The art of (r)evolution

calltorevolution
Happy 2017.

The journey continues and art is more important now than ever.
“To those of you who, so far, thinking that this article doesn’t pertain to you because you don’t consider yourself to be a part of the art world, please hear me: You are even more essential to the arts than the rest of us. You are the audience. You are, quite literally, our reason for being. So, please, after you’ve taken to the streets, take to the galleries and museums. In our city, where 42 percent of the population is without religious affiliation, these institutions are our houses of worship. They connect us with something greater than ourselves. They offer the comfort and solace of beauty, and provide endless examples of what the human hand can do when it is guided by the heart.” -Jennifer Rabin, Willamette Week

Greetings Earth Lovers    

I was heartened by this recent article in our local indie newspaper about the importance of art in our lives. And the important role we each play in this (r)evolution of collective consciousness from separation to oneness, from fear to hope, from hate to love. Rabin writes: “Never is art more essential than in times of separation; it is the ultimate force of creativity, hope, reflection and revolution.”

For those who are new to my work, I founded the Studio in 2003 and have been committed to raising awareness of the sacredness of the creation, our interconnectedness in the web of life, and the plight of endangered species. Over the years, through sales of my work, I have donated funds to the World Wildlife Fund, Audubon Society, Panthera (big cats), and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC).

Every purchase has contributed to “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible” to quote Charles Eisenstein. Not only do you bring this beauty into your sacred space or give as a gift, you make a difference with your purchase and I thank you. Mother Earth and her creatures thank you.

Compassion in Action: Reflections from the Parliament

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New Painting in Process, ©Amy Livingstone

From my October newsletter:
I returned home from the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City a week ago but my heart is still in Utah with the 10,0000 people who attended the Parliament. Ten thousand men, women, and children/youth from 80 countries and 50 faith traditions ranging from indigenous, goddess, pagan, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, B’ahai, Buddhist, Hindu, artists, activists, priestesses, and healers. All in agreement to the holiness of our sacred container where love and compassion were generated in our honoring of diversity while recognizing the common threads of our shared humanity. I felt that I traveled the world in five days and found a home. A tribe. The theme this year was centered around “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity.”

The Ute tribe of Utah welcomed us to their ancestral lands and our indigenous brothers and sisters lit a sacred fire that burned throughout the Parliament. There was much praying, chanting, singing, dancing, a Cosmic Mass, and ceremonies but many tears were shed as well as we listened and bore witness to the numerous crises of our time. Religious extremism, social and economic inequality, climate change, and the rights of women and indigenous peoples.

The message was clear, people of faith (wouldn’t that be all of us?) have a moral obligation to step up and take action. Every plenary, every talk I attended addressed the urgency of this critical time and that we each have a role to play. Large and small. It was affirming of my work as a sacred artist and activist and returned energized to continue my mission in service to Mother Earth and all beings that began a decade ago.

What is calling you during this evolutionary time?

There were so many powerful moments and presenters, many whose work I have followed for years including Vandana Shiva, Terry Tempest Williams, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Marianne Williamson, Karen Armstrong, Jane Goodall, and the Dali Lama who spoke to us via satellite. The indigenous plenary was one of the most profound and moving. An elder from Greenland told us that the ice is melting and there is nothing we can do about it. He was looking for the one hope for future generations. I don’t know that I can ever forget his wailing song to the ancestors who we will need if we are to survive the future.

It is a good time with Sawhain (Halloween) this week to honor and welcome back your ancestors.

Our time together was an urgent call but it was surprisingly filled with hope. So many people on the ground doing the Great Work for other beings, human and non-human, and our beloved Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama.

I’ve been working on this new painting since my return. Our fragile world is cracking and transformation is assured. What will our world look like in 20 years? What part are you playing or will play in this Great Turning? “Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” -Terry Tempest Williams.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

For love of the EARTH!

Unveiling Prayer for the Birds

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From my July Newsletter

Greetings Earth Lovers
I am excited to share the completed “Lauds: Prayer for the Birds” from the “Where I Stand is Holy” series with you. If you have been following along, you know this has been quite a journey. The original vision emerged after my return from an Animas Institute quest last summer. I connected deeply to that landscape and was reminded of this commandment to Moses from the Torah: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5). When we are standing on Mother Earth, we are standing on holy ground. On our last evening together, I walked out in front of our group, removed my sandals, and chanted a song that we often sing during our community sweat lodge (changing sit to stand).

Where I stand is holy, holy is this ground.
Forest, mountain, river, listen to the sound.
Great Spirit circles all around me.
(Repeat several times)

This mantra guided the creation of this piece inspired by illuminated manuscripts that included ornate borders with flowers, bugs, and creatures of all sizes and imagined monks in ancient times as I painted each tiny leaf. The 11 varieties of birds that I chose through my research are just a small sample of the 314 North American birds threatened by climate change. According to the Audubon Society, 314 of the 588 species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080. (Learn more here). With temperature changes, acidification of our oceans, and loss of habitat and food sources, their survival is precarious.

Arctic Tern
Magpie
Cerulean Warbler
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Eastern Bluebird
Allen’s Hummingbird
Varied Thrush
Bobolink
Whooping Crane
Golden Eagle
Brown Pelican

How do we be with this beauty and our sorrow? As I learned from my own transformative journey through grief 25 years ago, it is important and necessary to allow the feelings and to allow our hearts to break open, as painful as it can be. It is natural to grieve what we love(d) and who among us doesn’t love our birds? “Beauty is what opens our eyes to love. Love ignites passion and passion is what propels us toward the future wrought with risk and uncertainty.” -Terry Tempest Williams

With the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment and urgent call for creation care, my work (and many others) over the past decade feels affirming and am grateful for his vision and leadership on the most critical issue of our time.

In the Catholic tradition, Lauds is the morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, so I chose morning glories and songbirds to symbolize this time of the day as the sun rises in the background. Three other panels for Sext (noon), Vespers (evening), and Compline (night) are all part of this vision and will also give expression to our endangered species. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter, too.

For love of the birds.

The New Gospel (of Earth)

The Translator: 2014, 36x36" Acrylic (Inspired by "Walking the Borders" by William Stafford)
The Translator
(Inspired by William Stafford’s Walking the Borders.)

I was re-visiting my first book of eco-philosophy today, A Sacred Place to Dwell: Living with Reverence Upon the Earth by Henryk Skolimowski, that I discovered in 2003. Reading this sacred text was life changing and inspired me to go on to graduate school to study spiritual traditions and ethics within an interdisciplinary framework. Although I had considered an MFA and a Master’s in Art Therapy at the time, I felt called to this other scholarly path to better understand the disconnect between humanity and all of creation— philosophically, theologically, sociologically, and psychologically, etc. I wasn’t interested in being part of a contemporary art world driven by the notion of art-for-art’s sake or the pathologies of dis-ease associated with art therapy, though I bow in gratitude to those who follow the latter calling. My artwork has been a response to this original inquiry and The Translator especially speaks to the creation of a new language, what some are now calling “the new story,” of our interdependence and reverence for the earth. You can read about the painting here.

Skolimowski put forward this “New Gospel” and share that here with you.
For love of the EARTH!

The New Gospel

  1. The World is a Sanctuary.
  2. You were born creative.
  3. You hold destiny in your hands.
  4. You have the responsibility to do your part.
  5. The web of life includes all forms of life, human and non-human.
  6. Be compassionate to others.
  7. Be gentle to yourself.
  8. Be mindful how you treat your body.
  9. Be mindful of what you think and what you eat.
  10. You were born into a beautiful world.
  11. Your nature is divine.
  12. You divinity must reveal itself in your action.
  13. Suffering cannot be avoided.
  14. The fact of death cannot be avoided.
  15. Celebrate! The universe is in a state of self-celebration.
  16. What is your path of liberation? To begin with, you need to take yourself seriously.
  17. Oikos (Eco)—A Sacred Enclosure (oikos is Greek for ‘home.’)
  18. Achieve wholeness through your own effort.
  19. We are meaning makers.

Presenting at Marylhurst University

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me at conference_marylhurst
I had the joy of returning to my grad school alma mater, Marylhurst University last weekend to give a presentation entitled, Contemporary Sacred Art and Spiritual Ecology. This was part of the annual meeting of the PNW Chapter of the American Academy of Religion, Society of Biblical Literature & The American Schools of Oriental Research. (Click here to learn more). It was very meaningful for me to return to campus, shown here in full bloom, and to share my work with this community of scholars.

Eight years ago, in 2007, I presented my master’s thesis here as part of the MAIS, or Interdisciplinary Studies program with a concentration in Spiritual Traditions & Ethics. Throughout my graduate studies, the intention for my research was to discover how we as a species had become so disconnected from our place in the life web, that we were destroying the land base on which all life is dependent. My thesis was a culmination of this research and I put forward the argument then, that the ecological crisis was a psychological and spiritual crisis. Today, there is a growing dialogue around the spiritual response to the ecological crisis that is now being defined as “spiritual ecology” and this is the core of my work as a contemporary sacred artist and activist. Here’s the abstract for my presentation:

Contemporary Sacred Art and Spiritual Ecology [Abstract]
What is the role of sacred art in the face of climate change? This interdisciplinary presentation is centered on the belief that our current ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis. Those of us in the developed West have become so far removed from our innate interdependence in the web of creation that we are destroying the land base on which all life is dependent. My research shows that this destructive way of being has evolved over the millennia beginning, in part, with the rise of monotheistic religious traditions that reverenced a transcendent God, while rejecting the holiness of the natural world out of fear of being associated with paganism and witchcraft. Alongside this paradigm, we are also seeing a resurgence of indigenous ways of knowing that remind us that the earth is holy and worthy of our reverence. Through my work as an artist and in this paper, I present a synthesis of these two ways of being in relationship to the Sacred that is both transcendent and immanent creating a third narrative as expressed through interspiritual artwork. In conclusion, this project will shed light on the way that contemporary sacred art can help us confront the ecological crisis including species extinction and climate change.

I presented under the Art and Religion panel and was honored to be in the company of so many gifted scholars, and a group of amazing women, in this section. Many had completed their doctorate work at Pacifica or CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies). Two excellent graduate-level institutions that are bringing forward the new cultural paradigm through their programs. The conference ignited my passion for scholarly inquiry though pursuing a PhD that could take up to eight years of my life and considerable financial resources (that I don’t have) isn’t where I feel called to be right now, though I am keeping the seed planted for a future time. There are critical issues facing life on earth and at this time in my life, I am called to continue the vision and intention that I set forth thirteen years ago when I founded Sacred Art Studio. And so it goes…

For love of the Earth.

Thanks to Louise Paré of CIIS for the photograph during my presentation.

GPSEN Launch & Mandala Ceremony

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World Environment Day was June 5th. It’s a day when the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of environmental issues and encourages political action. In conjunction with WED,
GPSEN (Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network), a UN-based, growing network of regional educators, students, non-profits, political and industry leaders, and community members collaborating to promote sustainability had their launch celebration. This is quite an honor for Portland. GPSEN has been acknowledged as a Regional Centre of Expertise on education for sustainable development, by the United Nations University. We join a coalition of 129 RCEs around the world committed to creating a healthy, just, and thriving future.

I was invited to bring my sacred art and nature mandala ceremony to the event. A Native American elder from Wisdom of the Elders opened with a blessing. Rev. Jayna Gieber from my spiritual community People of the Heart offered a poem for the earth. Appreciate that we were all able to bring the spiritual component to the evening. It brings the Condor heart into the landscape of the Eagle mind as foretold in the ancient prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor.. Gratitude to visionary leader Kim Smith and to so many individuals and organizations working for a sustainable future.

Prior to dismantling the mandala I offered this poem from John O’Donohue poem and dedicated this offering to our children, their children, and future generations. It’s for them that we do our work. For love of the earth.

Praise for the Earth

Let us bless
The imagination of the Earth.

Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.

Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.

The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring.

Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.

Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.

That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.

(Excerpt)

 

 

Intention and The Great Work

New Connexions Magazine. Ganesha ©Amy Livingstone, 2014
Show at the Doll Gardner Gallery. West Hills UU Portland
Opening at the Doll Gardner Gallery. West Hills UU Portland

The Journey
One day you finally knew  
what you had to do, and began,  
though the voices around you  
kept shouting  
their bad advice- 
though the whole house  
began to tremble  
and you felt the old tug  
at your ankles.  
“Mend my life!”  
each voice cried.  
But you didn’t stop.  
You knew what you had to do,  
though the wind pried  
with its stiff fingers  
at the very foundations,  
though their melancholy  
was terrible.  
It was already late  
enough, and a wild night,  
and the road full of fallen  
branches and stones.  
But little by little,  
as you left their voices behind,  
the stars began to burn  
through the sheets of clouds,  
and there was a new voice  
which you slowly  
recognized as your own,  
that kept you company  
as you strode deeper and deeper  
into the world  
determined to do  
the only thing you could do- 
determined to save 
the only life you could save.
-Mary Oliver 
  
My intention around expansion for the new year seems to be manifesting these days. (See previous post). I am having a show of my artwork at the Doll Gardner Gallery inside the West Hills Unitarian during the month of March, my ‘Ganesha’ is the featured artwork on the cover of New Connexions magazine, and I also had a wonderful interview recently with Robyn Purchia at EdenKeeper.org. You can read her article here. We share a similar passion and mission around the connection between religion and the environment. 
We all know the power of intention and holding a vision even when it’s not quite clear where it will lead. This is the path of radical trust and faith. I appreciated revisiting this poem from Mary Oliver that speaks to that calling we each have inside us to follow our heart in spite of the voices, or culture, shouting their bad advice. I believe deeply that we each have a gift to bring forward in service to what the late eco-theologian Thomas Berry called the Great Work of our time. We need all hands on deck if we want to ensure a liveable planet for future generations. When I spoke aloud my vows at the end of a ten-day training with environmentalist Joanna Macy in 2002, I committed my life to serving the healing of the earth and the welfare of all beings–human and non-human. That has seemed overwhelming at times but it remains the underlying intention for my life and work in whatever form that takes. Will you join me? 

Macy speaks to three areas of engagement during this era of transformation, or the Great Turning. Perhaps one of them will speak to you. Holding actions (boycotts, civil disobedience); creating new (sustainable) structures and institutions; and shifting consciousness around the reality of our collective interconnectedness in the web of life which has been my primary focus though I have also participated in numerous events and demonstrations around social/ecological justice over the years including the current campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. This year, I plan to share more about ways you might be inspired to get involved though I know so many of you are already doing such great work on behalf of our world.   
Always, it is my love of the earth, beauty, and the intersection where art, spirit, and earth healing meet that feeds my soul. What feeds yours?