning, judging or resisting it.  We simply look at it, observe it, and allow it to be felt without trying to modify it.  With the willingness to relinquish a feeling, it will run out in due time.”

Still, I had hoped for a short cut, a magic pill, an answer that doesn’t lead me directly to the reservoir of intense emotions  I have desperately sought to avoid.  Beginning to practice surrendering and vulnerability, even though I feel deeply raw and wildly uncomfortable, there is a sense that this is the way to a wholehearted (and joyful) life.

The image of a roller coaster keeps showing up today, as a life metaphor.  I bought a ticket and got on, but I’ve been  asking not to have to go up so high, or down so fast and far, when really I came in to do just that, have a thrilling ride, feel my stomach up in my throat, scream and laugh and cry so hard, I can barely breathe.  Fun?

I’m ready, let’s go.

 

 

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Blessings and Betrayal

Blessings and Betrayal

This mandala was painted to help process the recurrence of a lifelong pattern, a sudden, shocking betrayal by someone in whom I have placed my trust.

Sharing this post is challenging, although the lack of readership does provide a safety net, but wait, I am practicing vulnerability, daring greatly, so here goes…

As the youngest child (by six years) in a family with five brilliant, highly achieving siblings, and stellar, loving but very busy parents, at age 5 I was alone quite a lot, and easy prey for a young man in the neighborhood who began to show me lots of attention and made me feel “special”.  When he was, let’s say, sexually inappropriate with me (I’ll spare you the ugly details) I felt warm and cherished one moment, and searing pain, shock, horror and confusion an instant later.  What he told me next did the most damage…”You can’t tell anyone…if you do, they’ll know you are bad.”

Believing it is best to do as I am told, I never DID tell anyone, and even forgot about it, until becoming sexually active in my late teens, when the memory resurfaced and I dismissed it as “no big deal”.

So, as wounds will, this has come up periodically for healing, requesting my attention in various painful ways throughout my life.  Let me be clear that most subsequent incidents were not sexual, but rather, consisted of feeling trusting, vulnerable and safe in the company of a perceived ally one minute, and suddenly becoming aware this was not the case, experiencing a sucker punch to the gut, feeling attacked, judged and ashamed the next.  I’ve had TWO rather dramatic occasions to revisit this pattern in the last month and this time, the blessing of being able to view things differently is apparent.

The mandala is part of my being able to process with a higher perspective.  The little sunflower in the center with the spiral represents soul/spirit generating forth.  The hearts represent the physical and the daggers piercing the hearts with blood spilling out, well, that’s not too mysterious.  There is a circular saw blade, to cut through the illusion.  The drops of blood drip directly into more sunflowers, again representing the soul, this time with yin/yang symbols at the center, representing harmony and balance, the gathering of soul wisdom and healing.

Progress is being made.  I am gaining more clarity on the pattern, and how to respond compassionately when it happens.  In the past, I froze, drew the cloak of shame tightly around myself and disappeared as quickly and effectively as I could manage.  During the most recent event, I was able to speak of what was happening in real time, even if it was  not with the greatest level of coherence, and celebrate movement toward shame resilience as described by Brene Brown in her amazing book “Daring Greatly”.

In this way, the betrayals turn into blessings, helping me heal and live more authentically and wholeheartedly.

 

 

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Wholeheartedly

If you have been following this blog, you know I have been challenged with the “reasons” to continue creating, as off-balance as that sounds.  I have produced a number of abstracts,

Abstracts

just to stay loose, while I wait for guidance on how to complete the “Heart and Soul” mandala.

I decided to return to mandala work, just for grins,  began work on a piece beginning August 21st, and as it progressed, I noticed that all of the hearts in the painting were obscured a little bit.  I started thinking about what I give my whole heart to, and even more so, all the things I don’t.  I titled it “Wholeheartedly”.

wholeheartedly-color

Now let me back track and say a few days earlier, I met with my school counselor about direction on courses and was excited to hear about the possibility of an internship.  I have been very focused on getting a J-O-B, and it has been difficult to invest in my painting work, now that I have surrendered to the reality that it cannot support me financially.  We had a very in-depth discussion, she is a very intuitive person and one of her recommendations was that I seek out the book “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.  I promised to do so.

A few days AFTER completing the mandala, I went on Amazon (please don’t judge me) to order the book and happened to read some of the reviews while I was there.  I was gobsmacked to read Ms. Brown quoted by E. White, “Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experience.  Vulnerability is the prerequisite to living what Ms. Brown calls the wholehearted life.”  And reviewer Heather Saffer adds, “Vulnerability leads to happiness or wholeheartedness.”

Herein dwells the magic of the mandalas.  Somehow they are gatekeepers, translators, facilitators, helping me mine and process information from the quantum field in a way that really works.

 

 

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Perpetual Motion

 

Things were going along really well until early July (3rd) when I blithely and boldly began the “Heart and Soul Mandala”.  I had come out of (yet another) dark night of the soul and was feeling a new resilience.  The mandala flowed easily and progress came quickly.Heart and Soul color-beginning

On July 5th, my next door neighbor and dear friend (expecting her first child in December) died suddenly, leaving her devastated husband to deal with the aftermath.  I felt plunged back into a reservoir of grief, which I thought I had made headway in emptying.  My optimism faded, a familiar darkness crept back in and took hold.  I made it through the funeral, and through the “Heart” portion of the mandala, but I guess rendering “Soul” is above my skill set at this time.Heart and Soul with leaves

I have been unable to make any headway, and do not have any idea how to complete the painting.  In addition, the feelings of sadness, self-doubt, confusion and fear rumble through at unexpected times like aftershocks.  Once again I question my validity and usefulness as an artist in the present world.

There was a time when I felt solid in my belief that the mandalas were channeled material, that I was serving a positive purpose by bringing these energies forth in visual form.  My guidance felt more direct and I resonated deeply with the messages.

In contrast, now it seems more like feeling around in the dark, painting just to keep the flow of creative energy moving, unsure what the message is.  Was I fooling myself to believe my art serves a purpose?  What is the message of the most recent piece “Perpetual Motion”?  Other than the thought that perpetual motion eliminates the entrance to the desired “stillness” state, I have no idea.Perpetual Motion in color

Can I give myself the permission to create when the only recognized purpose is self-preservation?  Do the artworks created, the words written still have value even when they are not seen or read?  Will I return to trusting the higher perspective, which finds purpose in all things, even the death of an absolutely radiant being and her unborn son? I hope the answer will be” yes”.

 

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Heart Activation

In November, I was away at a blissful Qi Gong retreat, re-familiarizing myself with the abundant energy of nature, when we were informed about the Paris attacks.  On my return home, I felt the need to create a mandala, “Love is the Key”.

As time continues, more teachings come to me through visionaries I admire, John Newton and his ancestral clearing work, Lee Harris (who recently shared an amazing Heart Activation Meditation) and Gregg Braden, who just spoke in Phoenix  about “Resilience from the Heart” his latest book.  These three wise men and others, emphasize the importance of re-connecting with, and living from the wisdom of the heart, Mr. Braden speaking as a scientist of the neurocytes, (similar to brain cells) that are present in the heart.

Of course the guidance came to bring forth a “Heart Activation Mandala”…

Heart Activation Mandala

“Heart Activation Mandala” version 1.

Hmmm…Bold and enthusiastic as I felt, this one did not answer the call, so I set about creating Version 2,

Heart Activation Mandala 2

and this one felt even farther away from what I am seeking.

How can it be? It is extremely rare that the mandalas do not “turn out”.  At the same time I was feeling strangely unphased , which is a welcome change from 2015, during which I felt “stuck” for a seven month period while birthing the “Guidance Mandala”

So once again, I was lucky enough to be at a QiGong retreat on June 12th (my birthday) and then became aware of the tragic events unfolding in Orlando.  I returned home and continue to create what I hope will help serve to activate hearts and restore wisdom as spoken so eloquently by Martin Luther King, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Heart Activation Mandala, version 3

Heart Activation Mandala 3 with color

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Free Yourself

Free Yourself-Version2 finis-web

“Free Yourself”  is part of an evolution, or (perhaps revolution!), a long time in the making.  Without going into story, let’s just say that the last decade or so included a lot more responsibility than freedom, or so it seemed, and my soul was longing for relief.

I began “Free Yourself” in early March, and the large spiral in the center moves all the way through and out of the piece.  The triangle in the center was meant to symbolize feminine energy and somehow, even though I am very familiar with the difference, I placed an upward triangle there, (masculine energy symbol) instead of the downward triangle which signifies the feminine.

The mandalas are ever-wise and I believe this heralds the return of a more balanced masculine energy, which complements the feminine rather than dominating it.  Our world will certainly benefit from this!

Around the center circle are flames, or, if you like, a circular saw blade, both of which serve to cut through (or burn through) illusions and limitations.

Next you will see the word, “freed”, which contains my last name, a realization made only during the creation of the mandala.

The dancers add the feminine element and…beauty, fun, and frolic!  Hearts encircle the piece and the spiral that began in the center continues out to infinity.

The lesson that came to me during the mandala creation (in multiple ways!) was to let go of my perception of how things should be so I could “Trust the Process” and open to the blessings that are TRULY and consistently unfolding along the way.

Place this mandala wherever you need a reminder that you can, in any moment,”Free Yourself” to new perceptions, allowing for more ease and elegance!

This mandala was completed on March 18, 2016.

 

 

 

 

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Let Your Slip Show

 

 

I started “Beaming”, (the mandala shown here) a week or so ago, in the usual way, black lines over pencil, giving me a foundation on which to build color.

Beaming BW

As luck would have it, some experiences I had between the beginning of the piece and the painting process gave me a bit more courage to experiment.  As a part of the class I am taking this semester,  (“Career Exploration for the Creative Mind”), I am assigned to read the book, “Trust the Process, an Artist’s Guide to Letting Go” by Shaun McNiff.  Shaun writes, “The most consistent obstacle to creative discovery is the average person’s reluctance to become involved in free experimentation.”  Definitely true for me!  Even more compelling, “Creativity requires the ability to relax into periods of uncertainty and trust creative intelligence to find its way.”  All this time I have felt something was wrong with me because I did not know which way to go, and it was just a natural part of the process!

Synchronicity had its way again, as I was able to view a brilliant artist’s webinar (Jo Toye) during which she shared some of her innovative acrylic painting techniques.  Inspired by this generous and creative pioneer, I did an “underpainting” for the mandala.Beaming in progress

This image shows the underpainting as well as some preliminary color I was adding.  I felt a familiar tug to have everything precise and orderly, but the underpainting showing through with a somewhat random pattern teased me with a “what if you took a few more chances?” challenge.  I experimented with the acrylic and learned a few more of its characteristics (I am much better acquainted with watercolor!).

Beaming more progress

As I continued on, learning more, I realized that my natural tendency is to hide whatever I feel is unappealing (in my paintings and myself!)  How much better to own and show the missteps, the scars, the lessons life has brought me, let some of the irregularities and eccentricities shine through!  How liberating to be unapologetically genuine!  Granted there is actually very little left of the underpainting showing in the final piece.  What is apparent is a new willingness to experiment and be seen, and let my slip show!

Beaming