Slow and Deliberate

I’ve been recording my dreams for over 30 years, keeping journals & reflecting on the meaning of my dreams for I believe they are messengers that can inform our lives.  In the past few years, I’ve extended my dreamwork wisdom to workshops & women’s groups, with the intention of helping others use their intuitive wisdom to interpret their own dreams.

Our inner council (intuition, gut, guardian angel, etc…) works for our highest good.  It’s up to us to acknowledge that & make changes as needed.

In a recent dream, a white alligator protected a younger version of myself.  The alligator sat half-submerged in the water, unmoving yet vigilant & alert to her surroundings.  Nothing escaped her notice.  I sat timidly in the shelter of some exposed tree roots where the water met the shore.  I was hiding but never saw what the danger was.  The alligator knew… she would make sure I stayed safe.

When I awoke,  I referenced Animal Speak by Ted Andrews.  This resource is full of animal facts & symbolic interpretations that have guided me well for years.  Even if I dream about the same animal more than once, I’m able to get something different & relevant from this book.  This time, the part that resonated for me was a few sentences on the alligator’s eating habits & how it digests its food very slowly.  That spoke to where I am now.  I’m taking in a lot of new information from a variety of sources.  Some is worth retaining & applying to my life.  Other information is merely that endless stream of garbage from the internet, the news, & print media.

If the alligator dream wasn’t enough of a message, I read Grandmothers Counsel the World by Carol Schaefer.  The passage I read aligned perfectly with the dream.  In it, Schaefer quotes a Yupik elder (a tribe of indigenous people near the Arctic Circle) who said, “Yupiks believe it is significant that we are born very small & grow slowly, not eating right away, slowly developing our awareness of the world.”

Synchronicity… I’m hearing the same message to “slow down & be deliberate with my actions” from more than one source.  I take this to mean that I need to limit the intake of information so I can slowly process what I’ve already learned.  Digest what I’ve already bitten off before taking another bite.  To stay in balance, I need to proceed at a pace that’s right for me.  These messages alert me to the fact that I’ve been so eager to learn, grow, & move on to a new project that I’m at risk of making careless mistakes. Instead of working shallow & broad, I need to work deep & narrow, focusing on what truly matters.  What I do is meaningful & I need to take it to a new level without being distracted by the rest of the information bombarding my mind, heart, & soul.

Dreams are powerful.  I’ll honor my own inner wisdom & heed what they have to say.

Advertisements

Truth Cards

I have an amazing group of friends who I can dance with, drum with, & drink fabulous bottles of wine as we laugh, cry, & share together.  They’re more than friends; they’re mentors each in their own way, stretching me intellectually & spiritually.  So when one of them suggested that each of us make a Truth Box,  stirring creativity into the soup with our intellects & spirits, I was intrigued.  I never heard of a Truth Box before.  Ellen explained that it is a shoebox decorated by the owner to symbolize her truth about herself, using whatever materials inspire her.  Then, each other member of our clan will contribute a small object to place in the box, the “truth” about the receiver as the giver sees it.

For example, one woman selected aromatherapy candles for each of us based on traits she saw in us.  Her vision of me was revealed in the name of the fragrant purple candle I received– Creativity.

This bitterly cold January day is the perfect opportunity to go within… deep into the womb of my home (my art studio)… and deep within myself to reflect on what each friend means to me.  I began with a meditation on an individual, focusing on her name & image in my mind.  Thus inspired, I selected imagery, textiles, & patterns to represent the “truth” from the rich variety of materials I’ve collected over the years.    Intuition reigned during this part of the process.  Once materials were chosen, I let intellect rule so I could make decisions about composition & edit the materials that didn’t resonate as strongly as others.  At first, I considered this activity a balancing act between the aspects of self– head, heart, & hands… but upon further reflection, it feels more like being on a child’s swing, flying through the air in a giant arc.  At times reaching high toward spirit then dipping through intellect before swinging to the opposite height where emotions reside.   What started out as an intriguing art activity ultimately became a magical, sacred act, expressing the connection between me & each of the women in my clan.

I know “truth” is multilayered, never complete & ever-revealing…like the wonderful friendships I have with these special women.

The "truth" as I see it in this moment in time.

The “truth” as I see it in this moment in time, or at least… a part of the truth.

Truth Collages 2

Sacred Smudge Sticks

Like people, each plant has a purpose.  Some provide nourishment, while others offer shelter or have healing properties.  In addition to its use as a culinary herb, Sage is known for protecting one’s environment & healing the energetic field (aura) of the person who uses it.  Some even call it the “Spirit Caller”.   For early Egyptians it promoted fertility & for the Celts, it represented immortality.  At 47, I have no desire for either of those!  Instead, I focus on this aromatic plant’s ability to banish evil & unwanted influences, create sacred space, heal, & inspire wisdom.

I use smudge sticks of Sage (sometimes combined with juniper or cedar) for a variety of reasons, most often, to bless my home.  I light the stick & use an owl feather to direct the scented smoke to the corners of each room.  As I walk in awareness, I say a special blessing for this space to be full of light, laughter, love, & warmth.  I also pray that my family & friends feel welcomed, nurtured, & loved when they enter my home.  Other times, I use sage to prepare for meditation or to dispel the negativity that can follow me home at the end of the day.  I imagine the day’s stress floating on the smoke & eventually disappearing.

Sage 2

As the chance of frost threatens my herb garden, I decided to harvest the varieties of sage to make smudge sticks for my friends. Before I cut the silver green leaves from their woody stems, I said a prayer of gratitude.  Once my basket was full, I brought the sage inside & selected 7 different colors of embroidery floss, representing the chakras, to wrap my sage into bundles.  I grasped a handful of sage, cut the stems evenly across the bottom, & secured them with the floss.   I set the intention that each smudge stick will bring healing & wisdom to the person who uses it.  There is exactly enough sage for the 7 major chakras.  Perfect!  I hope they enjoy the smudge sticks as much as I enjoyed making them.

Grandparents’ Day

The one day a year that recognizes how I feel all 365 days of the year…

proud, eternally grateful, & full of never-ending love. 

Dear Grampy & Nanny,

Thank you for giving me an appreciation for the beauty of nature & joy for the simple things in life.  Most of all, thank you for loving me unconditionally.

XOXO
Susan

Sacred Space

The best wisdom is so simple.  I shake my head & wonder, “Why didn’t I already know this?”  Maybe on some level, I did but just forgot.

Guided meditations often start with phrases like, “You are in a peaceful place in nature” or “Picture yourself in a warm, cozy room where you feel safe & loved.”  They are great ways to help us sink into a space that is calm so we can do the work required of us to become more balanced, serene, & relaxed.

At some point, I found that I needed more.  When I was open & ready to receive, what I needed came to me.  It was the realization that while there are sacred places in the world, the most sacred space is inside of me.  That’s the place I need to honor & protect.  Seeing my Self as sacred is very empowering.  It helps me reject negativity that wants to enter my space.  I symbolically put a hand out in front of me & say, “Do not enter.”  Sure, I still feel anger, frustration, sadness, & fear but I don’t become those emotions.  I cannot control my surroundings, other people, or events; however, I can control how I let them affect me.

Before you roll your eyes & say, “Yeah, that sounds good but it’s just not that easy”, let me say, “You’re right.  It’s not.”  That’s why it’s called a spiritual PRACTICE.  I’m going to have to practice this every day, sometimes being more successful than others.  When I slip & fall on my path, I’ll try to be more loving & forgive my Self.  It’s not easy.  In fact, sometimes it feels like someone is out there, deliberately putting challenges in my path to test me.  That’s ok.  I’ll do the best I can.  My peace & sense of well-being are worth the effort.

I AM SACRED…. and so are YOU.

 

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.”

Permission to Let Go

I had an epiphany while walking the dogs last night.  (Keep in mind that my epiphanies sometimes occur only after I’ve figuratively beat my head against a wall not once, not twice, but three or more times!)  I realized that I’m trying to change things that aren’t mine to change.  You’ve probably felt this way at some point– helplessly watching a friend battle addiction, a sister suffer in a bad relationship, or a co-worker compromise their principles for the safety of a paycheck.  Perhaps, your concerns are even bigger– animal cruelty, global warming, or the state of our nation’s educational system.

When we care passionately, we want to help.  When we care passionately, we want to fix it & make it all better.  When we care passionately, we sometimes have to let go.  This makes sense to our brain but takes longer for our heart & soul to admit.  “Yes, I know that but I can’t give up.”  The bottom line is that we don’t want to give up because we see it as a sign of failure.

Giving ourselves permission to let go of things beyond our control isn’t failure; it’s an opportunity to redirect our time, energy, & emotions in a more productive & positive way.  Maybe it’s time for some soul-searching.  Am I putting my energy where it can do the most good?  Should I take that energy & put it elsewhere?  Approach your Self with love, compassion, & empathy.  It’s not failure to let go of what wasn’t yours to hold in the first place.    Peace.

Art Journal as Loving Tribute

I recently posted “What’s An Art Journal For?”, explaining… “my art journal helps me delve deeper into my soul, interpret my dreams, & chronicle my life.  It’s far more intimate than a sketchbook.”  Over the last few days, I’ve been using it as a way to heal & honor my beloved Shih Tzu, Pixie, who died at age 14 1/2.  I should clarify, she didn’t “die”… I had her put to sleep because of tumors that would have made each day slightly worse than the day before.  After all the countless wonderful memories & a lifetime of loving devotion, I couldn’t bear to see her suffer for even one day.  She deserved much better than that & in a strange way, saying goodbye like this was my final gift to the girl who gave me unconditional love her entire life.   Her last day was spent going for a walk, eating her favorite foods, & getting so many kisses from me that I thought I’d wear a bald spot on her beautiful little head.  She was my girl & will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Sweetest Girl in the World

I took a day off work to mourn her & feel sorry for myself.  I cried a lot while working on a two-page memorial using acrylics, paper, her Obedience Training certificate (which is a joke since I was the one who ended up being trained!), & ink drawings inspired by the enormous number of photos I took over the years.

The Many Faces of Pixie

The Obedience Certificate that should have my name on it!!

As an artist, I’m blessed to have a creative outlet for my feelings.  As a person, I’m equally blessed to have memories of a wonderful companion, Pixie.  Sleep well my fearless Flying Squirrel.

A Woman's Best Friend

What’s An Art Journal For?

My art journal is a visual diary, quite different from the many sketchbooks of various shapes & sizes I have scattered about my house.  While the sketchbooks contain doodles, ideas for future compositions, color experiments, & sketches, my art journal helps me delve deeper into my soul, interpret my dreams, & chronicle my life.  It’s far more intimate than a sketchbook.

Lately, I’ve been doing some soul searching but have found it difficult to put my feelings into words.  Finally, I realized that I’m most in touch with my Self when I create visually.  I cut out pictures from magazines & used bits of paper & found objects that spoke to me (including a few fallen feathers from Bella, my parakeet).  I just let my heart talk & shut off the mind chatter.  What you see below is the result.  Not sure if there is an answer in this collage but you can surely see that I’m questioning.

Searching: An Art Journal Entry

Detail from Searching

Searching: Every figure in this is a part of my Self

Searching: possibly searching within... not sure yet

 

Art as Ritual

There are many major events in our culture that have their own ritual from weddings to graduations yet there are some that have no ritual at all, a girl’s transition to womanhood with her first period or a boy’s transition to manhood (when exactly is that?).  There is a growing movement to make moments more special by personalizing rituals that aren’t very meaningful anymore (the commercialization of holidays comes to mind) or creating new rituals where there isn’t one.  I had to do that when Buddy, my dog of 13 years, died.  I mentioned in my last post how it affected Pixie, my darling Shih Tzu.  I don’t have to go into detail about how deeply it affected me, too.

To honor Buddy’s memory, give him a proper good-bye, & give myself closure, I created my own ritual that included a burial with his favorite stuffed animal, a eulogy where I mentioned many of the wonderful memories we shared, journal writing, & the creation of a portrait that was based on a silly photo of him & Pixie in a washtub.  How he hated that experience!  I could practically hear him protesting the humiliation of being photographed in a plastic tub.  Totally embarrassing for a dog of his stature 🙂  The portrait wasn’t meant to be realistic; it was meant to capture his playful yet curmudgeonly spirit as well as Pixie’s sweetness.  This artwork helped me heal & still makes me laugh each time I see it.  Art is one of the great healers & a valuable component to meaningful ritual for me.  How do you make rituals meaningful for yourself?

 

Their expressions say it all!