Happy Autumn Equinox! This is a time to balance and recalibrate after the summer. It's a day of equal light and darkness - a time to reflect on balancing opposite energies. What kind of balance are you cultivating in your life right now? Who do you need to be and what do you need to do in order to achieve and maintain this balance or at least continually cycle back to it during this new season? Fall is a time of reflection, change, and transformation -- so the question is: how do you best stay balanced in the midst of change?
I've been working with the image of a redwood tree in one of Kim Hermanson's fabulous classes and I offer this as a tool to you for today or this season. A redwood tree balances a deeply-rooted, strong and stable trunk with a vast height. When we work with imagery metaphorically, it's useful to BECOME the image in our mind's eye. So if we close our eyes and become a redwood tree in our mind's eye, we feel this balance of stability combined with far-reaching sight. We feel our groundedness and endurance in any weather while both seeing the interconnected grove around us and producing our branches and leaves. I invite you to play around with becoming a redwood tree in your mind's eye OR to allow another image to come to mind when you think of balance in the midst of change and to become that image instead. Feel into it and notice all that you possibly can. Write down your experience and use it as a guide for the fall season.
I initially started my Four Seasons project in the winter. During this time, I was going through an intense grieving process due to the recent ending of a long-term relationship. The finished project (a video) ultimately became too vulnerable-feeling for me to share publicly but here are some frames to give you a sense of it.
In late fall and winter, I was in the height of my grief. My days and nights were filled with tears and a dizzying cycle through the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In addition to the assistance of my healers and loved ones, I knew I needed to create art in order to constructively work through all of these emotions and so I began by writing a poem to capture what this process and season was like for me. I had had this strong metaphoric imagery coming to me that I had closed the door to the past and was now just sitting at this door processing all of these big feelings. I titled the poem, Winter at the Door.
The imagery was so strong, I wanted to expand beyond the poem. I scouted out a good door to use and enlisted a friend and creative collaborator (huge thanks to Candace Roberts) to shoot photos of me ritually acting out the poem in front of the door. With hundreds of photos to sort through, I set out to learn the intricacies of iMovie and then spent hours upon hours editing these photos into a stop-motion video set to an audio track of me reading the poem. This was a labor of love and grief. When waves of grief arose within me, I welcomed them and used them as fuel to keep going on this project.
Acting out the poem at the door and having this witnessed was a powerful, embodied experience and then watching it come to life on the screen gave me an important bird's eye perspective on all I had been working through emotionally. A part of the poem addressed my propensity for rumination and I chose to show this via a flashback montage of sweet and loving photos from this several-year-long relationship. This part was both difficult and beautiful to work on -- although it was painful to sift through these photos, it felt like a way to deeply honor this love while at the same time, call myself out on my patterns and the ways in which I still needed to grow and heal.
Every piece of this project was a salve for me: it kept me focused and moving forward through challenging days, it gave me a chance to express and be witnessed in all aspects of this grief, and it allowed me to honor this painful story of love, learning, and loss. I wanted to share the process of this project even though I'm not sharing the video itself because it is a perfect example of the power of creative expression as a tool for growth and healing. I am beyond grateful to have had this tool available to me during this time.
The creative process is a reflection of our internal world - our struggles, our fears, our passions, our joys. There is an endless amount of information we can gather from the thoughts and feelings that arise in us when we face a blank page or canvas. This morning, I sat down to do a creative meditation - to sketch whatever comes to mind and see what unfolds.
And today, everything flowed - the image in my mind easily translated to the page, I liked the colors on the paper, and I simply kept sketching and coloring until the image felt complete. I found myself having fun throughout the whole process and this totally threw me off! Wasn't I supposed to screw something up? Wrestle with something I didn't like? Judge a choice I made in this process? It can't be *this* enjoyable, I thought... maybe I'm doing this wrong? Hmmm.
Buddhists tell us that life is suffering - and often it is, from little daily annoyances to intense grief. Sometimes we can get so used to living in the midst of some struggle or another — some pain, drama, ever-repeating lesson — that when there is no struggle, we aren't quite sure what to do with ourselves. We actually feel uncomfortable. Gay Hendricks calls this an Upper Limit Problem — when we only allow ourselves to be so happy or successful or for things to be so easy before we start doubting, sabotage ourselves, and seek out the old familiar struggle or pain. Oh yes, I've danced this dance before. Can you relate?
I realized I needed to give myself permission to simply experience the ease and joy I was feeling while I sketched today so, I did - and it was really fucking nice. The hope here, friends, is that having now experienced this with my sketch, when the stakes are higher and I hit my upper limit out in the world, I can remember this experience and more easily give myself permission to feel joy, success, or ease. This is what this creative practice work is all about. If it piques your interest, I’ll be offering opportunities to practice this with me later this year so stay tuned.
I’m honestly pretty bad at plain old meditation. I prefer some form of active, creative meditation which, for the past few years, has taken the form of coloring in coloring books. I was recently coloring and was reminded of what a powerful form of meditation it is. I felt so inspired by it, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops and share it with everyone I knew. So, I decided I would color a flower mandala and post it here — no matter how it turned out — as a way to inspire others. Once I committed to posting it “no matter how it turned out,” I obviously wanted it to look pretty fabulous — and then of course, all of the things went wrong…
As I was coloring, a few of the colors bled into one another; the paper started pilling; one marker ran out of ink halfway through and I had to improvise with a similar color; I didn’t end up liking some of the colors I chose once I saw them on the paper; and I kept accidentally coloring outside of the lines! As I experienced each of these mishaps, I noticed a part of me that was very frustrated, worried if this flower would be inspiring and lovely enough to share, and wanted to throw in the towel and start a new one altogether. But every time, a smaller, softer voice chimed in and reminded me that regardless of the end result, I was meditating - a practice of simply staying in the present moment and continuing to color. I chose to listen to this softer voice over and over again until I finished the mandala.
Once it was complete, and having persevered through my various mistakes and doubts, I decided to do a bit of active imagination (Jungian dialogue) with the flower and ask it if it had anything to tell me. It said: “Despite my imperfections, I am boldly blossoming.” I loved this so much; it was exactly what I needed to hear - and don’t we all need this reminder? This year, I’m committed to sharing with you more about my imperfect creations, attempts at meditation practice, and messy creative process so I can boldly blossom as a creative human being. What about you? Is there anything you’re committed to persevering through - despite any imperfections - and boldly blossoming in 2019?