Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oracle card reading for Halloween

Many people celebrate Halloween as the pagan New Year’s Eve, and in honor of this understanding I decided to do a Journey Oracle card reading for the new year.  Maybe my insights will be helpful for your coming year also.  I drew card #30, which in the Journey Oracle deck is called “Whole Self.”  This oracle card tells me that the big themes surrounding my year will be Boundaries, Desire and Work, as this card is part of the Journey Suit in the deck.  This means that all parts of the reading are brought awake within these three themes of awareness.

When I gaze at the image of the card, this is what I see: a dancing figure on the far right whose dress and shadow make a set of two faces—one white and one black.  The motion set by the dancer’s hands flows out through the final turn of a spiral, while the dancer and faces are made of shapes flowing up from the spiraling center.  Many small black “X” figures seem to dance along the rim of the spiral with a joyous feel. The colors of soft pink and pale yellow-green diffuse out from intense and dark reds.  This image feels like a journey coming upright and close to completion; the movement is both delicate and complex, yet the overall pattern is clear.

I next choose from the Journey Page the sentence that has the most charge for deepening the meaning of this description of my coming year.  The core energy pattern of this situation is no negativity. I feel a sense of relief at reading this statement, because this time of year often feels like I am in a struggle to let go of summer’s business and release into the beginning of the dark time.

I turn the oracle card over and this is what the Journey Oracle shows me is my relationship to the situation whose image I just described on the other side of the card.  I see a large round face in reds, pinks and yellows; it appears bloated with indistinct, blurry edges.  The left eye is starring out with an intense gaze while the right eye seems swollen and barely sighted.  Not the image of a confident, clear relationship that I was hoping for!  Although the colors between the two sides of the oracle card are similar, on one the color is delicate and on the other it is almost garish.  When I choose again a sentence from the Journey Page that has the most charge to deepen the meaning of this description, I select the momentum of this situation is fed by finding what is needed. This feels like exceptionally good advice.  I am too filled up trying to juggle my spiritual practice of meditation, my on-going work on the Journey Oracle deck, my drum making and shamanic counseling.  No wonder I look like I’m holding my breath.

On the bottom of the front side of the Journey page I see a question and in the next line an answer of a single word.   This is the same question that appears on the oracle card:  Why is it now in four parts? I imagine that I have asked the Oracle this question and she has given this word: whirlwind, as the answer.  This exchange alters my perception of the situation because I see that by finding what is needed in each part of my busy life; I can be like the whirlwind which spins an intensely focused cone of energy.  With the whirlwind as a new year’s guide I can spin these parts into the whole picture.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Release demons

 I am doing shamanic counseling with a young woman who is struggling to release demons from her spiritual, energetic, and physical fields of awareness.  We may understand our demons to arise from within because we are troubled by distracting thoughts, having problems with anger, with attachment and desire, or suffering from karma related illness, as Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche describes in Tibetan Yogas of Body, Speech and Mind.  We may believe we are being invaded from outside by negative energies that overwhelm our stability with visions of violence and loss.  We may attribute our inability to function normally to imbalances in our body chemistry.  Whatever the root cause our conceptual mind and lived experience assigns to our situation—until and unless we can release demons—we suffer.

While I was at the Birken Forest Monastery near Kamloops British Columbia, I discovered I could release demons with art. I had chosen a large cow vertebra as subject for 4 drawing meditations: each piece to explore a different emotional characteristic of the bone.  Of course I discovered each feeling state contained its own demon as soon as I began working.  “Brittle” allowed uncertainty to surface.  Quick, jagged marks created a broken surface that revealed an increasing lack of confidence.  Relaxing into the discovery of having no purpose in mind other than to keep making marks, I discovered that the demon of uncertainty also vanished. Uncertainty only exists if there is an intention directing the result.

“Soft” allowed anxiety to arise.  I do not choose to work in graphite or charcoal sticks because of the increasing mess.  I was alarmed that my wide gestures and crumbling materials would spoil the carpet, my clothes and the drawing.  I discovered that the demon of agitation disappeared when I slowed down, becoming more focused and deliberate in my process. Anxiety is always about what might happen, and is released by being fully aware of what is happening.

“Sinister” allowed aversion to surface.  The more I moved the India ink around on the wet Yupo paper, the more out of control the marks became.  When I instead became curious about what the ink and water would do next, the demon of aversion turned into play.  Aversion is resistance and the remedy always begins with curiosity.

“Dramatic” allowed attachment to surface.  Although I began this piece in a wild state of distress because the blue crayon was much too vibrant, and the foliage much too indistinct, I soon became delighted by the spontaneity and freedom of the marks.  This demon of attachment was certainly the most difficult to release, and in the best understanding of art making as an Oracle of revelation, I am continuing to explore what Matisse said, that “art is a lie that tells the truth.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Art as meditation on Buddhist lessons of Dhamma

I have just returned from a meditation retreat at the Birken Forest Monastery where part of my practice was to use my art as a meditation on Dhamma.  I understand from reading Ajahn Sucitto that Dhamma is the Buddha’s teaching that the stress and suffering of life is unavoidably bound up with the human condition; and because this suffering has a cause, that cause can be eliminated; and finally that there is a Path of practices that will lead to the elimination of that stress and suffering.

Certainly the way I create art usually involves a fair amount of stress, and so I decided to try and do a series of drawings during which I did not become attached to the outcome of appearance.  “Does this look acceptable as art? What will someone think of my skill?”  It was very difficult to let this inner voice of judgement go silent.

The first pieces I did, following the Drawing Projects outlined by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern, were surprisingly interesting.  The first task involved drawing with the pencil attached to a three foot stick, and the next one required using two pencils taped together.  It is easy to not get tangled in the hindrances of aversion and doubt when the experience is new.

 However, the next piece became quite as prickly as its subject matter—a twig of dried thistle.  “Art talk” swarmed into my head and I created frustration regarding composition, balance and repetition.

I had less stress with this “lookdrawlookdraw” technique of contour drawing, but then this is my usual way of mark making, and the tendency to revert to old patterns was hard to escape.  The most interesting work in this series was a drawing exploring “one decision-one mark” which makes a drawing that is very controlled and deliberate. I was quite put off by the rigidity, and when a later task asked me to revive a failed drawing, this is the one I chose.  Lots of smudging and eraser work created some openness, and then the addition of the colored apple created the surprise.

Of course the art mediation on Dhamma was not during the drawing experiences, but afterwards, sitting in meditation with the feelings, letting them arise as body sensations, and then letting them go without attachment. In this way, the least successful art works were the most successful objects of concentration.  Feelings arise; they pass away.  Apparently in art as in life, the best response is to relax, have fun and try not to get attached.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Create a personal meditation retreat

Sometimes we can't do what others expect--like publish our blog as usual--because we have to do something just for ourselves.  I have been on a personal meditation retreat at Birkin Forest Monastery in central British Columbia, and will write about my experiences creating a meditation retreat combining meditation and my visual art making using drawing projects from a new book by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern.  But right now I'm going to unpack, hug my kitties, and go continue being quiet for just a bit longer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Telepathic communiation with cats

We also have had loss and joy in our animal family.  First our Meisa of 13 years died a difficult death from a saddle thromboses two weeks after a stray cat we had taken in gave birth to 5 kittens.  Losha came in February just as we were leaving for a winter holiday--and we came back to a young cat  who looked like she had swallowed a balloon. Losha had her kittens on April 15th and was keeping them outside away from Meisa's territorial jealousy, until a wild Tom threatened them...the very night that Meisa died.  In they came and we had two weeks of baby kitty heaven until Losha again took them into the wild.

 She would let me follow her to their nest, but would not let me get too friendly before she moved them again.  This went on until they were 9 weeks old and I despaired of ever being able to catch or gentle them in order to deliver three of them to the new homes we had found.  And then one night I had a powerful telepathic moment with her.

 I was lying in bed extremely agitated that the situation was going to go out of control.  I had just read on the internet that the best  time for bonding with feral kittens was between 3 and 8 weeks and I was already beyond that.  I felt a gnawing sensation in my solar plexus, like something was in distress.  I went to the back door and turned on the porch light, imagining that Losha was in trouble.  I saw nothing so went back to bed but the sensation remained.  I got up again and when I turned on the light--there she and all the kittens were.  They were lined up like the kids in the Von Trapp family in Sound of Music: all in a baby cat row with Mamalosha sitting at one end.  I felt so relieved and sort of silly for my concern at the same time.  Even now its amazing to imagine how she herded them all into a position and then kept them there while she called me energetically yet again to come out.  Apparently telepathic communication with animals is no big deal--at least to the animals.  I think they are the Oracle, rather than need to make one, like I have been doing.

The three cat children did go to new homes--which is its own magical story for another time, and we kept the youngest boy and the wildest girl, plus of course our wild/tame Mamalosha.  Our Mauchica (cat girl in Egyptian and Spanish) has decided to stay with the wild and curious, while our Hopee is choosing the warm fire and a comfy cushion. And Mamalosha?  We are still talking with the language of sensation; its like learning to make a drum.  The wisdom is in the feelings, and not in the mind.