Friday, February 23, 2018

Make a thank you gift for the forest


There is an intending consciousness in all things, in the forest itself.  This consciousness may not be easy to recognize or available to our human version of awareness. Yet this consciousness in everything, each in its own version, is my understanding of the Spirit World.  Access to the Spirit World is through the physical.  So when we are out in the forest, we are in the Spirit World.  And the Spirit World is awake, and watching us, to see how good a guest we are when we come into her house.

What are we doing to say thank you to this forest that doesn’t need us to carry on her daily business, but which includes, increasingly, the presence of us in her house?  What do we do for the forest, for the Spirit World within the forest that is watching us—that is a gift just for her?   

If you are my age you were probably taught to bring a hostess gift when you went visiting, and especially if you were meaning to stay awhile.  And I recall it was better if the gift was something I made, or that it be at least “hand crafted” instead of “store bought.”  This is because a hostess gift is really about the effort, and not about the thing.  It is the effort of making the jam or knitting the mitts that is being given; our effort honours the effort our hostess is making for us.

So here is something to make. Something of great value, altered with our effort, and then given it to the forest—to the Spirit World—as a thank you gift.

Find some seeds, or maybe a few kernels of dry corn, and pound them into a meal between two rocks.  You might hum a little tune as a gift to the rocks as you do this, since they are really doing the work.   Seeds are a gift of great value because of their potential to make more of themselves. Yet when we alter seeds with our effort we make them into food instead, which is their other great value.   Twist the meal into a square of paper, and tie it into a little bundle  with string so you can put it in your pocket.  The more effort you put into the fineness of the meal, into decorating the paper, into the string that ties the bundle—the more valuable is your gift. 

Then go for a walk in a forest, even if it’s the forest along your road or just out your front door. 

Notice a place that feels like a place...the open end of a nurse log, a hollow in an acient tree.  Once you find a place, put your breath on your bundle...and put the bundle in the place.  That’s it.  If you want to say anything when you are placing the bundle, don’t say “Thank you” say I remember.

It is your effort to make the bundle, to make time to take the walk, to find the place, to remember to put your breath on the bundle, to remember as you give it—this is the gift.  The Spirit World eats the energy of our effort which is released as the bundle opens and slowly decays…while the creatures of the physical forest eat the meal.

And if you do this, if you take a quiet moment to look at your probably soggy little bundle there amidst the wet leaf litter and moss, I suggest you’ll feel like it’s a pretty OK gift, maybe even a very nice gift to give such a gracious hostess.

You may notice that there are no pictures of the little gift bundle as part of this story.  This is because when we take pictures of what we give the Spirit World, it is like we are eating the feast of energy ourselves.  The picture does not decay, and so neither the Spirit World nor the creatures of the physical forest receive that part of the meal.  So just leave the bundle without taking a picture of it on your device, smile, and walk away home. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Seeing light and shadow in an art meditation

Go to a place in nature that has both a grand vista and small details to focus on.  During a week spent hiking near Ucluelet on the west coast of British Columbia, Florencia Bay in the Pacific Rim National Park is a perfect choice.

Find a place to stand that has light and shadow, near details and far views. A rocky beach is just right.
Begin with your head to the far left, then move your head to the right VERY SLOWLY--noticing only the lights.

See the way light defines surfaces and textures. Keep slowly moving your head to the right rather than stopping to study the stones.

Keep trying to see only the lights of each object that your gaze passes over.  Pause when your head is turned far to the right.  Close your eyes for a moment and relax the muscles around your eyes.

Open your eyes and this time turn your head to the left VERY SLOWLY gazing only at the darks. Shadow defines form just as light defines surface.   See only the darks as you keep moving your head.

Notice how the dark gives weight and mass to the textures and surfaces you noticed during the first pass of your head from left to right.  Again close your eyes when your head is turned back fully to the left.  Let your attention rest.

Bring your head to center and turn it down.  Open your eyes and let your gaze fall on something small.  Let your eyes move over the object slowly, observing only the lights, then observing only the darks.

Really look deeply into the lights and shadows.  Find smaller and smaller areas of light and shadow.
Close your eyes and rest for a moment.

Open your eyes and expand your vision to take in the entire vista you originally selected. You will feel an artistic flow of  lights and shadows.  Everything will be more vivid and visually unique when you train your vision with this art meditation.

This is the technique I use when painting the images on the Journey Oracle cards.

For each oracle card I began by letting my gaze pass over a natural object--first slowly to the right seeing only the lights, then slowly to the left seeing only the darks.  I would close my eyes briefly between each pass. I would next look deeply into the object to see the smallest details, and finally let my gaze expand to see the entire surface.  Only then would I begin to paint.

This Oracle card represents the Path in the Journey Oracle deck.  And this art meditation is a path.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Developing artistic vision

It is possible to develop artistic vision, and its easier than you might think.  My thoughts on training  artistic vision are illustrated from beach walks while on a winter holiday enjoying the Pacific Rim National Park, between Ucluelet and Tofino on the west coast of British Columbia.

Go for a walk where there is lots of nature and only a few humans.

Do not spend too much time gazing out at the view.

Artistic vision is better developed by finding what is small, ordinary and unremarkable.

 See deeply into the forms and textures.  Take time to really see, not just look.

Developing artistic vision requires curiosity.  Be like Leonardo de Vinci, always observing and then asking questions about the why and how of phenomena so commonplace that most of us don't notice them at all.

How did this rock become such a complex texture and color?  What is the story of its forming in time and temperature that it would be worn by the ocean and elements into such beauty?

Have the patience to bypass the drama that shouts for attention.

And sit instead in front of what is quiet.

Go deeply into the quiet that allows you to experience each tiny life as it burgeons forth, clicking and murmuring toward its destiny.  Why are barnacle shells striped? And why these colours instead of some others?  And what pigments would I use to mix these colours?

One of the stories I wrote for the Journey Oracle divination deck is about a young girl being taught by her mother to sit still enough to really see.  The little girl is our inner artist, and the mother is certainly Nature.

A Journey Oracle fairy tale
There was a young girl who was always moving. She had a determination to be useful and so she moved her hands in purposeful ways, but sometimes to the loss of her eyes and ears, which mostly saw and heard the world in a maze.
As she grew her mother encouraged her to be a student of stillness, and taught her a special way of looking at things. “Do you want to see this eye?” Her mother would ask, which meant do you want to see this object in a way that belongs to the object and not to the human looking at it. She would show her how to look at the surface of something, and then find a smaller space on that surface and look into it, and then find a smaller space in that smaller space, and to do this smaller and smaller looking until finally the young girl was seeing cells of wood and hairs on plants and dust on butterfly wings. And of course her mother knew that to look that closely, one must hold quite still.
The young girl’s mother taught her a special way of listening to things. She said “Be in your heart when you listen.” She told the young girl to sit by water and listen for a small sound, like a gurgle riffling over a stone. And then listen for another, slightly larger sound, like the chuckle of water pouring over a rock—without losing the little gurgling sound, and then listen for another larger sound without losing the two smaller sounds. The young girl practiced listening by holding these separate sounds together. When she was able to hear many at the same time, it seemed her awareness expanded into a vast dreamscape of stillness.
       When the girl was older she still moved her hands in useful ways, but was also able to go inside, meditate, and be still. She would pause in her purposeful work—and see a spider’s eye looking back at her; she would close her eyes, and hear the voices of water.