Sunday, April 28, 2013

Integrity, Shamanism and Closure

(Image of Shaman from National Geographic)

Recently, one of my friends sent this quote with a book reading announcement for the author Chinua Achebe: "One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised." It resonated with me so much that I had to grab it and use it in my email signature.  Throughout my life integrity has been a unifying theme.  It is a motivator, a consideration, guiding force and inspiration. Integrity is about being true to your self—being authentic.  It is why I chose to become a writer and an artist.  It has also kept me from doing some things and encouraged me to quit doing some other things I have been fully immersed in.

About a month ago someone said something to me that was so rude, fundamentally destructive, hurtful and unexpected that it pierced me.  Shaman know we are (at least most of us) punctured by a variety of wholes inflicted on the journey of the life passage.  This one whole got me to thinking.  Your soul is something you come into this world with and it is the only thing with which you will leave.  Would I allow someone to say something so negative and destructive that it could pierce and injure my personal sense of identity, even if allowing them to say those sorts of things enabled me to make money? The answer is a resounding no.  Integrity and sense of self are wrapped around my soul. When one of the elements in that trilogy takes a hit, they all suffer. Internal suffering leads to illness whether it shows itself as being spiritual, psychological or physical. No person, whatever their position, should have the power to make us sick in any way.

I have closed what was seemingly a promising and exciting chapter in my life.  It is always sad when closure comes but typically it is for the best. Changes are frightening but they can also be exciting.  I look forward to seeing what the universe has in store next.  As a writer, I know that there are many new, promising and exciting chapters just waiting to be written. Now I have the positive space and nurturing environment needed to write them.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Holistic Equilibrium





One of my dreams for my job was to help institute a yoga and meditation practice once a week in our meeting room.  Sadly, for a variety of reasons it never materialized. Still, I realize I need grounding and centering in my life, as we all do, particularly artists and writers.
 
We live and work, dreaming up stuff that is all generated from the head. The body and spirit suffer.  It is so important that it should be a mantra: body, mind and spirit must remain at equilibrium. But in this busy world, trying to work and make money, how do we do it?

My suggestion is to stay true to yourself in everything you do and to remember about the body, mind, and spirit connection as a daily practice. Even something as simple as deep, controlled breathing is calming and brings energy from the mind space into the body space. Controlled breathing is also relaxing enough that it can activate the spirit and bring you into spirit realm.

Another body, mind, spirit exercise is simply walking.  Walking encourages rhythmic breathing patterns, engages the senses and relieves tension in the body.  Coupling the rhythmic breathing with walking inspires the best of holistic health.

Herbs can help too. I have a nice restorative, calming blend by Traditional Medicinals called Relaxation Herb Tea Sampler.  It features some of my favorite herbs, chamomile, lavender, passion flower (a great equilibrium restorer), licorice root, peppermint, spearmint and catnip. In fact, I’m going to have a cup right now! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beltane & Clearing the Clutter




As I look forward to Beltane I am also reflecting on the things that are most important to me.  “Creativity’s Requirements” was an important blog post for me and marked a turning point in my thinking.  I bring up Beltane because it is the May 1st celebration of spring.  

Often I have written about spiritual cleansing and recently I have begun to revisit my friend Sandra Carrington-Smith’s book, “Housekeeping for the Soul.” Spring lends itself to creativity naturally as it is a time of fertility and growth.  Spring is also a time for purging the old, dried out matter in our lives and welcoming what is new and fresh to the mind, body and spirit.

As we move towards the important holiday of Beltane, I am doing some spring cleaning or housecleaning of my soul. I am considering what is most important and making way for those important things to have room to grow and eventually blossom by clearing out things that are toxic to growth.

I love spring for all the hope that it brings.  I love spring for its show of resilience in the face of the darkness of winter and its way of reintroducing the lightness that comes from spiritual wisdom.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Headache and the Mind/Body Connection of Repression




I’ve been suffering with a headache for over a week.  If you can believe it, I even went to the hospital yesterday and received a battery of tests plus a muscle relaxant and pain medication through an IV!

 

I’ve been completely overtaken by this headache.  I’ve missed work, important meetings and have been unable to write this past week.  I did a little Internet surfing and found some interesting things about holistic health and headache.

 

“Headache - What is the Mind-Body Connection?

A headache is a sign that the mind has overrun the body through forceful thought and impatience. As a result, you are feeling pressure from yourself because your thoughts are not in alignment with how you feel. You need to change your approach by allowing yourself to feel first, then act with your heart and mind aligned.


Though I don’t have a migraine, what is said about them makes even more sense:
Migraine - What is the Mind-Body Connection?
When your mind will not allow an outlet for your frustrations, you create a blockage of energy in and around the head. You need to relinquish control of your emotions by allowing yourself to express how you feel in a constructive way.”
I found these descriptions of Headache and Migraines here: http://www.my-holistic-healing.com/mind-body-connection-head.html

And this blog post from the Headache Whisperer:
 “People in the midst of a migraine feel horrible and are often disabled by the pain in their head and a host of other symptoms permeating their entire being. It’s difficult to move, see, or speak; they feel nauseated; common sights, sounds, and smells become magnified and distorted, making their pain worse.

Most intriguing though is the book I have about the body/mind connection.  It is called “Your Body Speaks Your Mind: Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages That Underlie Illness by Deb Shapiro.  She believes that if you repress your feelings and hold too many thoughts inside, you get a headache. http://www.amazon.com/Your-Body-Speaks-Mind-Psychological/dp/1591794188

The headache is leaving me now, but slowly and not without a fight.  I’ve tried massage, a dark room, ice and meditation and they help but I think ultimately I will have to rid myself of repressed thoughts by bringing them out to the forefront.
So the headache is almost gone and now I’ve been awakened by a sore throat, so sore I can barely swallow.  I’ve taken some honey for that and some water.  More on the body/mind connection and the throat to come…

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Critique Anxiety




Sharing one’s work, written or visual can be a frightening proposition.  You've slaved away in your studio, lost in your thoughts and personal motivation.  Then you and your work step out into the world to see what others see in the creative expression. For me, at times this stepping out into an unknown realm can be daunting and the prospect of doing it yesterday with my writing has left me with a headache.
I am workshopping my fiction at Newberry Library.  Love the workshop, the teacher and there are many fascinating people and good writers in the class. I had been working on a new first chapter to my novel.  My original first chapter wasn't grabbing enough; it just focused on the protagonist’s everyday experience.
The revised first chapter was difficult to write. After writing and editing it I was almost ready to cry.  It is sad and unfortunate, what happens to her.  She is a seemingly powerless teenager who gets abused repeatedly. Anyway, I felt vulnerable about sharing this piece yet at the same time I wanted to know if it was more captivating than my original first chapter so I workshopped it.
Doing readings to communicate your work to others—that is another strange animal.  That breeds nervousness inside of me that is distinct from the possibility of negative feedback. Usually though, my work grabs hold of me, I reconnect with it through reading it aloud and it goes just fine.
I was so relieved after I read because the reading itself went well and the feedback was very supportive and constructive….now if only I could get rid of that headache.
On my next chapter, which comes a bit later in the book, I will be incorporating the practice of collecting and using lightning water to make change occur. This is a Hoodoo practice used by her Grandpa.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Creativity's Requirements




I always knew that being creative requires space—preferably well-lit, roomy and comfortable.  The workspace needs your personal touches and it needs to be welcoming. I have worked in grand spaces, such as my ballroom studio, and tight places, like on my lap by a window, in hospital.
Now I’m seeing that creativity has another distinct and demanding requirement—simplicity. In the case of creativity, the type of simplicity required is deep.  You need to be as drama-free as possible. You will need work/life balance, wherein you can leave you work at work and at home you can find space for your creativity in the studio. My creativity also requires quiet—sometimes complete silence, especially when I’m writing.  Most importantly creativity requires time. Time must be set aside to create fertile ground for creativity to flourish and mature.  Time is the most costly of creativity’s requirements.
I’m not sure why it took me until this age to figure this stuff out but I’m grateful to the Goddess that I have.
I am in the Creative Everyday Challenge and I like how this shield drawing uses white as a color.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Friday: For the Love of Venus






Friday, the day of Goddess Venus, is a day of love.  I find that my creativity flows best on Fridays. It seems to be a day of getting in the zone and a day of process flow. I know a lot of people seem to blow off Fridays but I think its informality in the workplace adds to its tendency to aid productivity. Realizing you have done just about all you can do before calling an end to the week releases pressure and inhibitions allowing true creativity to take root. 
I have long been an admirer and worshipper of Venus.  I seek her in the mindset of the days of old when she was a revered as a symbol of the divinely feminine. Within the femininity of Venus lies fertility of all sorts and with that there is power.
This ATC I made last year embodies the mystery, symbolism and power of Venus.





Monday, April 1, 2013

Invoking the Muse

When I read my previous post I am amazed.  Amazed that 5 months ago the elements of my novel were already in place.  There was something really big missing though—the theme and the quest, because that only recently came to me.  Often in this space I write about creativity.  I am compelled to also speak of the Muse whenever I speak about creativity.  For me, the Muse is key.

The Muse will leave me for months at a time.  I wrote almost obsessively, working on this novel in the summer and early fall.  Then poof, the Muse was gone and with her, all my inspiration to write evaporated.  Just as mysteriously, she has returned and now I am writing again prolifically.

Is the Muse and Angel, Spirit, Ancestor, Goddess or a combination of all four?  I know of Angels, Spirits, the ancestors and goddesses and I believe the Muse is the Muse.  She is akin to the four but not one of them.  She stands alone, in mystery, a shadowy but generous figure.

I can use incense, candles, prayer, meditation—all of it to conjure her but she only comes when conditions are right.  What conditions does she require?  I wish I knew.  All I know is that through her I am writing.  Yolanda is coming alive and with her, her world is coming clearer; her world is coming into focus. There are entire days when I live in Yolanda’s world.  It is a magical place but it is also rife with great sadness and at times sheer terror.

Joseph Campbell’s teachings seeped into my brain—thank the Goddess!  Yolanda’s story is a fairly classical Hero’s Journey tale. All of her adventures and discoveries are not yet on the map but she and I understand her quest.

You can never strong arm the Muse to stay.  She comes and goes as she pleases like some sort of mythic butterfly.  I do hope to stay open and listen to her messages as they are still coming through.