Portrait of an Artist

This piece is dedicated to artists, songwriters, poets, & all others who create from a deep place within their soul.  

For, I believe, creation is a sacred act performed in collaboration with the Divine force that inspires & co-creates with us.  

I hope you see yourself in this portrait.

 

I enter the passageway, regal yet humble, confident yet scared- bare feet purposefully connecting to the cool rock beneath them.  Moss cushions one footstep while jagged rocks poke savagely at the next.  No right or wrong… just being.

There is drumming but no drummer.  The heartbeat of the earth itself.  The heartbeat of this cavernous temple.

Long skirt, bare arms- warm there, cool here.  I continue to be pulled in deeper & deeper.  The drumbeat-heartbeat echoes in my ears, pounding in my brain until thoughts are blessedly mute.  There’s just the pounding rhythm.

Small torches give life to shadows that dance on the walls.  Spirits are here.  I am the priestess, the High Priestess, of this temple, standing in the power of connecting and belonging.  A larger light beckons from deeper within.  I walk up to the shallow copper bowl on its pedestal, coals glowing inside.  Such heat blows the hair back from my face, drying my lips & eyes.  I shut them both & raise my hands to either side of the bowl, moving them first closer to the heat then into the coolness before settling comfortably in the warm middle space.

I peer down into the embers, where more spirits dance.  Such power- an energy that dances in me, too.  What is the message?  “This cannot be rushed.  Demands & impatience have no place here.  Look & listen.”

I genuflect, hands before my face, palms pressed together in prayer position.  I touch them to my core- a place of right action, my heart- right emotion, my throat- right communication, between my eyes- right thought, and the crown of my head- right connection.  This sets the intention for sacred work to take place.

Drumbeat-heartbeat no longer a sound, now a feeling.

One knee senses the small pebbles beneath, grounding me to this place and time.  When ready, I rise and bow to the fire- giver of life, destroyer, and transformer.  I proceed to the dark recess where torch and ember cannot reach.

Wetness… bare feet slip on rocks and hands slide along slick walls.  I smell the dampness that blankets my skin and fills my nostrils.  I drink with every breath.

I notice the small pots on the stony ledge and pick one up.  It’s half full of russet paint, the color of dried blood.  I push my finger into the warm thickness then streak the bridge of my nose and under each eye.  I hold space for a still moment before I take that pot to the place where dark meets light and magic takes place.  I dip a crude brush into the paint then hover above the place on the wall where I want to put the image.  Wait.  Keep waiting as long as I’m thinking “I want.  I want.”  When “I want” becomes “thy will”, place the brush on the rock and let it move.  It will be what it will be.

Back- long and strong, around the haunches- muscular and determined, shoulders- curved and coiled for action, neck- supporting the regal head, and face- alive and knowing.  What else?  I wait for it to come.  If nothing comes, I stop for stopping is all I can do.  This is a collaborative piece that I can never own or dare to take credit for.  My body, like my brush, is a channel.

I stand in the silence… feeling the blood course through my veins and pound in my ears.  All the pounding- my heartbeat, the drumbeat, and the animal spirits stampeding on the wall.  I know this is all for now and I am at peace.  I return the bowl to its place on the dark shelf and I return to the light beyond the embers and the torchlight to the fiery radiance of the sun.

Sensory overload as macaws scream, monkeys screech, insects rub legs and wings, birds chirp, and the waterfall roars.  I cover my ears with my hands.  Too much to take in.  Too many objects… too many sounds… too many scents vying for attention, rushing me all at once.  I long to return to the cave, that place far removed yet more deeply connected to all that is.

This, too, is my world.  Men feeding elephants.  Women feeding babies.  I take from the cave and bring to the village as a gift.  I take from the village and bring to the cave as a gift.  All of life committed to being an offering.  An expression of gratitude for the light and the darkness, the noise and the silence… gratitude for all that is.

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Holy Now

I have to share these song lyrics with you.  They touch me on the deepest and the highest levels…

Holy Now

by Peter Mayer

When I was a boy, each week

On Sunday, we would go to church

And pay attention to the priest

He would read the holy word

And consecrate the holy bread

And everyone would kneel and bow

Today the only difference is

Everything is holy now

Everything everything

Everything is holy now.

When I was in Sunday school

We would learn about the time

Moses split the sea in two

Jesus made the water wine

And I remember feeling sad

That miracles don’t happen still

But now I can’t keep track

‘Cause everything’s a miracle

Everything, everything

Everything’s a miracle

Wine from water is not so small

But an even better magic trick

Is that anything is here at all

So the challenging thing becomes

Not to look for miracles

But finding where there isn’t one

When holy water was rare at best

It barely wet my fingertips

But now I have to hold my breath

Like I’m swimming in a sea of it

It used to be a world half there

Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down

But I walk it with a reverent air

‘Cause everything is holy now

Everything, everything

Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child’s face

And say it’s not a testament

That’d be very hard to say

See another morning come

And say it’s not a sacrament

I tell you that it can’t be done

This morning outside I stood

And saw a little red-winged bird

Shining like a burning bush

Singing like a scripture verse

It made me want to bow my head

I remember when church let out

How things have changed since then

Everything is holy now

It used to be a world half-there

Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down

But I walk it with a reverent air

‘Cause everything is holy now.

My First Kirtan

Music unites people in a way that no other form of communication can.  The rhythms & emotions cross all racial, ethnic, religious, & political lines & I wholeheartedly celebrate that!

“One Love” gets it.   This 4-person band uses kirtans to repeatedly chant names for the Divine that cross all faiths.  The night I attended their performance, I soon learned it wasn’t a “performance” at all.  The band & audience members joined to chant various names for Source, including Espiritu de Dios, Allah, Krishna, Sita, Ram, Red Tara, Ganesha, Kali, & Sarasvati.  One Love believes that “each repetition of the Name is a sip of that sweet nectar that is the Divine Presence.  The interesting paradox is that through chanting the Names, we deepen into the experience of the Nameless.”

Before joining their global ecstatic chant last weekend, I did a little research to find out “kirtan” is call & response chanting.  It is a Sanskrit word meaning communicate, celebrate, & praise.  These hymns or mantras are accompanied by a variety of instruments from guitars to drums & flutes.  I found it sublime.

My personal favorite was a chant inspired by a Navajo prayer…

Beauty before me

Beauty behind me

Beauty beneath me

Beauty above me

Beauty beside me

And all around me

Beauty encircles me with love.

I loved being in the company of like-minded individuals who value the interconnectedness of all things & respect spiritual traditions from cultures around the world.  For a couple of magical hours that night, we deepened our connection to the Divine & one another.  It was a profoundly beautiful & unifying experience.

Please check out One Love’s website… http://onelovechant.com

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.

For the Spiritual Journey

In a few short weeks, I’ll be facilitating a workshop for women who want to continue exploring their spiritual journey in the context of woman-honoring cultures throughout history.  We’ll travel to various countries across several continents, studying matriarchal societies & the concept of the divine feminine.   I say “continue exploring” because many of these women have taken my previous workshops & want to continue their exploration in the company of other intelligent, warm, funny, spiritual women ranging from their teens to their seventies!

Leading this workshop is a bit like being a cruise ship captain, planning activities & excursions so each passenger can find the trip worthwhile & fun along the way.  Instead of shuffleboard & a swimming pool, I’m providing religion, the arts, politics, & history.

What does one pack for a spiritual journey?  Chants/songs, rituals, study, writings, personal experience, meditation, drumming, artwork, storytelling, dance, visualization, & service to others are the items which make the journey worthwhile.  Each participant will find that certain items resonate with her while others aren’t as important for the path she is traveling.  It’s ok.  Take what is needed & leave the rest.

My quick study of a jubilant African drummer in gouache & watercolor inspires me to create a body of artwork based on the spiritual items described above.  Soon, I’ll share them with you.  Blessings to you as you travel your own path.

Drumming is one way to explore & celebrate spirituality.