Got a Light?

One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, died yesterday at the age of eight-three.  I’ve been reading her work since I was introduced to her talent in graduate school.  I’ve been deliberate to follow the release of her new work to add to the collection of her books.  I’ve been mesmerized not only by her poetry, but what she represented as an artist. She was a conscious, thoughtful, and feisty woman.

 I remember listening to her on the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett.  Oliver was smoking during the interview emphasizing her self-directed, stubborn, and living life on one’s own terms mentality.  She was simple and complicated.

lighted candle
Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

I think a lot about lighting a candle to honor those who have died and in the same breath thinking about their death as their flame being blown out.  Why do we go to fire for the life force?  What is it about a flickering flame that holds our gaze, while holding our consciousness hostage in the mystery of something we can get close to, can’t touch, can warm us and burn us, can light our way or burn everything down creating a blackout?

One of my favorite Broadway musicals, Rent, has a song that starts, “Gotta a light?”  It’s two people in an abandoned warehouse where they’re living with no heat, not electric, and yet these two want to begin their romantic dance by playing with a candle.  The cycle of the flame, going from lighting to extinguishing will be the metaphor or their relationship throughout the show.  Isn’t that true for our lives?  We’re in the light at some points and completely in the dark in others.

As we say goodbye to Mary Oliver, I will ask you if you’ve got a light?  Do you have a recurring beacon of hope and warmth serving to provide solace during times of despair? I believe Oliver’s poems will light out way for many years.  Here’s to Ms. Oliver!

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Escape the Trappings

Today starts the Feast for the Soul.  The day when people around the globe are asked to participate in a journey to the inner core of our being.  It’s one of the few times when people around the globe come together to stop, breathe, and reflect.  The goal of the Feast for the Soul is to have each of us meditate forty minutes, for forty days.  I don’t formally meditate but engage in activities I find meditate in nature.  It’s this time during the year when intentionality becomes paramount and the experience is communal.

If you know me and if you don’t, I’ll tell you, I like to lead.  I’m an idea guy and believe in creating community.  I take it upon myself to be a catalyst within the groups to which I belong. I find it exhilarating.   It’s a huge responsibility I gladly accept.

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The Feast for the Soul allows me to a part of a huge global community.  The organizers provide opportunities for learning, ritual, and expanding our capacity as humans. It’s during these forty days when I can be part of a tribe. A member of a group with a common goal, belief system, and practice.  I can exhale unlike any other time during the year.

As I sat in my studio meditating, I was keenly aware of my breathing.  It was slower than usual.  I felt focused which is good because I meditate doing a stitching practice (I’m a textile artist).  I focus on one piece throughout the forty days so when I sit before the cloth, I know I’m entering a place of quiet, mindfulness, and limitless opportunities. I give myself a gift by forgoing all responsibility for others and focus on my own health and happiness.

This year I’ve recruited friends to join me on the journey.  It’s a common space we can share even from afar.  It’s an opportunity for us to engage in community from afar.  It’s also adding more people to the herd looking to make the world safer, more joyful, and healthier.

POV

There are many influences in our lives. If you look at how you get your news, what inspires you, what angers you, and what challenges you, you’ll have a clue about what creates your point-of-view. One of the things I’ve been pondering given the state-of-the-world is how permeable is my being. What in the world gets through to my emotional and spiritual self?

There are a number of things that stay ever present for me. I read the posts of people I grew up with and see their Facebook posts and wonder how people who grew up with similar economic backgrounds, cultural and education backgrounds, and geographic influences can grow up to be so diverse. Life experiences once we left our protected hometown influences us and I’m amazed at the diversity that has emerged over the years.

If you watch any talent related, in particular singing, reality shows, you’ll know how important point-of-view is to becoming a success. The agents and producers are looking for what makes each potential “star” unique. The real world is a bit different because inherently we’re all unique. Nature and nurture have permeated our being and paved the road for who we become.

I was watching a broadcast the other day and the moderator encouraged, maybe even challenged each viewer to find someone with an opposing world view and have a conversation. He specifically focused on the word conversation because too often it’s a debate. The goal is to allow differing points-of-view to enter the circle. Given the current political and social climate in the United States that’s a difficult task.

It’s not uncommon for me to go from zero to sixty in my emotional life as I respond (notice I said respond) to a news report or interview. The good thing is that energy moves me to action. The bad thing is that it becomes a reflex and perhaps I should be looking for more constructive ways to resolve issues. I’m not saying opponents to my point-of-view would be willing, evidenced by my congressman’s tweets last night, but when does dialogue enter the picture?

I believe this is why supporting the arts is imperative to the health of our civilization. I don’t have to be antagonistic when I’m representing myself creatively. In the studio, I’m able to release the energy, state my message, and not be invisible. As artists we can give voice to those who feel invisible.

We’re in trying times and having a point-of-view should be cherished. When you scrape away all the crap, the least common denominator is the desire for us to be safe, healthy, and happy. The question is how do we keep returning to the least common denominator and move forward? What will you’re point-of-view add to the conversation?

Purpose

I believe in listening to my dreams. When I was in graduate school I had the honor of studying with Jeremy Taylor. Jeremy has devoted his life to dreams and dream work. His two books I love are, Dream Work: Techniques for Discovering the Creative Power in Dreams, and When People Fly and Water Runs Uphill. Obviously, there’s no substitute for studying with the master, but getting involved in a dream group taught me lots about the “purpose” of my dreams.

The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about “purpose” because it made its presence known in a dream. I was dreaming about my “purpose”, and each and every time I awoke and went back to sleep, I went back to the dream on “purpose”.

So what is my purpose? I believe there are many levels to that question. I believe my purpose is in my DNA. Since the age of four I’ve know that my destiny was alleviate the pain and suffering of others. I can remember watching the Easter Seals Telethon and wondering what I could do to help these kids walk.

Free-associating I went from, “What is my purpose”, to what purpose do I serve. I also thought about specific experiences and actions and want to explore “what purpose do they serve?”

My art serves a purpose. It allows me to create work that personifies my emotional and spiritual self. It allows me to share my story and allow my vulnerability be made public. I feel that when I’m able to share my story, it hopefully gives someone the courage, the freedom, and the momentum to tell their story; that’s my purpose.

I went to college at the State University of New York at Albany. I had a professor, T.J. Larkin, for Intro to Communications (I was a Rhetoric and Communications major). When he was in a derogatory mood he would talk about people going to Boulder to find themselves. It’s funny because I currently live about an hour from Boulder. Last I visited, there weren’t any lost people sitting on the curb hoping to find themselves.

I guess what I’m saying is that my purpose wasn’t something I found; it’s something that found me. Recognizing my purpose guides my journey.

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 40 Gratitude

Forty days have passed by quickly. I was looking back at past years and found that this is the first time that I posted on this blog each of the forty days. I did a few things different this time starting with the lead up to the Winter Feast for the Soul.   I focused on ways that I could carve out time each day to meditate.

Here I am, day forty and I’m relieved and excited. I’m relieved because I completed the goal of meditating each of the forty days. I went deeper in each meditation than I have in the past. Perhaps after doing this for a few years I’m aware that I flushed out a lot more thoughts than I have in years past.

I’m grateful for having the freedom to spend each day meditating. I’m grateful that over the years I have surrounded myself with people who are on a path to self-knowing. I’m grateful to have people in my life who support me, nurture me, and encourage me.

Gratitude is a funny thing because it’s not something I have in my consciousness, but there’s an awareness that hovers around me at all times. There’s an African tribe that when someone is down and depressed, contemplating suicide, they bring the person to the center of the village and tell them the impact they have on each and every person’s life. They are bombarded with connection. They are the center of a circle of gratitude. The village is grateful that person’s presence. This is a time when the village holds the gratitude till a time when the individual can embody the gratitude.

I leave this period of meditation ready to move forward. I’ve already laid the groundwork for continuing my meditation. I’d like to revisit some of the topics that have come to the foreground over the past forty days.

I hope you’ll continue to share my journey. I believe it’s something we can co-create!

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 39 Mentors

Who do you look up to? Who took you by the proverbial hand and nurtured your talent, your gifts, and your spirit? We live in a culture where the idea of mentor has been bastardized. Instead of looking for mentors who develop others, people look for authority figures that will save them. I’ve been contemplating this issue for years.

I’ve been a self-help book junkie. I scan the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble and online at Amazon looking for the next wave of people who will impart their “systems” for a better life. I’ve listened to podcasts, online tutorials, and subscribed to countless magazines awaiting the arrival of the next big name in human development. I admit, I’ve been looking for a guru. I’ve wanted to worship at the feet of an individual who will guide me to enlightenment.

It wasn’t until I went to grad school this last time that I realized it wasn’t a guru, self-proclaimed or not, that I was in search of, but a relationship. I’ve really been looking for a mentor. I’ve wanted someone who was willing to set their own agenda to the side and use their knowledge, skill, and talent to help me grow. The amazing thing is I already had that person in my life and instead of nurturing it to its fullest possibilities, I’ve allowed it to wax and wane.

I had lunch with my mentor today. She’s been in my life for the past ten years. She has encouraged me, nurtured me, and worried about me. The amazing thing about a mentor is even when I kick and scream and push her (them) away, she holds me close (literally and figuratively).

If you’re lucky enough to find someone who will take you under their wing, let them in to your life. Work like hell to keep them in your life. When you find that person cherish them. Allow them to bestow upon you their love, affection, and spirit. These people don’t come into our lives every day, but when they do they will change your life, your worldview, and allow your gifts to be expressed!!!!

Winter Feast for the Soul 2017: Day 38 Perspective

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective over the past week; mainly as it pertains to a quilt I’ve been designing. I’ve been looking at color and proportion, seeing if it all works. On the other hand, I’ve also been thinking about gaining perspective as it relates to world/national events.

Is it possible to have perspective if you are entrenched in a particular point-of-view? How do we uproot ourselves enough to allow perspective to be a player in our worldview? Have you thought about why perspective is important?

I was watching a terrific documentary Get the Picture about photo editor John G Morris. He quotes Robert Capa, an amazing photojournalist who said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I thought this was an interesting quote because he’s talking about perspective. In his case, he is commenting on the impact and newsworthiness of a photo.

Have you ever had someone recommend that you step back and gain some perspective? I have, and I can tell you that statement usually angers me because I feel as if my point-of-view is being negated. I’d much rather someone offers a counter theory/account/knowledge so I can derive my own conclusions.

It’s clear that in the world of politics and religion, perspective is always on the frontlines. It is often the battlefield because we begin to argue dogma instead of personal beliefs, towing the “party” line. Whatever happened to independent thought? Why are we so willing to fall into a trench without critical thinking being part of the equation?

Perspective is something that goes beyond art. It’s something that impacts how we related to one another. Perspective can be our best friend if we allow it to play a part in the equation of our lives!