Is it Ours?

There will be many situations in life that you might find yourself wondering in the words of the Talking Heads……..”This is not my beautiful life…….how did I get here???

I have found in my own life, there have been situations within relationships that have developed so slowly that I didn’t even see the shit storm coming.  I was so damn busy being flexible and making myself smaller to get along with another that I was unaware that the relationship was out of balance until it was too late.  I had been “had”;  not only by the other persons agenda but by my own delusions.  How could I have made myself smaller, once again? With clay, I can move slowly, releasing control and just sit, for the most part, in the back seat. Clay is easy to trust;  life situations are a little trickier.  When there is more than one person, there will always be more than one intention or agenda.  Most of us meet people where we are – not where they are. It takes time to allow a relationship and our personal motivations to surface.  Below are some of the questions that I am beginning to ask myself when dealing with personal relationships.  They are a way to give myself clarity, clearing the decks of my delusions and to assist in getting to the truth more quickly.

1.  Is this an experience that I am not only learning from but evolving? Not every relationship or situation can be rosy all of the time.  A lobster has to be damn irritated by the shell that they are outgrowing before they decide to be vulnerable and shed it for a larger one. It’s wise to figure out whether you are growing and evolving from your present situation.  Can you see it as a gift for future relationships? Is so, than persistence may be in order.

2.  Is everyone winning? Not just me or the other person – but God and the Universe as well.  Well, that’s pretty damn clear.  If all parties aren’t winning, time to stop playing. Period. I, personally, want no part in a relationship where there has to be a loser.  Leave that to the ball field.

3.  Is this experience or relationship making me a better person?  One of the greatest lines in the movie, As Good as it Gets, was spoken by Jack Nicholson.  He looked at Helen Hunts character and said, “You make me want to be a better man.”  If a relationship is creating ill will, bitterness, resentment, you may want to look and see inside yourself and ask “Is this the person I am meant to be?”  Being around another that inspires you to be a better person every day is a friend worth having.

4. Is the problem mine to fix or is someone laying it at my feet?  Manipulation – such a sneaky game. If others can get you to believe that the problem is solely yours, then you will be fixing a problem you don’t really have the answer to.  Not a good plan.

5. Am I bringing light to another or onto a situation?  The light of one candle can abolish the darkness.  If you aren’t the light bringer then look closely at your intentions and motivations.  Bringing darkness to another persons life is just plain shitty.  Don’t do it.

6.  Is this a game of control and suppression or one of liberation and freedom? If all that is happening in a relationship or situation is an attempt to gain control over another person, then you may want to check your motivations.  If you don’t experience a sense of freedom and liberation when you are around the other person, or there is no sense of play, is it healthy to have in your life?

7. If it is indeed a shit storm, is it MY shit storm?  Be really honest with this one.  Step back, take at least 10 deep breaths and get clear about who actually owns this particular storm.  It is a rare person who accepts responsibility for their own shit and does something about mucking out the stalls. If it truly isn’t your shit storm, refer to #4.

Now, you may be asking yourself the question, “What in the hell does this have to do with creating art?”  Well, here’s the deal – if you fill your life with storms, you will never get to a place of peaceful quiet where you can listen to your Muse.  There will be no room for the ethereal, divine moments where the light of authenticity shines through. Yes, please………….more of that 🙂

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Back Burner Consequences

Before touching clay less than 10 years ago, I spent the preceding 18 years as a licensed massage therapist, learning the art of therapeutic touch. In that time, I have heard many, many stories from clients that could either break your heart, make your heart stop or at the very least, have it skip a beat. The physical labor can be exhausting at times; however, it can pale in comparison to the amount of emotional and healing energy it takes to “hold the space” for another person to tell their truth.

I am almost always honored and humbled that people would want to share their vulnerabilities with me. It has never been my training or within the scope of my practice to “fix” them. My job, other than working on their tired and strained muscles is simply to acknowledge what they are saying. In other words, to just be quiet and listen.

Looking back over my 25+ years as a massage therapist, I can clearly see patterns in many of my female clients as they navigate their way through all of the changes that take place in their lives. While reading the book, Women Who Run with the Wolves, I realized what a large majority of these women had in common.

For many of us, living has a tendency to get in the way of having a LIFE. Let me repeat that…….LIVING has a tendency to get in the way of having a LIFE. What that means is that all of the day to day things that we “should” do, necessities of others, obligations (whether real or imagined) for our loved ones, can demand precedence over free flowing creativity and intuition that almost all women are born with. It’s the stifling of these virgin ideas and replacing it with the grocery store list; the basketball, football, ballet, music lessons and practices that come before the magic, ethereal forms of life. No doubt, there is a time and place for everything. All of those things that we fill our days with can be given our undivided attention and that’s ok!! However, as in many facets of life, we can take it too damn far. The competition to win, succeed, make progress on the bills, can really take their toll on a individual. What we lose in the process of all of the temporary, short term gains in this “living” business is the magical moments of creative endeavors where time stands still and the birth of an idea can have room to come to light.

What can happen, if this is taken too far, is that deep inside, we can build tiny seeds of bitterness and resentment. We can brush them off as just bad moods or a selfish heart. I mean, we have been told so many times that it is better to give than to receive. But, with enough self admonishment, we move on. On to the next duty, the next chore, the next loving kindness and everything is fine…….until we turn our back on our creative pursuits once again………and then it builds a little bigger. The fire of resentment with the a cold side dish of bitterness.

After years of putting others before ourselves, we can have a tendency to unconsciously move toward an outcome we never saw. An outcome of an inner world of disappointment, disillusionment and exhaustion.

We have the ability to recognize, at any given moment, that we have a choice. We have a choice to take five minutes to breathe, an hour to take a walk by ourselves or to simply just allow ourselves to “be”. I don’t know one woman who wants to be in a state of bitterness. I do know a lot women, who slowly, without resistance or a persistence to find their own “voice’, fall into that pattern. Each one of us not only has an obligation to the other people that we have chosen to have in our lives, but to our own life as well. Whether it is conscious or unconscious, every time we make a choice to do for another, we sacrifice time to do for ourselves. I am in no way suggesting anyone should become a “microcosm” unto themselves. What I am suggesting, is that we take time to put ourselves into the equation. To create more of a balance of giving to others as well as giving to ourselves.

In watching my clients, friends as well as myself traverse this path, I can clearly see who has taken the time to nurture their creative spirit and who has either been squashed by their own beliefs or by the beliefs of others and devolved into a state of locked down living without the hope of a life. The signals are undeniable – more bitterness and resentment, the more out of balance a life becomes. It is so damn easy to fall into the pattern of an un-created life – the only effort is the “not doing” for ourselves.

The beauty of breaking this cycle is simple……….until our last breath, we have an opportunity to write a different outcome. Every moment of every day is a chance to start again – to choose to give ourselves the gift of tenderness and kindness. To allow our intuition and creativity to peek out of the recesses and help us create the life we so dearly deserve. In that simple yet profound way, we all have the opportunity to become whole once again. 

Releasing from the Struggle…..

Struggle………we all have experienced it.  Whether it comes in the form of a decision, a way of life or the resistance to change, all of us have taken our turn on the dance floor.  Now, I can tell you without reservation, that this is not the fluid, graceful dance of a ballerina.  It is a genre that comes in the form of halting movements, shallow breathing and a whole lot of sharp angles.

While I was wondering around the fabric of my thoughts a few days ago, I realized that so much of the struggle we experience is of our own making.  One of my personal “dance partners” has been money.  The flow of it, the lack of it, the larger questions of what exactly to “do” with it.  I was raised with parents who were not conscious of the decisions that they made with money.  I was also locked in a struggle of child support and control with a former husband.  I carried all of these struggles with me, like a cherished book or piece of jewelry.  Letting go of them would leave a huge “hole” in my life.  I mean, lacking anything else going on, I could always concentrate on my struggles…….

It hadn’t dawned on me, until now, that I am able to release from those old struggles.  They are not mine to carry – probably never were.  And, in releasing these struggles, just as I have learned to release and let the clay take the lead, I am also able to forgive and release all of the others that were connected to them. How many other old struggles are stuck in the dance of the dark?

As with any tunnel and the light at it’s end, we have the choice to release ourselves and others from the old, worn out stories of struggle and make room for fresh new opportunities to find more ease in our life.  Our struggles and pain may be inevitable, but they don’t have to be permanent.   

Honoring the Answer

There are times in everyones life that, looking back upon them, we can clearly delineate the “before” and “after” of who we are.  Events that shaped us, people that influenced us, nuances and subtleties that made us change directions without a moments hesitation.  It’s that profound shift, the “Aha” moment, that can leave us breathless, hopeful and full of life.  

Since returning from New Mexico, I have thought a lot about this.  Exactly what part could I look back upon and see where the shift occurred.  I have been undeniably changed by my time spent at Ghost Ranch and yet, incredibly more myself than I have ever been.  And still I ask the question…….”When and how did the shift occur?” 

While talking with a friend today, just by happenstance, I realized the answer. Something that stood by, gentle yet bold, subtle yet incredibly profound, just waiting for my attention. It was the massively, beautiful eroding landscape. It’s like nature took a paintbrush and a steady, gentle hand and removed the rough edges. The softness of color – where each layer of sediment and rock melded into the next without effort.  The fluidity of shape – either influenced by the sky, the light, the weather or the simple passing of time.

One of my greatest aspirations with my work is to remove the sharp, jagged edges.  To evoke an overwhelming sense of movement and gentility with each piece. To simply create something beautiful, without rhetoric but with a sense of kindness about it all.  I realized, with its subtle profundity, that the landscape eased my pace and helped me to finally understand that the rush to complete a creation is a massive disservice to my work and to the clay itself.  Nature didn’t rush the birth of the clay so who am I to tell it that it has to hurry up and be beautiful?

It is with this knowledge that my best work is still to come.  That with each passing piece, I can let go of the fear of finishing and just enjoy the moment of creation.  That no matter what, I will honor the pace of the clay and of the vision that flows through me. Once again, I bow in reverence to those that have come before me, knowing that with a clear heart and a steady hand, I will honor my art.

Letting Go……..

As I enter back into my everyday life, I know there will be many nuances and shifts that occur.  There are events in our lives that can take time to glisten all that has been experienced.  

When I left for Ghost Ranch, I had a few things in my life that needed to be laid open.  I needed distance in which to calm down, breath and listen.  I needed to achieve a level of clear headedness that was required to truly look at my life, where I have been, where I wanted it to go and where it was actually going.

I have realized this truth………that it’s ok to let go. To gently and kindly let go of situations that no longer fit or have run their course.  To know that sometimes “your appointment is just over.” To let go of the parts of my life that have taken me away from my center.  To understand that there will always be people that will be disappointed with my decisions and those that are indifferent and still others, those rare, beautiful individuals that applaud and support me at every turn.  And it’s ok.  

At the end of the day, each one of has a responsibility to ourselves to answer those questions.  The questions of individual purpose, our own higher calling, the song of our soul.  Where will it lead us?  Where will we allow it to go?  The only person that can answer those questions for me is me.  

Here’s what I find to be true………..when you shift from your center, deep down at the essence of your being, you know it.  It may feel different for each of us.  For me, it’s an ache that keeps calling to me, sometimes just out of reach.  But every time I find my way back, I can look behind me and see the voice of my higher self was always there, whispering and sometimes wailing for me to listen……….just listen.

I do not regret any twist or turn in my life for it is those winding roads that brought me home.  For all of this and more, I am Thankful.

 Authenticity

I have willingly and passionately been in the studio creating a lot since I arrived two weeks ago.  Today the last kiln load was started, the tables and tools were wiped down and there was nothing left to do other than wait for the pit fire event tomorrow.  

With the work complete, I started looking at my body of work to this point. There is such a strong sense for me that with every piece that moves through me, I’m a little more revealed, a little more myself, moving toward and embracing my authenticity.  Being able to immerse myself in the process has only created more longing within me to continue this calling – and for me – it is indeed a calling.  There is a lightness that occurs within me every time I touch clay.  It’s as if with each piece, I am letting go of a little fear, a little self doubt.  Stepping into my own light and trusting without hesitation what clay has in store for me.

When someone is truly aligned with their higher purpose, it just pours out of them.  There is a light that emanates from those that our following their joy and even if they endure setbacks and frustrations, they breathe, stand up and keep going. Being around people just like this the past two weeks has been incredible. I see and honor the light in them knowing that following our higher purpose is a path worth walking.

For me, creating beauty is not a luxury…………..it is a path toward the light.

“Now” would be a good time…….

Drama made an appearance at Ghost Ranch this morning!  The majority of the January Term students and faculty were primed and ready to load into large passenger vans and head to Santa Fe.  You could feel the excitement running through the college kids.  They had enough of being on the ranch and wanted some free time to roam the city streets and maybe drink a little beer.  My friend Lori and I were ready to lay down a few dollars to help out the local economy because we are generous like that 🙂 However, Mother Nature had other plans. A storm was rolling in and the program director had to make the unpopular decision to scratch the trip for very sound reasons.  The weather could turn on a dime and though we may have been able to get to Santa Fe, getting back would be a completely different story.

Well……..the younger crowd was pretty upset.  My first thought?  Let’s spend the day in the studio!!  We had loaded the kiln last night and it was cooling down and calling our name.  Our instructor Clarence, Lori and I made a bee line and started working on pieces – sanding, slipping and polishing was occurring at a fast pace.  Although we were slightly disappointed, we all knew that this was a new “now” that was happening and we were happy to be there doing what we love to do.

Past, present and future all deserve our attention at certain times in our lives.  In this instance, we all had a choice how we could respond to the present.  Some decided to be immature and indignant; others moped about without purpose and still others took the opportunity to dive into something we found enjoyable.

To have an entire “free day” to focus on pottery was absolutely priceless.  It lifted me up, twirled me around and set my heart to dancing.  I spent this day with people that I enjoy, ate chocolate, laughed at silly jokes and quickly forgot all about the drama of the morning.  I gave myself the gift to Be.Here.Now.  We all can allow grace to happen and flow – we just need to be present enough to recognize the opportunity.