Light Bodies

Each body of my work has it’s own energetic and aesthetic quality and this group of work feels distinctly of the earth (grounded, visceral, pulsing with life) and yet it also feels very much tethered to the cosmos (celestial, ephemeral, sublime). I’ve been doing a meditation a lot lately in which I visualize my roots going deep down into the earth and then my crown going way out into the Universe, well past the farthest star. I’ve found the idea that I can be both grounded to the earth and simultaneously connected to greater consciousness very comforting. I’ve read countless books on death and dying in recent months and beyond the need to better understand that experience, it’s also become clear to me that I’m trying to find some sense of footing on the other side of life and what might exists there. I was scheduled to get a tattoo last month and due to a seemingly random hit of inspiration, ended up changing my mind at the last minute and getting the wings of Isis instead. The wings of Isis symbolize ascension, protection of the dead and the ability to transition seamlessly between life and the afterlife.

My girlfriend that passed away last Summer has been showing up in my dreams lately, telling me about what it’s like beyond the physical plane. Sometimes what she imparts comes through as feeling tones or subtle evocative sensations and sometimes she’ll say something like, “All the colors are different except for yellow. Yellow is the same.” In the dreams, she seems to know that I am trying to create a deeper connection to what can’t be seen or named or even fathomed to those of us that still occupy bodies. Like the steadfast friend she has always been to me, she drops me these little clues helping me to draw connections between this world and the one just beyond my purview.

The most important and meaningful thread I’ve encountered in all the reading I’ve done is the thread that links the physical to the non. So many writers have touched on what happens after someone dies including the subtle cues that emerge indicating that the individual may no longer exist in physical form but is still here, albeit in a very nascent and transient way. Meghan O’Rourke who wrote the memoir, “The Long Good-bye” about her mother who passed away from cancer says this at the end of the book: “Before we scattered the ashes, I had an eerie experience. I went for a short run. I hate running in the cold, but after so much time indoors in the dead of winter I was filled with exuberance. I ran lightly through the stripped, bare woods, past my favorite house, poised on a high hill, and turned back, flying up the road, turning left. In the last stretch I picked up the pace, the air crisp, and I felt myself float up off the ground. The world became greenish. The brightness of the snow and the trees intensified. I was almost giddy. Behind the bright flat horizon of the treescape, I understood, were worlds beyond our everyday perceptions. My mother was out there, inaccessible to me, but indelible. The blood moved along my veins and the

snow and trees shimmered in greenish light. Suffused with joy, I stopped stock- still in the road, feeling like a player in a drama I didn’t understand and didn’t need to. Then I sprinted up the driveway and opened the door and as the heat rushed out the clarity dropped away. I’d had an intuition like this once before, as a child in Vermont. I was walking from the house to open the gate to the driveway. It was fall. As I put my hand on the gate, the world went ablaze, as bright as the autumn leaves, and I lifted out of myself and understood that I was part of a magnificent book. What I knew as “life” was a thin version of something larger, the pages of which had all been written. What I would do, how I would live — it was already known. I stood there with a kind of peace humming in my blood.”

While Meaghan’s language resonates with me the most, I have come across many accounts of something similar for those either facing death or companioning someone through the process. By getting close enough to death’s door, it seems we inexplicably gain occasional access to a portal that allows us to briefly see the greater blueprint or pattern that underlies all of physical manifestation and that while we may have thought that the physical world of what can be seen and measured was all there is, we can see now that it is merely one sliver of existence.

It has been encouraging to come into contact with this theme again and again throughout my reading and then deeply reassuring to have the theme become experiential by actually gaining access to that portal. My painting practice and what shows up on the canvas is always inextricably intertwined with whatever is happening is my life, what I’ve been investigating consciously and what I might be chewing on unconsciously. These paintings are the artifacts of the quest I have been on to make radical peace with death through gleaning newfound awareness or wisdom around what’s beneath it, below it, behind it, beyond it. And not just because my friend, Susannah has walked through that door or because my beloved brother, Colin will walk through it soon but because I have understood to some degree that there is a profound and unshakable sense of solace that comes when we understand that there is no real end. From the very onset of my painting practice, long before I was contemplating themes of the afterlife or mortality, my paintings have always insisted on something more. They speak of what’s beyond the grasp of the here and now. They beckon me beyond limited notions of what is and into the elusive waters of that which cannot be named. Through color and line and form they reveal to me an unencumbered sense of wonder that exists well beyond all the fixed ideas, and formulated hypothesis I so often defer to in order to make sense of this deeply mysterious experience of being alive. They hint at a pervasive and luminous light that underlies this duality laden realm of existence. Their ultimate message is that everything, literally everything, is comprised of love. Suffering in all forms is merely a by product of being disconnected from this truth.

 WINDOW IN  32” X 32”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

WINDOW IN  32” X 32”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

 WINDOW OUT  32” X 32”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

WINDOW OUT  32” X 32”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

 WELCOME HOME  50” X 50"  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

WELCOME HOME  50” X 50"  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

 ASCENSION  32” X 32”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

ASCENSION  32” X 32”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

 LULL  32” X 32”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

LULL  32” X 32”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

 RETURN  38” X 50”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

RETURN  38” X 50”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

 SUFFUSE  38” X 50”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

SUFFUSE  38” X 50”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

 AD INFINITUM  38” X 38”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

AD INFINITUM  38” X 38”  OIL – MIXED MEDIA

Creativity Matters

In her book, Coming Back To Life, Joanna Macy remarks on the poignancy of this current point in time, which is characterized by a slow yet steady awakening to the state of humanity and the state of the planet. "We don’t break free from denial and repression by gritting our teeth and trying to be nobler, braver citizens. We don’t retrieve our passion for life, our wild, innate creativity, by scolding ourselves and soldiering on with a stiff upper lip. That model of heroic behavior belongs to the worldview that gave us the Industrial Growth Society. The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying our world—we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other."

Joanna Macy is ahead of her time and these words are even more apropos 20 years later. The collective tipping point into greater consciousness offers us all the option of waking up more fully to who we are, what our purpose here is and how we need to go about achieving it. After working with people in a creative capacity over the course of the last 20 years, it has become increasingly clear to me that accessing and harnessing our creative impulses on a micro level is essential for our own personal progress and equally critical on a macro level to facilitate our collective evolution beyond limited and dated ways of perceiving and operating. Active engagement with our right brains allows us to problem-solve at a much higher level. This is where disparate dots are connected, synergy occurs, and innovation lives. By engaging our intuition we wake these parts of ourselves up. We begin to see possibility where it didn't exist before and the significance of Einstein's words take on new meaning: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is if as everything is a miracle." To Macy's point, we must wake up to a renewed version of ourselves, vision of the world and how we relate within it but this cannot be achieved through force or discipline alone. We are called to soften our hearts and return to our essential Selves with deep compassion for and kindness toward self and other. This is what will allow our hearts and minds to open and conceive of a new way of being and doing. 

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Legendary Physicist, David Bohm emphasizes how imperative it is for each individual to wake up to his or her own intrinsic creative potential. He makes the analogy that just as the body requires breath to survive, the mind needs creativity. "Our failure to originate creative responses lies in the fact that our minds have become mechanical in their responses." The mind is essentially responding to new information with dated data. "When the mind reacts mechanically with a conditioned rather than original response, the result is dissatisfying and confusing because how the mind operated or the orders it gave are inconsistent with what is present in reality." As challenging as it is to respond authentically with an open and creative mind, based on the current state of humanity, there is nothing more important.

When asked about how the role of creativity has altered science based on the theories that Bohm has introduced, he responds with the following answer. "Many people realize that creativity is an essential part of science. Creative insight is required for new steps. I feel that creativity is essential not only for science, but for the whole of life. If you get stuck in mechanical repetitious order, then you will degenerate. That is one of the problems that has grounded every civilization: a certain repetition. Then the creative energy gradually fades away, and that is why the civilization dies. Many civilizations vanished not only because of external pressure, but also because they decayed internally."

David Bohm indicates how significant creativity is by suggesting that the death of a civilization is rooted in the failure for the civilization to invent new ways of coping with a constantly changing and shifting reality. When old methods continue to be employed, they will inevitably fail because they were not designed to function as tools that are applicable for what’s happening right now. When we are awake in our life and aware of the power and potential of our own creative minds then we become capable of dealing with virtually anything that comes our way. However if we are half asleep with our minds cruising on automatic pilot then we become much less capable of reacting with an accurate, authentic and effective response.

We each have an inherent creative gift to offer the world that if realized, will create a very specific and important ripple. We need to follow the calling of our heart and spirit and function in the world in a way that honors who we are and our intrinsic gifts. When we are acting out our purpose then engaging our imagination and discovering its limitless potential becomes effortless. For myself, creativity tangibly dwells within certain practices that I consciously employ in order to access and commune with consciousness itself, such as making art. However, it also dwells intangibly in almost all acts of creation in my life...even within the monotony of my daily existence. Whether I am writing a letter, taking a bath, articulating a point or relaying a story to a friend, I am in touch with, open to and deeply trusting in the creative force that enables me to choose the right words, address the appropriate topic and pick the right moment to speak. It is the same force that propels the earth to spin, the buds to open and the tides to change in the same rhythmic pattern over and over again. In Creativity, Where the Divine and Human Meet, Mathew Fox claims the following. “Imagination brings about not just intimacy but a big intimacy, a sense of union with the cosmos, a sense of belonging and being at home, of our knowing we have not only a right to be here but a task to do as well while we are here.” Creativity connects us to the most essential facets of who we are and therefore we become engaged in an intimate relationship with our own divine nature, which unites us with the divine force that propels all of creation. Engagement with this force generates awareness about some of the fundamental questions we grapple with. Such as, who am I? What is my purpose? What is important? When we are engaging our creative self, we are deepening and enhancing our relationship to a divine intelligence that facilitates and even directs our expansion and growth.

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Waking up to my own innate creative power and potential has been a catalyst for a much clearer recognition of what I’m supposed to do here in this life, with this body and with the information I have extracted from the sequences of events and experiences that have shaped who I have become. From blaring revelations to the quiet wisdom I have acquired on my journey thus far, the knowing that resonates far beyond the rest is my absolute certainty that creativity is the way. There is no exact path. No creative doctrine or scripture to show the way. However, when our hearts are open to the unfolding, mysterious nature of existence and our minds and bodies are creatively and actively engaged in what surfaces, then we are aligning ourselves with Creation itself. Change is conceived through creativity and it is within the walls of our imagination that we can construct a new and advanced vision for our own lives as well as the outcome of the whole of humanity.

I leave you with this passage by John Daido Loori in his book, The Zen of Creativity as a reminder of the inherent nature and function of creativity. "Creativity is our birthright. It is an integral part of being human, as basic as walking, talking and thinking. Throughout our evolution as a species, it has sparked innovations in science, beauty in the arts, and revelation in religion. Every human life contains its seeds and is constantly manifesting it, whether we’re building a sand castle, preparing Sunday dinner, painting a canvas, walking through the woods, or programming a computer. The creative process, like a spiritual journey, is intuitive, non-linear, and experiential. It points is toward our essential nature, which is a reflection of the boundless creativity of the universe."

 

2018: Creating Harmony + Synergy With Self, Other + Life Part 3

After a meandering walk in early Spring, the smell of daphne permeates the air as the sun begins its slow descent. We stop to study the sky and bam, the unmistakable feeling of joy surges through us. We are sprawled across the living room floor on a Sunday morning drinking our coffee watching our kids play. The light banter with our spouse quiets and we turn our attention to our children totally absorbed in setting up an elaborate "picnic" on the kitchen floor. Bam: joy washes over us. The degree of joy and harmony we experience in life is contingent upon how available we are to have that experience. While joy tends to occur spontaneously, there are conditions that need to be in place for it to arise. While harmony may often seem outside of our realm of control, there are things we can do to facilitate how our experience of who we are, how we relate to others and how we participate in life leads to an overall sense of harmony.

Much of it depends on the awareness we are applying to which aspect of self is in the lead. Are we deferring to our intellect to make all the decisions about what's in our best interest or are we referencing the wishes of our inner child, the needs of the body and the wisdom of our essential Selves? Are we conscious of how our relationships support or conflict with the life experience we're trying to foster? When we are in right relations with ourselves and the people we have chosen to learn and grow from and with then the natural by product is a sense of harmony. When there is harmony between parts in any system, synergy begins to occur. The combined effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects: "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". Our potency as a human being deepens and strengthens when we stop counter intending what it is we want out of life and get in alignment with what we really want and what we're truly here to do. 

Joy finds us when we shift out of modes of resistance. It's there for the taking at any given moment...a child's laughter, the sun peeking through a rain cloud, a flower weve never taken the time to really look at before, a smile from a stranger. However because we are so often caught in cycles of resistance, and disconnected from our essential Selves, it clouds our ability to touch into the essential joy and beauty that's all around us at all times. When I talk about resistance, what I'm referring to is the parts of ourselves that want to reject what's currently happening or are already preemptively bracing against a future outcome that we really don't want to experience. It feels like an "inner no". No, I am not getting the cold that has been going around. No, I am not going to acknowledge my anger over last night's argument. No, I am not going to consider that my child might have a learning delay. No, I am not going to yield to the fact that I will lose a loved one someday. Much of this resistance is unconscious yet it requires tremendous energy to maintain. When we can drop all those "inner no's" we free up enormous amounts of space to experience what is really happening for us. We can simply respond to life.

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If we look at life as a continuum and birth is at one end and death is at the opposite end, then we are somewhere in the middle. Closer to one side or the other without the awareness of where we actually fall on that continuum, simply because we have no idea when our time will be up. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all bracing ourselves against the inevitability of our death. It's the ultimate unknown and cloaked in mystery for most of us. In the concrete:  when will it happen and how will it happen? In the abstract: is this the end or is there more? We can attribute much of our existential angst to these outstanding questions as it pertains to our own lives and the lives of those we hold dear. Many of us are unprepared to be with these questions until we are confronted with the loss of someone we love or our own mortality. While there are many cultures and coinciding practices around the world that help us preemptively start this reconciliation process, many of us in the West have not engaged in customs that build our sense of resilience, hope and courage in the face of impending loss. While we know we cannot escape it, most of have built a barricade against it rather than building a bridge toward it, knowing it will someday come to take us across its threshold. 

This past year has taught me much about how the tremendous fear of loss permeates our experience of being alive. Losing a dear friend in June and having to helplessly watch my brother navigate a terminal diagnosis has revealed to me how deeply painful it is to have to say good-bye prematurely and be forced to witness someone surrender to death, long before they are ready to so. There has been pure agony in realizing that no amount of my "inner no" will deter outcomes that I find unacceptable. I have been dragged, kicking and screaming to the recognition that all the inner resistance against the unavoidable has been in vain and that the task at hand is not to fight but to yield. By submitting to the larger scope of life that does not exclude death from the range of its vast narrative, we are allowing ourselves to take part in the whole story. And the truth is, the whole story includes tragedy. Rejecting the parts of the story that we don't want to experience has never been an option for any of us of and only leads to suffering. As counter intuitive as it may feel at moments, when we build our repertoire for tragedy, we are also building our repertoire for joy. We must choose whether we want to embrace or stonewall the idea that we have an undisclosed amount of time to be here with an undisclosed amount of time with the people we love the most. Over the course of the past year, so many people in my life have said "I just can't imagine what you're going through." The fact that this is the single most common comment I receive from others is not by coincidence. Most of us have not had to build the bridge that makes way for death to enter our storyline.  The reality is that most of us cannot or will not begin the process of opening ourselves up to  the prospect of loss until we are faced with the unimaginable. Yet the unimaginable does not discern between those that are ready and those that are not and ultimately all of us will be confronted with the void or that which is beyond this experience of being alive. 

Life and death are inextricably linked. We cannot have one without the other. While it can be deeply terrifying and heart-breaking to look death in the eye, it also puts the significance of our time here into sharp relief. By being totally awake to the fact that our days here with those we love are numbered we begin to see things differently. The ephemeral nature of the seasons as they pass us by, the beautiful food we lovingly prepare to nourish our bodies, the time we get to spend with those we love: telling stories, creating meaning and understanding the true nature of presence. There are endless ways we can say "yes" to life even in light (especially in light) of the fact that there are no guarantees on the time we have and that all of us at some point in time will build that bridge that takes us home. 

On Death
Kahlil Gibran

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

2018: Creating Harmony + Synergy With Self, Other + Life Part 2

The last post was focused on making distinctions between the various facets of self in order to create higher levels of harmony and synergy between them. The essence being that when we consciously attend to each aspect of ourselves, make space for and get in right relations with them, we gain much more dominion over our overall experience. We choose our responses in present time rather than reacting from old stories we're still carting around. We know when to reference the wisdom of our bodies, when to defer to the intellect, how to honor the inner child's needs and why we need to hand over the reigns to our essential Selves. 

The next obvious task at hand involves looking at our relationships. So much of our experience here is shaped by the people we inherit and choose to coexist with. These "others" can be looked at from many different angles but I have chosen to look at it from the following four lenses below. We are so heavily shaped by the conditioning, values, and world views of our original family which makes that facet of "other" a no brainer. Then we have what I refer to as the "created family" or those that we commit ourselves to that is by our design. The next layer of web we weave around us is our community and this is comprised of the people, groups, and affiliations that we gravitate toward and buy into. Lastly, is the "other" group which is the vast segment of folks that we either directly reject, don't ever come into contact with or we simply don't have enough shared reality with to have an informed sense of who these people are. "Other" comprises anyone outside of our purview, making this the largest segment by far. 

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Our original family dictates so much of who we become. There are familial patterns that are passed down from one generation to the next in the exact same fashion that we inherit our eye color, propensity for hot climates and proclivity toward creative work. Beyond what is stored in our DNA, are all the little ways we are conditioned through our original family to perceive the world, respond to it, relate to others, relate to our bodies, communicate in relationship, etc. etc. We unwittingly become entrenched in a particular world-view and until we have the wherewithal to see this for what it is, we can't make the decision as to whether the values, beliefs and modus operandi we've assumed is in alignment with who we actually are. There are certain scenarios in which this is more clear. Such is the case with someone who is gay that emerges in a overtly homophobic family system. However it is more common for the overarching ethos of a family system to be in partial conflict and partial alignment with the individual that emerges from it. The work here is to make the distinctions between which beliefs and values you have inherited that serve you and resonate with you and which beliefs and values do not echo your personal view of the world and how you want to operate within it. This is a life long process that requires self-awareness, discernment and discretion. We can reject certain philosophies of our parents and still maintain healthy boundaries and relationships with them. Ideally we avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water because just as I loathe my dad's lack of frustration management and how that plays out through me, I also adore his work ethic and no BS approach to life, which also lives through me. 

When we are going through the process of determining who we are in light of our original family and on the flip-side, who we are not, we begin to determine both consciously and unconsciously who and what we want in our lives that will make us feel happy and whole. The significant people in our lives that we end up marrying or forming long standing intimate relationships with are what I refer to as our chosen family. Who we choose will in part be in reaction to early wounding from our original family and some of it will be in response to what worked for us. Who and what we end up pulling in is an amalgamation of the pain we encountered due to unmet needs and the gifts we received from our caregiver's expression of love, their strengths, and the lessons we gleaned from looking to them for how to be in the world. The inherent propulsion to heal will invariably lead us to people and experiences that evoke both the pain and joy of our early environments so that we have the opportunity to transcend the painful patterns and integrate in the benefits we received. It's a mixed bag for all of us and no one is exempt from sorting through it and figuring out what we want to keep and what needs to be tossed (or dropkicked). The task here involves not only being cognizant of who we find ourselves drawn to in our significant relationships but also what it is they have to teach us. We can assume that what often underlies the attraction and magnetic pull to certain others (as well as aversion) is to a large degree informed by our early conditioning. While it's not very romantic, our "chosen family" is not just because we resonate with these people but also because they trigger all our "shit" so that we can look at it and hopefully deal with it. Our chosen family is here to teach us how to "grow up" and out of dated and unproductive ways of being towards ourselves and others. They love us not because of who we were but who we are becoming and not because of the assets and liabilities we inherited but because of the gifts and grace that emerges through us as we become more and more of who we are meant to be. 

The community we surround ourselves with is an extension of our chosen family. They are the work environments, friendships, alliances, and social groups that we are drawn to for similar reasons as stated above in regards to our chosen family. They're reminiscent of the aspects of our childhoods that caused us to suffer and on the inverse, made us feel safe and accepted. Therefore, they provide further opportunity to learn and grow from the advantages and disadvantages we received early on. They also further solidify our identity and continually affirm our sense of self, whomever we take that to be. They reinforce what we have chosen to prioritize and value. Religious or spiritual affiliations, sports teams, political parties, professional industries, hobbies, etc. are all part of the infrastructure we build to maintain our sense of identity and feel a sense of belonging in the world. The allegiances we establish are positive additions to our experience to the extent that they foster connection, growth, and a sense of being part of something larger. That said, it's important to consider the ways in which the groups we devote our energy and time to inhibit us from pursuing "out of the box" people and experiences that could enlarge and enrich our experience by offering us new ideas, opportunities and ways of being in the world. The danger of the "group" is not only in the blind adherence to ideology that can occur, but in how the over-identification with these groups can limit us: our potential, our ability to forge connections with those outside of our immediate circle and ultimately keep us from understanding and empathizing with "others". Which when looked at from a macro lens, is a significant contributing factor to the level of discord we are seeing play out right now. 

There are fundamental aspects of the human experience that supersede the color of our skin, our religious beliefs and where we fall on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. They are our joy and awe when greeted with a new life, our grief when faced with the loss of someone we love, our hopes and fears when we think of our children's future and the reconciliation we all undergo when we recognize that we can't dodge death. These very essential parts of being here are what unite us, connect us, and offer us a powerful antidote to the pain of all that keeps us separate: the fear, the lack of understanding, the misplaced hate. On a surface level, we may have differing political orientations and ideas about what happens when we die but the grievances we hold against one another for thinking differently are only surface deep, what's right below is a bedrock of humanity and sameness. When we reach across the chasm of "other" and begin to see how much we share, we begin to move beyond our fixed notions of who we are, who we belong to and who belongs to us. We have always belonged to one another. This is the work for all of us: to recognize self in other and other in self. We tip the scales when each of us wakes up to the understanding of our interconnected and interdependent nature. Someday, not too far from now, we will be the majority and what drives our actions will not be fear, but love. 

 

2018: Creating Harmony + Synergy with Self, Other + Life Part 1

Congratulations on surviving 2017! I liken the experience to accidentally getting on the highway going the wrong way and then realizing there's no way to get off or turn around. Certainly not ideal but we discover we can still move forward even in spite of the oncoming traffic. 2017 offered an onslaught of unanticipated events, between massive political upheaval, a handful of cataclysmic natural disasters and the very dark side of the white patriarchal paradigm emerging with fervor. As soon as we started to accept one terrible new reality, the next one was already zooming toward us. 

Many of us found ourselves in a very fixated, reactive state of being. I mean, it's not so easy to remain centered and non-reactive when there's a mack truck heading straight for us. And while many of us have not been operating from our "best selves" this past year, the opportunity has afforded us the chance to see our own shadow sides surfacing in the face of so much fear and angst. I got to see myself play out some pretty unhealthy and destructive patterns in reaction and in resistance to what was coming at me and while acting out my shadow side is never particularly fun, it's the only way I can see it for what it is....and then choose something different. 

That's the paradox of these times. The mass exposé of what's no longer serving us is the only way we can choose a new way. We need to actually see that it's happening before we can decide to cease giving it our energy. The shedding of the old guard paradigm where the egoic self is in the lead and our essential Self is deferentially lagging behind is a painful, harrowing process. Seeing that this is our individual and collective default is a very difficult thing to have to come to terms with. We are right in the middle of the reckoning phase. We could probably get stuck here for a very long time lamenting the fact that we've been allowing our own and other people's egos to govern the sacred land of our lives for far too long. But that my friends, would yet again, be giving too much power to something that never should have been reigning in the first place. 

There is such beauty in this moment. We are getting in touch with our desire (need) for peace. We are so done with all the fear and hate-mongering. The longing for more is vibrating in the very centers of our being. We are starting to see another way forward. In the throes of surrender, we see the shiny potential of what's possible when we take the boxing gloves off and back away. 

If you are finding yourself in a semi-surrendered state with some semblance of awareness that you want things to be different but not a lot of clarity as to how to go about creating this change then I am writing this post for you. Your disorientation is a natural by product of simply being alive in the midst of such intense disruption to our systems and psyches, but the great thing about chaos is that it's an opportune time for change. With that said, I'm going to offer up a framework with which to look at how we can go about creating more harmony and synergy within our lives in hopes that it helps steer you just a little bit closer to where you'd like to be operating from as we move into this new year. 

PART 1: SELF

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As we all know, the lynchpin of our whole experience here comes down to the quality of connection and overall awareness we have with and about our own selves. A self is a complex and dichotomous thing so it's helpful to break it down into its various aspects. There are many ways to break down the facets of self so I have appropriated my favorite way below. Based on this model, there are 4 main aspects of self that we must be able to distinguish between and ultimately balance and harmonize. The goal is to raise our awareness and learn to identify which aspect of self we're operating from and instead of reactively defaulting into our well worn patterns (Example: intellect running the show, body completely ignored, inner-child causing shit-storms when under stress, essential self: who's that?) we instead choose which facet of self we want to reference in response to whatever is happening in the moment. 

Pictured above is me - I'm about 6 years old on the left and 39 on the right (my current age). The interesting thing we discover about being grown ups is that no matter how old we get (or feel) on the outside,  there's still an inner child within us. The inner child is the less programmed aspect of ourselves that never entirely grew up - it represents our innocence, the childlike joy, wonder and playfulness that we have the capacity to still experience. It also represents our sensitivity as well as all of the unmet needs we experienced as a child that never got resolved. Because of this, the inner child can be quite the trouble-maker. It's not the fact that your partner forgot to check in with you about your important meeting that caused you to come unglued, it's that your father rarely if ever acknowledged the important accomplishments you made as a child. If we're not aware of these original unmet needs, then they're going to come out sideways and affect our relationships, our credibility with ourselves and our ability to experience unencumbered joy and wonder. By building a communication line with our inner child we are opening up ourselves to the most tender and wounded parts of ourselves. By meeting the needs of your inner child (current needs as well as the ones that didn't get met when we were children) you will be offering yourself a healing salve that will facilitate a regeneration of your wonderful childlike qualities that are so fundamental to our ability to deeply enjoy life. 

The intellect is the most programmed aspect of self, largely determined by familial and cultural programming. When we are operating from our intellect, we are deferring to logic and pragmatism (plus all the "shoulds" that we've accumulated). While the intellect can be very helpful for things like planning, prioritization, and applying reason and focus to decision-making and accomplishing goals, it's very limited and somewhat superficial in its scope. For example, if you're solely referencing your intellect to decide on a job change you will likely not be taking into consideration the more nuanced aspects of what's going to serve your highest good. Pay, growth potential and commute are all important things to consider as is value alignment, energetic resonance and interpersonal compatibility. Which job will meet not just your surface needs but your deeper needs as well? People who stay in marriages or remain in careers based exclusively on the dictates of the intellect are generally not going to be holistically satisfied. The goal is to know when we're referencing our intellect, understanding its limitations, leveraging it as a tool but not blindly adhering to it as "truth".

The body is an incredible resource that we tend to both under and over utilize. We lean on the body for lots of heavy lifting and assume it'll operate optimally regardless of what we throw at it. The expectation is that it will perform as planned even when we under feed it, over feed it,  deprive it from rest, push it too hard physically, pump too much cortisol or poison through it's veins, etc. This essentially works until it doesn't. And for many of us this moment becomes the catalyst to actually start paying attention to the body; its needs, and on a more nuanced level, its wants as well. Our body provides us with ongoing feedback about our experience. This is evidenced through its response to the nourishment we give it or lack thereof. It can be observed in how hard we push it physically and whether it thrives in the face of the ways we challenge it or whether it breaks down and starts malfunctioning. There's a feeling I get in my body, usually around the heart center when my body is saying YES. There's a sense of inner expansion and opening. This could be in regards to any experience: meeting someone new, a random conversation, an opportunity that has emerged, reading something in the paper. The reverse is also true when my body wants to convey a NO. There's a palpable contraction either in the heart center or solar plexus. The body is giving me the message that it's not down with whatever just happened, or even more subtle than that: the content of what I just thought. My litmus test for any decision is to check in with the body. Is it telling me yes or is it telling me no. Sometimes neutrality needs to be sat with longer until there's a definitive answer. There is tremendous wisdom in the body that is there for the taking if we are willing to pay attention. 

The essential Self is the most fundamental and universal aspect of self. Some refer to it as the spiritual Self. It's the aspect of you under all of the conditioning and overlay. Unlike the other aspects of self, this aspect of you is non-dual in nature. It is tethered to source, god, love - whatever you want to call it and it never wavers from what's in the best interest of your true Self. If we took a moment to stop, close our eyes and put our hands over our hearts, we'd probably get some initial messaging, likely from our intellect and likely poking holes, but after a few moments of trying to locate the essential Self, you might feel a sense of grounding or settling in. There might be a sense of familiarity and homecoming. This is you making contact with your essential Self. This is the facet of you that you want at the helm of your life, steering its course. 

Innerland is designed to help you access your essential Self, build a relationship with it and learn to orient through life with it being the default lens. There might be a discrepancy between the agendas you've upheld (likely designed and maintained by the intellect) in your life and the agendas your essential Self has for you in this lifetime. To the degree that there is a discrepancy there, is to the degree that you will experience a sense of dissonance and underlying feeling that something is not quite right. I use the creative process because it's both a regenerative as well as disruptive tool (there being a relationship between those two things) that shakes things up, forces us to get out of the way, moves our gaze from the dictates of the intellect and gets us in touch with who we really are and what we really want. When we begin to allow our deeper visions to unfold, a whole new world of wisdom reveals itself to us. And the real kicker is that the wisdom,  while coming from you, is also coming from the channel that gets opened up as a by product of engaging in the creative process. It's a direct portal to source, where infinite wisdom and possibility exists. This is the missing piece; the keystone, that needs to be in place as we construct our realities, re-envision our futures and redefine what's possible for us as individuals and as a collective community. 

PART 2: Other - coming soon!

Birth, Dying and the Space Between

I started this body of work in the depths of this past winter. Donald Trump had been officially sworn into office, my baby brother had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was in the final phases of watching one of my oldest and closest friends lose her battle to ovarian cancer. The daylight was scarce, the landscape was barren, and the naked terrain of my heart was fully exposed. I was "in it" to put it mildly. 

The intensity of this time was different than previous forays into dark waters. This was not the self-induced variety. This was exclusively condition specific. Our country had elected a mad man into office and the implications of this outcome were becoming clearer every day. My beloved brother's prognosis was becoming increasingly grim. Susannah's body was no longer responding to treatment and she was dying. These were not things I had brought upon myself. They were all independent of my volition and they were all objectively very shitty. 

So in addition to a spike in cigarette smoking and wine consumption, I went into the basement and painted. My painting practice has always been a respite and that was no different now. I would sit in front of that canvas and curse my face off. I'd wail. I'd beg the Gods for a different outcome. I'd eventually surrender and let the brushes do their thing. I'd stand back and gape at what initially seemed like products incongruent with their process. 

The beginning phases of the pieces were visceral, gritty, and dark and I assumed that's where they would stay but that's not where they'd end up. Light kept emerging. And not just light but pulsing, luminous, embracing light. It began to dawn on me that by painting from my most tender-hearted place, the work in turn became a reflection of my turning in towards the place where I/we most avoid going. While we all know that the deep despair of loss will find us eventually, until it beckons, we can't really fathom it's presence. 

What I began to discover is that loss is indeed frightening. It's stark and bleak and harsh and unforgiving. But it's a lot of other things too which are much harder to explain. When you sit daily with the reality that you're going to lose someone deeply precious to you; someone who is integral to concepts of your identity and sense of safety in the world, the shock of it gradually begins to make way for something else. Slowly, you begin to calibrate the idea that not only is this happening to me but it happens to everyone. Tragedies occur everyday. In fact, death, sickness and terrible twists of fate are inextricably woven into the fabric of our human experience. While we have become better at mitigating these grisly aspects of the human experience in the west, no one is exempt. We are all subject to the seemingly random hand of time, God, or whatever your want to call the unseen forces that we simply cannot control, try we might. 

It starts to really sink in that we are fundamentally incapable of shielding ourselves from the searing pain of loss: from the loss of those we love to the ultimate loss of our own physical selves. And the truth of this begins to shake things loose inside. The fear of loss that's locked and loaded like a vice grip in the pit of our stomachs starts to soften. That deep seated fear of loss and death that underlies all our idiosyncratic phobias and paranoias starts to become transparent and the unquellable angst begins to quell. 

Death is part of what we do here. We are born, we live and love as best we can and then we die. What death and the dying have to teach us, is about what it truly means to live and when you start to piece apart what that means, it really only comes down to one thing: how well you loved and allowed yourself to be loved. We do lots of other stuff here, some useful, and some highly counterproductive and countersurvival but the only thing we do here that really truly matters in the end, is how we loved. 

That level of simplification and some might argue, oversimplification (which of course is arbitrary) really cleared out a lot of space. It gave me the ability to stop resisting the inevitable and instead embrace all the life that still remained unlived. The time with my brother, Colin is precious. The time I have to experience the power and grace of being here with so much access to resources, so much opportunity to extend myself in joy and love is an infinite gift. 

My paintings were hellbent on getting me from A to B. While allowing me to be with and entertain my grief, they weren't going to let me waste away in the sludgy waters of self-pity. They were tenacious in their commitment to reveal that light and love is the ultimate and prevailing force. While death and loss make their mark on us, what remains is the ephemeral and eternal glow and spark of love. We lost Susannah in June but the supremely loving and joyful being that she was persists. She is actually not really gone at all. She is just with us in a different way now. And such is the process, of being born, living and dying. Regardless, of where we are in that cycle, we are all here in some form. Sand, soil, star dust. They're not that different after all. 

 

 Odyssey   62” x 38”  Oil

Odyssey   62” x 38”  Oil

 Ether  50” x 50”  Oil

Ether  50” x 50”  Oil

 Origins   50” x 38”  Oil

Origins   50” x 38”  Oil

 Inception  32” x 32”  Oil 

Inception  32” x 32”  Oil 

 Earthside   42” x 32”  Oil

Earthside   42” x 32”  Oil

 Departure  32” x 32”  Oil

Departure  32” x 32”  Oil

 Birth  32” x 32”  Oil

Birth  32” x 32”  Oil

 Orbit  32” x 32”  Oil

Orbit  32” x 32”  Oil

 Galaxies  50” x 50”  Oil

Galaxies  50” x 50”  Oil

What's It Like to Be You?

I'm not gonna lie, the election really took me down. I haven't just been grieving all the tangible outcomes that we've already begun to see unfold. I have also been grieving something much more abstract and difficult to name. I suppose it has to do with basic goodness and the vantage point I had long maintained that people are basically good and want to do the right thing. And perhaps I will return to this world view again but for now, I am deeply broken-hearted by the utter lack of humanity and basic kindness demonstrated by so many over recent months. Of course I knew that there was still a shadow lurking in our collective that we had yet to own. I knew we still had plenty of work to do - this was self-evident. But I didn't know the extent to which racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, antisemitism and just plain myopic, individualistic thinking was reigning in people's mind sets. Coupled with one of my oldest, dearest friends being given a year to live after fighting for her life for 3 years and my darling brother receiving not just one, but two life-threatening diagnoses, I have been reeling. On my knees over what has felt like a very sudden crisis of faith. 

One of the self-care strategies I've employed during this trying time is to listen to podcasts that pull me back into myself. Tara Brach's talks have helped me enormously in returning to center. The one that has had the most lasting impact is called Your Awake Heart Is Calling You.

She discusses how when we are fixated (what Tara calls going into "trance"), we are not actually inhabiting our bodies. With such triggering conditions, it's almost impossible not to vacate ourselves and present time. "When we're in pain we tend to blame ourselves or blame others, caught in a story of what's going on and how to fix it. We're trying to get away. The path to an awake heart is to take a U-turn. A willingness, instead of being lost in stories and reactivity, to come back with gentleness and kindness and touch the vulnerability we're feeling directly in our body. That's the beginning of listening to the call." From there, we can simply be with our experience without judgment. We can hear not only our own deeper needs and respond accordingly but we can also listen deeply to others. We can meet our needs with care and compassion rather than sugar binges or too much wine in my case. It frees us up when we listen intently to what we truly need and then meet that need, whether it's a long walk in nature, an art project or an extended break from our everyday lives. Meeting our own needs empowers and satiates us and the angst starts to quell. 

When we can start to really truly take care of ourselves, we increase our bandwidth for paying attention to what's happening around us. The reason that this is important is because this era of disintegration that we are finding ourselves in calls for each of us to take care of ourselves and each other in a very deep way. We don't have the luxury of complacency anymore - we need to act and we need to do so with a high level of intentionality. Our potency in affecting change will be directly correlated to how much intention we invest in creating positive change for ourselves and each other. 

Tara Brach unpacks the significance of this critical question: "What's it like to be you?"

"It's so easy to not really pause enough to feel into the suffering we hear about. It's rare to get close in and let our hearts be tenderized. Unless we care, we won't respond. What helps us care? The most dramatic example is when a year and a half ago, the entire world pausing and being touched when, Alan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy drowned. His family was trying to get from Syria to Greece and that picture went viral. I almost don't know anyone that in some way didn't feel that so it made them really care. How come that doesn't happen more and how can it happen more? His father said, "now I don't want anything even if you give me all the countries in the world to move into, I don't want them. My children were the most beautiful children in the world, they are all gone now. We want the whole world to see this. Let this be the last." But it won't be the last unless we pay attention. How do we listen to the call? How do we intentionally pay attention...actually decide to pay attention?".

The opportunity we're faced with today is whether we can start to really engage with "other". This idea that we're all connected is becoming more real. The rose colored glasses are beginning to come off and we're having to confront the pain and longstanding suffering of minorities and the marginalized. Can we reach across the chasm and ask the simple question: what is life like for you? Whether it's your uncle that voted for Trump or a black single mom in east LA with three teenage boys. The question remains.

What is life like for you?

Why cross this painful divide? What does "paying attention" do for us? Acting from that tender-hearted place that is committed to transcending fear and operating from love is how we will authentically be able to create change, move forward and assist others in doing the same. When we can deeply connect with another's experience it increases our emotional range and opens our hearts in ways that directly impacts our perceptions and choices. It's not about single-handedly saving Syria. It's about accessing our light and shining it both inwards and outwards.

So amidst this painful time for so many of us, we can touch into our fundamental vulnerability. We can move from this soft, tender place rather than a place of hardened fear. We can allow in our sadness and grief and let it be. By letting it in, we also let in the light. We allow room for grace to animate us. Even when we are crushed with sadness, we can choose to operate from love and hope. My grief over my friend and my brother has broken me open. While the pain is sometimes unbearable, it's also what propels me toward choosing love, being love, acting from love. This is what we need right now. It doesn't matter whether it's rage or grief or fear that becomes so intolerable that you have to sink deeper. What matters is that you sink so far that you remember that it will only be the power of love that will enable you and ultimately all of us to transcend this raw and painful place we are currently inhabiting.  When enough of us are able to lift our trance, and operate from truth, the consciousness of the planet will begin to shift. Love will find it's rightful place at the helm of change once again. 

Beyond Love & Loss

I have been following Emily Rapp's work for a long time now. She is a brilliant writer that faced an unimaginable tragedy when her son Ronan was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs Disease. Tay-Sachs causes a progressive deterioration of the nerve cells leading to an incremental loss of mental and physical faculties: seizures, blindness, inability to swallow, etc. The symptoms typically begin around 7 months and the child usually doesn't live beyond 4 years of age. Ronan died just before he turned 3 years old. Emily's incredible courage and total commitment to creating a life worth living for Ronan has been deeply, deeply inspiring to me. Emily split with Ronan's dad shortly after his diagnosis but at the tail end of Ronan's deterioration, she met a man who supported her through the last phases of Ronan's life, eventually becoming her husband and the father of her daughter whom she gave birth to in March 2014. Emily's memoir about Ronan is titled "The Still Point of the Turning World". A crushing and profoundly beautiful account of her experience mothering a child who was dying.

Of course this is every parent's nightmare. After my kids were born, I occasionally revisited Emily's story and if I went in too far I would end up writhing on the couch, stifling my sobs so as not to wake the kids or worry my husband. In the end though, beneath and beyond the absolute torment of losing a child in this way, is Emily's resilience and a love so powerful that it extends beyond the physical confines of a body not meant to evolve past 3 years of age. The following excerpt from an article in the New York Times exemplifies the immensity of her love and courage (http://nyti.ms/1fu8ALN): 

Writing is my vocation, but in this case, it was my salvation. I have always thought, and now I firmly believe, that imagination is the most powerful tool any of us has. The situation with Ronan was irrefutably tragic, but my love for him was the opposite. We were not tragedies. Love is never wasted; otherwise it is not love.

 I think of him, of the smell and feel of his remarkable hair, his tigerish eyes, his little coos and sighs, his soft body and sweet physical presence, his smell of powder and prunes. He is no longer in the world but he is alive in my memory and in my dreams. He will be alive in his sister’s as well, just as she will be alive, I hope for many years, at the center of my life.

Ronan taught me how to be a mother; how to live for and not through a child, how to love no matter what. I can’t wait to see what my daughter will do, but most of all I simply want her to live, and for her life to extend long beyond my own and her father’s. This is the only parenting plan I hope to need.

Beautiful Ronan is pictured below. 

Adversity/Resources

I've been thinking a lot lately about the reasons why certain people thrive under daunting circumstances and why some people struggle deeply under the same circumstances. This issue has been addressed by Malcolm Gladwell and lots of other highly intelligent problem-solvers so my intention is not to dissect it here, but merely to talk about it in relationship to my own life. 

In some ways my life has been pretty easy. My father was a great provider and my brothers and I grew up with everything we needed and much of what we wanted. My dad is great at handling things. Be it the logistics of everyday life or ensuring we got braces when we needed to. He had the funds necessary to hook us up with a college education debt free. This is huge. I put all these things in the "resources" bucket. 

On the other hand, my parents went through a divorce when I was seven and things became increasingly complex when my dad met my stepmother. I watched my mother wrestle intensely with trying to support herself. She ended up homeless by the time I was eighteen and was "on the road" for ten years. Hitchhiking around the country, making stops at various dysfunctional communities along the way. I sometimes wouldn't hear from her for months at a time, having no idea of her whereabouts or well-being. It was very stressful to say the least. I put all this in the "adversity" bucket. 

Now that I have some distance on the hand I was dealt and have had some years to play my cards, I can see with relative objectivity how the interplay between the resources I was given and developed on my own, interfaced with the adversity I experienced. The conclusion I have drawn is that there is great significance in how adversity shapes our psyches, for better or worse, and it's the quality of our internal resources that allows to turn the adversity we experience in our lives into wisdom and momentum. 

So as many others have concluded, adversity isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it's character building. A potentially invaluable education. That said, we must have the inner resources to deal with the difficulties that befall us. 

Now that I have my own children I have recognized that I can't always mitigate adversity, nor would I want to BUT I can help my kids foster their own internal resources. I can provide them with tools to navigate the beautiful, harsh landscape of life.

AND I believe wholeheartedly that resilience can be learned. This is my work and this is all of our work as people muddling through life. It's what we all need to be doing to live the lives we want to live. 

And to all of those that didn't have the resources to get through it, I salute you and honor your struggle. My mother grew up in a very unhealthy home which is in part why she was lacking her own internal resources. Her beautiful brother, Jimmy never made it through middle school and became a junkie. He died young of Aids. He is pictured below along with my original family. 

Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

  — David Whyte

I love this poem because it reminds us of the incredible dance of life force happening at all times whether we're aware of it or not. I remember the first time I sat for meditation in which the real shift for me occurred. For a long, long time sitting felt like pulling teeth and I wondered if it would ever feel like some semblance of "pleasant". I was doing the normal routine of bringing myself back to my breath over and over again as my thoughts seized me continually. Then there was a moment where my consciousness dropped into something bigger than just myself. I felt held in this benevolent, sublime ocean. A place I can't always access but often am able to return to. I realized that my essential nature underneath all that noise and activity is that huge, calm ocean of total acceptance and love. We are actually never alone and if we begin to really pay attention (in and out of meditation), we will begin to see the evidence of this tremendous comradery between all things. 

Holding the Vision for an Inclusive Definition of Faith

One of my favorite podcasts is Dear Sugar with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. It’s essentially an advice column in the form of a podcast where they respond to people’s letters asking for help, which invariably lead to deep queries into the human experience. They brought on Reverend Jacqueline Lewis from NYC to address a woman’s distress over having departed from her very Christian upbringing and thus her parent’s way of being and doing in the world. She sees their differing vantage points of faith as being mutually exclusive whereas Rev. Jackie points to the fundamental purpose of faith beyond and below how God is defined. That faith, regardless of how we get there, should be a mutually supportive and deeply connective force in our lives.

“One of my favorite scriptures says, how can we love a God whom we can’t see if we don’t love our neighbor whom we can’t see. The best of what religion has to offer and the best of what faith has to offer is an organizing principle. There’s a way in which faith reminds us of our goodness, helps us to imagine creating the world we want and if faith isn’t doing that then it’s too puny.”

My vision for the world in one hundred years from now is not limited by how we define God. In fact, how we define our faith and experience God is irrelevant. What IS relevant is that we are operating from the expansive nature of love and connection to one another and that THAT is the guiding principle in our lives. We know this because we have experienced the implications of maintaining exclusive notions of faith and we know deep in our being that this only leads to separation and suffering.

Listen to the full podcast here: 

kindness 2 copy.jpg

Who's Driving?

I love this quote from an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert on Longform. 

“A way I’ve heard it said that is nice is that your ego is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.  Your ego has a tremendous amount of energy. Wrapped up in your ego is your drive, your passion, your taste, your aspirations, your desire to leave a handprint on the world, your mojo. You need that stuff because without it there’s no energy.  There’s no motive, there’s no muscle. But if you let that thing drive your whole story then you’re setting yourself up for a life of terrible suffering because the definition of an ego is that it's the part of you that can never be satisfied. Ever. “

Ultimately we have to ask ourselves, who's driving our ship? Is the basic driving force in our lives ego driven or is it driven by a deeper more authentic calling? Like Elizabeth said, we need our egos to make things happen but what's the source of that momentum?

I will conjecture that the depth of our creations and our ability to remain steady, regardless of the up and down nature of our personal and professional lives, is contingent upon our ability to distinguish clearly between our ego, our true Self and their often contrary motivations and aspirations. 

Listen to her funny, no BS, sage wisdom here:

Parker Palmer on the Six Pillars of the Wholehearted Life

One of my favorite thought leaders right now is Maria Popova of Brainpickings. She has singlehandedly culled a magnificent amount of old and new wisdom and makes it all relevant for what's happening in present time. She captured Parker Palmer's commencement speech that he gave at Naropa in May of 2015. There's too much good stuff in here not to share. 

He discusses the six pillars of a wholehearted life. Here are just a couple gems:

"As you integrate ignorance and failure into your knowledge and success, do the same with all the alien parts of yourself. Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself. Let your altruism meet your egotism, let your generosity meet your greed, let your joy meet your grief. Everyone has a shadow… But when you are able to say, “I am all of the above, my shadow as well as my light,” the shadow’s power is put in service of the good. Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life."

"Be reckless when it comes to affairs of the heart. What I really mean … is be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you. No one ever died saying, “I’m sure glad for the self-centered, self-serving and self-protective life I lived. Offer yourself to the world — your energies, your gifts, your visions, your heart — with open-hearted generosity. But understand that when you live that way you will soon learn how little you know and how easy it is to fail."

"The old majority in this society, people who look like me, is on its way out. By 2045 the majority of Americans will be people of color… Many in the old majority fear that fact, and their fear, shamelessly manipulated by too many politicians, is bringing us down. The renewal this nation needs will not come from people who are afraid of otherness in race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation."

Amen, Parker Palmer. Amen. 

My Creative Process

I have been making art since I was a little girl. My mother would buy me sketchbook after sketchbook in which I would record my dream world in images and symbols. Being a decent artist bolstered my confidence as an adolescent when there was a lack of material to tether my sense of self to. I received my undergraduate degree in art education and taught the discipline of art - a phase that called me to be a creative generalist so I could provide my students with the full scope of the creative process. My masters degree required me to finally flesh out my creative process in a deep way and it was during that time that I organically came to rely on my painting process as a spiritual practice as well.

I have been painting in a mixed-media, large scale, abstract expressionistic style ever since and it continues to offer me a sanctuary away from my busy mind and hectic life. Each piece offers it's own message - much more implicit than explicit yet they all seem to tell a similar story in that they're not about the world of particulars. I am reminded continually through my painting practice that it is through the gritty material world of relationship, suffering, heartbreak, joy and growth that we come to discover that underneath all the busyness and noise is the eternal yet paradoxically ephemeral nature of love. An experience we can only truly inhabit by existing solely in the present moment. A place my paintings always call me to be. 

Brother David on Gratefulness

I had the great privilege of spending a weekend with Brother David at a retreat at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe NM about ten years ago. He's one of those people that is so connected to the source of life that you can't help but experience a little transference of his joy and inner peace. 

Please listen to his TED talk here.  And/or listen to his interview with Krista Tippett here

"We must acknowledge our anxiety but not entertain our fear. There is a great difference. Anxiety comes from a root that means narrowness or choking. Our original anxiety is our birth anxiety. Birth is a life and death struggle for baby and mom. At that time, we do it fearlessly because fear is the resistance and trust allows the birth to occur. Anxiety is a reasonable response to what's happening right now and we must affirm it because to deny it or fear it is to resist it. Anxiety is part of life. The worst tight spots in our lives end up revealing themselves as a whole new beginning. This is the tightest spot our world has ever been in but if we go with it and not resist, we will have a new birth. Anxiety has a way of paralyzing us but it's not the anxiety, it's the fear. Everything hinges on trusting in life. With this faith, we can go into our anxiety and see it as just another birth into greater fullness."      -Brother David

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Einstein did not seek to experience insight through the vehicle of the intellect, it came the same way it does for most creatives: through intuition and inspiration. As he told one friend, "When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge." He added, "All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. I believe in intuition and inspiration....at times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason." (Calaprice, 2000, 22, 287, 10). 

One of Einstein’s well known quotes is “imagination is more important than knowledge”.  The quest for and attainment of knowledge has widely been held as the ultimate objective of western culture for some time now. Knowledge in terms of both the amount and the content determines what we know, however it is our imagination that integrates and applies the knowledge we have gathered and creates and intends based on the facts, data, perceptions, assumptions, etc. that comprises our “wealth” of knowledge. However, no amount of knowledge we have attained becomes truly relevant unless we have to some degree understood how our imagination functions in using the knowledge we have acquired to design and inevitably determine our reality.

Our knowledge may be the building blocks that we use to construct our reality but it is our imagination that actually envisions and formulates the layout as well as ultimately determines the outcome of our reality. Therefore, imagination to a large degree takes precedence over knowledge.

This is a major reason this work is so important to me. I genuinely feel that given what we're up against with so many of our systems being broken and the phenomenal amount of innovation we need to apply to righting the boat calls for a significant leveraging of our imagination.

We need a deep, collective recognition that we must cultivate our right brains and ability to create anew and not just continue to regurgitate dated models of doing and being. In order to survive, we need to reboot our operating system. Shit, we may need to throw it out altogether - our children's future depends on the quality of our creative problem-solving moving forward. 

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The Seeds We Plant

I want to share a personal story. When I paint, I never know what the pieces are about when I'm in process with them. It's not until later, once they're finished, I can stand back and extract meaning and symbology from them. I painted this piece in 2004, about a year after I met my husband. We knew at that time that we were going to be life-partners. After sitting with the completed piece, it became very clear that the orbs (a reoccurring theme in my work) represented our future family. I was the central, prominent energy orb, Robert was the orb above me and our children were there to the upper right. I knew that one was feminine and one was masculine - I could just sense it. I titled the painting "My Family". Fast forward ten years, after years of infertility, I had my legs spread open as my fertility doctor implanted two embryos in my uterus. Their protocol is to have images of the embryos up on a screen while implantation is occurring. I looked up at the embryos and immediately recognized the forms from the painting I had created ten years ago. I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace and waves of knowing that these tiny clusters of cells were my children. This has been the biggest reminder for me that without even being consciously aware of it, we are using the creative process to set intentions and connect with something bigger than we are. It is the breeding ground for what's to come and a powerful soup of possibility and potential. 

  My son, Wyeth. 

My son, Wyeth. 

  My daughter, Odessa. 

My daughter, Odessa. 

Creativity And the Everyday Brain - Rex Jung

"Existential Neuropsychologist", Rex Jung says "the most surprising and gratifying thing is that one of our hypothesis is supported: the fact that creativity looks different from intelligence in the brain. With the brain networks connected to intelligence, the back and front of the brain are integrated in order for intelligence to work - more is better with intelligence - more neurons and more connectivity is what you want with intelligence. With creative capability in the frontal lobe specifically, less is better: less connection, etc. thus allowing a freer interplay in the brain for networks to connect. With creativity it's a slower more meandering process. Down regulation of frontal lobes allows ideas to link together in surprising ways." 

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This is such important information because in order to foster our creativity, we must give ourselves the space to let our thoughts meander, we must allow ourselves to work counter to how most of us have worked before. We need to give ourselves the permission to not know where we're going or even what we're doing in order for our creativity to emerge. 

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My Story

Although somewhat colored and circuitous, I can look back retrospectively and understand why my path unfolded as it has. There have been many moments of doubt when I couldn’t connect the dots at the time but that’s the beauty of time and distance. It’s both the illuminated times and the cloudy seasons that become integral cornerstones in the development of our purpose here. 

The first chapter of my work life involved building an art department at a progressive, private secondary school in Los Angeles from the ground up. After teaching middle and high school for several years I realized that the creative process is inherently transformative. My students were using their creative process to make sense of and calibrate their experiences. It was phenomenal to witness and I knew I needed to explore this further. This led me to pursue a master’s degree in transformative arts from JFK University in the Bay Area. It examined the intersection points between creativity, community and consciousness. I learned a great deal about myself in those three years. The emphasis on consciousness facilitated a deep dive into my own psyche and really helped me hone a deeper sense of personal purpose. I also gained greater clarity about the fundamental questions I was committed to investigating about my own ever-evolving spirituality. In addition, my own painting process really crystalized and my painting practice has continued to iterate since then.

I met my husband at JFK and we moved to Portland in 2005. I worked in higher education consulting within a corporate setting for 5 years supporting colleges and universities in retaining their students and providing a more relevant academic experience for the 21st century student. A major service we provided was direct coaching to students. I was both a student coach and once I moved into management I spent four years developing coaches and supporting them in providing effective coaching to our students. The corporate environment was not my natural setting but I learned a tremendous amount about the complexity of managing up, managing down, ROIs, bottom lines, value propositions, etc. I discovered the best methods for assisting people in developing both professionally and personally and established a harder skill set to balance my more intrinsic soft skill set. This has served me well and provided with the tools and lexicon to navigate the “business” realm.

After trying unsuccessfully to start a family for several years, my husband and I had a carpe diem moment and decided to take a leap and start our own business. We felt a strong collective inclination to channel our creative energy into something of meaning. We had a vision of building a creative community with an emphasis on collaboration and devotion to the creative process. We rehabbed a 7 thousand square foot industrial building, brought together a group of cross discipline artisans to work together upstairs and opened a retail space called Beam & Anchor downstairs in the Spring of 2012. Our shop showcases the work of the in house community as well as hundreds of other designers from all over the world.

Beam & Anchor has taught me about the true power and significance of community. It has affirmed the fact that we truly need each other to thrive both personally and professionally. It has confirmed my belief that we are meant to create together and that there is a direct correlation between the resonance of an object and the care and consideration that was invested into its creation. 

In my desperation to start a family and my search for meaning around why it wasn’t happening I began working with two teachers: Caverly Morgan and Sally Kempton. They helped me establish a mindfulness practice that has had an enormous impact on my inner world and thus my outer experience. Through my practice, I began to see quite clearly how much of my experience was a by-product of habituated thought patterns, which were not actually a reflection of what was happening in real time. Once I was able to lift the overlay that was so often distorting my lens, I was able to see the true potential for freedom and connection to Self and other that was possible at any moment.

Through the support of science and western medicine I became pregnant in March of 2014 and gave birth to twins, Wyeth and Odessa in December 2014. After 7 years of effort, I was given the gift of becoming a mother. In many ways, it is my children that have influenced this next chapter and my desire to support others in accessing their inner terrain and inherent power. My kids have given me so many gifts and among them is the clarity that we must make haste with our visions. I can’t waste more time on non-essentials. There is too much important work to be done.