Energy Flows Where The Mind Goes

Sometimes it takes a profound experience to truly understand the simplest of messages.  “The energy flows where the mind goes” is so often quoted that I roll my eyes a bit & mutter, “Yeah, yeah, I get it”.  But surprisingly, it didn’t truly resonate with me until this past Saturday, when I attended a Silent Retreat.

Before we began our walking meditation, we were asked to choose a stone to represent a negative person or situation in our lives.  Then, carry that “burden” as we walked, sending love & healing energy to it.

I chose my stone, immediately knowing what it represents for me.  I pictured the people involved & felt the negativity fill me as my thoughts focused on it.  This would be a challenge!  How am I going to send the “rock” positive energy when I really want to yell, “This situation has potential to be amazing for so many people if you would just act from a place of integrity & love!!!!!”  But, I took a deep breath & told myself to quit judging & put my spiritual beliefs into practice.  I sent loving kindness to them & added some for myself, humbly asking that my actions reflect love & light even in the most challenging situations.

We approached the majestic beech tree on the property in silence, walking round & round under it’s welcoming canopy.  Branches, like arms, embraced us in its sacred space.  We held the stones in our open hands, contemplating the negative while sending out positive energy.  I looked at the trunk of the beech, ancient goddess with feet grounded in the earth & arms stretching up to the cosmos.  I couldn’t resist running my hands along her limbs & gently touching her delicate leaves.  This simple act occupied my thoughts & filled my heart with such joy that I forgot about the rock in my hand.

Epiphany!! It is impossible to give the negative my full attention when I focus on the beauty & blessings all around me.  Opposing energy can’t occupy the same space at the same time.

“Ok, Susan”, I thought, “It’s your choice- focus on the positive or be crushed under the weight of the negative.”  … or as my Dad bluntly stated many times before his death, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”  🙂  It’s been 14 years since he uttered those memorable words but I still hear his voice & laugh, “I finally get it, Dad.”

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Write- For the Spiritual Journey

At long last, the final collage of 12 for my series titled, “For The Spiritual Journey”.  Write represents our desire to put our spiritual beliefs into words. Closely connected to mediation & prayer, writing is the concrete act of expressing who we are in relation to the Divine.  It gives our beliefs substance & provides an opportunity to share with others if we so choose.

Write: An expression of what we value & believe

Writing takes many forms including sacred texts such as the Bible & the Koran, spiritual poetry, a sermon waiting to be shared with a congregation, a journal of private thoughts, a Lorica written & recited for protection in the Christian Monastic tradition, a Book of Shadows for recording spells & rituals in the Wiccan tradition.. the possibilities are endless!

I write because it helps me articulate my connection to the Divine in all its many forms & provides a starting point for conversations with others who wish to explore spiritual matters.  Writing can build community & aid in understanding if we write, & read with open minds & open hearts.

Here is the entire series of collages.  My own spiritual practice does not include all of these but I include them in my series for you to consider.  Namaste

MEDITATE

DANCE

SERVE

STORYTELLING

RITUAL

READ

DRUM

PRAY

CREATE

SING

VISUALIZE

Retreat to Find One’s Self

Isn’t it funny how we tend to go on a retreat or vacation when we want to find our Selves?  I picture this little voice inside of me yelling, “I”m right here; I’ve always been here.  You just have to look!!”  But that’s challenging when there are errands to run, chores to do, & appointments to keep.  We’re so busy DOING that we leave no time for BEING.

Being in that predicament, I felt the need to get away from the busyness of daily life & go to a place where it would be peaceful enough for me to hear my Self & serene enough for me to reconnect with my Self, without distractions.  So, I went on a week-long retreat to the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY.  Absolutely one of the best experiences of my life!!

I woke each day when I was ready, not because of a buzzing alarm clock.  I performed a ceremony to connect with the earthly & divine… plugging in to the energy that not only connects us all but comprises us all.  I also tried different forms of meditation.  While I tend to squirm after a few minutes of seated meditation, the focused attention of walking mediation resonated with me more.  By walking very, VERY slowly, I could hear the chipmunks scurrying through the bushes; feel the breeze on my skin; & notice the waterlilies & koi in the pond near the Japanese-styled Sanctuary.  I tuned in to nature.  And when my overactive mind took me away from the present moment, I focused on my breath, let go, & got back to HERE & NOW.

It boils down to this:  By relaxing my mind, I was able to hear the authentic voice inside of me.  The voice that had been there all along.

 

Koi Collage

I’ve always enjoyed visiting gardens where Koi ponds are a focal point.  The fish swimming serenely in a natural, beautifully-designed setting bring serenity to me, too.  As an artist, I love the contrast of orange & white against the deep blue water & dramatic black shadows.  While my ancestral traditions harken back to central & eastern Europe, I can appreciate Asian cultures & the contemplative nature of their gardens & meditative spaces.  Nature & spirituality are one.

Koi: a multitude of blessings & good wishes

The inspiration for this collage took its time coming to me.  I painted the background & thought about the possible composition for days.  About the time I stopped thinking about it (isn’t that usually the way?), inspiration came to me quite clearly.  I literally saw the Koi swimming on the canvas!  Funny how that happens sometimes 🙂

After completing this piece, I found out as much as I could about Koi.  Various sources say it is a symbol of perseverance, endurance, & longevity.  Others say it symbolizes love, affection, peace, courage, & tranquility.  All consider it a positive symbol of qualities we’d all like to have in our lives.  May those qualities already be present in yours.

Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

Sing- For the Spiritual Journey

“Sing”, the 11th of 12 collages depicting aspects of our spiritual journey, recognizes the importance music has for people of all ages no matter their spiritual beliefs.  In practically every culture around the world, lifting our voices in song is a way to honor & connect with what is greater, either individually or in groups such as a choir or chorus.  Instead of focusing on a group dynamic, I chose to celebrate the individual, one voice rising in song.

This serenely beautiful woman is outside, communing directly with the Divine.  She’s not lost in her song… she IS her song.

The girl, with eyes closed, is blissfully unaware of anything but the music coming from her heart.

Authentic Selves

Can we be our authentic Selves all the time?  This question came up with a friend as we discussed our spiritual journeys & how we try to live our truth in a world where religious intolerance leads to family rifts on a personal level & war on a global level.  (Yes, we get into heavy discussions sometimes.)  She said she’s at a point in her life where she is comfortable being who she is & will not compromise that for anyone else.  I, ashamedly, have to admit that I’m not there yet.  I was raised with the belief that you never talk about religion, politics, or money in social situations.  If people agree, there’s no point to the discussion & if they disagree, there’s still no point.  These conversations rarely lead to a change of heart.  They more often lead to arguments, judgement, misunderstanding, & hostility.

Call me a chicken but I play it safe.  I sense the climate in the room & make the decision whether or not to voice an opinion.  Is that compromising my authentic Self?  This can be a real struggle for someone in the minority– be it race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, or social status.  Too often the majority squelches the individuality of those in the minority.  We give up our authentic Selves so we can belong.  But there’s the dilemma.  We’re being accepted for who we aren’t.

So when do we take the chance?  When do we say, “This is who I truly am?”  Sometimes we make that decision & other times, someone forces our hand, making the decision for us.  My boyfriend did that to me this weekend at a friend’s cookout.  He told some of the guests about my spiritual practice before I felt comfortable doing so.  I’m relieved to say they were very accepting & curious.  As we talked, they saw the similarities between my beliefs & their own.  What began as a tense moment for me, waiting for the hammer of criticism & judgement, became a great opportunity to be my Self & share my spiritual philosophy with them.

Another dear friend uses the term “universalism” to describe the commonalities that many religions & spiritual practices share, such as loving one another, honoring nature, & believing in something greater than ourselves.  At the cookout, we celebrated those similarities & connected at a much deeper level than we had before.

So many interesting topics came up during those conversations that I want to share them with you over the next few weeks.  In addition to my artwork, I’ll be writing about dream imagery, a need for community, soul loss, ritual, honoring life & death, energy work, & love.  I hope that you’ll reflect on the questions below & share your thoughts with me.

1.  Who is your authentic Self?

2.  Have you been authentic in your interactions with others?  Why or why not?

 

Firefly Magic

As a little girl, I had a vivid imagination as most of us did when we were children.  A dishtowel folded to make a bed for Barbie, a cardboard box became an alien spacecraft, & a blanket draped over the bunk bed turned it into a covered wagon so we could play “Little House on the Prairie”.  There was no limit to my creativity, blissfully transporting me to other worlds for hours a day.

Despite the passing of years, bills, a mortgage, & other weighty baggage I carry as an adult, things happen to remind me that magic is all around if I open my “child” eyes & let my imagination fly.

A glistening field of fireflies is one such happening.  One evening, after an especially hot, humid day, I relaxed in the lawn chair to watch the sun setting & the fireflies rising from the grass like fairies waking from their nap to dance in the dusk.  I was captivated as more & more rose from the grass until my entire yard was shimmering light.  I raised my eyes to gaze out to the nearby field & lost my breath.  The entire field, sprinkled with thousands of fireflies, magically glittered in the dark!  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t even blink.  My eyes filled with tears as my heart swelled with joy.

Sometimes the errands & the chores & the obligations weigh me down.  But if I allow myself to pause…….. & truly see the world around me……… Mother Nature lifts me up again, on firefly wings.

Firefly Magic: a quick study in gouache