Thursday, February 13, 2014

How I got over my fear of people, or Friendship is Magic!!



Hi friends! I hope you're all well and having a fabulous year so far. I just got back from my second silent meditation retreat and thought I'd share some stories with you all. If you've ever felt called to do this kind of thing, I highly recommend it! Being on retreat is like nothing else. You laugh, you cry, you sit in silence with 100 strangers and somehow feel like you've know them for years. You step into a deeper knowing of yourself and the world around you. This retreat that I went on was called The Buddha's Way to Happiness and it was lead by Lila Wheeler and Howard Cohen at the Insight Meditation Society. They run this retreat annually, and after attending last year, I decided to keep coming back.

The front door to the Insight Meditation Society.

One of the things that really came up for me on this retreat was how to be in community. Upon arriving I felt totally oversensitive and overwhelmed by the amount of people there, which led to lots of anxiety for the first day and a half. This was basically a concentration of something I deal with every day as a sensitive person in the world. How to remain centered and open in my heart, while still maintaining healthy boundaries and not enmeshing too much in other people's energy. Honestly, I am usually just a little bit anxious whenever I leave the house, but I have lots of tools for dealing with that, and it doesn't tend to slow me down.

So, the first part of the retreat brought up some challenging stuff for me, but I relied on the teachings and the practice and just remained present with whatever came up. I listened to the messages that my body was sending my mind and remembered to be gentle. Things began to shift as I started allowing myself to act on my authentic wisdom, rather than following the schedule and going to every single session of meditation. For some of them I would do walking meditation instead of sitting, or I would go outside and play in the woods. If the dining hall felt too overwhelming during meals, I would find a quieter place to eat. I realized that in allowing myself to act from my own wisdom, I was building a relationship of trust with myself.

On the second night of the retreat, Lila gave a beautifully inspiring dharma talk. One of the things she spoke about was the concept of friendship, and treating yourself with kindness. As she spoke, the realization sunk in that I was making friends with myself! Then the wisdom deepened, and I thought, "What if I just think of everyone I meet as my friend?!" At that moment, every single bit of anxiety that I had been holding melted away. I felt it all leave my body, felt my muscles relax, and my heart open. All of a sudden I felt engaged and aware of the whole room and everyone in it, and my own being fitting comfortably within that. I looked around at all the people and instead of feeling overwhelmed and claustrophobic, I felt connected and safe. My breathing came easily and my energy field expanded around me. Was this what it felt like to live without that constant anxiety? Possibly.

A beautiful vintage Quan Yin statue.

For the rest of the retreat I experimented with that concept of friendship and relationship. I found that the more I deepened my relationship to myself, the more I felt comfortable in community. This is not a new idea, its one I've been thinking about for years, but at the retreat I was actually living and embodying this concept, which helped me to learn it in a whole new way. My cells were learning trust and safety. The physical muscle that is my heart was learning to relax and open into compassion because my mind simply gave it space and permission.

So, now when I leave the house sometimes I do still feel that anxiety, but I don't react. I don't panic. I respond with gentleness and kindness, the way I would if I was with an anxious friend. And somehow, that response allows the anxiety to have the space it needs to voice its concern about whatever is happening, which tends to diffuse it. I've even started sending it gratitude, because the anxious parts of me are still me. In order to treat others with love and respect and hold space for their healing, I've got to be able to treat my whole self with that same love and respect.

What it all comes down to is being in right relationship with ourselves, so that we can be in right relationship with each other and the world. That is how we make change. Our self-care and healthy practices plant seeds wherever we go. We become mirrors for the reality that we wish to see. So, it's really all about waking up every morning and deciding to give yourself an amazing day! Even if you've got obligations, or tough things to work through. If you are your own best friend you can move through anything with ease and grace, and also ask for support when you need it.

Once I made friends with my initial anxiety, I was able to relax into the present moment and actually have some fun! Here's one of the really awesome experiences I had:


The room that I stayed in at the retreat had a window that looked out onto this yard. On the third day, I was sitting in front of it looking out and I realized that the tiny thing poking out of the snow was the head of a buddha! You can see it in the picture, its in the little alcove by where the forest starts. So, I realized that there was probably a buddha under the snow and decided to go dig him out. I went out and dug out a little area around him. He was a very nice stone buddha with some pretty mala beads and a crystal in his hands. It only took a minute to uncover him and I still wanted to play in the snow, so I got the idea to make a big spiral around one of the trees. I started right where I was at the buddha and walked spiraling in to the tree. When I got to the center I hugged the tree and walked back out all along the spiral. I got back to the buddha and decided to widen the spiral a few times. Then it felt done, so I went back inside.

I watched it for a little while from my window to see if anyone would notice it and how people would interact with it. There was definitely a bit of ego involved there, which was fun to observe lightly. I wondered if anyone had seen me make it, and how their view of me would change. I wondered if I would ever have a chance to tell anyone that I made it, if people would talk about it at the end of the retreat. But more than the ego trip of having created something very public where there nothing before, there was a feeling of wanting to give beauty to the world that went deeper than my attachment to the work and my want for recognition. There was a selfless quality to the giving of this creation to the world. I watched someone walk out of the woods and see the spiral, and the look of joy and surprise on her face was apparent all the way from my window. It was so deeply fulfilling to me to be able to witness her in that moment and to know, in a deeper way than ego knowing, that I had given her an opportunity to experience that moment and she had responded simply by looking up and noticing. It was the gratitude and joy of giving.

So, that was all pretty wonderful, but then I saw someone actually walking the spiral!! Again, I could feel her joy and focused presence from my window. She was totally absorbed and aware in every step that she took along the spiral. I watched her bow to the buddha, spiral into the tree, hug the tree, and spiral out again. And this is where my heart really opened, because I had this amazing realization as I watched her do this same thing that I had just done. I realized that she, too, was now a creator of the path! Yes, I had been the first one to lay it down, but as she added her footsteps to mine in the snow, the spiral took on her energy as well. So now it was created by both of us.

At that point ego fell away. I was no longer thinking of the spiral as mine, but as a shared sacred space for anyone who chose to have it. This form that I had walked for half an hour in the snow to create, continued to be created and recreated by the community around me. It was the most beautiful gift I could think of as an artist and it really made me think about my art and my life path in a different way. My artistic intention has always been to add beauty and sacredness to the world and to bring people together to share that. This experience brought me back to that pure intention, crystalizing and solidifying it, and bursting my heart wide open in the process.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ascension

Happy new year! I just finished another painting! It's called Ascension. The timing of this piece feels really good to me because it's all about connection with spirit, grounding that energy, and creating from that place. I'm intending a lot of that in 2014! The crystals included in the painting are apophyllite points. Apophyllite is a beautiful stone of love and light energy. It opens the crown chakra and third eye and gently, but strongly, brings divine light energy into the energy field. It's a great stone for connecting with angels and spirit guides. It calms the mind, expands the awareness, and enhances dreams and journeys. Apophyllite is one of my favorite stones and it felt so right to be incorporated into this piece.
Ascension. Watercolor, gold pen, paper, wood, acrylic paint, epoxy, clear glaze, and apophyllite.



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Spiritbird Flying Free!

Spiritbird has been born! This painting is about resilience, freedom, joy, and rising up through darkness to light. Its about honoring your darkness by letting it fuel your flight towards the light. I started this painting a year and a half ago, worked on it for a few months, and then put it down for over a year. I kept wondering why I wasn't called to finish it, but something deep inside of me knew that it wasn't time. Looking back, I see that I didn't yet have some of the tools and skills necessary to finish it. I also had not yet spread my wings and taken flight in my own life. When I started Spiritbird I was at the beginning of a journey of self discovery. Now, a year and a half and a lot of adventures later, I feel free, empowered, and present in my life. This past year has been the most amazing and transformative year of my life and I see that reflected in the flight of Spiritbird. May all of your spirits fly free and may your hearts steer the way.

Spiritbird

Pink and green tourmaline beads for pure hearted intentions, wooden beads for stability and a constant sense of home, copper beads for vitality and conducting of energy, and a sapphire bead for clarity and wisdom.

Four double terminated crystals to honor and connect the four directions.

Title, signature, and sacred energy symbol on the back.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tarot spread for all of us in this new year!

Last week I pulled a few cards for the community, the world, and all the energy that is shifting around right now. I want to share the messages I received, may they resonate outward.


First, the one of disks jumped out of the deck! It has been on my altar since the full moon in cancer and seems to represent some key energy that is coming into fruition. This is a time of birth. We must remember this in all moments. We are being born together and we can choose to be very gentle about it. There is potential for profound planetary healing, if we make that choice.
Then the spiritual leaders card and two of swords jumped out of the deck while I was shuffling more. They are telling us to bring our different viewpoints together for the best of every being. The healing of this planet is like a big puzzle and we all have different pieces that are necessary to see the whole. We must honor these differences and see them as assets to the whole, not as separation. Now is a time of spirit, we must find the spirit within each of us and let that be our compass. When we are living in our hearts anything is possible!
Then I drew the card on the bottom of the deck and it was the healer of disks. Healing the planet. This is what we were made for, no task is too much for us. We were born into this time and place for a reason. You have the potential for profound healing, even if you don't know it yet. Its time for each of us to step into our highest power, align with our heartflame, and remember that we are all connected. We are all dancing love energy and we can choose to embody that in any moment.

(The deck used is The Tarot of Transformation by Willow Arlenea)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rainbows, fire, and transformation!

Happy new year!! I hope you all had a wonderful time. December was full of intense transformational energy for many people. The solstice was especially powerful for me, I was able to be in an amazing sacred space of love with many members of my community. We prayed together, played music, danced, and sang together, meditated together, wove our visions together, and stayed up until dawn. It was so refreshing and wonderful to be in such a positive intentional community. Between the solstice and the new year, I did a lot of work releasing old energy and patterns that were no longer serving me.

Weaving rainbow dreams, visions, and intentions on the solstice. My two oldest quartz crystals, set of 5 special golden lemurian crystals, and my angel phantom quartz crystal in a shell given to me by aphrodite in a vision, then found on the beach. 


On new years eve I did my first firewalk!!! It was absolutely incredible. It was lead by Stephanie Foy of Dimensions in Healing in a beautiful space in Vermont. Stephanie is an amazing person and led the whole ceremony with strength, grace, and open hearted presence. There were about 16 people there from all different places and backgrounds. I was shy when I first got there, because I didn't know anyone, but by the end of the night we all felt so connected and recognized the divine spark of love and light in each of us. 

We all put our intentions into the wood, piece by piece. Hopes and dreams for the future, things we wanted to release, and things we wanted to invite into our lives. Our fire tender, Charlotte, built a wood pile, then we all took turns pouring oil over it and giving voice to those things inside of us that were really tough and needed release, integration, or just more mindfulness and countering them with affirmations.

Then we all lit it on fire!!

...and it was so beautiful.

While charlotte stayed with the fire as it burned down to coals, we all went back inside to prepare for the walk. One of the things that we did was an arrow breaking ceremony. This powerful ritual was originally created by Peggy Dylan, founder of the Sundoor International Firewalking School. The whole idea is to move out of our fear response and into our power, breaking through whatever is holding us back and stepping forward into embodying our highest selves. This is one of the most powerful and healing things I've ever done in my entire life and at the time I was absolutely sure I couldn't do it. I watched everyone else breaking their arrows on the first try and I just couldn't imagine myself actually breaking the arrow. Then I got up to do it, even though I still didn't believe I could. Stephanie had me place the arrow at my throat.  It was time to step forward through my obstacles, and break the arrow, but I still didn't believe I could do it. I stepped forward, but the arrow didn't break! It felt impossibly solid and all of my negative beliefs grew stronger. We tried it one more time and I felt closer, but still couldn't break the arrow. Stephanie told me to take a minute and breath, so I did. She said that I could always break it over my knee, but I knew that to fully release my old fears and negativity I had to break this arrow against my throat. So we tried one more time with the whole group chanting "forward". I took three deep breaths, lunged forward, and broke the arrow!! It was a truly transformational moment. Up until the very last second I did not believe that I could do it, not until the arrow snapped and everyone cheered. With the breaking of the arrow I felt all of my beliefs about myself shift and all of the old negativity fell away. It was amazing, and I'm so grateful to Stephanie and everyone there for holding that space so that transformation could unfold.

Close to midnight, it was time to walk the coals. We all went out to the fire, a few people set up drums, and Stephanie and Charlotte raked out the coals into a path for us to walk. As the path was done and we were ready to walk, it became 2013! We started drumming and chanting and lined up to walk the fire. It was so wonderful to see all these people, who had been strangers hours before, stepping up and making to choice to walk across a bed of 1200-1500 degree coals in their bare feet. Everyone there was truly inspiring. I walked a bunch of times and it was so fun! I have always wanted to do a firewalk, so I wasn't ever scared of it. I knew there would be pain, that is part of the experience. I walked the fire with pure joy, and felt so free and clear and open. It was a space of intense love and connection and I'm so grateful that I got to be there and share that with all the lovely people I met there. What a great way to start the year!!

These are coals from the fire. They feel especially powerful in this glass pyramid. The crystal top was a moment of serendipity. I was thinking about what I could use as a top, and had a few crystals on my desk, so I picked one up and tried it out. It was a perfect fit! It happens to be a really amazing crystal because it has two portals, or little windows, as you can see in the picture below.

That diamond shaped face is a portal, sometimes called a time-link. There is another one on the other side of the crystal.


So, that was all pretty amazing. I started this new year feeling light and free, feeling open and connected to my heart center, and I still feel it! I did so much release work in December that I opened up all of this space and potential inside of myself. I feel my energy flowing freely and strongly. I especially feel connected to rainbow light energy. This new phase of rainbow light energy started with a vision that I had on the solstice. As time has past since then I've been able to integrate this energy, play with it, and learn about it. Now, whenever I do energy work, the energy that comes is this pure rainbow light that pours easily from the universe through my heart center. I am so excited to share this energy and spread the rainbow love all over the planet!

Lastly, here is a picture of Bruiser because he's adorable. :)