Nurturing the Divine Feminine into Being

 
“Eve” from “Lovers of Creation” Triptych, ©Amy Livingstone

I bow to all mothers on this day. . . past present and future and for all of those (women and men) who are nurturing the Divine Feminine into being. I gave this talk five years ago and am sharing again with you today.
Namasté
Amy

Nurturing the Divine Feminine into Being
Abundant Life Center, Vancouver, WA
Mother’s Day. May 13, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day. It’s fitting that that the talk today is on the Divine Feminine. A day when we honor, celebrate, and remember mothers. What better symbol of the divine feminine than that of the mother. She who nurtures a new life into being. Who BIRTHS…FEEDS from her own body, LOVES, and NURTURES the soul of a child into adulthood. From the late Irish philosopher and poet, John O’Donohue

Mother,
Your voice learning to soothe
Your new child
Was the first home-sound
We heard before we could see.

Your young eyes
Gazing on us
Was the first mirror
Where we glimpsed
What to be seen
Could mean.

Mother,
Your nearness tilled the air,
An umbilical garden for all the seeds
Of thought that stirred in our infant hearts.
You nurtured and fostered this space
To root all our quietly gathering intensity
That could grow nowhere else.

Mother,
Formed from the depths beneath your heart,
You know us from the inside out.
No deeds or seas or others
Could ever erase that.

Mother…. Symbol of LOVE. For me, this is the heart of the Divine Feminine. Remembering and nurturing the Divine Feminine into being is a journey from head-to-heart. From hatred to love. From power over to power with. From meaningless consumption to a renewed sense of reverence for life and beauty. This will require a radical shift in consciousness to a new way of being in relationship to each other and our world….to the Earth.

There’s a lot being written about the Divine Feminine these days. One of the many voices contributing to this conversation, is spiritual teacher Andrew Harvey. He writes: “The Divine Feminine is initiating a crucial new phase in our evolution: urging us to discover a new ethic of responsibility toward the planet; bringing us a new vision of the sacredness and unity of life.” I believe that without THIS vision…this evolution…our planet remains in peril, and our very survival is at risk. Most of us know that we are facing ecological, economic and social crises around the world. Climate change, species extinction, threats of nuclear war, toxic food sources, and the list goes on. Social thinker David Korten, calls this the ‘great unraveling.’

What we are experiencing is the result of a dominant masculine paradigm, that emerged alongside the rise of monotheistic religions that placed one male God in a position of authority over all humanity and creation. Attempting to extinguish the Goddess in all her incarnations, the Abrahamic traditions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam suppressed the feminine and subjected women to an inferior position beginning with our first archetypal Mother, Eve. However, what I have discovered through my own spiritual explorations and graduate studies in religion is the way in which these original sacred texts have been subjectively interpreted over the millennia to serve those in power.

For example, the Creation story is believed to have been written during and after the Israelite’s exile in Babylon (what is Iraq today). The ancient creation myths—Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh—were part of the oral tradition in that region. Theologians believe that in an attempt to understand the source of their own suffering and place in the cosmos, the early writers of the Torah borrowed from these ancient myths to write their own story of origin. Therefore, the notion that we are born into original sin, as we have been indoctrinated to believe in Christianity, was not the intention behind the Garden of Eden story. Those of the Jewish faith don’t believe they are born into original sin but original goodness. But without the notion of the Fall and original sin, what is the role of Christ as redeemer?

What is the role of the Catholic Church? For me, Christ’s message of love, service, compassion, inclusivity, and a willingness to challenge the military authority of his time, is a beautiful example of the Divine Feminine in practice. Love. Compassion. Inclusiveness. Unity…all lie at the heart of the Divine Feminine. What has excited me in researching these sacred texts, is that we also have the opportunity to rethink, and reinterpret, scriptures in a way that is reflective of our own time…and in support of a more progressive spirituality that IS inclusive.

Although most of our religious traditions have worshiped male deities over the millennia—Yahweh, Christ, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, etc., the feminine face of god has existed alongside them all along and are now becoming more recognized and gaining in popularity…certainly in the West where the Judeo-Christian tradition has been dominant in our culture. Women and men are seeking out alternatives to traditional religions that are more inclusive and less dogmatic.

• In Judaism, and the mystical teachings of Kabbalah, Shekinah is the feminine divine presence.

• In Christianity, Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and also Eve as first Mother, are all now being honored as representatives of the divine feminine 

• In Islam and Sufism, Fatima, wife to the Prophet Mohammed, and the Beloved

• In Buddhism, Kuan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, is worshipped all over world including the United States.

• In Hinduism, there are 330 million gods and goddesses. Although Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu are the three primary male deities, in the pantheon of goddesses, Shakti, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali, Durga to name a few all represents aspects of the divine feminine.

• Of course, there is also a whole pantheon of Greek and Roman goddesses, so we are not lacking for images that represent the feminine face of god but we are now at a point in history where the recognition of their own Divinity can support us in bringing back into balance the masculine and feminine energies. We need the masculine as much as the feminine but as we have experienced the scale has been tipped too far towards the masculine–causing wars and ecological degradation around the world. This is why it is so important to nurture the divine feminine into being.

Outside of these religious traditions there has also been, since the feminist movement of the 70s, the revival of the most ancient goddess of all…that of Gaia. Mother Earth. What our indigenous brothers and sisters have always known, is that the Earth is our first Mother. The embodiment of the divine feminine, she is the giver of life. Sustainer of life and worthy of our reverence and devotion. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case given the first commandment to have no other gods than the one god of the Abrahamic traditions.

And there are those who strongly hold to their beliefs that those who honor the Earth are pagan, devil-worshippers, and will go to some version of hell. It’s part of the conversation, too, but I feel hopefully that many of our religious leaders are now embracing and encouraging good stewardship of the Creation among their followers. Through a number of mystical experiences, I have come to a deep awareness that no matter who or what we worship (be it a god, goddess, or science)—we are all interconnected and we are all of the Earth.

I want to mindful of not painting an idealized portrait of the Divine Feminine. Love may be the heart of the divine feminine. And yes, a mother’s love is tender and nurturing but it is also a fierce love. This is the marriage of light and shadow. The Goddess, as Gaia, is a giver and sustainer of life, but she is also the destroyer of life as we have been witness to in the large-scale natural disasters that have become more prevalent. And all of you who are mothers know you would protect your young at all costs.

When Marianne Williamson speaks she often uses the story of the hyena mother who guards against the rest of the den of hyenas until all her young are fed. In her analysis, females are anthropologically wired to protect their young. For me, the emergent Divine Feminine is likewise asking that we harness both the tender love and fierce love to awaken, heal, and transform our world from one that is unsustainable to one that is life-sustaining—where our children are fed and bombs are no longer necessary.

We now know that the Divine Feminine has been present throughout history but how do we nurture it fully into being? Through us? How do we mid-wife this new era into consciousness? As I stated in the opening, this is a journey from the head to the heart for all of us—men and women. What I’ve learned is that it requires us to break open our hearts to each other and our world. To compassion. To love. To Oneness. Those attributes of the Divine Feminine.

I know what it feels like to have my heart broken wide open from my own experience through loss and grief when I was 30. Today is Mother’s Day and I’m thinking about my mother, Jane. She died unexpectedly 22 years ago. Nine months after my brother died from AIDS. It was a very dark time in my life but through my suffering, the dark night of the soul to quote St John of the Cross, I was able to open my heart to compassion for others, for all life. There were many gifts that came out of this period in my life for which am now grateful, though it was hell on earth for a time.

Breaking open our hearts doesn’t have to happen to so tragically, though it often does happen that way, doesn’t it? But let us not wait for a catastrophe to open or hearts to our world. In my workshops, the first step I offer on this journey of the heart is to slow down, take time for silence and stillness. Contemplation. Coming into awareness of the revelatory miracle of Creation. Mother Earth. There is so much beauty around us at any given moment, if we would we allow ourselves the time to simply BE. Beauty breaks open our heart. Think of a time when you became aware of this. ……

In “Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World,” author and Jungian Jean Shinoda Bolen writes: “Seeing beauty, loving what is beautiful, and nurturing and sustaining it all go together. It is also the ability to sense or intuit potential beauty and, through love, encourage it into existence.” Sounds like the Divine Feminine to me.  

Beauty is available to us everywhere even when we’re stuck in traffic. Last Saturday morning, I was crossing the Vancouver bridge to lead a workshop at the Unitarian. It was the first time in 19 years of living in Portland, that I got the bridge lift. Though concerned for a moment at being late, I just turned off  my engine and sat, watching the birds play  in the rafters above me. Listening to their bird song, I breathed deeply into the present moment. I had no control over the situation, so I just allowed everything to be as it was.

Allowing ourselves to be more present to life—being with both with the joy and the grief that may emerge when we finally step off the speeding train that is contemporary life—is key to breaking open our hearts and inviting in the Divine Feminine. I believe the most radical thing we can do is to slow down. In this way, we are better able to be present to beauty, to our feelings, to the people in our lives, to God, to bear witness to what is happening in our world and then take action from a place of LOVE.

As an artist, of course, one of the primary expressions for me to nurture the divine feminine into being is through my artwork. First, in the creation of clay sculptures, primarily of the feminine form, much like our ancestors who sculpted the goddess during the Neolithic period. For example, I’m currently completing a series of ceremonial sculptures that represent three seasons of a woman’s life—the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Painting has been my primary medium since my teens and although at one time my work emerged out of the darkness and disappointment in my life,  I now create sacred art that draws from the holy well of all spiritual traditions.

Today it is beauty that is my gateway to the Divine. Over the past year, I completed a large-scale, three-panel painting that re-visions the Garden of Eden narrative through an indigenous lens. The overarching theme for the piece became “the Garden is right here, right now.” Paradise is not in some unknowable future, but right here on this glorious planet…we need only remember the holiness of this place we call home. Bringing together symbolism from both the Genesis narrative and those of our earth-honoring ancestors, the painting is a visual scripture that reveals our innate interconnectedness in the web of Creation. Here, Adam and Eve representing the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine, reclaim their roles as stewards of Creation.   

The creative process brings us into the present moment and I believe with all my heart, that we each have a creative gift to bring to the world what ever that may look like for you. I’m awed by people who make art in their kitchen. Fruits and vegetables are so gorgeous. Creativity is our sacred inheritance. As we are born into a creative universe, so we are all co-creators in our evolutionary history. To quote theologian and founder of Creation Spirituality, Matthew Fox:

To allow creativity its appropriate place in our lives and our culture, our education and our family relationships, is to allow healing to happen at a profound level. The intimacy of creativity corresponds to the mystical experience itself. Mysticism bespeaks union, and there is an ongoing union of us and the Divine (Feminine) precisely during the process of giving birth in any form whatsoever.”

Creating life, being a mother… a parent….is one of the most creative acts a human being can undertake. And I bow to you all on this Mother’s Day. Our indigenous teachers say this is the remembering time. A time to remember our relationship to the Earth, our first Mother… that we are all interconnected in the web of life. I also believe it’s a time for remembering your innate creativity in whatever form that may take to serve the healing of our own hearts…our families…our world.

We may be living amidst the great unraveling according to David Korten, but in the words of my teacher, environmentalist Joanna Macy, we are also in the midst of the Great Turning. This is a time of great transformation foretold by many ancient prophecies when the divine feminine and masculine will come into balance again after a period of near extinction and initiate a new phase of evolution ushering in a renewed vision that honors the sacredness of all life on Earth. May it be so.

In closing, a poem that speaks to me of the emerging Divine Feminine:

Beauty is the Messenger

Beauty is the messenger
Calling love out from forgotten places
Hidden by worry and fear,
And misplaced under the illusion of scarcity.

War, pain and conflict are all too evident
Between border towns, strangers and commuters.
But LOVE grows exponentially faster.
It IS the speed of light.

So, kindness reaches its destination
Infinitely faster than the time it takes
For the heaviness of cruelty
To chafe across toughened skin.

Beauty is the messenger
Waking up the sense of wonder,
Rounding up our wholeness into connection beyond ourselves
And increasing our capacity for limitless love.

Beauty is the messenger
Proving the incompatibility
Of splendor and malice;
Showing simply by example…

What is possible.

-Deb Rodney

May all beings know peace. May all beings be loved.

Butterfly Woman: Spring Mandala

Butterfly Woman Mandala (Spring): 2003/2016, 24x24" Acrylic & Jewels
The Holy Longing

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
 
In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.
 
Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.
 
Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this:
to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.

Greetings Earth Lovers
This poem felt appropriate given my recent reworking of the Butterfly Woman Mandala shown above along with Vernal Equinox and Easter weekend upon us. Emerging from the dark chrysalis of winter, we find ourselves once again in this time of rebirth where beauty abounds. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, Mother Earth is coming back to life–trees, flowers, and shrubs are budding and birdsong is abundant.

It’s no coincidence that Easter coincides with Spring Equinox. Scholars agree that Christianity borrowed from, and was grafted over, the pagan cultures of the ancient world. The etymology of Easter originates from Astarte, the goddess of spring, fertility and sexuality. Hence the rabbits and eggs during the holy day festivities. This time of year does usher in a fecundity, a ripening energy that is the life force that feeds new growth, communion with the beloved, and our creativity. Perhaps you are feeling “insane for the light” as Goethe writes?

Butterfly Woman was the first mandala that I painted during a 4-day workshop in Canada back in 2003. It was my first piece of sacred art as I was launching Sacred Art Studio that same year and a year prior to the start of my graduate studies in Spiritual Traditions & Ethics. This mandala never felt quite finished and I was inspired to revisit the painting in celebration of Spring. Adding the earth adds balance and gives a universality to a message of global transformation that is attempting to be born during this evolutionary time. Here, the divine feminine emerges from the dark womb of her chrysalis, and holds the light of hope as Christ offered in his time. Once again, resurrecting a new, and ancient, way of being in relationship to each other and our world, Pachamama.

Spring and Easter blessings!

Shown here: The 2003 version of the Butterfly Woman Mandala.
Butterfly Woman Mandala (Spring): 2003, 24x24" Acrylic & Jewels

Creating Beauty in a Broken World

Resurrection: 2015, 20x24" Acrylic & Jewels
“Resurrection” ©Amy Livingstone, Sacred Art Studio

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” -Terry Tempest Williams
From my January Newsletter:

This from Williams’ 2008 powerful and heart-opening book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World. She details her journey from Ravenna, Italy, to the American SW, and to Rwanda where she helps build a genocide memorial with the survivors of the war. She follows the thread of a calling to follow one wild word–mosaic. She writes: “Mosaic celebrates brokenness and the beauty of being brought together.”

I was reminded of her book again after finishing the painting shown here, “Resurrection.” Although most would associate the word or concept with the resurrection of Christ, I am using the word in context with the necessary and emerging return of the ancient paradigm associated with our indigenous ancestors and the Divine Feminine of the Goddess tradition, prior to the rise of patriarchy. Although I would also suggest that Christ is likewise an embodiment of the feminine with his original message of inclusivity and love for the neighbor and stranger.

Holy mother earth with the ‘seed of life’ nestled in the heart of  the web of life is cracking and we desperately need the return of the divine feminine even more so given the recent rhetoric coming forward during the GOP presidential campaign against women, people of color, those of the Islamic tradition, and the earth herself. Fear breeding more separation. And yet, I know also that there are so many of us, you and me, making a difference every day in our world through our creativity and in our communities. Shining your light bright as I wrote about in last month’s newsletter!

From Amazon: “In her compassionate meditation on how nature and humans both collide and connect, Williams affirms a reverence for all life, and constructs a narrative of hopeful acts, taking that which is broken and creating something whole.”

Butterflies = transformation. Life. Death. Beauty. Preciousness of life. Bowie. Rickman. Frey. Levine. Icons and teachers. So breathing into the complexities of life  and in my heart, and piecing together a mosaic of beauty in a broken world.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

A blessed and wildly creative new year to you,

Amy

She Who Watches Final Painting

Livingstone_SheWhoWatches
The completed painting on my easel one recent sunny autumn morning. This painting, “She Who Watches,” is inspired by my recent soul journey with Animas Institute to explore what Bill Plotkin (guide and author of Wild Mind) defines as our Wild Indigenous Self. The experience was yet another homecoming and I felt a deeper communion with all creation. Owl came to me during one of our wanderings, so this painting became a self-portrait around my embodiment of owl spirit and her ability to be still and to watch, listen, and hold vision in the darkness. Thresholds of transformation and shape shifting are alive for me during this time of mid-life and perhaps for you, too. Embracing the journey to live from the soul and serve this divine calling.

Sometimes, when a bird cries out,
Or the wind sweeps through a tree,
Or a dog howls in a far-off farm,
I hold still and listen a long time.

My soul turns and goes back to the place
Where, a thousand forgotten years ago,
The bird and the blowing wind
Were like me, and were my brothers.

My soul turns into a tree,
and an animal, and a cloud bank.
then changed and odd it comes home.
and asks me questions. What should I reply?

-Hermann Hesse

 

 

 

Let it Be So

©Amy Livingstone, Mother Mary 2010

We had our womens’ seasonal sweat lodge ceremony at People of the Heart on Saturday night that honored both the light and the dark within and around us. Appropriate for the season and with so much change happening in our world and feeling bombarded with information about the economy, climate change, natural disasters, and unemployment, it’s no wonder we all let out primal howls. Wailing, releasing the heaviness. Many of us, especially hypersensitive people like myself take in this darkness and carry it around inside, so it was cathartic to release the energy that had been storing up in my body. Releasing in order to open to the lightness of being. After prayers of gratitude and healing were spoken, Rev. Jayna Gieber led us in The Beatles, “Let it Be.” It had been a long time since I really listened to the words of the song. I was moved to tears and saw before me my painting of “Mother Mary.” The Divine Feminine and her words of wisdom are speaking to me, to us all, during these evolutionary times. The question is are we listening?

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

And in my hour of darkness

She is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,

There will be an answer, let it be.

or though they may be parted there is

Still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be. Yeah

There will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,

Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.

I wake up to the sound of music

Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.

There will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be,

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

I would suggest that we the people are indeed beginning to listen. Where the ecological and political movements of the sixties seemed to emerge largely out of sub-groups within society, the new paradigm movements include all of us and those of every generation–young and old. We can see this in the Occupy movement and the spiritual, evolutionary consciousness that is gaining momentum. The stakes are also higher now. Climate change is real. Some would argue these movements are idealistic in the face of the economic and political forces at work today. Perhaps. According to Webster’s, idealism “is a literary or artistic theory or practice that affirms the preeminent value of imagination.” Again, “the value of our imagination.” I would go so far as to say the Divine Imagination–the very source of our creativity. Yes, The Beatles were idealistic. I’m idealistic. Are you? I believe we are all artists in our own way, tapping the holy well of our imagination, therefore we all have the capacity for being idealistic, right? So “imagine” what we are capable of co-creating if we listen to these words of wisdom from the Divine Feminine? There will be an answer. All of our creativity and idealism is needed now. For the future of this planet and all her creatures. For future generations. “Imagine all the people living life in peace…you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’re join us, and the world will live as one.” (-John Lennon)

Let it be…so.

For love of the EARTH,

Kuan Yin 2 Progression


Up before the dawn this morning, co-creating with the emergence of a new day. Gorgeous sunrise over the Cascades. I will continue to post images of my recent painting of Kuan Yin as she emerges from the canvas. In the spirit of the Divine Mother and the Taoist tradition:

The Taoist artist or poet intuitively reached into the secret essence of what he[she] was observing, making himself one with it, then inviting it to speak through him, so releasing the dynamic harmony within it. He imposed nothing of himself on it but reflected the creative soul of what he was observing through the highly developed skills that he had cultivated over a lifetime of practice. . . . The Tao flows through the whole work as cosmic presence, at once transcendent in its mystery and immanent in its form. —From The Divine Feminine by Andrew Harvey and Anne Baring