Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Shift from Artwork to Soul Work

I had an epiphany today. You know how I like to have those.
But this one is grand and sacred. It feels way too big to write about right now. It feels too big to take on in the midst of purging and packing and preparing for a new job. But I promised myself I would try, because it is the last day of this epic year. And because I know that every breath I take from now on will be changed by this knowing.

I feel like my 2013 was divided into two even halves.
The artwork and the soul work. That was the realization I had today while doing my end-of-the-year reflection that led to the grand epiphany.

Of course there was spill-over on both sides, but the beginning of the year up until the culmination of my 365 Days of Creative project was marked by the intent to make something specific every day.  The second half of the year, starting almost immediately after my 365 celebration, there was a clear shift.

The need to go and do was replaced by a need for stillness and turning inward. There was less making and more being. But all the while making myself, you see.

Perhaps I was too busy planning and controlling outcomes to heed the call before, but when the work was done, when the one creative commitment was met, I embarked on another: soul work.
Soul work seeped into my efforts to reflect on my process more than it ever had before. 

It was not at all a deliberate. In fact, it went completely against my plans to make crazy amounts of art this past Summer, and totally derailed another massive project I had intended to start in the Fall. In the past, this would have gotten me down, but it's as if my soul knew this was the next phase of my learning. I decided to cooperate with my soul's yearnings. I got better at silencing my inner critic. I just accepted that it needed to happen. It was the ultimate practice in surrender and it unfolded perfectly. 

Soul work and spiritual discovery got my serious, undivided attention for the first time in my adult life.
I let my art tools collect dust so that I could go out into the open air and collect experiences and images that made my heart feel peaceful. I spent more time in nature moving my body, and the poetic reflections spilled out of me, one after another. I showed up on my yoga mat more than at my art desk. My daily blog musings turned into occasional check-ins as my soul spilled out more honestly than it ever had in my personal journal through both writing and visioning. I filled page after page, morning after morning with the whispers of my heart. I wrote notes to myself that seemed to come from someplace sacred and bigger than me. I was observant and noticed the signs that the Universe offered to affirm that I was on the right path. I met random strangers and made new friends who echoed it back to me, and I took the time to talk with them. Books fell into my hands with just the affirming words I needed to read and I allowed myself the time to read them.

I set aside my ambitions and trusted instead my intuition. I knew in my gut that I needed to step back from my going and doing. I didn't make art every day, but I made art of my everyday truths- whatever was important in the moment. I did not judge my creative acts. I let them come when they wanted, how they wanted. I breathed in my blessings and harvested my lessons learned. I committed and connected in an entirely new way.

I was true to myself.
I was patient.
I was a vessel for what needed to spill forth, and spill forth it did.
Creating became about getting to know myself better.

I found so much peace in the knowing that I don't have to have it all figured out, and that I don't have to try to get it all done right now. That I have divine help and I am on the perfect path at the perfect time.
It has been a very sacred time in my life.
A game changer. 

Why was this chapter written into my life? Why did it coincide so perfectly with the end of my 365?
I know now it's because I needed it. I needed it to help me continue on my journey. I love that it happened this way. I love that creativity was the impetus for such a beautiful, natural evolution of my spiritual life. I am so looking forward to continuing the journey in 2014, both the spiritual one and the creative one, and now I know that I can travel both simultaneously- and mindfully.

I will now travel with the knowledge that for myself as an artist, hands at heart center are just as necessary as hand on paint brush. 

And from all of this, as I sit in my bathrobe, today's to-do list a wash, but feeling like I found the day's meaning in another more powerful way, this epiphany comes into focus: 

The source of divine energy that I connect with when I give thanks for my blessings or seek answers to my life's questions is the same source of divine energy that fuels my creative fire. My creative practice and my spiritual practice have become one and the same.

I have a lump in my throat as I write this because I'm quite sure it's one of the most important realizations I have made as an artist, as a growing soul. It feels like remembering something that I knew a long long time ago. Maybe before I was born. It's the truth I came here with and I'm slowly learning to live that truth.

When you look back on your year, was there a distinct shift? A turning point? Can you follow the breadcrumbs of creative evidence to the evolution of your soul?

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Roller Coaster Creative Year

Belmont Park ~ Mission Bay, San Diego
Apparently I am just the right height to ride this roller coaster I like to call the creative process.

FACT: We are all the right height to ride this ride.

It's that time of year again when I like to reflect on accomplishments and lessons learned, and to prepare for growth in the new year. I intend to keep up the tradition of creating an art journal page for each year's greatest lessons. This is a very timely distraction from a rather daunting transition that I'm preparing for. I needed a break. So I sit with my tea and old art journals revisiting my lessons learned from 2011 and 2012. I scroll through this year's blog posts gleaning out aha moments. Man am I glad I wrote it all down!

This year's reflection feels especially significant. I am seeing strong connections between lessons learned in my creative practice- the art and writing- and lessons learned in my creative life- as in creating my life. Ah, that's where the magic happens.

Reflecting back on my journey is like looking at a roller coaster from afar, where you can make out the slope of the tracks and predict the drops and twists and turns. This is hindsight, of course. Honestly though, I don't think I would have done much differently. My revelations came when they needed to, usually through those unexpected twists and turns. Mistakes were lessons, as always.

My 365 Days of Creative journey that began the summer of 2012 and ended this past summer, and the unexpected (but beautifully timed) spiritual journey that I embarked on after were both very much like riding that roller coaster- in the most thrilling, exhilarating, stomach flipping ways.

I've been on this creative process/creative life roller coaster long enough to know that there will be ups and downs (and loopty-loops even). And I know from experience, the downs make the ups more thrilling. The ups make the downs worthwhile. And that's where the lessons are this year.

This is creative gravity, people. It's the real deal!

So what do you say? Are you up for the ride?

I dare you to try it. Arms up, eyes wide.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Every Blade of Grass

Every blade of grass has its Angel 
that bends over it 
and whispers, 
"Grow, grow."
                                                                                            - THE TALMUD

Can you hear your Angel whispering?
Nudging you to grow
Towards your greatness,
Towards your light?

I wonder, can you hear her?
And does it send chills down your spine?

These days, for me, the whispers are getting louder
and louder still.
And when I take a moment to acknowledge
that I am surrounded
by angels and guides and great sources of inspiration
who know far more than me
how this will all play out,
I feel a sense of peace
deep down to my core.

The chill down my spine is my intuition waking.
Small miracles stir in my subconscious.

If I were a blade of grass
I'd be unfurling, 
reaching skyward
to answer the call.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Darkest Day of the Year

It is the darkest day of the year,
and also the day the light starts to turn.

We have been to this place, and will soon come out the other side.
But while we're here, why not embrace the darkness?
It's part of who we are, what we are going through. 

"Far too often we fear the dark and adore only the light." 
                                                                                       ~Joyce Rupp

On this Winter Solstice, I sit with my fears, my failures, my shortcomings, my disappointments.
I acknowledge them. I take ownership. I know it is healthier to do the soulwork, even the difficult kind, than to slap a smile on and pretend I'm over it. The truth is, I will be over it soon enough. But in this time of closing one year and opening into a new one, I believe it's important to reflect on what didn't go our way, to process and find closure on our failures so we don't need to bring the heavy feelings into the new year. This way we can transmute the failure into learning.

The learning, the revelations, the successes- they will be the focus in days to come.
But I owe it to myself- my whole self- to explore the dark parts too.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Spread Tired Wings With New Hope

I listened in on a Winter Solstice Ritual through livestream tonight, on the eve of the Winter Solstice. Just in time for my tired soul. This night marked the beginning of a gentle release of 2013 that I will be in the process of over the next few weeks, and helped me shift my focus in a positive way. I've decided that this January, resolution setting will be replaced by time for dreaming. Ah, dreaming up a fresh new year. Doesn't that sound lovely?

As I begin to reflect on the soulwork I will be doing (and on some big changes in store for me), these words shared in the livestream by Shiloh Sophia McCloud are tugging at my heart and lifting me up.

"What is calling from within you to be expressed? Go there. Remember, it won’t feel safe to go there most of the time.  Extend yourself into the distances you cannot see. Move in Love as you spread tired wings with new hope."

"You cannot see it before you leap, it is only visible during flight."

Visit here to love on the full text, which came out of a very special process where Shiloh allows her painting to speak to her. I can totally dream this process into my 2014!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Moment in Between

The moment in between...
Late Autumn and early Winter,
Branch releasing leaf and leaf touching down to earth,

The moment in between inhale and exhale of a conscious breath,
The impulse between thought and word,
The soft spinning sound between needle on record and the sly first note,

The striving for clarity between blur and focus,
The disequilibrium between not knowing and precious understanding,
The eerie calm between acknowledgement and surrender,

The quickening pulse between decision and action,
The quivering footstep between comfort zone and wild unknown,
The unfurling of fingers, of wills, between clenching tight to the familiar
       and releasing what no longer serves us.

This is where life takes place. In the delicate now, in the moments in between.

This is where I find myself, making up the steps as I go along.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Foreign Territory

After the geometry homework is done, my favorite 16 year-old and I break out our art journals. I stare at the blank page. The white space feels good after a busy day. I watch her paint for a long time. She dives in without a plan. She squeezes paint from the tube right onto the page. Plastic knife, bottle cap, foil- whatever is within arms reach becomes her tool. She hums to the song on the radio and spreads paint with her fingers.

I begin to crave the colors. I begin to crave the surrender.

I use her leftovers to stamp paint onto my page in greens and bronze. My fingers find the blue, the space between. Now we are both humming to the radio. When I zoom out, it hits me- my marks resemble some kind of map. The continents, the oceans, the archipelagos all an accident.

What is this foreign territory and why did my fingers paint it?

Soon I find myself tearing paper left over from our investigations of the x and y axis. The orbs consume whole oceans and claim space on the land, much like the thoughts that have been creeping in.

There is no rhyme or reason to any of it, but somehow it makes sense in my day. It doesn't matter...and it matters, all at once. For weeks, I have been exploring foreign territory, navigating strange inner worlds all alone in my quiet moments, in my busy mind. I have been keeping these feelings to myself long enough for them to get very heavy and so very convoluted.

The paint dries. I close my art journal. I marvel at how my inner world wants to spill out through my creative process. I make a mental note to make more art soon. The unintentional kind.

There is something to this soul mapping that is worth exploring.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Staying Open

I was doing some organizing in my art space today and came across a piece of art from an activity I presented at a creative play date earlier this Fall. Somehow that one never made it into my blog. Where have the days gone? Is anyone else feeling like Labor Day turned to Christmastime with the swish of a paint brush?
acrylic & sand on canvas board

I'm remembering that afternoon, a bunch of adults playing like children, drizzling Elmer's glue onto canvas boards that were then covered with sand from right under our feet. When the sand was shaken off, the trails of glue were revealed, along with shapes of different sizes. We then set out, with tiny brushes, to fill in the fields with acrylic paint.

It was always my intention to go back and finish my piece, to fill in the rest of the fields with paint to get a stained glass effect. But looking at it today, I realized I quite like the stark white spaces in the composition. It's a nice contrast with the sand trails and other colors.

I especially liked the symbolism behind it that wants so badly to sink in today. We can not always anticipate the twists and turns that our path will take. We can not always plan everything into place. But we must trust that all the pieces of our story will fit together, no matter how disjointed they feel right now. The great unknowns will be revealed to us at the right time. Staying open is not being empty.

This is a truth I'm choosing to trust today. It's a truth I'd like to learn to live with every day. I'm not supposed to have it all figured out. Huh. Imagine that.

This piece has made its way from the bottom of a dusty pile to the front of my easel, where it can remind me of this truth, through all the twists and turns that lie ahead.