Sunday, May 20, 2012

When painting gets physical....

My teacher gave us an invitation before painting.  She invited us to think about our Shadow self and reflect upon what we parts of ourselves we have relegated to our Shadow.  Then she asked us to invite some part of us back into the Light.

I was actually hoping to just play with paint, brightness, joy and ignore all that was falling apart in my life.  But no!  That is not what I was invited to do.  I was invited to dive back into my Shadow self, back into the darkness.  
The problem with this exercise is that I have locked so much of my self in my Shadow so as to continue this enduring that I do.  Opening the door even a little is hugely painful.
So I entered this exercise tenatively.  I decided to start with Light before going dark.  I grabbed the yellow paint jug and began to make a huge yellow ball on my painting.  That was fun.  As I was doing this, I began to realize that I was painting the sun, my third Chakra, Holy Energy and Light  and all that wonderful fun vibrant alive stuff.  Yeah.  That felt good after struggling through the last few paintings.
Then I invited the Shadow to come into the Light.  I hoped that the Light would hold too much Shadow from coming.  I laughed as I stepped back and saw a record (you know that you played on record players).  I began to swirl my hands in the blackness and then rub them around the Light integrating Light and Shadow together.
That was okay until somehow it released rage.  That is what I don’t like about my Shadow.  When I invite parts of myself back into the Light, I have to deal with the anger and rage I stuffed down inside myself as I shadowed part of me.  It came red -- red as can be.  I began by thinking about rooting myself.  But as the anger showed up it turned quickly into beating the red into the painting.  Covering the bottom, slapping it, splattering it, spreading it.  Then something invited me to take my rage up and I slapped paint right up like flame igniting for the first time.
I kept at it with other colors -- purple, light blue, more yellow, more black.  Slap, spread, integrate.  Slap, spread, integrate.  Slap, splatter, leave it.  I moved with whatever color captured my eyes back and forth between the paints and the painting.  Changing colors often, allowing for my flightiness to show up.  Voice, vision, power -- Shadow.
I stepped back once I had added all the color.  I liked how there was one slap of red, yellow and blue (roots, power, voice) directly in the middle of the black Shadow.  That spoke to me.
I stepped back further.  I stared at the circle, at how much color had showed up.  I realized that although I unleashed my anger, I had not invited anything to come back from the Shadow.  I was indeed playing with paint, color and anger.
As I reflected upon that, the image of a tree popped into my head.  And that is when I had a deep Ah Ha! moment: 
The tree is ME.
All those paintings where trees have popped up and I have defined the tree as my hope and vision -- as the Sabbath Center.
From the Goddess painting
to my work with ash
to my work with my second chakra
 It was all about ME stuck in my Shadow,
kicking and screaming
hoping for an invitation
to be set free!! 

Free from the box I had locked it in.
Free from the Shadow I had long ago stuffed it unwillingly into.
The tree is me.
the me that wants to create;
the me that wants to manifest something amazing and transformative in the world; 
the me that has brought forth this re-awakening.  
The me I have been mourning the loss of for 15 years.  
The me I have been searching to re-unite with all that time.  
It appeared.   
This time powerfully.  So powerfully that this painting got physical, got down-in-my-body physical; not just spiritual or intellectual.  Physical!
It became a tug of war between two forces
The tree -- me -- unleashing, creeping out of my Shadow
My old life I just left behind pulling me back through an invisible cord.
Here is how it got physical:  as soon as I put that tree on the painting I got dizzy.  Every time I moved the world spun.  I could feel the pull backward.  I could feel myself pulling against some invisible cord.  I could not keep balance.
Each time I moved toward the painting, dizzy.  Each time I moved away less dizzy.  Sitting fine.  Standing dizzy.  It sucked big time.  But I kept painting hoping it would pass.  Using the walls to balance myself.  Shaking my head, trying to clear it of dizziness.  Shaking my back, moving my hands up and down my back trying to get rid of that pull.  
Painting all along 
and allowing more of me to show up
FULLY show up.
My heart at the center, layered over those three slaps of yellow, red and blue -- power, voice, and roots.  It felt powerful to watch my heart arrive there and open and fill the space between the branches that were reaching up to the Holy.

I worked the branches up and around my heart and reached them up and out toward the Holy.  It was fascinating to me how I reacted to the various branches I added.  The teal blue and red were fine.  Those felt good. 
The dark green became anger, Shadow.  It felt awful.  I wanted to cover it, lighten it as soon as I put it on.  I paid attention to that one for a while.  I worked at lightening it.  Then the yellow circle appeared -- my power showed up in the midst of that anger.  The feelings turned, transformed.  I was able to allow the anger to ignite movement within me -- not to overwhelm me, but to propel ME out of the  Shadow and back to the Light.  As I did that more yellow appeared, the purple circle appeared and the painting began to feel balanced, good and settled.
The problem was I knew it was not done.  Settled was not where this painting was taking me.  Dizziness was still there.  There was more work to be done....

So I took a deep breathe and jumped back into that Shadow....
and allowed my voice to appear 
allowed my roots to deepen, strengthen, lengthen
allowed my heart to flame upward to the Holy.
This creative process always surprises me.  It keeps me on my toes.  
And sometimes it gets very physical
Sometimes the Holy knocks me off balance
to open me

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Praying for Resurrection

Two weeks ago my acupuncturist and shaman suggested that I do a spiritual exercise and see what shows up.  She told me to come up with an image and word that captures what I want to manifest in my life.  And then put that image and word everywhere I am, everywhere I look: 
so that I see it every time I turn my head. 
so that it is the first thing I see each morning and last thing I see each night. 
so that it becomes engrained me. 
so that my body embodies that image and word.
so that the word and image sink deep within my soul, all the way to the deepest darkest Shadows.
so that it is always in my thoughts, always in my deeds, always in every thing I manifest in the world.
My life needs to become that word and image.
I jumped into that exercise with full mind, body and spirit.  I created the image.  The word came to me in a dream and I put it on that image right away.  I printed it.  Cut it out.  Plastered it everywhere.  All over my house.  All over my car.  All over my office.  On the pulpit.  On my computer and iPad.  Everywhere.  
Every time I go to do something, it is there.  Resurrection!

When I do the dishes -- Resurrection!
When I drive -- Resurrection!
When I write -- Resurrection!
When I preach and pray -- Resurrection!
What I am learning in this experience is that it is like Jesus’ image of the vine and branches.  
(found in the gospel of John 15: 1-8)  
What do I mean?
I thought my image was going to manifest what I wanted clearly in the world.  But all its done is make everything cloudier, messier, harder to figure out.  
I had a clear thought, a clear prayer.  God, I want this ONE thing.
This is what has happened.  Sometimes when I look at it I pray for that ONE thing. Sometimes B. Sometimes C. Sometimes D.  Sometimes all of them.  Sometimes something completely new that I have never thought of pops into my head and I pray for that.

I’ve been getting angry at God this week.  Angry because this exercise is backfiring on me.  I am getting more and more unclear on what I want.  I’m getting angry at what is showing up.  I’m resisting.
And that is where the image of Jesus as grape vine and we as the branches comes in.  We want our choices.  We want our wants. 
I want to pastor my dream church.  I want to become a mom.  I want to create and found the Sabbath Center.  I want it all.
Well, apparently, we don’t get that.  Jesus did not say:  “I am whatever you want me to be.  And you can be whatever you want to be: vine, pruner, branch, soil...knock yourself out.”  
No.  Jesus said:  “I am the vine.  God is the vine grower.  You are the branches.”  The casting has already been finalized.  (from Nadia Boltz-Weber's blog The Hardest Question)
I don’t know about you, but I resist this image.  I resist the thought that I am not in complete control of my own destiny  -- that there is a will that God has for me.  I fight it.

What I have learned from this spiritual exercise, from staring at these signs all over my house, my car, my office, my life -- is that the point here is not that we have no control over our lives, that the will of God is greater than our own wants and hopes.  Rather, the point is that this image is inviting us to sink deeply into unity with the Holy -- 
then we will be unable to separate out who gets what credit
and that won’t matter
Grape vines and the branches off of the vines are all tangled and messy and it’s just too hard to know what is what.  Kathryn Matthews Huey, blogger for the UCC’s Sermon Seeds, reminds us that “when we look closely at grape vines, we will see the many entwined branches, winding their way around one another in intricate patterns of tight curls that make it impossible to tell where one branch starts or another one ends. This is not just intricate; it's intimate, and the vine shares with its branches the nutrients that sustain it, the life force of the whole plant.  You will find the best grapes closest to the vine, where the nutrients are the most concentrated.”  (from Kathryn Matthews Huey, United Church of Christ Sermon Seeds, May 6, 2012)

We bear the best fruit when we are entwined and intimate with the Holy; when we abide in the heart of God.  Nancy R. Blakely, in a beautiful pastoral reflection on this text, uses the image of "making a home" to describe how abiding in God brings the peace that we long for in our hearts. This kind of abiding is the way God sustains us and showers us with Shalom: wholeness, completeness, and health. Here, close to the vine, we are immersed in God’s Deep Shalom and find not only nourishment but also hope and joy.  We let God's word find a home in us. We find peace about all the things that we face and all the things that we pray for because "what we want will be what God wants, and it will surely come to pass."  (from Feasting on the Word Year B, Vol. 2 as referenced by Kathryn Matthews Huey in UCC Sermon Seeds, May 6, 2012)
At first, it does not feel that way.  When we first begin to give into the presence and love of the Holy, to sink deeper into the heart of God, resistance arises -- the Critic becomes loud -- we struggle.
We struggle because we have been programmed by Western Individualism to believe that we can do it alone, ourselves -- that we need no help.  That is the curse of our culture; the curse of the myth: if you work hard enough you will get everything you want.  This is a lie; a lie that sadly is housed at the very core of our bodies and souls.
Here is where the pruning comes in.   As we sink deeper into the heart of God, as we root our hearts deeper and deeper in that of the Holy’s; The Holy lovingly and carefully prunes all that is extraneous; all that is not in line with Her Sacred Holy Energy.  
It feels like a shaking out of our soul; a finding out what is essential.  (Re-Project Community, reROOT,  April 18, 2012)

It is.  It is a shaking out of our soul.  God is pruning, removing, all that is not of the Holy, all the distractions and resistance that keep us from sinking completely into the heart of the Holy; all those cultural lies that embedded in our bodies and souls.
What I have learned over the last week is that this pruning is painful but redemptive.  God gave me a beautiful image and fabulous word.


To truly resurrect ourselves, individually and communally, we must 
entwine ourselves fully and completely with the Vine that is the Holy, 
root ourselves deeply in the heart of the Holy
and open ourselves to this painful redemptive pruning.
So that when Spring arrives 
we can
branch out, 
spread our leaves 
and bear beautiful succulent nutritious fruit 
that will bless the world 
and reveal God’s Deep Shalom.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Painting into the Shadows.... My Heart Chakra

I knew when I went to paint this painting it was going to be a challenging experience.  My heart had been through much sadness recently.  I went, struggling, uncertain I wanted to do this, and breathing deeply.
I put the paper up on the wall.  Four panels taped together into a rectangle.  Empty.  White.  Ready for me to engage.  I stood there.  I just stood there staring at that paper, breathing deeply.  Sadness filling my heart.  Whispering to myself, “F@^k!”  I felt frozen in time, frozen in space, frozen in place.  I walked back and forth from my paper to the paint and back with no paint.  Numerous times.  Breathing and summoning the courage to take the plunge into the Shadows of my heart.
One last time, I stood.  I remember making the decision.  Saying F@^k!  Picking up the entire black pump container of paint and setting it down in front of my paper.  Pushing that pump down and catching that black paint with my hand., slapping it on the paper.  Again and again and again forming a huge black circle of thick paint.  I felt it squish between my fingers as I added it, spread it, ran my hand through it, engaged it.
I began to add silver and grey to lighten the circle.  Rubbing it in, giving depth to the black Shadow of my Soul.  Then, for some reason, I added a greenish tinted white heart in the center of the circle.  I surrounded that heart with a yellowish white heart.  I did it delicately, tenderly, lovingly.  It was like my Light self was trying to break forth from the Shadow.  I cherished that moment, that breathe, that pause, that reminder that this Shadow, this darkness, this sadness is not forever.  The Light always shines through.
And yet, I was not done with the darkness.  I had to dive deeper into that pain, into that anger, into my broken-heart.  So I took my fingers and swiped them through those beautiful hearts cutting them in half.  I did it again and again, anger rising within me.  I added red to make it more vibrant -- more REAL.  
That made it a little too real.  I stepped back.  Sat or fell to the ground...and stared trying to push that anger back down inside me.  I hate feeling angry.  It scares me.  When my teacher joined me and asked what was happening, all I could reply was I’m angry.  Her reply threw me, “Well, it’s about time.”  Huh....  It was about time the anger rose, really unleashed itself.  
I have noticed this happens to me when I paint or play or create.  I get into the flow of the energy.  I follow it.  I dance with it.  I enjoy it.  I lose myself in it.  I begin to forget where I am, what I’m doing.  And then, out of nowhere, something emerges, bubbles up from the depth of my Shadow self and I realize that I had let me guard down to myself.  Somehow, this painting experience continually invites me to let down my internal guard between my Shadow self and my Holy Light self.  It is sacred.  It is scary.  And this time, it was anger.  Anger bubbled up.  Anger overwhelmed me.  Anger wanted a way out.  Anger demanded that I release it from my Shadow, that I let go, that I get it out of my body, out of my heart, out of my Soul.
And that is what I did.  
I beat the crap out of my painting!!  I put blue in my hand and slapped it hard against that paper, again and again and again.  Sometimes it was a hand slap.  Other times is was full fisted.  I beat that painting until it fell off the wall.  I actually had to stop and reattach it to the wall.  It felt good.  It was quite the release.  The anger poured out of me and onto that painting.
And when I was spent, I began smoothing the paint around covering all the white, blending it into the blackness of my Shadow and receiving the invitation once more to “go there”  -- to go back into the Shadow, into the blackness.  I resisted at first.  I decided that black glitter would have the darkening effect that I felt was needed.  So I emptied an entire bottle of black glitter and all that happened was that the painting glittered.
I laugh at myself and how I can talk myself into ignoring the Shadow, into keeping it at bay.  But this painting was not an invitation to keep it at bay.  This was an invitation to go there.  So I went.  I slapped more black on over the blue.  I worked it in, darkening the blue.  I slapped yellow on the black in one area working it together.  Purple at the bottom.  I kept going between dark and light -- marrying the two together.  Bouncing back and forth.  Working into the shadow waiting for that moment when hope would arise again.
And it did.  The last three strokes of my painting to be precise.  I grabbed the brightest green I could find.  I gently added a small circle of bright green at the center of the circle.  I did not attempt to work it in.  It felt like it needed to stand apart, to stand on its own.  It was complete. 
My heart of my heart showed itself.  Only for a moment, but that was a Sacred Holy moment.  Amidst the anger and pain and woundedness, it appeared.  It said, “Don’t worry, I’m here.  I’m here when you’re raging.  I’m here in your tears.  I’m here in your fear.  I’m here at the center brightening, opening, healing your heart.”  Holy Sacred Moment. 
That is why I paint.  I paint for those Holy Sacred Moments and I allow their blessings to fill me up with love and compassion for myself, for others, and for the Holy.