Sacred Pause

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Angel at RiverView Cemetery. Photo by Amy Livingstone

Greetings friends,
My 92 year old father fell and broke his hip in December. It has been a wild journey in moving him from the hospital, to rehab, and now to assisted living. For any of you who have walked this path with your elders, you know the intensity and time this takes. I have had some sweet moments in the studio, working on various projects including sketches for the interfaith prayer room at a local hospital. I continue to believe in the power of art and beauty to heal our hearts and our world even amidst the insanity of what is unfolding in our country.

I will return soon with more offerings, art, poetry, and inspiration!

Namasté
Amy

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.
–Aeschylus

Sext: Prayer for the Desert

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Greetings
I haven’t disappeared my friends but after five months of events, I am back in the studio working. This summer, my intention is to get as far as I can on completing the “Where We Stand is Holy” series that began with “Lauds: Prayer for the Birds.” Shown here are details from “Sext: Prayer for the Desert.” Desert Tortoise, Sage Grouse, and Black-chinned Hummingbird. There are efforts to list the Sage Grouse as endangered species but much resistance from the oil/gas lobbyists as it would impact exploration and extraction in the SW.

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“Sext: Prayer for the Desert” is nearly complete. I am also in various stages with Vespers (water) and Compline (mammals). These paintings inspired by illuminated manuscripts shine a light on endangered species as well as the beauty of those wild places under siege by oil/gas extraction, plastics in the ocean, and climate change. I’m envisioning these panels to be part of larger installation and will share more as that develops. In the meantime, I am offering limited-edition art prints with a percentage of your purchase benefiting organizations working to protect our creatures and wild places. Shop here: http://sacredartstudio.net/product-category/prints/

Shown below is the first in the series: “Lauds: Prayer for the Birds.”
©LivingstonePrayer

First Unitarian Art Show & Sale

Come say hello!
Wine reception with the artists on Friday night, 7-9pm.
Show continues through the weekend. Saturday, 10-6pm and Sunday, 10-2pm.
I will have several original paintings including “Munay Pachamama” shown here in the lower right hand corner of the promo flyer, new limited edition giclee (fine art) prints, devotional posters, and note cards for sale. I will also have a selection of items of the “Creation Illumination,” shown below, to help raise funds for organizations working to protect endangered species.

Hope to see some of you there!

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How to Bloom

From my morning reading. Spring blessings.

How to Bloom

The almond trees in bloom: all we can accomplish here is to ever know ourselves in our earthly appearance.

I endlessly marvel at you, blissful ones—at your demeanor, the way you bear your vanishing adornment with timeless purpose. Ah, to understand how to bloom: then would the heart be carried beyond all milder dangers, to be consoled in the great one.

-Rilke, Uncollected Poems
(Translation Macy/Barrows)

Art: Vincent Van Gogh, Almond Tree Blossoms

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

Revolutionary Love & Giving Thanks

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From my November Newsletter:
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.
-Aeschylus

Dear Friends:
I first discovered this quote from the Greek tragedian Aeschylus while doing research in graduate school a decade ago. Robert Kennedy had recited this to a crowd during a campaign stop upon hearing of the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. Kennedy was speaking to a grieving nation and it also resonated deeply with my own grief journey after the deaths of my brother and mother 25 years ago.

If we don’t turn away and numb the pain, those profound moments of loss that we all experience have the power to break open our hearts and to remind us of that which is most essential. Love, family (biological or chosen), health, community…a peaceful, sustainable, and just world. And for me, beauty and art of course.

Today, in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the abhorrent backlash against those of the Islamic faith, most of whom likewise desire a safe home, food on the table, and a peaceful world, may we have the wisdom to recognize that we are one human family.

I continue to be inspired by my experience at the Parliament of World Religions last month with so many inspiring visionaries from all faith traditions. A Sikh woman, Valerie Kaur, spoke of Revolutionary Love. I’m attaching the video link here and hope that you will be equally as inspired by her message.

Like many of you, I feel deeply the heaviness of our world but give thanks for this precious gift of life in all its complexities and possibilities. Thank you for your support and as always, I welcome your thoughts.

A blessed Thanksgiving to all.

In gratitude and love,
Amy

Re-Visioning Our Holy Earth

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I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Renée Phillips with The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS is an initiative of Manhattan Arts International based in NYC. She is a fierce advocate for the arts and artists and am grateful to her for all that she brings to our world. I feel honored that Renée invited me to join her curated collective of artists whose work holds the intention of healing—self, other, world. You can view my profile, paintings, and other artists at this link. I am also contributing a few short articles around my work for her blog. The first one is “Re-visioning our Holy Earth” around the sacred vision for my work around the healing of the earth.

Re-visioning our Holy Earth
The vision for my work is founded on the belief that the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis. That those of us in the developed West have become so far removed from our innate interconnectedness in the web of life that we are destroying the land base on which all life is dependent. This way of being has evolved over the millennia beginning, in part, with the rise of monotheistic religious traditions that worship a transcendent God, while rejecting the sacred within all creation out of fear of being associated with paganism adding to the terror of eternal life in a future hell versus a paradisal heaven. Continue reading at this link.

About HPAA: The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS is an initiative of Manhattan Arts International www.manhattanarts.com. Founded by Renée Phillips the purpose is to promote the healing benefits of art. We raise awareness about the artists, art programs and organizations that use art to enhance the vitality and well-being of individuals, communities, society and the environment.

The Journey from Taos Pueblo

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Started in 1997.
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The completed painting in 2015.
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The photo that inspired the painting.

In 1997, I traveled to New Mexico to see and experience the landscape that informed the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, who had always been such an inspiration to me as an artist and an independent woman living on her own in the desert. I was awed by the beauty and holiness of that land and this piece in particular was inspired by my visit to the Taos Pueblo.

I have been thinking about how this painting has been leaning up against the wall in two homes and this studio and was never completed until this month. But 18 years ago, my world was very different. I was still grieving the deaths of my brother and my mother (you can read more about that here) and my painting was more therapy for me than vocation. For example, when I dusted this painting off recently, there was a rough sketch of a skeleton in the doorway.

Darkness still pervaded my world. I was also studying figurative sculpture at the time, enjoying the experience of working with clay and live models. But as a friend recently point out as well, I was also in the midst of what I have come to refer to as my “balls-to-the-walls” years as a graphic designer. The bulk of my freelance work at that time was with tech companies like Intel and hp although I had some smaller accounts like Cascade AIDS Project. I didn’t know how to say no then and was putting in somewhere around 70 hours a week working from one deadline to the next.

It was insanity. By the time the dot.com boom crashed and all that business dried up in 2000, I was managing several other designers and grossing $250,000 plus a year. I had a fat bank account but I wasn’t happy. Material possessions held little interest for me since the deaths though I was blessed to buy the sweet 1907 house that I was renting and fixed that up. Paid off my student loans. I also bought my father hearing aides and his first computer. I could help my sister(s) out financially when necessary. Grateful for all of it but at the end of the day, what is it that we are here to do?

Amidst all this frantic busyness, I was volunteering at the Dougy Center facilitating grieving children and the eight years that I spent there witnessing the healing of those children and families is the work I am most proud of in this life. Even though everyone around me including my father and our culture told me that I was a “success,” because I was making a lot of money, I knew in my soul through my own grief journey that life was precious and I was here to follow my heart—with my art and live a life in service to others. I just didn’t know how to make that happen, so life sent me another wake-up call.

In late 2000, I experienced another loss that triggered the profound grief that I had been unable to fully embody a decade before when I was 30 years old. This time, I had the time, money, and spaceousness to dive into it and had several healers including body/energy workers, an acupuncturist, therapist and life coach working with me to process it all. I believe everyone should have access to this type of community healing not just the typical three days off from work to grieve and get back to “normal” which is the heart of so much of our individual and collective trauma in our world. I was fortunate and this was a deeply transformative period of my life that opened the door for me to follow this path of art, spirit, and earth healing that I have been sharing with you over the years.

So in cleaning out the studio this month, I pulled out this painting as you can see at the top. Over the years, I have intentionally avoided creating art inspired by Native American indigenous spirituality as I am mindful of not borrowing from their tradition as a white person. I feel comfortable with the art I have created from the Andean spirituality as I learned and experienced directly from teachers in Peru who want to share their wisdom with those of us in the North. But for some reason this piece asked to be completed at this time. I included the image of Kokopelli that is on the sweet little seed pot (shown here) that I purchased at the Taos Pueblo although I didn’t know he was a fertility deity until after I completed the painting and a friend shared that with me.

Fifteen years later, I am continuing to walk this path and not sure where the journey will take me as I follow my mantra to “Make art. Make Love. Make a Difference.” And beauty making. Always beauty. There is less financial security but there really never is, even if you work for a large corporation. So much is changing in our world. Leap and trust. From the poet David Whyte:

Now is the path
of leaving the path.

And we hear our own voice
demanding of ourselves
a faith in no-path,
when there is no faith at all.

And moving forward takes feral courage,
opens the wildest
most outrageous light of all,

becomes the hardest path of all.
The firm line we drew in the sand
becomes a river we will not cross.

But the river of the soul flows on
and the soul
refuses safety until it finds the sea.

(excerpt from Millennium)

Season of Light and Peace

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Mother Mary ©Amy Livingstone

From my December newsletter:
“I thought of the wandering air–its pureness, which is its beauty; the air touched me and gave me something of itself. I spoke to the sea: though so far, in my mind I saw it, green at the rim of the earth and blue in deeper ocean; I desired to have its strength, its mystery and glory. Then I addressed the sun, desiring the soul equivalent of his light and brilliance, his endurance and unwearied race. I turned to the blue heaven over, gazing into its depth, inhaling its exquisite colour and sweetness. The rich blue of the unattainable flower of the sky drew my soul towards it, and there it rested, for pure colour is rest of heart. By all these I prayed; I felt an emotion of the soul beyond all definition; prayer is a puny thing to it, and the word is a rude sign to the feeling, but I know no other.” -Richard Jefferies, The Story of My Heart as rediscovered by Brooke and Terry Tempest Williams.

Holyday Greetings
I have been savoring this sweet little hymnal-like book that praises the glory of the natural world, slowness, beauty, and the life of soul and wanted to share this excerpt with you. A little breath of presence and spaciousness during what can often be a hectic time of year for so many people. Must this be so? After harvest, our ancestors rested in the quietude of the season and am grateful for these upcoming months when we can turn our energies inward providing rich soil for the soul and for the blossoming of our creativity. “Pure colour is rest of heart.” As with Mother Mary here, the embodiment of the Divine Feminine in the Christian tradition, the sacred blue that Jefferies references several times brings a feeling of peace. There’s been a lot written over the years about the re-emergence of the Divine Feminine for which I am grateful especially in terms of our (inter)relationship with the living earth. 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.”

During this holy time of year as we move towards Hanukkah, Solstice, the return of the light, and the birth of the Christ light in us all, may we remember and nurture the Divine Feminine into being. This 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. Let peace come to our hearts and to our world. This is my prayer. (Read more about Nurturing the Divine Feminine here.)

There are upcoming shows and will be returning to my graduate school alma mater, Marylhurst University, to present a paper at a conference in March but will share all this in next month’s newsletter. This day, I send you each holyday blessings and my deepest gratitude to all for your ongoing support of this ministry of sacred art and earth healing.

For love of the EARTH!
Amy