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 ❤️

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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.

Temporary Times

The land takes over what our hands have laid aside.

As without…….so within.

Visiting a special area of Ghost Ranch with the photography class yesterday, I was struck by the eroding beauty of the man made structures left behind. Nature needed no assistance taking back what humans were finished tending. I took this wandering into myself and realized that without “self tending” we are all set up for an erosion of our spirit; a washing away of our essence barely perceptible until we find ourselves in the darkness of chaos.

I had a teacher once say, “If you have 10 phone lines ringing and you answer one, you only have 9 left to go.” It’s not the size of the chaos that takes us down as much as the inertia of apathy and overwhelm. If we are to be individuals with the gift of self reliance we also have the greater obligation of answering those phone lines. Some calls aren’t meant for us; some of them will have our name written all over them. That is where discernment must step in and guide us to the truth. Take a moment…….listen to the message…….decide if you are the true recipient.

It is a magnificent state of being to be of service but we all might do well to remember that self reliance requires that we also give to ourselves.

I give myself over to clay time and time again and receive multiple blessings in return. What are you giving yourself over to? Is it worthy of your precious, precious time? Or, is it an excuse to avoid your own self reliance?

As within…….so without ❤️

The Beauty of “Ish”

Perfection is a harsh task master. It is a never ending gravel road of sharp wits, unforgiving, withering self criticism and a ink filled hole full of isolation from oneself. It is a the combination of self doubt fueled by exorbitantly crushing expectations placed squarely on our shoulders by the operator themselves.

Perfection is where dreams go to die. It is where we take all that we are and decide, day in and day out, that we are not enough. It feels as heavy in the body as a 7 day donut binge. It’s a drug; a fuel for consuming our desires; a lover who will never return our affection. And then at some point, since we can never attain perfection……..we ask ourselves, Why go on? Why pursue our dreams when it just ends up in disappointment?

The beauty of this Life is not in the attainment of perfection. The Japanese call it Wabi Sabi – that things are more beautiful because of their imperfections. The beauty of this Life is doing what we love to do, since the time is going to pass no matter how we spend it and let the liberation of our best efforts combined with our connection to the creative be enough. I’ll be there around 7ish; it’s finished for the most part; it’s a work in progress; I’m a work in progress; we are ALL a work in progress – and tomorrow, I’m gonna be alright. “Ish” is not an excuse – it is a softening of the cold hard edges of self sabotage. A willingness to give ourselves a pass to the next day, the next creation, the next adventure.

The beauty of knowing we are doing, being and having our best selves within all that we know while honoring our authenticity AND honoring the best within our loved ones – for me, that is of greater service to the higher good of all then following a infinite dark hallway toward the whipping post of fractured intentions and excuses.

Create…………and let that be enough ❤️

Night into Day

Arriving at Ghost Ranch yesterday late in the day I thought that I would pass a quiet evening unpacking, nesting and getting set for today. Well, the adventure started to unfold in spectacular fashion when I tagged along with one of the photography instructors on a night hike into an area called LaPlaza Blanca to chase the light and shadows cast by the full moon.

Walking into this high desert landscape with a super moon lighting our way, we made it to an area where the cliffs surrounded us and as they quietly reached for the sky I was intensely aware of their “gentle giant” stature and presence. What struck me on such a night was how the decision to open myself up to another dimension has brought to it the magic of inspiration without any effort or force of will. Just being present in the magnificence of this quiet, beautiful desolate place was enough. Enough for my mind to unwind, enough for my shoulders to release, enough for my spirit to be gently persuaded to peek out and take a look around.

In stark and equally brilliant contrast, today was finished with a hike on the ranch with this same photographer as well as a few other noble souls. The brilliance of the color set against the New Mexico sky was just the burst of light and depth needed to create yet another masterpiece of nature – all without effort; all without worry; all without any help from me.

As I walked the labyrinth for the first time since arriving at the ranch the message for me came across loud and clear………I don’t have to fix everything. Such a simple message for a complex convocation and occupation. Another softening, another letting go what is not mine to fix, another liberation from my own restrictions and self-imposed obligation. And without fixing everything, I have the treasured space to create without effort or will – just by simply being present and allowing the vision to find me………..but of course, all the while, keeping my hands muddy❤️

YOU Again?????

One year has gone by………..one magical, creative, evolutionary “art” year since I returned from Ghost Ranch; a 22,000 acre retreat center nestled between Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. A place where paths opened for me that I never imagined possible. A place where I allowed my vulnerability and fear of reaching toward my future to fall away and allowed myself, YES, allowed myself to be gently led into the open air of possibility and tickling sensation that something was waiting on the other side of all of that self regulation and restriction.

One of the questions that I am asking myself when presented with different, divergent, paths is this: “If I can fast forward to the end of my life and look back, will I regret NOT taking the chance? Usually, when I can quiet down my “monkey mind”, I can see the answer clearly. More often than not, the answer is Yes. Take the chance. Breathe into the possibility. Expand past the self imposed boundaries and just create. Get your hands and your heart muddy and then go wash off.

I had a very valued artist say to me recently; “Don’t be concerned with going out on a limb creatively. Whatever you do and wherever you go, you will always bring back the knowledge that you learned while you were dangling.” That, my friends, is the power of inspiration. That is what Life can contain if we allow it. The ability to scoot out further on the limb – create, fail, succeed, expand.

I am headed to Ghost Ranch once again. This time, as a teacher and a student. There are other mediums that I want to incorporate into my work and this opportunity will give me the chance to say Hello to them.

It is my hope that you will once again allow me to express into words and visual photos how much this abundant, sacred space affects me. See you at the ranch ❤️

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 🙂