Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Water Wars

I painting this large painting called “Water Wars” in two days. Two very long and exhausting days. I fought with myself continuously through those two days, making it all the more exhausting. I wanted to check out, I wanted to eat to the point of sedation, drink to the point of delusion or just sleep. (I haven’t turned to any of those escape routes for so long, and their return, even as mere temptations, was very upsetting to me)
But I knew I had to stick it out. It helped that I had a deadline. The morning after I finished this painting I was literally dragging myself. I went online and recorded my thoughts live and I heard myself as a zombie. I felt lost still, in the conflict I had experienced while painting water. The Water Wars are the battles being fought on the front lines between Indigenous Peoples and Big Business, namely energy companies that feed on the resources of the earth. This is the battle and now we are all being pulled into it. We have grown dependent on the energy they provide, yet many of us know it is a famished road we are on. Look at Flint Michigan, or the polluted wells in our neighboring Kewaunee Wisconsin county. This is our future. The Indigenous people, in India, Australia, New Zealand, The Amazon, Standing Rock, and all over the world, those who have somehow miraculously survived to this point, they speak the wisdom of all of our ancestors, calling to us. I have been hearing it for my entire life, and now I finally understand what they are saying, in more than just pictures. I still need the pictures to help me translate what I am hearing. But, I am understanding with my entire being. That leap in understanding took me through an emotional and physical space in the last week that frightened me, I felt like I was losing myself or breaking, and those experiences are always frightening because they lead to something new and unknown. 
So I made this list, just pulling names from my memory. 
Thich Nhat Hahn
Dallas Goldtooth
Dr. Reverend William Barber
Winona LaDuke
Cesar Chavez
Harry Belafonte
Opal Tometi
The Dalai Lama
Patrisse Cullers
Nelson Mandela
Judith LeBlance
John Lennon
Daniel Berrigan
Dr. Martin Luther King
Mohandas Gandhi
Sojourner Truth
The Peace Pilgrim
Henry David Thoureau
Saint Francis
Saint Valentine
And the list goes on and on. We have leaders and teachers, those who are here with us and those who have gone before us. I started this list in my head today from a place of grief. I woke up full of sadness, focused on the crimes of Big Oil in the past few weeks and how through violence and lies they have seemingly “won.” I could feel the weight of that sadness as the thing that had been pulling me into exhaustion and despair for days now. And the conflicts around me only added to the despair, as I watched my friends and neighbors name call and fight over the daily dose of frightening news stories. I felt like giving up. But the names on my list remind me that grieving for the brokenness of the world does not heal the world. This is a list full of names from a history of slavery, exploitation, genocide, suffering, sacrifice, murder and war. It is a list that proves this: The strength to heal our own hearts from despair and return to the world is what heals the world. It is not a love for the struggle or an addiction to the fight that brings one back to the world from a place of deep grieving. It is nothing short of love and compassion, which takes much more strength and courage. The addiction to the fight is a relationship between fear and ego. Grief releases that, but, as Kimberle Crenshaw says in her remarkable Ted Talk (link below) “We have to get past grief.” Grief is not a choice, alone it is a course of inaction. Getting past grief is returning to the world after the transformational experience of being broken open by grief. It has to happen as often as it has to happen for each of us, I think it is a lifelong process. Eventually we lose our taste for the ego, for money, for ownership, for personal gain, for being right, for appearing intelligent, for outdoing our opponent. For winning the battle but losing sight of the truth. 
I have learned this lesson in my own life, after years of struggling to forgive. What I had to forgive was big. At the age of 21 I was subject to many beatings, leading to the stillbirth of a son. It took 30 years to understand forgiveness and what it really is. It is not saying something is ok, it is not excusing it. It comes from a very deep place, and if you get there you understand. It ends with forgiving yourself. Everyone has their own path to this. I can take this wisdom into my life now, and enter the world with compassion, opening up a possibility that never before existed. This new place is not without grief, it is grief transformed, standing up to injustice and ignorance and fear. Forgiveness, it turns out, is an unfathomable act of courage and that courage leads to an even greater one. The courage to face the truth in the world, but first in yourself. I look at my list of names and I know their strength comes from a very deep and hard earned place.
Back to the painting. In the center of the painting is a struggle, but it is not caught up in the swirling conflict surrounding it. It is a heart center and I have been calling it the eye of the hurricane in the Water Wars. Of course the Water Wars is symbolic for a struggle that can only be calmed, not won with force. The calm from the center comes from not having to win, but from remaining centered and calm and with peace. The world we are all living in is in a state of turmoil, as are we. It is only in finding forgiveness within that we calm the waters around us, and then, working from our heart centers, we can calm the world. 
I’m choosing not to say we fight or we win, because this is not a Hollywood movie. The ending is unknown. The world we live in may have already chosen its path. That is all unknown as far as I can see. What I do see is a choice of how to accept and then live in that space. I have learned, through the exhausting process of painting “Water Wars” that I plan to show up. I believe I may have discovered the peaceful but strong place in my center that has been broken open with grief. I may have to return to that place over and over again, but once you have seen it, there is no turning back.

Links: Kimberle Crenshaw's Ted Talk

Friday, February 10, 2017

Skeleton Tree Flies - Brilliant Stranger

I loaded my awkward art videos on youtube so they can be watched and shared. I have been hesitant to share these because 

1. In their raw and awkward nature I feel a little embarrassed and  
2. (even more than #1) I don't want this to be about me or ego, I have started sharing these more and more because I get a lot of response from people who say they are inspired by them, to create, to be brave, to accept their vulnerability.
3. Many people have "visions" Call them what you may, waking dreams, subconscious thoughts... and by sharing these videos I hope those souls feel less "strange" or alone.
So... check out my youtube channel if you're curious!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Female Center

I sometimes hear voices.  I kept pretty quiet about that my entire life, because, well, I was afraid of being judged by minds that do not understand such things.  This has been a month of letting go of fears... so that one's gone too.

In the early morning hours I sometimes hear a voice, telling me one thing at a time, helping me understand. It's always been a fatherly voice, until yesterday.  Yesterday the voice was female. It told me to Enter. 

The words were "Put yourself inside of me."  (If you immediately thought about sex read the next paragraph.  If not, you can skip it.)

The sexuality of the phrase, while undeniable, could easily become a distraction from the larger lesson of the words.  Making female power centered on sex is a way of taking away female power, by limiting it to one dimension of human activity.  If we as a culture had a healthy relationship with feminine power, then the relationship between sexuality and all the other forces that drive us as humans would exist in harmony.

I reflected on the words I had heard, "Put yourself inside of me" until I finally decided to paint.
My first interpretation of the voice was that of the earth, the mother, the female.
Fire inside, fire in the center.  What to enter?  The Center.  It is in the entering that the understanding begins to unfold, through the feeling, through the energy, through the very act of entering.

We are at a time in history when we have so much to look back on and sift through.  Books and knowledge excite me, offering so many paths of thought and exploration for the mind.  But, in the end, I have to get out of my head for the clarity I need.  The clarity that is needed for peace comes from calling my ancestors and finding my center.  It comes from a place that cannot be defined with words.  
The knowing that comes from the mind and the knowing that comes from the heart's center do not need to be in competition.   Coexisting, they work together, for we are in the world, as well as the spirit, at this time.  This is the conflict I see around me, that of opposing poles.  How does one shift that magnetic push of opposition into an alignment?   By entering the center, where the forces no longer push or pull.  Rather than split the atom, enter it.

What my ancestors and spirit are telling me is to release fear.  This happens by facing fears, not suppressing them or pushing them away.  Looking at fear and then letting it go is the way through the anxiety of our time.  It leads to a centered calm.  Everything must change, in a profound and all encompassing way.  That change is happening, and in order to adjust to the change, a strong and centered female energy is needed.  And this is an energy that is misunderstood in a patriarchal world, where equality is often sought on male terms, and feminine power is still confined by those very terms. 

The imbalance has been focused on male, light, linear thought, hierarchy and force.  We are witnessing its final stages.   It cannot be tamed, let alone fought , with more of its own .  A receptive, dark, female energy encircles it and tames it, not with force but with unimaginable power.  This happens on every level of human activity, from the most intimate to the most public, through personal relationships to political struggles.  All we need to do is look to nature and spirit to bring our human world back into balance.  Starting with, but not stopping at, ourselves.

Female is reception.  It is Yin.  It is the stillness in the center of the storm.   It is the heat from the center of the earth.  
That is where I enter.  

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