Rape of the Spirit, 2001, Bronze ©Amy Livingstone
It’s been over a month since my last communication. I hope this email finds you well and enjoying the beauty of Autumn and the lush colors that are abundant this year.
It has been an intense time for me with the sudden death of a good friend and the leader of my spiritual community, and my father’s final passage to the far shore a week ago today. It was hard to see him suffering at the end and am grateful to have been with him when he departed this realm. It was sacred time and naturally brought up memories of sitting by my late brother’s bedside 29 years ago as he lay dying from AIDS. Many of you know of my transformative journey through grief and if not, you can read about it here. My mother’s spirit (as were others) was present in my father’s tiny room over the last several weeks and am imagining them together again.
Art saved me back then and continues to be my saving grace and with so much suffering/violence in our world. The sculpture above “Rape of the Spirit” is one of many sculptures and paintings that emerged out of my own grief. It’s why I believe in the power of art to heal and may be offering some workshops again in the coming year if that is where I am called. Right now, I’m allowing time to grieve and listen for guidance around this next stage of life and work. Where there is an ending, a beginning or rebirth is inevitable and am trusting in that.
I need to be creating, so am slowly getting into the studio and am back to the mandala below. There are many paintings in process and will be sharing those in time. And if you’re starting to think about the holydays, consider purchasing sacred art prints, cards, or originals. I am experimenting with a line of sacred art items and will share more on that soon. Visit the shop here.
“In our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
Reciprocity mandala inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.”
It was a very meaningful for me to be at Portland Community College during Earth Week where I brought my art installation “Momento Mori: Our Oceans in Crisis”. I had some powerful conversations with a diverse group of people from all over the world and dedicated our mandala to the people of Micronesia. One student, a kindhearted man from these small islands in the Western Pacific Ocean shared with me: “I am a climate refugee. My people are leaving their homeland to relocate to Australia and other countries due to rising sea levels and contaminated food sources from oil spills from tankers.” He was very grateful for my message as he feels that the world has not acknowledged them. He put a very real face to the climate crisis.
Many of the young students also gave me hope. After viewing my exhibit, a young woman shared with me that she felt sad. When I asked how she processes her sorrow around ecological issues, she said she goes to the beach and picks up other people’s garbage. Action is indeed the antidote to despair.
I put together a list of suggestions of what each of us can do on a daily basis to make a difference including self care and ways to get involved. You can view that here: What You Can Do Flyer
You can learn more about the nature mandala ceremony here.
For love of the EARTH!
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!
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
- The World is a Sanctuary.
- You were born creative.
- You hold destiny in your hands.
- You have the responsibility to do your part.
- The web of life includes all forms of life, human and non-human.
- Be compassionate to others.
- Be gentle to yourself.
- Be mindful how you treat your body.
- Be mindful of what you think and what you eat.
- You were born into a beautiful world.
- Your nature is divine.
- You divinity must reveal itself in your action.
- Suffering cannot be avoided.
- The fact of death cannot be avoided.
- Celebrate! The universe is in a state of self-celebration.
- What is your path of liberation? To begin with, you need to take yourself seriously.
- Oikos (Eco)—A Sacred Enclosure (oikos is Greek for ‘home.’)
- Achieve wholeness through your own effort.
- We are meaning makers.
This is a small piece (12×12″) as yet untitled that I have been working on over the past week or so. Shown here in its progression. A sweet morning meditation as I continue work on the larger scale series “Where I Stand is Holy” that shines a light on species threatened by climate change. People often ask me how I create my decorative borders. As you can see here, I work out the design on a tissue paper and create the pattern that I will then replicate around the edges. Symbols of transformation continue to appear in my life but this is also representative of our larger collective evolution at this time in our earth’s history.
“Whosoever offers to me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water–that offering of love, of pure heart, I accept” -Bhagavad-Gita.
The winged-ones are speaking through me lately as I work on a new painting; the first in a series I’m calling “Where I Stand is Holy.” This particular vision came to me following my recent wildness trek with Animas Institute. On our last evening, we were invited to share a poem, song, or expression of our soul inspired by our experience. As I shared back in August (see previous post), I felt a deep connection to the forest, Tahoma (Mt Rainier), and White River. The landscape felt holy to me and was reminded of what Yahweh says to Moses: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5). When we are standing on Mother Earth, Pachamama, we are standing on holy ground. So that evening, I walked out in front of our group, removed my sandals, and sang a song that we often sing during our community sweat lodge. I changed the wording from sitting to standing but it goes like this:
Where I stand is holy, holy is this ground.
Forest, mountain, river, listen to the sound.
Great Spirit circles all around me.
Singing is not my particular gift and rarely sing outside the lodge let alone in front of a group of people that I don’t know well but I felt called to share what was alive for me in that moment. The river spoke to me of letting go of safety and trusting in the journey even when the path is uncertain. It was a very sweet moment and am grateful I found the courage to be vulnerable in front of these other beings–human and non-human. How often do we silence ourselves out of fear of being judged or abandoned?
The first painting of this 4-panel series that will once again address threatened species includes the Arctic Tern, Varied Thrush, and American Three-toed Woodpecker (view more at my Facebook and Twitter pages) and they are three of 314 North American birds that are threatened by climate change. The Audubon Society is tracking this and you can learn more and pledge to take action at this link. The painting process has been emerging slowly as the vision becomes clearer to me but there is also a feeling of uncertainty as to whether I can actually manifest what it is that I am being called by Spirit to create. This will be a time-intensive project and feels a bit overwhelming at times. Some days, I hear that little voice inside my head that says I “should” (a word that should be eliminated from our vocabulary!) create artworks that are more commercially viable but this is where my soul is called to be. So everyday, I show up, listen, and trust that I am being guided to serve not only my soul but the earth and the creatures in this way. Where might you be called to serve your soul and our world?
Check back often for updates or visit my Facebook page.
Last week I brought part of the Return to the Garden installation to the AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) conference held at the Convention Center here in Portland. The largest academic sustainability conference in the world brought over 2,000 change agents to Portland. AASHE’s vision is to lead higher education to be a foundation for a thriving, equitable and ecologically healthy world. I appreciated being invited to bring this sacred art and add a voice around our spiritual connection to the earth. To remember our innate interdependence in the web of creation and the role of art and beauty as they contribute to the conversation around sustainability.
My art installation was in the lobby of the convention center so between sessions, attendees were able to stop by to inquire about my work and to participate in co-creating our community nature mandala. I had so many remarkable and inspiring conversations with visionaries and passionate students from all around the world. I walked away feeling very hopeful. There is a lot of great work being done on behalf of our beloved earth and our fellow humans. Just a few included: A young man from Peru is here completing his degree at PSU and will return to Cusco to work with his father around erosion/conservation at Machu Picchu. Another young woman, an artist, makes her own paints and paper from natural materials. A student from University of Colorado is working on zero waste. Many students from small communities in the Midwest, the South, and Hawaii where there isn’t much being done around sustainability are taking on the challenge themselves! Yeah. One company makes solar-powered kiosks for charging electronic devices on college campuses. Another company makes water fountains that also includes filtration so we can refill our reusable water bottles. Imagine, the end of plastic bottles!
I also had the good fortune to hear Annie Leonard, creator of the Story of Stuff movement, and now Executive Director of Greenpeace speak the opening night. I was so inspired and touched by her talk and everyone that I spoke with that during the closing ceremony of our mandala, I dedicated this offering for the healing of the earth to AASHE and all those who attended. Thank you for inspiring me and all those who are working to create a sustainable future that works for all.
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?
Bow of gratitude to all that contributed to the co-creation of our gorgeous community mandala during the People’s Climate March. We added our blessings, gratitude, and intentions to this offering that was gifted to the river, sending out our prayers for the healing of the earth and her creatures in all directions. This process is a meaningful symbol of our solidarity and interconnectedness in the web of life.
May this day ignite action in the hearts and minds of people around the world to begin the necessary ecological reparation to ensure a livable planet for future generations and all creatures. For love of the earth!