A Vision Quest… for Me?

I generally recognize the moments in my life when I’m simply to say “Yes!!” without hesitation.  Whether I actually do it or not is another matter entirely.  Sometimes fear makes me second-guess myself, paralyzing me when I most want to act & filling me with regret if I submit to it.  When I find the courage to release the apprehension that grips me, instead confidently seizing life’s opportunities when they appear, I act from an authentic place- a place of intuition & deep knowing.  Then, there can be no regrets for at least I had the courage to try.

One of my spiritual teachers & dear friends offered me the chance to go on a Vision Quest…but wait a minute… aren’t Vision Quests for adolescent boys & girls of Native American descent or other indigenous people desiring a connection with all that is?  Yes.  Can Vision Quests be a way for any of us to connect with all that is, respectfully crying out for a vision for our lives, too?  Absolutely YES.

The Vision Quest is a way to seek clarity during life’s transitions & move forward from a place of greater awareness.  For example, we may need redirection or illumination at stages of our lives such as adolescence, graduation, marriage, divorce, empty-nest syndrome, menopause or retirement.  Any time we feel apprehension, restlessness, self-doubt, or a gnawing eagerness for transformation is a perfect time for a Vision Quest.

Diverse groups of people around the world have participated in Vision Quests for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  There are just as many ways to prepare for a Vision Quest, from purification rituals to fasting, as there are ways to experience the quest itself.  Some believe a Vision Quest should be taken without food & water while others believe water is acceptable.  Some believe it should last several days while others believe a shorter time is just as relevant.  There doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong here.  It’s all about intent.

Can a Vision Quest be a meaningful experience for a middle class, European-American woman,  like me, in the 21st century?  Again, YES.  I approached the concept of Vision Quests carefully for I never want to be disrespectful of someone’s beliefs by arrogantly sticking in my flag, claiming their tradition for my own.  (There’s already been too much of that.)  Yet I continue to consider the value in the quest for I view my spirituality globally, believing wholeheartedly that everything is connected & that truth can be found in a variety of places if viewed with open eyes & open hearts.  I researched & meditated on this topic for weeks to ensure that I was doing this for the right reasons, taking time to consider my motives & expectations.

So why do I want to do this?  Time alone with the Divine speaks to my spirit (my soul) so I’m going to go on the quest, staying open to what will be.

As I prepare,  I realize the need for a physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual commitment on my part… obvious proof that my intentions are pure so I follow my instincts & do what feels right to get ready for this experience.  While some people set a specific purpose for their quest, I choose instead to humbly say, “Communicate with me in a way that I can understand.  Tell me what I need to know for my greatest & highest good.”

The quest itself will be a significant amount of time alone in the wilderness, where I will designate a patch of ground as “sacred space” for my quest.  It is on that patch of ground that I will simply BE… open & aware.  My quest will be like no other for each Vision Quest is as unique as those who quest.

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Mini Landscape Collages- Part 2

Photos of local farms & rolling countryside inspired me to complete the last 3 mini collages in my series of 6.  While the photos act as reminders of the idyllic rural places I’ve been, these 4-inch square collages express how much I treasure the world around me.  Some of these honor Mother Nature & others honor the farmers who work continuously to provide for the rest of us.  We can no more do without them than we can the earth Herself.

mini landscape 4

mini photo 4

mini landscape 5

mini photo 4

mini landscape 6

mini photo 6

When I see a stately sycamore  or majestic maple solidly rooted with limbs uplifted, like congregants in Nature’s great cathedral, I stop to ground myself & raise my arms in humble gratitude as well.  When I see rolling hills & broad patches of plowed farmland stretching out under the sun, I feel my spirit stretch across the earth connected to the earth below, the canopy of sky above, & the vast mystery beyond what I know or can possibly understand.  I’m just glad it’s part of me & I’m part of it.

Take a look at my Art Gallery page to see all my recent work. 

                                        Check out the pieces for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

Summer Solstice 2013

Where I sit is Holy,

Holy is the ground.

Forest, mountain, river,

Listen to the sound.

Great Spirit circle,

All around me.

                                                           Anonymous

Let the Sun Shine In

Let the Sun Shine In

There are two expectations I have for anyone participating in my workshops on the Divine Feminine, earth-centered spiritual beliefs, or self-awareness through intuitive arts–

1)  Approach everything with an open heart & an open mind

2)  Take what resonates with you & leave the rest.

(Within the next month, I’ll share how those two desires have formed my new venture called “Pure You- Awakening Your Authentic Self”.)

Summer is typically a time to celebrate our achievements both individually & as a culture (graduations, June weddings, Father’s Day, etc…).  We come together to recognize a lifetime of study through high school & college graduations, join in the joy of a new union represented in marriage, & pay respect to the fathers who have helped raise us, making us the people we are today.  In that way, we aren’t so different from people of ancient history who also saw this as a time to give thanks for their blessings & humbly acknowledge their failures in order to learn & move forward.  Summer Solstice is officially the beginning of the astronomical summer but it’s traditionally celebrated as midsummer because it’s the mid-point of the growing season & the pinnacle of daylight.

How did we honor Summer Solstice in days long ago?

Sacred, ancient sites around the world use the solstices as markers.  Stonehedge in England, the Angkor Wat temple/observatory in Cambodia, Mayan ruins, & what may be a sun temple in Israel where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered have stones or openings where the sun perfectly aligns during the Summer Solstice.  Taoists in China recognize the Summer Solstice as the birth of yin (the Divine Feminine), a time of bounty as the literal & figurative seeds we’ve planted come to fruition.

So how do we honor Summer Solstice now?

Contemporary cultures tend to replace ancient bonfire rituals with campfires & fireworks.  Feasts of food ripening in June have been replaced with picnics overflowing with hotdogs, potato chips, soda, & beer.  Is this our 21st century bounty?    Forgive me if I sound cynical but I’m tired of the commercialism & shallowness of what have become “typical” American rituals (consider what we do for our graduates, brides-to-be, & new mothers to name a few).

I regrettably understand how we tend to “honor” Summer Solstice so a new question emerges in my consciousness… “How can I make it more meaningful?”

This year, I’ve designed a ceremony for women who want to reconnect to nature & one another.  We’ll dress boldly to honor the height of daylight, meditate while lying on the earth to feel the living energy housed within, connect with each other through a non-traditional ribbon cutting ceremony, share our  achievements & failures from the past year so we can learn from one another, & partake of sunflower seeds & orange juice- symbols of the sun.  Any leftover seeds will be scattered for the birds so wildlife can join our celebration.

Do I expect everyone to honor Summer Solstice this way?  Of course not.  You’d be missing the point if you simply adopted yet another ritual without personalizing it.  Here’s what I wish for you…

1)  Approach everything with an open heart & mind.

2)  Take what resonates with you & leave the rest.

Blessings & happy Summer Solstice!!

Mini Landscape Collages

When I moved to Pennsylvania in the summer of 2004, I was (and still am) completely enamored of the countryside- breathtaking old barns, Holstein cows dotting the landscape, & plowed fields that look like Mother Nature quilted them Herself.  I took hundreds of photos that first year & continue to take photos as I find vistas that inspires me.

Landscapes used to intimidated me as an artist.  I’d ask myself, how do great artists successfully create pieces based on the places that inspire them?  It dawned on me that they were recording their expressions & impressions of the landscapes, not the landscapes themselves.   I was trying too hard to “capture” scenery rather than interpret the essence of what I saw & how it made me feel.  That realization liberated me as an artist & allows me to freely express my emotional connections to the spirits of place.

I’m creating a series of six 4-inch square collages based on my photographs.  Here are the first three.  The photos are included so you can see how I took the scenery & interpreted it in a way that honors it without trying to recreate it.

mini landscape 2

landscape 2

mini landscape 1

landscape 1

mini landscape 3

landscape 3

Shades of Green

The grey of a coming storm brings an electric sizzle to the air & an unrivaled brilliance to colors in my back garden, especially the greens.  Like a photographer arranging a neutral backdrop to enhance the colors in her subject, Mother Earth enhances the hues in nature by rolling grey clouds across the skyscape.

rainy day 1

As the most recent storm approaches, I stare out the window of my sunporch, marveling at the greens & laughing at my inability to name them all, despite growing up with the world-famous box of 64 Crayola crayons with the sharpener in the back.  Let’s see, there was green-blue, blue-green, yellow-green, green-yellow, olive green, sea green, forest green (like that’s one color!!), & just plain “green”. 

rainy day 2

I run outside in the first fat raindrops, absorbing the countless greens of the entire garden at their most vibrant.   I get closer to my viburnum shrub, still countless shades of green on one plant.  Zooming in, closer still, I see countless greens in just one leaf.   

rainy day 3

Grey days are anything but dreary!     Grabbing my camera, I make a vain attempt to capture the many shades of green in my garden before the clouds shift & take some of the brilliance with them. One hot, summer day in the not too distant future, the attention-seeking sun will bleach many of the greens, turning them to dry browns.  Rather than lament the loss, I’ll cheerfully count the reds of berries & blossoms or the yellows of peppers & squash.  There’s always something wonderful to experience in the garden, every second of every day of the year.

 

Stretching Creatively

I guess it’s been almost 20 years since I tried writing a poem longer than a Haiku.  For some reason, the words never seem to flow as easily as images in my visual art so when the opportunity to take a one-evening workshop on creative writing came up, I seized it.  While I could easily slide into a groove, producing a body of artwork that is distinctly mine & similar in style, I like to stretch creatively– pushing the boundaries of my imagination & ability, growing as an artist.

The writing activity that inspired me the most was one called “If I were…”  The facilitator finished the phrase with words such as “a piece of furniture”, “a sound”, a color”, “an animal”, ” a food”, & “a place in nature”.  We numbered a piece of paper from 1-16 & finished the phrases as quickly as possible so our subconscious could override our active, logical, over-analyzing minds.  From words including “rocking chair”, “purr”, “lapis blue”, “lynx”, “chocolate fondue” & “a bed of moss under a tree”, I shaped nonsensical sentences then turned those sentences into a poem.  Here’s the result of that exercise…

The Odalisque

Lynx languidly reclines on her mossy bed beneath the firs.

Holding court, she coyly swirls figure eights

in the melted chocolate with her lustrous tail.

“Infinity”, she purrs, “Infinity.”

 

 

Dainty paws pluck from her plate

fears carefully considered then…

Dunked in decadent darkness & swallowed with satisfaction.

Demurely dabbing at puddles of chocolate caught in the corners of her smile,

“Fearless”, she purrs, “Fearless.”

 

 

Lynx stretches luxuriously in lapis-tinted twilight.

Harpsichord hammers out a haunting refrain

as rocking chair sways in time.

“Sing your song”, she purrs, “Sing your song.”

 

 

Her seductive Siren call lures me into the fondue.

Like amoeba evolving from primordial ooze,

I emerge from my chocolate baptism,

enveloped in warmth, reborn & reminded,

“Simply be”, I purr, “Simply be.”

What Makes a Perfect Day?

What makes an ordinary day more extraordinary?  What makes a typical Saturday perfect?  BALANCE.  Just the right mix of work & play, activity & inactivity, movement & stillness.

We woke to a brilliant sun suspended in a turquoise sky.  Instead of the usual rush, we took our time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast & an extra cup of coffee as the birds soared around the backyard, looking for their breakfast, too.  We agreed that we wanted to get our errands done as fast as possible so we could get back home & get outside.  That we did… in record time!

The garden was calling as it tends to do on a 70 degree spring day.  “Play with me!  Nurture me!, it beckoned.  I played in the dirt, weeding flower beds until my fingernails were full of dirt & my arms tingled from a slight sunburn.

Then, the lawnchair began calling as it tends to do after a few hours of yardwork.  “Sit with me.  Keep me company!”  How could I resist?  I grabbed a novel & a glass of wine, reading in the shade until the next voice called.

My dogs, dozing in the grass, grew restless as they tend to do after too much time lying about.  “Walk with us.  Pet us!”  I stretched lazily then rose to get their leashes.  We had a wonderful walk, enjoying the neighbor’s yards where daffodils & tulips of every color danced in the sunshine.

When we returned, my boyfriend was calling as he tends to do on a Saturday after too much time apart.  “Eat with me.  Spend time with me!”  We made a delicious stir-fry veggie dinner & sipped some more wine as the sun began to set on our perfect day.

There’s nothing better than a day spend doing what I love with those I love the most.

A Splash of Color

My heart practically bursts with joy, wandering my back garden in early spring.

birdseed

Beckoning Birdfeeder

daffodil 1

Daffodil in Bloom

Forsythia

Flowering Forsythia

hyacinth

Inhale deeply… can you smell the sweetness?

little ones

Beautiful things come in small packages.

pale daffodil

Delicate daffodil

puppy fur

Dogs napping on the deck… sure sign of warmer weather.

sedum

Luscious, succulent sedum

Took a Tech “Time-Out”

I deliberately took a tech “time-out” for several days because I found myself paying more attention to my blog, email, & texts than who I love & what I love.  I was writing about life so much that I wasn’t living it.  So, I took a break to realign with Source & took steps to be more present in the present.  That meant…

Connecting:  spending time with people I love, doing things I love.  We hiked a nearby park along a beautiful lake, enjoyed a cookout with beloved friends, & went on a day trip to Washington DC.  I have to say the National Museum of American Indians is phenomenal & a must-see for anyone curious about early Americans (South, Central, & North).  Reading their creation stories, seeing how they lived felt Holy somehow.  The architecture alone is worth the visit.  While most buildings are harsh & angular, this museum is a hushed whisper, curving to mimic a stream, a breeze, or possibly the curves in a landscape.  Beautiful!!  The Blossom Kite Festival on the Mall also took place the day we were visiting.  I felt pure happiness, almost giddy, watching the brightly colored kites dance against the pale blue sky & marveled to see everyone smiling & laughing.  Kite flying is obviously one of life’s simple pleasures, turning everyone into a kid again. 

  Grounding- aligning myself with nature & all that is.  Now that the weather is warming up, I can lay on the ground or sit with my back against a tree to meditate.  It really soothes my spirit & reminds me of the interconnectedness of all things, allowing me the use of all my senses to recognize the changes Spring brings.  I got dirty, too, by picking weeds, raking out flower beds, & planting seeds in tiny pots for transplanting outside in a few more weeks.  For me, getting dirty while gardening is mystical, too, as all my time in nature is fast becoming.

Decluttering-  cleaning out my house & my Self.  I clean out winter clothing & household goods that could serve someone else & give things to charity.  I reevaluate how I spend my time, keeping what serves & eliminating what doesn’t to make way for the new.  Over time, we all outgrow jobs, hobbies, committees, & other interests.  Let them go & see what fills the space.  I recently had to acknowledge that I was holding onto experiences that weren’t mine to hold– a friend’s divorce, a cancer diagnosis, an acquaintance’s termination from work.  I can support, love, & encourage but cannot & should not control.  When I get too immersed in someone else’s experience, it’s time to surrender to what is greater than myself.

Pause when you hear that little voice inside tell you to pause.  It has your best interest at heart.  After all, that small sacred voice IS your voice.

Here are links to the National Museum of American Indians & a video clip of the Blossom Kite Festival (thanks to YouTube).  Enjoy!!

http://nmai.si.edu/visit/washington/

Rhythms of the Year

If we are sensitive to the messages from the natural world,

we’ll recognize great truths that hold meaning for our own lives. 

That’s the message of Rhythms of the Year, a workshop I’ve designed that draws on a variety of earth-based traditions that respect the cycles of nature-  from the seasons of the year to the phases of the moon.  This new workshop is a year-long study for women who requested “something more” after attending almost 2 years of other workshops I facilitated.  I understand that not everyone can make this kind of a time commitment so I’m also designing a distilled version so the most important concepts can be explored in a shorter time period (maybe a week-long retreat or weekend introductory experience?  Who knows what will evolve!)  Rhythms of the Year teaches us to honor nature’s cycles & recognize how they impact the cycles in our own lives.  I truly believe that the rhythms in each of us mirror the rhythms in nature.

As the facilitator, it’s my responsibility (& privilege) to hold a sacred space for self-discovery & exploration… a safe, inviting, nurturing environment where participants can comfortably explore their own journey in the company of others doing the same thing, in their own way.  There’s laughter, tears, times to be serious, & times to be silly.  It’s who we are, where we are, at that moment in time.

Rhythms of the Year is a workshop that incorporates creative expression, spiritual exploration, & intuition to enhance self-awareness & understanding of the interconnectedness of all things.  Activities include the creation of vision boards, mandalas, & prayer flags; forms of writing; musical expression through dance, chanting, & drumming; mediation; prayer; & energy work.  I ask participants to “come with open minds & open hearts.  Take what resonates with you & leave the rest.”  This isn’t about adopting another person’s belief system; it’s about creating a more spiritually-meaningful, self-empowering life experience in whatever way works for you.

I’m excited about this workshop because it incorporates many of the practices that hold meaning for me & allows me to share them with others.  What I love about the workshops I lead is how they take on a life of their own.  Even though I can offer the same workshop multiple times, it inevitably evolves into something unique depending on the participants & what they bring to the experience.  We’re co-creators.  I’m really looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me & hope to share more with you soon.