The Grace of Beginning

Andean Dreams: 2014, 12x12" Acrylic
Art: Andean Dreams, 12×12″, 2014 ©Amy Livingstone

For a New Beginning
-John O’Donohue

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

From my January Newsletter
New Year Greetings:

I hope this note finds each of you well in spirit and in health; invigorated by what O’Donohue calls “the grace of beginning;” of what is yet to be as we enter the new year. Aren’t we often ripe with expectation during these first weeks of January when we contemplate what may unfurl in our lives? We plan. We set intentions. We resolve to do, and to be, the best we can. I often feel like I’m at the starting gate ready to run a race and remind myself that life isn’t a marathon but an unfoldment of each moment, each day, each year. As we walk the path, the journey unfolds before us. This is a lovely reminder from the late Henri Nouwen:

We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises.

This can be a daily spiritual practice around gratitude given that life does throw obstacles on our journey and we live in a culture driven by fear. An acupuncturist once shared with me that fear and excitement embody the same level of energy but that ‘fear is excitement without the breath.’ Have you noticed that? In fear, we tend to hold the breath. So, when I begin to feel anxious about the future, the economy, climate change, or any of the myriad crises facing life on planet earth at this time, I stop and remember to breathe in and breathe out. Then I take the next step and continue to walk this path of art, beauty, and service.

The wonder is this: that, as we walk it, the path becomes clear. We have only to trust it into action, then truth reveals itself, shining all the brighter for the darkness of our time. -Joanna Macy

In the studio, I have been continuing with the “Where I Stand is Holy” series (see previous posts) but this sweet little painting, “Andean Dreams,” (above) wanted to be born through me and is inspired once again by my Peru pilgrimage. It’s no accident that hummingbird (Kinti) appeared again in my work as he is a potent symbol for holding our core in stillness amidst the busyness of contemporary life. There is also an urgency in our work on behalf of the living earth and all her creatures. I feel this and know many of you do as well but if we don’t take time for silence and stillness, burnout is inevitable. Breathing in and out? In the Andes, hummingbird is also a symbol of resurrection. New beginnings. Like this moment, this day, this new year. All pregnant with new possibility. What is calling to be born through you?

For love of the EARTH!

Andean Dreams

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“Andean Dreams” ©2014 Amy Livingstone

A new painting inspired by my Peru pilgrimage. (Read more about that here.)
Symbolism around birthing and new beginnings continues. Original (12x12x1.5″) and prints will be available after the painting returns from my photographer.

About Siwa Kinti, or the Royal Hummingbird in the Andean Spiritual Tradition:
“One of the highest vibrational energies in nature is carried by the hummingbird. In the Quecha lanaguage of the Andes, the hummingbird is called Kinti and is the archetype representing the direction of the North. This direction holds the qualities of Siwa Kinti, the rainbow hummingbird, who lives between the worlds and serves as a bridge to those who have come before us (our ancestors) and those who will come after us (our children and children’s children). It is said Siwa Kinti was the sacred being of Machu Picchu in Peru and today bridges the two worlds of North and South America. According to the Andean System, royal hummingbird has access to the center of the Hanaq Pacha, or upper world, where Spirit is found. Hummingbird represents the paradox between action and stillness.” Read more here: http://puakaihealing.com/hummingbird/

Where I Stand is Holy

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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.

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)

 

 

New Year, Right Speech


If the studio is the heart of Sacred Art Studio, my office (shown here) is the brain. I send these words out into the world with love and compassion. Aho!

In Derrick Jensen’s brilliant and heartbreaking A Language Older Than Words, he writes, “Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam. Every day I tell myself I should continue to write. Yet I’m not always convinced I’m making the right decision. I’ve written books and I’ve been an activist. At the same time I know neither a lack of words nor a lack of activism kills salmon here in the Northwest. It is the presence of dams.” I hear his frustration and feel his pain around the extinction of so many species and for what is happening to our beloved planet. The new year has begun and already it seems like it will continue to be business as usual. Our world leaders failed to reach an agreement around climate change in Copenhagen, health care reform looks like it will benefit the insurance companies more than the individual, and there is ever more emphasis on fighting terrorism than in feeding our people or healing the Earth.

Most of us begin the new year with resolutions of one sort or another from losing weight to saving money or being better organized. I normally set intentions of what it is that I would like to actualize through the course of the year, but this year I have been feeling unusually inert as to where to put my time and energy. I get a wild idea to sell everything and go live in Africa or some where there appears to be a greater need, but I realize that there is also work to be done here at home. I ask myself what is my role during this planetary time? What is the role of my art in the face of climate change and environmental degradation? I believe deeply that we each have a role to play in what eco-theologian Thomas Berry coined the “Great Work,” but like Jensen, some days it just doesn’t feel like enough. I want to avoid sinking into helplessness and despair but that happens some days, too and that is okay. I often listen to Krista Tippett’s interviews on Speaking of Faith while I work in the studio and her recent interview called, “The Wisdom of Tenderness,” was with Jean Vanier, the Canadian philosopher and Catholic social innovator who founded L’Arche, a community centered around people with mental disabilities. It is such a beautiful and touching look into this little known community where there is such joy and tenderness. Love. Safe touch. Vanier speaks of falling in love with reality and realizing that in that reality God is present. In another interview, Kate Braestrup, a Unitarian-Universalist minister and author in Maine, “is called in when children disappear in the woods or when snowmobilers disappear under the ice. She calls herself a doer whose sense of God emerges from what happens between and among people.” Both Vanier and Braetrup bring a sacred intention, love, and holy witnessing to their work on behalf of those who are different or who suffer. They remind me that I don’t have to go to Africa to make a difference in the world, I do that right here, right now through my ability to be present to those in grief, my practice around holy listening, and creating beauty. Perhaps that is enough.

In his interview, Vanier quoted Ghandi: “I can’t change the world, but I can change.” This has given rise to my considering “right speech” from the Noble Eightfold Path, the Fourth Noble Truth in the Buddhist tradition. I feel called to speak on behalf our besieged and beautiful Earth, Pachamama, but sometimes my words have been interpreted as judgmental or condemning. I remembering hearing this twenty years ago when I was involved with AIDS education and outreach. Back then, the message was, “to be silent is to be complicit” (or silence=death) and I feel that today around the ecological crisis. I can’t be silent now either and the fact is that this crisis will affect all life on Earth, not just what is perceived as a marginalized group of individuals. My intention is not to judge—after all I am part of the system and use resources, too—but to open the dialogue. Sometimes, in my passionate expression, instead of inviting others into the conversation certain language cuts short the dialogue, so the commitment for me now is: How to hear other perspectives, listen deeply without judgment, and speak from a place of mindfulness? Along with creating art, I intend to be attentive of this as I navigate the landscape of my relationships, my communities, and the larger world. Being more organized might have been a lot easier…sigh. Blessings to all beings in this new year.

Prayer of deep listening

In this century and in any century,
Our deepest hope, our most tender prayer,
Is that we learn to listen.
May we listen to one another in openness and mercy
May we listen to plants and animals in wonder and respect
May we listen to our hearts in love and forgiveness
May we listen to our deep spirit in quietness and awe.
And in this listening,
Which is boundless in its beauty,
May we find the wisdom to cooperate
With a healing spirit, a divine spirit,
who beckons us into peace and community and creativity.
We do not ask for a perfect world.
But we do ask for a better world.
We ask for deep listening.

-Jay McDaniel, Hendrix College

Messages of love, hope, and creativity

I’ve been reflecting on the Hopi message today and watched an interview with Joanna Macy from the Pachamama Alliance. Powerful messages of hope, love, creativity, and imagination! We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Aho

Message from the Hopi Elders
We have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour
And there are things to be considered.

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in the right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.

It is time to speak your truth
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, and push off and into the river,
Keep our eyes open, and our head above the water.
See who is in there with you and Celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do,
Our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over, Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that you do now must be done in a sacred manner
And in celebration.

“We are the ones we have been waiting for…”

The Elders, Hopi Nation, Oraibi, Arizona 2000