Alchemical Art: Angst Becomes Creation

In beautiful, wide-ranging post, Sybil at Art of the Spirit offers this about the place of the artist in the world as translator of the sou:

The artist opens the door to the present moment which is the only place to truly experience of the Divine. It is silly to try and pretend that darkness does not exist in the world, that we could exist without sadness, anger or pain. Artists help us to name and experience these emotions… to locate these feelings in the universal experience, their part in the never-ending upward spiral toward the Universal Maker which snakes from light to dark and back again.

What a brilliant reminder of how vital it is to respect and heed artists for the vital services they perform in our societies.

Chris Metcalf, Bikes, Lights and a Sledder (everystockphoto.com
Chris Metcalf, Bikes, Lights and a Sledder (everystockphoto.com

Today I am particularly struck by Sybil’s words because I feel like my walk across campus was like passing through a gauntlet of emotions. Every pair of students and every cell phone carrying individual I passed was engaged in heated conversation. There was no single, energizing event happening at the college that had everyone excited. People were just recounting their own dramas, all of which sounded like they were full of angst and strife.

A girl steamed angrily because she had been swindled on a car that had already broken down. Another describing how she had reason to storm from someone’s bed that morning. A couple looked to be in the middle of a break up on the library steps. Everywhere were words upon words meant to describe the darkness,anger, and pain mentioned above.

All of these stories seemed too fresh to yet get sublimated into art. The only creative expression was the art of venting. I am of two minds over whether venting equals the necessary release of emotions or an unproductive way to make sure the whole world cries with you. Regardless of what judgments I may have wanted to passed as I walked through all this venom and exegesis, all sorts of unpleasant was reality flying about.

No doubt, there is great creative potential to be uncovered on the other side of grief or getting really pissed off. I guess the magnitude of one’s creative power can be measured in how quickly that the alchemy can be performed that turns all that darkness into soul-enriching gold.

In my life, there has been a time for emotions – be they joy or grief, and then a time to of quietude to distill those feelings into a cocktail of (hopefully) artful words. Admittedly, the second stage, when I make something enduring from those great waves of feeling has always the optional stage. If I did get around to turning it all my real life drama into inspired creations, it all happened much later when I felt the dust had settled enough to make way for artistic inspiration.

But as I listen to all the frenzied conversations around campus, I realize how much energy is being released (wasted?) in such sessions.  What if I decide to harness my own such energy and choose to pour it onto the page? As fast as possible, not days later when I have already bored friends with my outrage.  I don’t want this to happen at the expense of living in the moment, but I wonder how this approach would color my waking life.  Can it help me cultivate the perspective of a creator, one who is always mining for the material to engage the next fit of creative fancy?

And then I wonder how my relationship with language and communication might change if I started reserving a portion of my passion that so often squandered on gossip and indignation.  Would it help me to realize that words matter? Would it give new potency to all that I do chose to voice?

At first, implementing this change may mean that I am writing down my frustrations rather than speaking them aloud.  Eventually though I am dreaming that the magic that is art may begin to invade and I will find a way to enact some of what Sybil describes, to help locate elation and defeat in the “universal experience.”

Tossing Aside the Halo

Sister Mary Epiphany has left the building.

img_2031By that I do not mean that I am making a departures from being the Girl Who Cried Epiphany. Instead, I am giving up on my bid for sainthood.

This whole awakening to my true self and realigning with my spirit has been a long time coming. There has been time to consider the girl I was and the woman I started to be. There has been anger at the mistakes I made. Fortunately, it has taken some time, but I have come around to forgive a lot of those failures and cruelties and misjudgments.

In this whole process of eliminating all of the static that was sidetracking me from really figuring out what I wanted from life and what I was meant to do in my time on the planet, I forced myself into a type of penitence that was probably more extreme than the modern Catholic Church would ever have asked from me.

I lavished my energy on trying to undo the wrongs of the past by looking as benevolently as possible on my present. A good plan, for certain, but the way I was going about it all was rather exhausting.

A friend and I would discuss the differences between necessary venting and soul-sapping complaining. I would see her point about how repression is a really bad thing, but I was pretty convinced that I had to mind my manners and police my exclamations of frustration as much as I could. I had years of snarky negativity to make up for. It was time to start accentuating the positive and willing the negative into oblivion. No matter what I was going to clean up my act and letting the universe know that all along I had secretly been a compassionate, tender person trapped under a brash and bristly exterior.

Of course, it was impossible to be so unbearably good all the time. Invariably, the angst would bubble forth and I’d end up feeling so damn guilty for getting lost in the crusade to find my inner bodhisattva. Not only was a mean and dark-tinged person, I was also lousy at being a good person!

(No worries, I am quite aware of the ridiculous nature of these extremes. It just seems I have to walk through these sudden fires to learn my lessons all too often!)

But lately, I realize that some things are just, well, true. It is still more than true that everyone is carrying around her own universe and that infinite galaxy of experience deserves honor. But, it is also true that sometimes people are uninspired or lazy of bigoted or just plain nasty.

dsc00207Recognizing that every unique snow flake of a human being who crosses my path may not be pleasant or kind doesn’t have to lessen my commitment to spreading love and light. Instead, it offers a much needed reality check. And beyond just recognizing that some people are not fulfilling their potential as bearers of similar light, I am now allowing myself to admit that I do not have to like them or excuse them.

I have found great freedom in just being able to say, “Yeah, well, we know he’s always been arrogant and dismissive. So what?” I think that it is ok to recognize something like that and then just move on, incorporating that knowledge as necessary so the job can get done and the day can still flow along.

When I got tangled up in delusions of grace, trying to look with my benevolent, saintly eyes on all of the ugliness in the world, I was left feeling too unmoored. I was not living fully in reality when I refused to admit that sometimes I got angry and sometimes things were unfair and sometimes people were disappointing.

So, I think I will probably lose my place on the ballot to be voted the next Saint of the Hudson Valley. But hey, the angels just might be ok with occasionally letting my otherwise kind heart tell it like it is…

And First I Promise to Look Within: Healing the Self to Heal Others

Lugano, Switzerland

“Physician, heal thyself.”

I never actually understood what that meant, and until just now I did not even realize it was a proverb from the Gospel of Luke.

What sort of medicine people was Jesus addressing? How did the middle eastern doctors of 2000 years ago approach their craft? Would I recognize the roots of my own energy healing work or were they the precursors of the conventional western practitioners of today? Was it about getting deep into the causes of dis-ease or were they offering pills to treat the symptoms?

Undoubtedly, there are countless excellent, compassionate MDs out there, dedicated professionals who look at their patients as entire beings and not just a chest cold or an infection or a bout of depression. At the same time, the grueling nature of medical school and a health care system that is focused on quantity and expediency rather than quality and attention must make it impossible for most modern physicians to really focus on their own well being.

This is not intended to be a rant about the state of modern medicine or any claim that what I am learning and practicing is any better than anyone else’s path. Instead, I play with this quotation because I am considering how I must heal myself before I will ever effectively heal anyone else.

If I ever make any claims to have arrived as a healer or as a conscious individual, I am deeply sunk in a damaging illusion. This is not the self deprecating cry of a person lacking confidence. It is simply the awareness that I am new here in the world of healing and wisdom and faith and have more to learn during every moment of every day. I can only pray for an open heart and an open mind and the love of patient people who will help foster this new rush of passion I find growing within me.

Today I found myself growing frustrated by some whom I love and respect .  She just can’t seem to quit sweating the small stuff. I just wanted to ask her to evaluate the steady stream of complaint and reaction that kept flowing from her lips and help her realize how unhelpful it all is – both to herself and her audience.

Even as this urge welled up inside me and my look of disbelief began to play across my face as she continued to speak, I knew that I was listening with ears of judgment, not of compassion. I climbed up on my spiritual high horse and began to pity her for the ways she squandered her energy and let every setback shake her to the core.

Later, worried about my own reaction to the situation, I described it all to a kind and generous friend who helped me talk through it all until I realized that I was not really upset with this woman’s behavior, but by the shadows of myself that I saw in her. The moment I allowed myself to sit behind my eyes and toss my enlightened mane, I was not greeting her with healing energy, but instead with the cold detachment of someone relieved that she knew a better way to live.

I needed to feel this flash of shame so I could step back and remember that I am a novice at this pursuit of living a wise and graceful life. The good work I can offer to the world must first flow through me, body, mind and spirit. Only when I have drank deep my own medicine can I reach out and confidently offer it to others.