Stardust and Light

A couple of nights ago, I was fortunate enough to see the New Mexico night sky as I had never witnessed it before. A night when the sky, with barely a Moon in sight, was full of stardust. It was as if a giant bowl was turned toward earth and all of the planets and stars were spilling luminescence over everything they touched.

I went to a place on the ranch where I could safely lay down, look up and become shrouded in the metamorphic deep, dark, brilliant space of the never ending night sky. Have you ever seen something so beautiful, so ethereal and touched by the divine, that it physically caused pain within your body? Such a gift from a governing heart.

As I walked dreamily to bed, filled with all things of inky lushness, I decided I wanted to wake early to see the transition from night to dawn. I will tell you right now, it was worth the brevity of my sleep and dreams.

From moment to moment I was chasing the fading of the night and the birth of the morning, hoping for just one more moment of magnificence to carry my spirit into another day. One more chance to inhale the ending and look toward the beginning.

Wondering around since this event, I have been trying to figure out the lesson, looking for the message in all of this. There must be something I could retrieve from such beauty, such transition, so routine for the natural world and yet so transformative for me. And then, without warning, it became clear: everything must end and yet, with the sadness of this, there is this undeniable eagerness for another beginning. Another chance to love, to create, to be present in my life for the transitions that are coming to us all.

No matter where I go from here, I go there taking these memories of stardust and light with me. Without the light of the moon, the stars can shine. With the Sun comes another chance for us to shine.

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Ode to Joy

For each person in our lives, there seems to be an emotional “meter”. A certain amount of emotion that we can expend for one another. When we feel tapped out or drained, usually it’s due to over giving, while not holding enough in the container to feed and support ourselves.

I have this vision that each emotion is a tiny little seedling. With the exchange of support between two people, the sprout grows; tended and cultivated it can result into a blessing of a harvest, the basket always full, always multiplying . A solo dance with the life giving force headed in only one direction creates depletion and the meter runs low. At some point, that blessed tank hits empty. Good luck attempting to manufacture anymore. The seedling dries up, curling into itself and gently blowing away like the last puffs of smoke from a busted muffler. Unless balance is restored, the relationship is doomed to end up in the trash bin of misery and discontent. The capacity for love, understanding, acknowledgment, compassion and kindness are seeds of fortune just as stark in contrast to the seeds of discontent, judgment, violence, hatred and greed.

An Native American elder explained to his grandson that we all have a dark wolf and a light wolf living within us. When the grandson asked which will one will win the battle, the Grandfather replied, “the one you feed.” So it is with our emotional and spiritual lives. We will always be challenged by others as well as our dark side; to be less than we are, to fall into judgment, to take more than we give. To be conscious of our ways marks the delineation point between our reactionary dark side and the light of awareness. Whether are thoughts and actions are from being fully awake or sleepwalking, we are making a choice with every touch, every turn, every word, every deed.

Allowing others to find freedom, even if it means we lose them; allowing yourself to find joy in your everyday life is no small feat. Yes, it’s scary…….but the lighter your touch, the more gentle your grip on the steering wheel, the more freedom we give ourselves to just breathe, the more room there will be for Joy ❤️

The Blessed Dirt of Santuario de Chimayo

There are places on the face of this sweet, troubled planet, that I never thought I would visit. Being raised by a fairly pissed off, excommunicated, Italian Catholic Mother, the church and all of its offerings never really appealed to me. I learned as a young teenager the cause for my Mothers hostility and bitterness and, I must admit, I agreed with her.

When my Mother was at her most vulnerable, laid out on the floor by the discovery of her husbands adulterous affair with her best friend and subsequent divorce, the church turned its back on her. She was sent packing – the compassion and inclusivity of that which the church preached was sorely lacking when my Mother reached out to it for comfort. It has taken me many, many years to forgive the church for that. In some ways, I am a more compassionate person due to watching her struggle with the isolation and rejection she endured. Compassion resulting from emotional cruelty – strange bedfellows indeed.

When I was presented with the opportunity to visit Santuario de Chimayo, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to go. Would my self righteous indignation for the way my Mother was treated flare up? Could I see my way through the enormous contrasts and contradictions within my own heart? I will tell you now that I couldn’t visit the entire site. However, I did visit the vestibule of the church which housed the blessed dirt room where people with all sorts of maladies, whether physical, emotional or spiritual embark on a pilgrimage to touch the sandy earth; holding, rubbing, praying, crying, hoping and finding peace within the walls of that sacred space.

While I was waiting on a bench just outside for my turn to touch the place that had brought so many healings, I witnessed a man and a woman – she was standing barefoot in the dirt and he had bent down on all fours, laying his hands on the earth so that she could lean on him. They stayed that way for quite some time. The intimate nature of the scene was incredibly poignant and I closed my eyes to give them privacy while turning my thoughts inward. I reflected on the support I have received from so many beautiful souls, just as she was receiving that sweetness from her husband.

Walking out, they sat back on the benches and closed their eyes to rest and reflect. A calling to touch this woman was undeniable. I resisted, thinking that I would be intruding into the sacredness of her experience; I resisted, not wanting to feel foolish; I resisted not knowing if it was my place. Through all of those doubts, I walked across the narrow room and kneeled before her. As she opened her eyes and saw me there, I gently placed both of her feet in my hands and began to gently massage them. To be of service, to stand in the light, that was all that was needed.

When I finished, she reached out to me and we embraced – both crying, both holding each other tightly for quite some time. In this moment, this very tender moment, I was able to let go of any lasting bitterness or resentment that I once carried for this way of loving God.

We all have a path to walk. Every single one of them is inordinately opulent, dark, troubled, joyful and as individual as we are. Only we can know which path will bring us into the light. The road to Mecca begins with a single step.

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 🙂

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.