Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What makes a good spiritual mentor

A good spiritual mentor does not have answers so much as 
she is willing to share her own difficult questions.

A good mentor recognizes that like the fastening on the back of a frame drum, it is the strength of her inner work, and its ability to hold steady, that enables her outer voice to be heard as a guide.

Mentoring is not the same as teaching.  There is a requirement of shared action on a parallel level, rather than someone who is giving to others who are receiving in an uneven dynamic.

This interlacement pattern of a double 7 is a good visual example.  Between the outer pattern of 7 and the ring is where the drummer puts her fingers, but what makes the star have good space is the inner pattern of 7. So both are different and yet each needs the other to do the work.

In a mentoring relationship that has a shamanic dimension, there is of course a third participant: the spirit world itself.  The wise, old Lady Nature who wraps around something fixed, which is our identity--with something stretchy, which is her reaching toward us in all her many guises.

A good spiritual mentor is like a shelter that allows our uncertainty, 
our halting gestures to the Mystery find the quiet to be visible. 

This shelter is just enough to keep the streamers of snow 
from making cold and inflexible
 our hopeful attempts at contact with the Divine, 
however we may understand this word.

But a shelter not so enveloping that we are prevented from seeing with our own eyes, 
and through our own experiences, 
how joy and pain can wound and heal us.  

Sunday, December 2, 2018

How to critique art: especially your own

Begin with these questions about the your inspirations and 
willingness to take risks:

Because art is a language of evolving new meanings from old ones—
individually as well as culturally:  
Am I repeating what has already been said?

Because we do not create information so much as it creates us:  
Am I dealing with more than what I know?

Because the first requirement of taking a risk is being willing to fail:  
Do I see what is before me—
not what I think I see or want to see?

Next ask these questions about your technique.

Because material is the work’s first identity and mastering technique 
protects the content, or meaning, of your work: 
Do I choose a material to match the form of my meaning?

Because the vocabulary of sight is composition, harmony, 
proportion, light, color, line, texture, mass, motion: 
Is my doing the work a conversation, or a monologue?

Because physical presence is a form of power: 
Does my body read my art as metaphoric space 
or actual space? 

Then, ask these questions about the consequences of  making art.

Because the viewer activates the thing perceived: 
Do I complicate the image and therefore slow the revelation?

Because all visual art is a form of abstraction and interpretation,
and is therefore political: 
Are my art choices describing a world that I, as the maker, promote?

Because you will not be available to explain 
or defend your work out in the world:  
Do I allow the work the succeed or fail on its own merits 
in the eyes of others?

The images illustrating these questions are oracle cards from my Journey Oracle deck.  Enjoy the story of how they were painted by reading about "the journey of the Oracle."

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Change your self-perception

Spend some time looking for a deep pattern in your past that still emerges in some of your actions and awareness of yourself today.  Especially notice if how you understand this pattern’s meaning or presence in your life has changed.   I am using myself as an example.

I see a pattern that I call “the Walrus.”  No, this is not a retro-moment for the Beatles.  A walrus is able to use its head, back and tusks to break holes in the ice to haul out for resting, socializing, breeding. 

Years ago I read (somewhere) that walrus were not able to create a big enough opening to pull themselves through their own hole in the ice.   They therefore provided a service to other creatures they were not able to access for themselves.

I associated this walrus behavior with a number of what I saw as “ice blocks” of my own—where I could help others but not benefit myself:

I can help others use creative visualization to access their intuitive wisdom using my Journey Oracle cards but do not have inner images in my mind's eye.

I can help others journey to the spirit world with my drums and rattles but do not seem to go myself,

I have encouraged others to meditate, who go on to find the deep inner stillness and absorption that mostly eludes me.

Across the years it has been easy to wobble between resignation and self-pity—an oh well, just how it is attitude.  And then while doing research for something, I discover that my initial understanding of the pattern is wrong (!) 

Walrus do just fine , hauling themselves out of ice holes using their tusks.  And in fact, the scientific name of their genus, from the Greek, is Odobenus, which translates as "tooth walker.”  This name comes from observing walrus pulling themselves out of holes in the ice using their tusks.

So it is time I retaught myself about being a walrus.  I don’t know what this means, or how to do it yet, but here is this insight, and an opening in the ice is possible.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A hiking holiday in Sedona, Arizona

To what kind of Earth do we think we belong?

While on a hiking holiday in the red rock landscape of Sedona, Arizona, I read The Songs of Trees by David George Haskell.   Again and again he says "We too are nature.  Unsunderable."

Our tendency is to impose a duality between nature and human on the world.  This results, in the words of the Wilderness Act of 1964, in the preservation of lands in their natural, primeval condition where "the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man."

Our inner narrative of what belongs
 and what is alien is challenged by the desert.
The desert rewards relationship.

Close attention to the inner nature of the human
 and the other-than-human,

the rocks, plants and water 
brings a sense of spirits that dwell in the landscape.

"The belief that nature is an Other, a separate realm defiled 
by the unnatural mark of humans,
is a denial of our own wild being."

The desert rewards effort.

We have no deficit of nature, only an unwillingness to listen, or a lack of awareness to see inside the oracle of nature's wisdom for our goodness of fit.

"Nature needs no home.  It is home." 
And we are home within it.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The power of conviction in art

Thoughts on a new dream inspired artwork from Journey Oracle.

Nothing has more power than simple conviction.

The power of your art is the conviction that
in the forest of form your mark is unique.

There is no barrier when you know
that naming it makes it so.

There is power when you act.

Nothing is certain,

and yet you shine
when you show your gift.

Who will pick this up if you don't?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Little miracles every day

I rescued a mouse today.  Surprised me that I was able to catch it in a plastic cup from where it was hiding in the bathroom.  Felt more like I talked it into the cup, a good suggestion since the other alternative was likely death-by-cat, one of which was lolling nearby. 

Out the gate into the forest, out of the cup and under a fern pronto. 

Then I read this meditation by Richard Wagamese in Embers, and was struck by the application of its opening sentences to taking the time and effort to catch a mouse in a cup. 

I live for miracles in my life these days.  Not the earth-changing, light-bringing, soul-powering kind.  But the ones that carve out  small space of peace where before there was only the jumble of resentment, fear and doubt.  The ones that happen from choosing to live the right way.  

It is this last sentence that particularly holds my attention.  The right way of living includes helping everything live in a good way.

When I'm not  making frame drums and giving Journey Oracle card readings, I am an oyster farmer here on Cortes Island.   Every day at work there are opportunities for helping something live.

The pinstripe and crescent gunnels spill out of oyster shells where they were hiding, flipping dramatically about the sorting table until scooped up and over the side.

Tiny skeleton shrimp are attached to every rope and plastic surface, waving about in the air reaching for the water that has disappeared;

Nudibranchs as beautiful as butterflies lay in puddles of sea water hoping for a tip back into the ocean.

Sometimes the only good way left is to honour a creature with a good death.  This is why I sometimes build drums with the bullet hole positioned visibly in the deerskin.

Richard Wagamese seems to be echoing this honouring of letting go in the remaining sentences of the meditation. 

Like coming to understand that forgiveness isn't about gaining a release from others--it's about gaining release from me.  If I release my hold on what binds me, I can walk free and unencumbered.
But I have to embrace the resentment, fear and doubt to gain that.  I have to own them, hold them again, so that I can learn to let them go.  In that letting go is the miracle.  

I bet the mouse had no trouble letting go.  
I think I'll go learn from the mouse.  

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Interpret your dreams with 5 questions

I use 5 questions to interpret my dreams.  I am illustrating my way of interpreting dreams with images from the Journey Oracle card deck, which I created in part using dream questions and images.

First, I write my dream as soon as I come into consciousness, trying to move my body as little as possible from its waking position.  Yes. even at 3 am!  The most trivial detail or comment from a dream character is written down, and I'm always surprised in the rationality of day how profound these small utterances from the night can become.

I let the notes "rest" until mid-day at least, and then begin with these 5 questions.

What is this dream describing?  I use short phrases to describe the characters and what they are doing without interpretation.  I do not say why they are doing or being as they are, or what this might mean.  In this oracle card example I might write:  a stone tunnel or passageway, narrowing to an opening'; only two colors.

I next ask What is this dream not about?  Do I know of such a tunnel?  In ordinary reality have I recently had the experience, or watched or heard of someone else having an experience of moving through a passage to a small opening? 

Maybe I have recently made a shamanic frame drum and am concerned for how its voice is turning out. If so then this dream image would seem to connect to that experience in my waking life.  If there is a connection I begin to look for dream meaning within the ordinary experience.

I next ask, What is the principal action of the dream?  In this oracle card example, while there are faces of humans and creatures behind the feathers, the principal action would appear to be floating.

Then I ask, What have I recently been doing in ordinary reality?  I might make a list of what happened yesterday to see if this activity prompts a connection.  Perhaps I remember seeing a fawn on someone's lawn and thinking, "It's awfully late in the season for such a little one." 

This may prompt a strong connection between that recent event and an image of a fawn that in the dream was accompanied by a sense of alarm. 

Lastly, I ask, What metaphors,signs or symbols do I associate with this dream image?  It is only with this last question that I begin to look for ways to interpret and assign meaning to the dream. Usually by this time I already have a sense of what the dream is showing me though identifying what the dream is not about, what its principal action is, and what I have recently been experiencing.

This oracle card example of a dream image has at first glance a complicated and peculiar set of characters.  Yet when I apply these 5 questions I realize I am seeing an old woman with white hair (me) with a cat like creature on her shoulder (I just watched the movie: A Street Cat Named Bob and felt great love and gratitude for our three rescue kitties). The principal action seems to be blowing up.  This creates a spark of revelation when I remember that I had a conversation yesterday with a friend who asked about "reading the wind."  Suddenly the action and the woman's expression make sense and feel like a warning to not say too much.  Which is true.  Its best not to talk about the wind.