Saturday, January 28, 2012

Place of Greatest Resistance....

The Invitation to the Creative Process continues....
One of the principals of the intuitive creative process is to address the place of most resistance.  This week, I learned why that is important. 
After my first painting experience, I knew intuitively that I needed to continue this expression, this exploration.  I began to look at the many different opportunities that my teacher was offering.  One struck me.  Painting my chakras.  Yet, I resisted. I resisted in so many ways.  I resisted the 6 month commitment that it would entail.  Every time I would look over the options, I would land on the chakras and then quickly close my computer and walk away.  Then, my teacher began posting the invitation on Facebook and it would pop up on my wall.  And I would resist.  
It is hard work to resist the invitation of the Holy.  It takes a great deal of personal energy to move against the flow of Energy. I began to realize that I was tired, sleeping more, laying on the couch watching more TV, dying that slow Critic death.  
I don’t know what made me finally sign up.  But one morning I told my spouse I was signing up, opened my computer, signed up and sent it before I thought about it.  Put all the dates in my calendar and went off to Starbucks for a chai tea and scone.  And something released again.  Energy started to flow....
Now, being me, the theologian and thinker, I had to “prepare” for this painting experience.  I researched my root chakra.  I learned as much about what it governs and how to open it as I could.  I surrounded myself with red (its color).  I grounded myself by eating root vegetables and lavender chocolate (yummiest chocolate ever!).  I soaked in lavender baths.  I walked and walked and walked.  And, as I always do, I began to dream in images and began to wonder if those images were going to show in this painting experience.
My teacher began the evening by talking about the vision she received to offer these classes.  She talked about how she received this vision to explore and paint our chakras and believe that each energy will further unleash our authentic self and really bring us to a FULLNESS of being.  Or at least that’s what I heard her say.  She is so right.  The next six months are going to bring this vision that is bursting out of me to its fullness and me to mine.
When I painted my inner goddess a few weeks back, I put rays moving out from the middle.  I painted each of the rays a different color; which upon researching chakras realized are the various different chakras (for the most part).  This is what I found most interesting about painting my root chakra...
I brought it home and laid it out on my floor to look at.  I laid it out in front of my first painting (which is hanging on my living room wall).  I noticed ONE thing straight away.  The red ray on my Inner Goddess turned into the expression of bursting forth out and brought me to the tree, to the vision that is the Sabbath Center.
I looked at my root chakra and it was a volcano of red bursting out --- bursting out so much that I had to add more and more paper to express the explosion.  Bursting forth from this meadow of growth and the Holy and movement and beauty.
It feels like a volcano -- this bursting forth of the Holy; this coming to fruition of the Sabbath Center.  The more I talk about it with people; the more I share my vision; the more I hear how much it is needed in this world; how much people are seeking that creative connection and experience with the Holy.  
I have had this sense building in me that there is no containing the Sabbath Center.  There is no containing and boxing in my spirit.  There is no stopping this ball that has begun to roll in my life -- this star that has burst forth into tremendous Holy Energy.  
The more I allow it to burst forth; the more I follow the energy; the more happiness and contentment that I experience.  I feel like now, in the midst of huge transformation and huge transition and instability and risk -- now I feel most happy, most alive, most excited, most focused.
I sat down on my red couch (ironic yes) and soaked in the vision that was before me.  I sat and watched how the Inner Goddess brought from this expression of my Root Chakra.  And I am excited to see what more will come this month as I dive deep into this painting, into this volcano exploding forth, and allow it to come to its fullest understanding in my soul.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Urgency of this Dream...

The Urgency of this Dream:
A Reflection on Jesus Calling His Disciples
Mark 1: 14-20

This week I’ll be preaching on Mark 1: 14-20, Jesus calling his disciples (according to Mark).  To prepare for writing sermons I have a list of web commentaries and blogs that I read; you know to get the juices flowing....  This week it has not taken much because it seems that Mark’s text is pushing at my vision.
He Qi "Call of Disciples"
In the UCC Sermon Seeds, Kathryn Matthews Huey writes about the urgency Mark’s gospel conveys.  She writes:  “The Gospel takes off, without the beautiful infancy narratives, no manger, no shepherds, no elderly prophets singing praise to God in the temple as they hold the promised One, a baby, in their arms. Instead, Mark sets the scene with compact accounts of John the Baptist preaching, and Jesus being baptized and then driven into the wilderness (Mark gives the wilderness temptations two verses, while Matthew uses fourteen). At a clipped pace, the Gospel writer simply refers to John's arrest so he can get on to his main point, the beginning of Jesus' public ministry.
Urgency is at the heart of Mark’s gospel.  I was struck when I stopped to ponder it and read it again (It only take about 30 minutes to read Mark from beginning to end) by the number of times he uses the word “immediately.”  It feels like every other sentence contains immediately.  (I think that is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.)
There is an urgency about Jesus’ ministry.  There is also an urgency about Jesus’ calling his disciples.  This struck me.  Jesus walks along and calls them.  They drop what they are doing and immediately follow Jesus.  No thinking about it.  No weighing the facts -- the pros and cons.  No worries about being financially secure before embarking upon this journey and invitation.  None of that.  
They went.  They followed Jesus’ invitation straight away. Somehow they were struck with a sense of urgency about this invitation.  Something deep within their being burst forth and off they went.  No second guessing either.  Just movement -- just following the energy and invitation of the Holy.
Hmmm... That speaks loudly to me.  I have been struck with a great sense of urgency for the past few weeks since receiving this vision -- this invitation to follow my dream.  A few weeks ago I sat with my acupuncturist (who is also my teacher and spiritual guide) for a session.  She asked a simple question which I hesitated to answer.  I had not shared my dream with her -- you know that dream that sits deep in your soul that you WANT to fulfill but at some level feel it will never happen -- that one.  I remember taking a deep breath and saying the words, “I want to create a Sabbath Center....”  then going on to explain what that vision detailed -- how it invites us into an exploration of the Holy through arts, through quiet, through contemplation, through pilgrimage.  My whole body must have changed because her response was, “You have to follow that dream.  I have not seen you glow like that before.”  Hmm....
Then I painted....There it was bursting out of the painting...The Sabbath Center.  And ever since that moment something has been unleashed and I have this sense of deep urgency that NOW is the time.  NOW is my opportunity.  NOW is when this dream will come to fruition.  NOW.
I feel like those disciples.  I heard a call that I ignored for years -- a decade to be precise.  This time, I heard it and something unleashed within my soul and it is burning brightly.  I feel like it is flaming, bursting out of me.  I feel like I can’t keep up with how it is cracking open my shell and inviting me into something I can not even imagine.
And so, I will follow it.  I have to.  This time, I WILL follow that energy.  I will paint it.  I will shape it with clay.  I will follow it.
And I have been following it for the past few weeks.  When I got really really sick with migraine, etc. after painting out this vision, I knew that I could not just write out the sick or work it out with clay.  I had to do that, but I had to take the steps that the Holy was inviting me to take to make this dream a reality.  The sickness was working to prevent me taking the first steps.  It was hard.  It was scary.  It made this real, like the Velveteen Rabbit real.
I made the phone call to the co-creator of the idea of the Sabbath Center and set a date to talk, to dream, to see where we both are in terms of bringing this to fruition.  I look forward to what will come from that....
I dreamed up my discernment group -- those who I want to sit with me and the Holy and discern what this dream will look like.  This brings anxiety because it means all the different worlds I belong to will collide into one.  That needs to happen.  It feels like the Sabbath Center is at the collision of all my life experiences; all my worlds. 
So, for now, I will hope that this urgency continues to build and drive me forward.  I will use its energy to keep opening that crack in my shell; keep following that dream; keep engaging with the Holy through paint, through pottery, through movement, through writing...

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Authentic Self: The Unleashing Continues....

My Authentic Self: The Unleashing Continues....

The critic has kept me in check this week.  My teacher was not joking when she said it is slippery and hard to recognize.  There I was going along preparing to finish a piece I started last week in pottery -- one that came to me in a vision before I began to paint as my teacher burned and smudged sage to clear my spirit and prepare me to paint my inner goddess -- when all of a sudden I had this sense that I had to get my sermon done TODAY.  It could not wait.  My inner voice was saying, “you’ll have to skip pottery this week because there is no other time to write your sermon.”  So off I went to Starbucks and began reading and preparing for my sermon.
Once more I was blessed by God’s voice calling out the Critic.  I am learning this time around that God is not going to let me take the easy (or lazy) way out.  This time I’m going to have to do the work!!!
I’m sitting there, sipping my Chai Tea Latte and reading various commentaries to prepare for this sermon when my teachers words pop into my head, not softly but loudly and firmly; like “WAKE UP!  LOOK WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!”
then it starts... hmm maybe it’s time for a cup of tea, a snack, wondering what is happening to the weather right now. Then you walk away ... and the critic wins.
What?  How is this the Critic?  and I stopped and sat in silence and thought about it.  Oh yeah, pottery.  The piece that I’m working on.  It’s related to the work I began last week.  Right, the critic....
I packed up my bag and got in my car and drove to the pottery studio to finish this piece that started before I painted my inner goddess, before I received a vision for how it would actually work, back when I had this sense that I had to create a visual of my authentic self -- the self I wanted to be and become and remain.
An aside:  Months ago I went to my teacher because I had this dream that I was supposed to experiment with Japanese brush art.  I had this dream of creating a pottery wall hanging that was based on Japanese Calligraphy characters for a series of words that would help me balance my soul between quiet tranquility and free spirited creativity and play.  
My teacher, being the amazingly wise person she is, gave me all sorts of books on Japanese calligraphy, websites to look at, a few brushes, an ink well and an ink stick.  She gave me a brief lesson and sent me off to journey where-ever it took me.
I delved deep into finding the characters that spoke tranquility, serenity, spirit, soul, freedom, play, balance.  I learned to paint them.  I followed my teachers guidance to paint over and over again until it just happened.  I stared at the results and waited for them to come together.  And they did.  They formed a design that amazed me.
I copied it.  I blew it up.  I created a template bigger than the wall hanging I wanted to create.  (Clay shrinks each time it fires.) And I went to the studio.
This calligraphy was to be created and imbued with prayers that I had collected and laid overtop of a labyrinth.  This is a journey after all -- a journey to connect with my authentic self.  It was beautiful when I was finished.  It popped off the labyrinth.  I could see the glazes and how they would compliment each other.  I could see how the color for the calligraphy would burn like the flame of the Spirit.  The problem is that it broke in the first firing.  Then it broke again the second time I made it.  It cracked slightly in the first firing and shattered into a tremendous number of pieces when glazed.  
Frustrate, I gave up.  I walked away.  This was not meant to be.  Until.... as the sage wafted through my nostrils and opened my spirit I saw it.
Back to now:  Last week as part of kicking the Critic my teacher suggested painting it out.  I went to pottery and decided I needed to create this vision given to me.  I cut out the design.  I wrote the words on the back.  I etched into the clay prayers for my spirit and soul.  I rolled it up, squashed it together and began to create a sculpture without loosing the entirety of the design.  I followed my teacher’s guidance -- do what intuitively comes, don’t question.
So I squashed the base into roots of a tree.  I allowed the loops and squiggles to form branches of the tree.  I added more squiggles, more flames, more fire, more freedom, more pay.  Freedom and play were bursting from out of the trunk, the core.  I added my hands holding and forming the trunk, the tree.  A spiral appeared on my hand, reminding me of the journey of creating.  
Then I ran out of time.  I had to leave to go to an appointment.  I wrapped it up in plastic and put it on my shelf.  I left.  I didn’t like it.  I  thought it was ugly, horrible.
This week I went back.  I peeled the plastic off the piece and sat down looking at it.  Somehow over the week the moisture of the pottery evened out.  Places that were dry and cracking had gained moisture.  Places really wet had hardened enough that I could work with it.  I spent the next few hours, smoothing and softening the lines and surfaces and etched out areas.  
I began to see what was created.  I began to fall in love with it;  to understand what it was teaching me about my soul, my authentic self, and how it grows and expresses itself.  My contemplative spirit grounds me, roots me in the Holy and holds me strong inside, unseen, protected, keeping my energy flowing, my life force growing.  My playful free spirit bursts forth from this deep well of my soul, shining, flaming, moving into the world; creating with passion.  
I am learning so much as I yield and give myself over to this creative process -- about my authentic self, about my calling, about how I want to live in the world.  I have searched through many different contemplative experiences seeking to have this Parker Palmer quote come to a reality in my life and this intuitive creative process has unleashed it:  “Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks--we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.” 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reflections on Painting My Inner Goddess

Last weekend I participated in a Intuitive Painting seminar for the day.  It was an invitation to a new spiritual practice that explores the sacred through breathing and moving your body and trusting the brush to follow the energy in and around and through me so as to open a door into my soul and claim the vision, the sacred, the energy within myself. [paraphrased from a poem by Corrine Gilman]
I was anxious.  I do pottery.  I create out of clay, where if you mess up you roll the clay back into a ball and try again.  You can’t do that with paint.  Plus, I’ve never painted before in my life -- really painted.  
I trust my friend, teacher and spiritual guide.  I trust her ability to hold a sacred space that will allow my soul and spirit to come forward and speak to me.  
I found myself blessed, deeply blessed by the hard, deep sacred work that happen on that day.
I began with blank paper, movement, invitation.  The first strokes on that paper made me cringe.   They were horrible.  And yet, I followed the practice, trusting the Holy to guide me.  I found that I had to fall into darkness before I could rise up into vision.  I found that I had to allow the black and brown to do its thing -- to express the deep spiritual wound that tore my soul.  The toughest thing that morning was when my painting asked me to tear it in two -- to literally express the wound that tore at the depths of my soul.  I then put it back together -- wadding up tissues and drenching them in black paint and sticking them on the painting forming  a wound -- two mountain ranges with a deep dark valley; dripping in black and brown;  seeping.
Then I could add color.  It was like in my dream -- my dream that brought me to this class.  Color drenched tissues began to fill in the valley and flow over the mountains.  Color and life and healing and wholeness and energy.  I followed that energy to the center of the painting -- to sun-shaped beams spreading their color over the browns and blacks -- over the wound -- bringing new life; hope...
I found myself in the afternoon stuck with this sense and feeling that the next part of my painting had to depict a bursting forth -- a breaking open of the boxes of my life -- a freeing of my soul to rise into whatever vision, calling, work the Holy and the Spirit had in store for me -- to burst forth and allow my spirit and soul to soar like on Eagles wings.  Yet, I had no idea what that would look like, how to paint that.  My teacher sat with me and brought me back to the first language -- that of shape, color and form.  We talked in visions and images and colors and the paint started to flow from the yellow center bursting forth in yellows, reds and oranges like a supernova star exploding into space.  
Those bursting colors led me to the only blank space on the paper.  It became clear to me that this was where I was being led -- this was the climax of my work for the day.  I began with an attempt at drawing a seed -- representing all that is growing within me.  Yet, the brush wanted more.  It wanted me to create a trunk, roots, branches.  It wanted me to sponge on green leaves and then merge the bursting of yellow, red and orange into the green leaves so that the tree was both spring, summer and fall.  
When I had finished I realized that the vision God has in store for me is not being formed like that of a seed.  No, it has been formed and birthed.  It is being presented to me in its entirety -- as a healthy vibrant tree with its roots embedded deeply in the Holy and its branches soaring up the the Heavens.
God is inviting me to see within and beyond, to see with my heart and soul -- to see beyond beyond what's right before my eyes to the future unfolding of God's vision, to the promises of God being fulfilled here and now, and in the days ahead.
So I sat and stared at my painting, taking it all in; awed at what came out of me, at what I was able to create because I got out of my own way.  
When  left, I felt a sense of peace, excitement, exhaustion, and being energized.  I knew intuitively what God is creating within me.  I’m scared; but I’m ready to allow the tree to blossom in my body.  
But, I soon discovered that my unconscious was fighting this calling, this vision, this blossoming; this cracking of my shell; this request for transformation and growth.  I got sick.  
I went home to sleep and began to experience insomnia.  I woke halfway through a restless, stressful non-sleep with the starts of a migraine.  I breathed deeply into my chest for a long time slowing down my spirit into a place of peace.  And yet, my body revolted -- resisted.  I woke the next morning with the migraine creeping slowly back, aching body, nausea, exhaustion.  
This ebbed and flowed; increasing in intensity, releasing to a dull throb and then increasing over  and over again for the next 48 hours until I went to write my sermon on Tuesday morning.  I realized that I was being invited by the Holy to write on vision and accepting God’s vision in our lives.  
It dawned on me.  My body was fighting this vision.  I laughed out loud.  I laughed hard, like Sarah upon hearing that she was going to give birth at such as old age.  Like -- daahhhh, of course. 
I believe this is a natural response for our bodies and spirits.  When a new vision comes, it cracks open our shells of safety.  It requires us to leave our cocoons of comfort and step into the unknown; like Sam in Fellowship of the Ring taking that one step that brought him to be the farthest he had ever been away from home.
My teacher calls this force our Critic.  She blogged on it not long ago.  She wrote:

What does it mean to face the critic?
We all have a critic. The critic is what keeps us with in “safe” limits.

That sounds great until we have a growth spurt.  -- a new vision
I can’t do that because....
Because WHY?
You will be too loud....
Too big...
Too full of yourself?
What would it be like to be really FULL OF YOURSELF?!

Marion Williamson said it so well-
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. 
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
 And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” [----from A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.]

critic keeps us from manifesting the glory of our light in the world.

How do we recognize the critic?
Knowing when the critic is present when some deep seeded limiting beliefs emerge can be hard. The critic can be slippery! and can look like this: You are happily going along, painting, writing, feeling Full of your self! Then it starts... hmm maybe it’s time for a cup of tea, a snack, wondering what is happening to the weather right now. Then you walk away ... and the critic wins.

You walk away and take the pressure off of what might be a personal moment of growth; the critic survives, and stops the shell from cracking opening a bit more.

Sometime the critic shows up as:
Oh I should just stay were I am. Life is ok why try to change it?
My job [isn't so] bad -- [that's why they call it work!] and it pays the bills.
Why dream a big dream that just might not pan out -- I will retire in say 25 years. I can do what I love then! I'll keep myself small and under the radar until then.

And so our bodies respond ...
Do you feel the [your] energy deflating?
Do you feel your breath slowing down?
Your blood stilling to a weak pulse?
The light in your eyes dimming?

We die a slow death with the critic -- we put it down to age, or a change in our life circumstances. And before you know it you have learned to not notice the color of the leaves, the song of the birds, the cry in your heart.

The catalyst for change has been neatly tucked away in the dusty box on the top shelf behind a book.

Critic 1 - You 0

The critic keeps you small and safe but that is not how we came into this life. We are bright shiny spirits in human form here to enjoy the gifts of being in BODY and COMMUNITY.
No matter how you bring it out; We are here to grow, shine and explore this wonderful life.

The first step is the recognize the critic.
Know that it has kept you safe, and it is part of you and your growth evolution.
When you see the critic, bow to it, then put it on the shelf and move forward so that the promises of God can be fulfilled.

[Damini Celebre, BrushHeart: Intuitive Painting]

Well, I have a word for my Critic.  You will not win this time.  This round goes to me.  I will take the steps to test this vision.  I will follow the brush, the energy, the flow, the vision, the Holy.  I will burst forth into freedom, unencumbered.
The score will read
Me 1  -  Critic 0!!!!
Blessed be.