Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A study in blue....

I have begun a third round of painting through my Chakras.  My inner expectation messed me up right from the beginning.  I had this thought that painting my root chakra would bring about the same beautiful painting that happened the last time.  That is never the case.  Each time through the chakras seems to be bringing me to a different level of awareness, inviting me deeper and deeper into each chakra to uncover, cleanse and accept more and more of who I am.

Because I came wanting that beautiful painting again, I bumped up against stuff quite quickly.  I frustrated myself quite quickly.  And I became aware of what I was doing fairly quickly.  But, my want for a repeat of beauty overpowered my letting go for longer than it needed to.

Two things were different as I began this painting.  I put the paper sideways on the wall, and I painted in blue instead of red and orange.  Blue was the only color available to my Creative self most of the way through this process.  This painting became of “study in blue.”

I began by making waves of the various shades of blue across the painting.  It was challenging to do that.  The painting kept ripping free from the tacks that were holding the painting up.  I kept having to stop and re-tack up the painting.  Then the paper began to wrinkle as the paper got wetter with paint and I could not get a good flow going.  

I found myself frustrated with the paper’s wishes.  So I turned to circles.  I found that the blues curved in such a way that they were inviting two full circles and a half circle.  One small in the lower corner.  A bright blue circle.

The other began with a deep blue and then go lighter as it echoed outwards.  I found once I began that second circle that I spent much of my time on it.  It wanted to echo out.  I wanted that echo to resemble the ripples of a pond.  It wanted to just echo to lighten as it echoed outward.  When I let go of my need, the circle began to take form.  The echoing began to happen.  I found it getting larger and larger, taking over the whole right sheet of paper.

The half-circle was next to the full circle.  It was part of the original wave.  I grabbed primary blue and put it over that part of the wave.  As I did it I became fully aware of what I was doing, of what that half-circle really was.  

It connected me back to my second root chakra painting -- to the bottom corner of that painting.  I had painting light blue on that corner.  I had struggled deeply with that blue.  I even scrapped that blue off, so I could get rid of it and allow for the green to flow.  When I hit a wall and my teacher confronted me, I realized that I had scraped my tears off the painting.

Here I was painting blue in the same shape, in the same place, when that urge to scrape it off bubbled up in me calling my awareness back to “unfinished business.”

I must have been making some very disgruntled noises because the next thing I knew my teacher was checking in with me.  I told her I was fine.  I was.  I told her I was aware of what was happening.  I was.  I told her I knew what was next.  I did, sort of.

I left the blue.  I left it on the painting.  I knew it was my tears.  And instead of scraping it off, ignoring it, stuffing it back into my Shadow, I let it be on the painting.  I let it show up.  I acknowledged it.  And then I moved on to what was next...

Light.  Light shining forth from the space between the half-blue circle and the large echoing circle.  Light shining down and behind the bright blue circle.

I grabbed the yellow white and began to put it on in that space.  I began to work the yellow in such a way that the texture of the paint illustrated it shining forth from the intersection of the two circles.  I worked it behind the blue circle.

When I felt like that was done, I sat down and took in the painting so far.  Something more needed to be added to the center of the echoing circle.  I stared at that center and awaited the invitation.  Purple.  Star.  Hmmmm.....

I stood up and followed the invitation.  I added a purple star.  Same purple as all the stars I have painted in the last few months. When I was done I found myself flat on my back...for... a.... long... time.  The star had done what it usually did.  But it was up.

My teacher let me lay there for a while before coming over to see what was going on.  She pointed out to me that each time I paint a star, it is usually the last thing I do and I end up where I am stuck on the floor.  She talked with me about how I have bumped up against that star regularly for the last four months.  She pointed out that I usually cover it up or wipe it out.  I have not dealt with it.  She suggested that I needed to deal with it, like I needed to deal with all those mythical images that arose on my grief painting earlier that morning.

She was right.  I sat there reflecting upon my various paintings of late and laughed out loud how right she was.

I had painted a purple star in the lower corner of my last throat chakra painting and covered it up with the purple orchid.
I had painted a purple star in my last Spiritual Direction painting, but had not covered it up.  It was the last thing I painted though.

I put it up on my last round of painting my Third Eye as the last thing I did and wiped it out first when I came back to the painting to add my Crown.
In my last round of 40 day painting, it appeared in the top corner and over that week, it was wiped out as an explosion of Light.  It reappeared near my intertwined hearts and was wiped out the next day.
And just the previous day, it reappeared a third time over the ball of Light wrapped by the green and yellow twirls...the one and only stroke I could add.  (I had not had time to wipe it out yet.)

Then my teacher asked me what I did to this purple star?  I had used the twirling tool to dull it, soften it somewhat.

She encouraged me to do no more to the painting.  Sit there.  Take it in.  And ask myself what this star means to me, because I need to work through it, not around it, not bump up against it and ignore it, not wipe it out.  I need to understand what this myth is for me, accept it, embrace it, welcome it into the silence of my being.

I did that.  I sat and nothing came...

I thought about it theologically as I drove home -- thinking about whether the Star of Bethlehem was echoing in my painting, pointing direction.  No, that did not seem right.  

I sat in silence asking, waiting patiently and not so patiently, day after day for almost two weeks.  I followed the guidance of the Sacred and dove deep into a different mythical image hoping it would bring light to this one.

After much patience
After much silence
After much prayer
After much cleansing and healing
The Sacred brought forth the answer to my prayer
bubbling up in silence one morning:


The purple star is the fear that brings me to a paralyzed stop in all that I am doing.


No wonder I wiped it out, covered it up, softened it.  Who wants to come face to face with fear?

My teacher is right.  I can not move forward in my life unless I look directly into fear.  

Martin Laird, in his book Into the Silent Land, gives loving direction when facing fear.  He writes “By looking directly into the fear before the mind adds a story we see that fear is not real in the way we thought it was.  It is nothing more than ‘a mass of thoughts and feelings and an unpleasant tension in the body’...” Once we realize that, fear itself becomes a vehicle to the deeper silence which is the Great Cloud of Unknowing.  

And so, the purple star is pointing direction...a direction into deeper silence and stillness... a direction deep into the Heart of God... with FEAR as teacher.  

I will accept that invitation and follow that direction trusting that FEAR will open in the silence of my Soul before The Great Cloud of Unknowning, that is the Sacred.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Looking deep into the well of grief....

Today my teacher started our painting circle by talking about grief and the movement of grief in our lives and bodies and seasons.  She invited us to participate in a ceremony where we could offer up our grief in preparation for engaging it deeper through paint.  

I’ve been ignoring my grief.  Really.  I am aware of it.  I have had numerous transitions over the past 4 months.  Each transition has contained some major grief.  I acknowledged it at that time.  I acknowledged it when pushed to.  Then, I neatly placed it in a box and shoved it deep into my Shadow ignoring it, hoping it would go away...

But intuitive painting does not allow for that.  Over the past four months things have been popping up in my painting over and over again not letting me truly ignore my grief.  Each time, the images have come upI have ended up flat on the floor with tears, left wondering what they are.  OR I have wiped it off, covered it over, bumped up against it and ignored it.
Today, my teacher was inviting me to stop ignoring my grief.  Greet it.  Embrace it.  Welcome it.  Feel it.  Accept it as part of me.  Learn from it.  Release it into the Universe through prayer.

I resisted the exercise, but ended up deep in the grief by the end, as I lost myself in the experience, the moment, the paint.

What intrigued me about the process is that I began with two objects that have been appearing in my paintings which feel like representations of me:  A purple circle and a tree.

Then a story began inside me.  I followed that story.  I needed to follow it because that story is what loosened me up and took me into the grief of my heart.  I began to add blue as a river that flowed under the purple circle and along the roots of the tree.  Then I added green, a meadow, mixing with the river water, creating a plush sacred space in which I could rest and commune with the Holy safely; a space to allow the grief to bubble up, to notice it deeply in my Soul, to sit with it, acknowledge and befriend it, welcome it.

That noticing began with black creeping its way into the meadow and water.  I added black in areas where the white of the paper showed through the blue and green.  I rubbed it in, spread it out.  Shadow.  Grief.  Showing up...

Then white arrived, mixing with black, green and blue.  A conversation began between my shadow self (my grief) and my daylight self.  
“Here I am” said grief...

And all those grief oriented mythical symbols (to me) arrived on the painting at once: The Eyes in the tree; the blood red swirl in the purple circle; the intertwined hearts over the white...
And my teacher found me laying on the ground, flat -- never a good sign.  When asked, I was most intensely reacting to the swirl -- to the empty space in the swirl. 

My teacher asked for three things I could do to that space.

A purple star (although it couldn’t be purple); fill in the empty space; wipe it out (which is what I always long to do).

My teacher gently reminded me that I can not just wipe it out.  I need to engage it.  I need to work through it.

So I grab a yellow-tinted white and filled in the empty space.  This, of course, made the grief much deeper, richer and sent me to the opposite side of the room hiding.  I squatted partially behind a sectional that someone else was painting on.  I could still see the painting.  I could peak out and look at it and lean back and not see it.

What came in that peak-a-boo style pondering was the raising of the water-level.  I grabbed the blue and began to work it up and around the circle to the top of the painting.  My mind was giving a narrative that it is the upward movement of those intertwined hearts embracing that circle.

As I sit with this painting now, that is not what comes to me.  Rather it is an expression of the deepening of that grief, a raising of the waters, an expression of how overwhelming all those grief images can feel inside me when they show up at the same time.  It is my Creative self reminding me that I need to recognize that feeling of being overwhelmed by all that I have given up, all that I have left,  all that I have lost in the last 4 months.

The blue covers the tree.  I did not start off with the thought that was going to happen.  It just happened.  The blue ran into the tree and began to cover the trunk as it spread around that circle.  As it reached the top, the blue just ran right over the branches spreading out holding the Eyes.

One Eye remained safe in the purple circle....and one Eye remained partially safe in the top corner.  Hmm....

I sat for the longest time.  I sat taking it all into my heart.  I sat in silence before the Holy.  I sat tears bubbling up.  I sat struggling for the energy to make one more mark.  I prayed that the last mark of the day would be one of of movement of direction.

And it was.  I did not know it then.  I know it now.  The last brush strokes I put on that painting were an invitation to sink deeper into that image of grief, to pray for a deep inner awareness and recognition of its meaning, to pray for a holding by the Sacred as my Soul released that particular grief expression into the Universe, to pray for a cleansing of the wound that grief exposed....

The last brush stroke was a large yellow heart around the intertwined hearts at the bottom of the painting....Start here said the Holy....and I did....

And the Holy blessed and held me in my grief...

And Sacred Water washed and cleansed the wound...

And Healing has begun.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moving from Mind to Heart is the key...

I came to this painting with this fabulous idea.  I was going to paint an amazingly vibrant flame that swirled upward and from and within the flame were going to be various images of people unfurling -- starting all curled up and moving toward complete openness and vibrancy.  It was a gorgeous painting in my head!!   I have to say, I am in love with it.

The problem is that it is in my HEAD not my HEART.  By painting this painting, I was once again reminded that intuitive painting is from the heart, not the head or mind.  It is sort of like Centering Prayer in that way:  as you sit in silence of the prayer you can choose to get hooked by your mind or distracted by monkey mind.  You can stay up there on the surface and ignore the depth of the inner work that happens deep in the silence of your Heart.  OR you can sit like on a bottom of a river and watch the distractions and the monkey mind float by surrendering yourself to the work of the Holy within you.

Here is how I learned Intuitive Painting is like Centering Prayer.  If I stay in my mind, all that is going to happen is frustration.  My Critic is going to be completely engaged and take me down quickly.  Nothing I paint am I going to actually like.  It will look ugly.  It will feel wrong.  I will be unsettled, frustrated, angry, stuck.

BUT, if I drop into my heart; if I allow the images to flow forth from deep within me, something changes.  I may bump up against something hard and difficult, but it is a healing moment not a frustrating moment.  I may get taken down by the painting, but that is calling me to awareness of what I am bumping into deep within my heart -- of something that I need to work through, hold, accept, release.

Intuitive painting must be done through the heart, that is the where the journey is most powerful.  

My problem this evening was that I started with the really awesome mind-oriented image....

I started with red.  I began to attempt to make a flame that curled upward and back in on itself.  The more I worked at it with red, the more frustrated I became.  I could not get it to look like the beautiful picture in my head.

Instead of dropping into my heart, I turned to orange.  And it got worse, uglier.  I attempted some more red.  Nothing good.  I was about to rip the paper off the stand, roll it up and throw it away when something happened....

 A purple circle bubbled up from my heart, right into my eye sight.  Strong.  Vibrant.  Without thinking I grabbed the purple and put the circle on the paper where it asked and the painting changed.  I had dropped into my heart.  I had left my Critic behind in my mind and chosen to listen to my heart.

Then the green came.  It asked to go around the circle.  I found myself filling in the space between red flames with green.  Then black in the middle.

Then green filled the painting.  It happened in a moment.  I stepped back and all that I could see was green with a purple circle.  I went to it.  I covered the painting with green, leaving just that purple circle.  It was like covering all that monkey mind with my heart.

I stepped back.  I took a moment to sit and take in what had just happened.  I was exhausted.  Here is why.  When I work from my mind, from my head I am spending my energy in a pretty major way through frustration, anger, criticism (all those negative self-defeating emotions).  But when I open myself and paint from my heart the energy of the Sacred is flowing through me, holding me up, keeping me going.  I was exhausted because I had just moved into my heart.  I had spent the first 30 minutes spending all my energy in frustration, hitting my head against a wall.  

I sat to take a breathe.  I looked at the table next to the easel.  I had spent some time earlier that evening pulling out pictures from magazines that could work for “the unfurling” I was wanting to capture.  I looked down, saw this one image, and Energy struck me.  That is the only way I can describe it.

I saw this woman holding the Light, smiling as she looked into the Light of God.  I cut it out and asked my heart where it went.  I stuck it in the purple circle.  Then came the blue butterfly reminding me of the transforming power of the Holy’s Light.

Next, my path reappeared.  That
unobstructed path from my heart chakra.  This time it came in brown, like the path through the dessert and forrest all in one.  Brown was important.  The symbolism for me was important.  Sometimes I feel like I am on a path toward dessert spirituality.  Other times I feel like I am on a spiritual path deep in the plush forrest.  Both connect deeply within my heart and spirit.  So for me, brown was the color.  A brown that could be both, so I could be in the dessert and forrest metaphorically at the same time.

I sat back down after completing the path, to step back, to take in the painting and its simplicity.  I glanced at the table, ready to recycle all the images I had torn out, when the yellow butterfly called to me.  I cut it out and put it up above the blue butterfly, completing the unraveling and un-cocooning.

But the transformation from Light to Butterfly was not complete.  There was one more image that wanted to show up. 

A heart.  Love.  The Light of all that is Sacred in this world transformed into Love...the beginning and/or ending of the unobstructed path.  Powerful.  Powerful image for me.  Powerful reminder of the Sacred Call to live fully in this world.
Powerful image of what spiritual direction is about.  The focus and hope of spiritual direction is just that: to slow down enough to experience the Light of God, and notice how that experience is transforming us, opening our hearts more and more in the world, calling us to connect deeper and deeper into all that is Sacred and Holy.

The red heart at the bottom came next.  Then it expanded, growing, echoing outward and upward toward the purple circle, toward the unobstructed path.  Yellow.

I have had this theme pop up again and again in my 40 day experiment/commitment to one piece.  I usually experience it as my own opening and expanding.  Here I experienced it that way.  My heart expanding and opening to all that this call to Spiritual Direction will bring.  My heart expanding and opening to all this path will bring.  My heart expanding and opening to the transforming power to all that is Sacred.  My heart opening to the invitation to step onto that path.

One more image appeared. A purple star. in the top left corner.  Shining above the circle, above the heart expanding, over the unobstructed path.   

The painting was complete.  And I felt energized.  

I did not miss the fact that a beautiful flame was not on the painting.  I did not miss the unfurling image that was in my head.

I had indeed captured that unfurling within my heart.  The Light unfurled into Love.  My heart unfurled, opening, growing, expanding.

Once I dropped into my heart, beauty came forth.

Once I listened to my heart, the Holy spoke through paint.

And something deep and powerful and healing and affirming came forth in the silence of the night.  “A gathering of grace” as my spiritual direction teacher calls it.

And I am reminded of how truly blessed and loved and guided I am.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Cracking Open of My Heart...

(Sometimes in my resistance, it takes me a while to post my blog entries.  I wrote this in mid-September. For some reason, I have resisted posting it.  I will sit with that for a bit.  However, after reading it, I feel like it is time to post.  This is the next few days in my journaling 40 days of working on one piece.  Enjoy!)

Day 14:

Ah, reoccurring themes....

Here come the stars this morning.  Stars spiraling outward.  Stars in groups of three.

And then the blue squiggle spiraling around tree branch to that solo star.  It looks like it is emanating out from that star, which is curious to me as it was drawn from the spiral outward.  But it feels like light emanating out from that star; powerfully like the smoke lifting from a campfire.  It looks like it gets caught in the spiral of the branch.  Hmmm....

I think there is something deep there.  Like maybe as I empty myself in Centering Prayer, the Holy begins to fill in those empty spaces, spiraling deeper and deeper into my Soul.  Or like maybe as I continue this journey of Spiritual Direction, the Holy contains and focuses the Light that emanates out from my heart and soul, bringing it to the place where I can live Largest in the world and make the greatest difference.

I am intrigued that the star is directly on top of the yellow arrow.  The arrow points to the hearts.  And yet the star emanates its blue smoke in a different direction.  However, in my soul, it does not feel like two different directions.  It feels like a joining together, a coming together of Light and Smoke -- Pillar of Fire and Pillar of Smoke.  One guides by day; the other by night according to Exodus.  One guides me toward the Light of the Holy, toward an opening and expanding of my heart.  The other guides to me an emptying of my Shadow, a letting go, a surrendering to the Holy’s presence, clearing and healing...a movement toward wholeness.  

Yeah.  A movement toward wholeness!

Day 15:

I began today’s moment with purple fireworks squiggles coming out of the spiral and surrounding the purple stars, filling the space between the tree and the edge of the piece.

Then I placed my attention in the center of the spiral.   I enlarged it so I could work on the white dot in the center.  I enlarged that dot a little.  Then I smudged it and drew it out from its center.  Then a red heart appeared.  When I was done drawing it, it was open at the top.  I toyed with “fixing” it, but my Creative Self said, “Get out Critic.  This is supposed to be open.”  and I left it open.

As I sit with it, open is becoming more and more important.  My heart is literally open there in the center of the circle.  Open to the journey I am beginning.  Open to the Holy’s journey with me.  Open to this expanding, enlarging vision that is growing within me.  Open to LOVE, deep love.  It is open....

It scares me to see that.  Fear enters into my Spirit wanting to protect such an open heart.  Open means I could easily get hurt, deeply hurt.  That has happened too often and my Critic wants to keep me safe by protecting it....through fear....closing me down, closing up that opening.  

I will welcome that fear today and this weekend in the safety of a friend’s home.  I will welcome it into my body and soul.  I will thank it for wanting to protect me.  I will thank my Critic for being vigilant in its want to protect me and keep me safe.  And I will let it go, send that fear on its way; trusting that the Holy’s Light will keep me safe.

And here is the thing.  It will.  I know it deep in my soul.  Over the past three weeks, the Holy has done just that.  The Holy has protected me in deep ways as my heart has reached out into Universe.  Just yesterday, during Centering Prayer, in the midst of monkey mind and unsettledness, the Holy protected me, bubble up within me caution, breathe, wisdom.  I welcomed it and released it as is the practice.  I am noticing that protective wisdom has not left my side or soul, inviting me to let go of this fear that is now sitting on that opening in my heart.  Free myself.  Trust that the Holy will keep me safe.  

I will breathe that deep into my heart, 
into my belly
I will place my feet on the ground
root myself in that sense of Holy safety
and grow...

Day 16:

I start with exploding the star in the top corner.  I added white and rubbed it together with the purple and yellow.  I added yellow and pulled it out into an explosion.  I worked at it, growing the Light until it felt big enough.  

Then I turned my attention to the open heart in the bottom corner.  I wanted to highlight it.  I began with white arrows.  That was not obvious enough, so I used the yellow fireworks brushed and began circling it, getting larger and larger circles until it was big enough.  When I was done, I noticed that I had made a spiral spiraling out from the heart.

I finished the ritual with a small red open heart overlapping the white and purple hearts in the center of the piece.  I will sit with that red heart for a while.  It interests me that it is overlapping the overlapping hearts, almost bringing them together...

Day 17:

Sometimes my creative self expresses what needs to be expressed in one minute.  That is what happened this morning.  The ritual took about a minute and I sat staring at it wondering if something more needed to happen.  I noticed myself trying to force my Creative Self to speak longer.  Once I noticed, I released that into the Universe, letting go, thanking my Creative Self for what it did speak.

What it did speak left me wondering and unsettled.  

I began with coloring in the one large purple star above the hearts and exploding that outward like Light.  Then came yellow fireworks up the tree and out toward the Light in the top corner.  Then came what left me unsettled:  Two small stars, opposite colors, in the bottom of each overlapping heart.

What do those stars mean?  I don’t know.  I have sat with them for days and am still awaiting that Oh moment or that Ah!Ha! moment.  I am sitting with that unsettledness in my Soul inviting it to clarify itself to me.  I sense they are connected.

All I’m getting is patience.  Patience.  Patience.  Clarity will come.... Patience.

One minute of engaging my creative self!  

What I am learning about this creative process is that the amount of time does not matter.  It is the quality of the time.  Can I give myself over fully to my Creative Self and allow Her to speak uninterrupted?  Can I suspend the judgment of my Critic so that my Creative Self can feel safe enough to come forward and speak?  Am I open to what my Creative Self wants to express?  Or will I block it?

Today, in the silence of the early morning, my exhaustion over-rode my Critic allowing for my Creative Self to express itself fully and powerfully.  This unsettled feeling is the result of the fullness of freedom that She had this morning.  Today I am embracing the blessing of feeling unsettled within...

Day 18:

Green is the color of the day this morning.  Green appeared time and time again through my morning creative ritual.

I began by circling the open red heart in the bottom corner with a deep green. Then I added arrows, numerous arrows.  Then came the large green heart embracing and surrounding the two overlapping hearts with stars in them.

Then came the purple figure in the trunk of the tree and its green heart.  Then the figure was surrounded by a green heart that opened fully at the top.  I was struck by an image of the Crown Chakra and Light coming and going from the top opening like flames.  So, naturally came red in the tree from the root/base to the explosion out of the top.

I an noticing this morning the reoccurring themes that continue to reappear time and time again.  The figure appearing, then disappearing, then reappearing.  Hearts.  Now open hearts.  Trees.  Flame, red.  Circles and arrows highlighting, drawing attention.

This creative 40 day commitment is really working my Heart; working hard at opening me up, inviting me to expand; inviting me to do deeper and deeper into Love, Peace.  It is re-awakening me to the possibilities in my dream; to the possibilities for my career, my ministry.  It is inviting me to open myself to the guidance of the Holy and risk everything to become who I feel Called to be in this world.

I am accepting that invitation.  Each time I touch my finger to the screen of my iPad each morning, I am inviting the Holy to fill me more and more; to open me more and more; to bring forth within my fearlessness so that I can break my cycle of watching my dreams pass me by.

I feel like the figure with the opening above it is about to be filled with fearlessness; it is about to explode forth and begin the hard work of creating a new form of ministry in this world.  

Today, I am breathing deeply and opening my heart to noticing and welcoming fearlessness into my body, into my Soul, into my Heart!