The Dreamcatcher

Years ago, I wove hundreds of dreamcatchers.  It was a very challenging time in my life.  I don’t remember how I discovered the dreamcatcher…but when I did, I found that designing and weaving them was healing and engaging in a way that I hadn’t expected.  I gathered supplies, hoops, twigs, willow, waxed threads, leather strips, feathers and beads.  Each dream catcher was a unique creation.  For me, this indigenous craft held deep meaning…and they were to be shared.  I gave one to each of my family members.  A man I met had a booth at a local flea market.  He sold them, keeping a profit for himself.  What they provided for me in the moment was without price.

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Tracy Verdugo taught a class on painting dream catchers.  And then invited us to write a poem.  This poem is written around the outside circle of the dreamcatcher.

Destiny

Lace and ribbons
decorate the frock.
“Forget the dreams.
Get back to the kitchen
and bake me a pie!”
Banish your fantasy of
happy couples and
floral bouquet apologies.

Re-enter the Goddess–
no partial woman is she!
So, you are somebody
after all.
Tell us what you know.
Emergence is what you requested–
sit down and let’s talk over tea.

A wedge of lemon?  Honey?
Ah, the bitter with the sweet.
This you must experience
for yourself.

Lace and ribbons,
wedding day vows–
disguise your sovereign destiny.

 

 

dreamcatcher

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A dreamcatcher is an indigenous symbol–a web, often with a hole in the center.  It is intended to let the bad dreams pass through and to catch the good dreams.  The dreams that guide you towards your highest visions.

There is both power and presence when we create.  What is the dream of the future that you’d like to paint, color, draw, sculpt or weave?  Make your own dream catcher using collage and paint.  Are there words or poetry that go with it?  Write them on your work of art.  Get lost in this process.  Invite others to participate in making their own dreamcatchers.  Share in ways that are available to you at this time.

Stay healthy and safe.

Speaking What I Know

Several years ago, I participated in a theater group.  One of the classes involved choosing, memorizing and reciting a piece.  When something has meaning to me, I am able to connect with it and recite it with presence.  Otherwise, I’m not very fond of public speaking.

This is the piece I chose to recite–an excerpt from a book entitled Woman and Nature by Susan Griffin:

“He says he is not part of this world, that he was set on this world as a stranger.  He sets himself apart from woman and nature.

We are the bird’s eggs.  Bird’s eggs, flowers, butterflies, rabbits, cows, sheep; we are caterpillars; we are leaves of ivy and sprigs of wallflower.  We are women.  We rise from the wave.  We are gazelle and doe, elephant and whale, lilies and roses and peach, we are air, we are flame, we are oyster and pearl, we are girls.  We are woman and nature.  And he says he cannot hear us speak.  But we hear.”

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Herein lies one secret to speaking in front of an audience.  To feel connected to what you read or recite brings power to your voice.  I see acting as something quite different.  In that case, you stand outside of yourself to play the character or you in some way inhabit the character.  However, that feels more difficult and less desirable to me.  To feel passionate about my topic infuses my ability to stand up in front of an audience and speak with authenticity.

I like to be prepared.  I had to become deeply familiar with Susan Griffin’s words.  I would have expressed my love of and deep connection to nature in different words.  Her flow of words, her particular associations, although they expressed a shared belief, weren’t my own.  Memorization of her words and where to put the emphasis when I was reciting was somewhat challenging.  Yet, I met the assignment. It occurred to me that my audience’s values were different than my own–that the subject matter might be something they hadn’t deeply considered.   Regardless, I recited with passion and the hope that my message was understood at a level deeper than the words themselves.

Finally then, it is not up to me how anyone receives what I say.  It is not up to me how anyone interprets my art.  It is only up to me to share it.  That’s what I came here to do, it seems.  For now.

butterfly

 

Conscious Ceremony

In our workaday world, it isn’t often possible to slow things down.  Depending on the demands of your life, your stage of life, where you live, etc., it may seem to be infeasible.  However, years ago, in the midst of a growing family and work outside the home, I began to claim time apart.  I converted a space in the roughly finished garage as my art, craft and sewing studio.  Giving myself this physical place, A Room of One’s Own, facilitated both my creative and contemplative process.

Back to the idea of Conscious Ceremony…Did I mention that I love the morning?  Especially on a day when I don’t have to rush out the door.  I’m working at minimizing adrenaline rushes.  This morning, before I get caught up in the momentum of the day, I’m going to harvest cherries from the cherry tree in my backyard.  This fleeting seasonal gift from the earth–if I don’t pick them soon, they’re going to be overripe or for the birds.  Then I’m going to blend the best cherry smoothie.  Sip it slowly, now, as I greet this day.

When I move into the day, sloooowly, I am able to bring a feeling of ceremony to my activities throughout the day.  Surprisingly, when I start the day in this way, I seem to “get more things done” if that is the goal.

As poets, writers and artists, we deepen into another level when we take such time apart.  Not something crammed into an already jammed schedule.  But truly A TIME APART.  There is a leisure to this  non-ordinary time, as if we had all the time in the world and could actually savor the moment.  This is how we deepen and evolve as creative beings.

This morning offers time enough to write my blog, to write in my journal, to practice drawing, to make my list for the day.  And, to be a witness to the determined sun rising over Quail Ridge.  All of this is ceremony!

Expressing the gratitude I feel for the beauty and appreciating the many wonders is ceremony.  Sipping this amazing smoothie, reveling in the generosity of a tree that shares its gifts with me–this nourishment to my body, mind and spirit.  Such a pure gift.  Deep awareness brought to the morning activities–this is ceremony.

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Taking Time Apart, Conscious Ceremony, can take five minutes or as long as you choose for your busy life.  It’s really the pause that you invite in as you move into your day.  Awareness, gratitude and presence do seem to be the key ingredients of this pause.

Perspectives, Presence, People

I don’t write to convince a reader of my perceptions or thoughts.  I write to express what I see through the story lens of my life as I experience it.  Sometimes, I choose to share what I’m discovering.

I read books and watch films for entertainment and/or to expand my worldview.  It is fascinating to be educated to other ways of being and seeing.

When you follow the old adage “walk a mile in my shoes,” there is an opportunity for something to open up inside of you.

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I have a friend who periodically travels to awaken the heightened awareness that is necessary when one travels.  When she visits somewhere new, she experiences a greater aliveness as she navigates the unfamiliar.   Travel, in one sense, awakens her vitality.

The sameness of one’s environment can lead to a sort of lethargy?  It’s all so familiar.  It seems less likely that I can foster a feeling of novelty of experience in my daily routine than I could if I were traveling?  I recognize within myself the need to really cultivate presence in my daily encounters in order to be a witness to the daily miraculous .  Life is not humdrum.  We are, each one of us, walking, talking wonders.  Yet, because we are familiar, even predictable, I can assume the humdrum in my encounters.  For instance…

Typically, my long-time gardener and friend gives me his litany of complaints about his work.  I then respond in the usual way, commiserating.  I have an expectation that he is going to come and complain and I’ll listen and nod my head and hear him out.  In a certain sense, I’m not present with him in the moment.  I link his complaints together with all the other times he’s come to tend my yard.  I put up a certain sort of inner defense.  Today, as he is out there doing the yard work, I wonder about how I can be more present with him.  Can I choose to really see and hear him, his frustrations and his gratitudes, as if I were meeting him for the first time…that old Buddhist Beginner’s Mind.  Besides, having had recent losses, I do know too well that everything and everyone passes.  Nothing and no one lasts forever.  That realization alone can help bring presence to whatever the day brings.  Today, I’d like to be a bit more present with my friend.  To be a witness to his experience.  To see him anew.  To hear him anew.

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When I am given presence, I recognize it.  And I’m appreciative.

 

Fake It Until You Make It?

Have you experienced anything like this?

A couple of months ago, I attended an art opening.  I wasn’t feeling great.  Regardless, I wanted to attend this opening of two Native American artists, brothers.  One is a painter, the other a sculptor of animals.  I had been studying the mythologies of wise women archetypes, the energies that they represent.  This evening, I asked myself how did I want to presence myself.  I decided to stand taller than I felt.  I envisioned embodying the archetypes of the guardian, the alchemist and the priestess.

When I entered the gallery, one of the brothers approached me immediately and said “Haven’t we met before?” I answered, “No, I don’t think so.” A little while later, his sister approached me and asked the same question, “Haven’t we met before?” Again, “No, I don’t think so.” I told her that her brother had asked the same thing…somehow, I seemed  familiar to them.  Then, a third woman came up to me and repeated the same exact words!

This experience caused me to wonder about how we occupy ourselves.  I am timid.  I didn’t feel good.  Yet, when I called on the archetypes within, I was recognizable to others.  It was interesting to observe this and powerful too.  Yes, I did feel better by having invoked these archetypes which are within me…and you.  And it was reflected back to me by the responses from others.  

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An Aside
This art show was about caretaking the earth. The Native American culture has an ethic of earth preservation. This is illustrated in their art and stories. And in their ceremony, dance and song. The show was called “Reverence.”  I had an interesting conversation with the sister of the artists.  She collects rocks that reveal messages to her. One night she was instructed to go and find a stone. It was dark, mountain lions could be around. She followed the instructions, drove to a certain spot.  Even with her flashlight, she couldn’t find anything.  She got back in the car and was going to go home.  She was instructed to get out of the car once again. She obeyed and realized she was standing on a stone that was partially embedded in the earth. She pulled it free and brought it home. The next morning, she discovered three images in the stone.

Her story makes me wonder how well I listen to the instructions that come to me.

Grounding

From the waist down, imagine your body like a tree trunk.  Grow your roots downward, down, down.  Let these roots sink into the very core of the earth.  Through this grounding cord, release what doesn’t serve you.  Bring up the healing energy of the earth through the soles of your feet, up through your legs and thighs to your tailbone.  Then, loop it down again through the grounding cord.  You are connected.  Overhead, stream down the light of the heavens through your crown chakra and downward through your central channel, downward once again through your grounding cord into the earth.  Align yourself and be in your own center.

Visualizations such as this one taught by Wendy De Rosa, author and teacher, are so helpful in claiming and reclaiming one’s inner balance in chaotic times.

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Writing poetry is another way to get grounded.  Poetry taps into the present.  What are you feeling?  What do you need?  Where are you NOW?  What are you doing NOW?  Poetry lends presence to something that needs your attention in the moment.

To be effective as a grounding tool for your thoughts and feelings,  you have to spend time with poetry.
I’ve noted this before–that haiku is a poetic form that invokes presence.  Each haiku stands alone–a complete expression.  Yesterday morning, I wrote these:

I wake to sunrise
Quail Ridge defined by treetops
Can I trust this day?

To be present now
To cut loose from old trauma
To see this sunrise.

Yesterday’s smoke gone
The body a lightning rod
Remember to ground

Treetops etch the sky
Grateful to see a far ridge
Breath is a wonder

Newly awake, I
feel the bittersweet uprise
of wordless feelings.

Bitter with the sweet
a favorite chocolate treat
I savor it now

There is no one way
To be a human being
There is you…and me

Accepting what is
I turn from yesterday–past.
Have I learned from it?

Writing Prompt:
How do you get grounded when there is chaos?
Is it working for you?
Have you tried the grounding technique above?
Have you tried poetry?
Share what you have learned about grounding.

One of Those “Presence” Poems

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It’s so easy to drift off into the past.  There are those encounters we have during the course of a day that trigger a memory and send us back there whether or not we want to go.  Sometimes, we have a welcome memory.  And choose to linger there or share it with another.  Of course, if you’re writing a memoir, you intentionally revisit this landscape.

However, when the past has too much of a tug…

Today
© by Christine O’Brien

The hummingbird hovers
its elongated tongue
goes right to the core
of the flower.
It sips the nectar,
collects some pollen,
then, onto the next.
Purposeful life.

I linger in the depleted soils
of the past
wandering in and out of memory doorways
like a vagrant
trying to find a friendly hearth.
There is nothing there.

Today, the bulbs have burst into flower.
Today, the sun is warming.
Today, the blossoms are gathering
like a choir,
lifting their throats heavenward
in sweet, scented song.

The hummingbird darts
close to my ear.
I hear the rapid thrum of wings
I hear the wakeup call, “Now.”

Writing Prompt:
Today, notice what tugs at you from the past.  Then, find something in today that brings you back into the here and now.  Write about it in a poem or prose.

Have a nice day.

Haiku Haven

A friend recently said that he liked haiku because they were short enough for him to memorize.  He delighted in writing haiku that did not make sense.  He then recited them to acquaintances who were left perplexed by his Haiku Koans.

Another friend, upon waking, writes haiku as she greets the new day…it has become her morning ritual.  This was also my routine for awhile.  When writing haiku, I enjoyed the feeling of presence. The early morning was a good time to write as I left the dreamworld and entered the waking world.  I could invoke both states, it seemed.

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A brief introduction to haiku.  So far as we know, haiku originated in Japan.  Short poems, usually three lines long, haiku have a total of 17 syllables…5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line and 5 syllables in the third line.  Traditional haiku usually contained a season word that indicated in which season the haiku was set.  The season word isn’t always obvious.  Haiku are little philosophical gems, sometimes with humor.  They can describe almost anything.  Often, they describe daily situations in a refreshing way–creating a new experience of something familiar.  It is always amazing to me that some poetic forms, such as haiku, endure.

Following are a few of my haiku–I allowed myself to veer slightly off 5-7-5 for the sake of meaning:

Springs animation
Mocks her skeletal cage
Risk taken, spirit leaps.

I’ve a perfect view
Of life through eyes that see
The world as it could be.

When summer fades to fall
As love fades into friendship
where does the heart call home?

Tea in the morning
Leaves, twigs, roots, flowers
Connect one to origins.

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Here are a few haiku from the masters:

Spring Cobalt Ocean…
Across snow-white mountains fly
black returning birds         (Shiki)

Daffodils
and a white paper screen
reflect each other’s color     (Basho)

I envy the tom cat
how easily he let’s go of
love’s pain and longing!     (Etsujin)

Divorced and lonely,
she walks to the field
to help plant seedlings     (Buson)

I climb into bed
and then take my socks off.
How lazy I’m getting !     (Shiki)

Note:  In translating haiku from Japanese to English, it is challenging to get both the meaning and the syllable count.  

The simplicity of haiku, with its ability to evoke images (and possibly a culture) in a few short lines, is appealing.

WRITING PROMPT:
In writing your own haiku, strive to “give a newcrow
experience of something familiar”.  Try to adhere
to the 5-7-5 syllables (or as close as you can get to
it).  Take a few deep breaths, get present with
your surroundings and drop into this now moment.
Write from this place.  Stand up, look out a window.
Where do your eyes land…write a few more haiku.

 

Making Waffles

web22I light a candle and play soft mood music as I prepare cornmeal waffles from scratch.  With a wire whisk, I  blend the eggs and buttermilk in my favorite bowl.   I add the dry ingredients–cornmeal, flour and baking powder–to this mixture.  I stir in melted butter.  I’ve done this for countless years.  When I am present with this alchemical process, I am truly in my life.  My presence is one of the ingredients.  It is a ceremony.

Preparing an occasional gourmet meal, making a fancy dessert or mixing up a batch of waffles are some of the ways that I stay grounded.  As a writer, it is easy to float away into a world of the mind, ethereal imagination and fluid wordy inspiration.  However, hands-on, food preparation is of proportionate value to me. Isn’t it a balancing act at times?

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I love good films about humans and food.  Babette’s Feast, Chocolat, Mostly Martha, The Big Night, Julie and Julia, Eat Drink Man Woman, Chef, even Ratatouille!  Only a few of  the many wonderful films with this theme.

I am curious as to why I find these films so uplifting, satisfying and inspiring.  Possibly because they elevate something that I have valued throughout my life.  They take food preparation to a sensual and even “glamourous” height.  Food that is so basic to our survival also provides endless enjoyment.  To participate in the alchemical process of the creation of a meal and then to share the outcome with others is sublime.

Writing Prompt:
For your journal, what is something (other than writing) which you enjoy that takes you out of your head and into the moment and/or process? Do you tend to this daily?

 

 

 

Writing from the Daily Mundane (part two)

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Perhaps you’ve read or studied the teachings of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  He addresses how to be present in each and every moment–a path towards spiritual enlightenment.  I, for one, have noticed how difficult it is to be fully present.  And, I have also found that when I’m in a creative space, whether it’s cooking, writing, poetry (reading or writing it) and painting, I am immersed and therefore fully present. When I’m fully present, there is no sense of time.

WRITING PROMPT:

I offer an awareness practice to you.  I call this one PRESENCE OR DIVISION.

Think about one repetitive task that you did this week.  Write it down.  Describe the task in detail.  (Was it doing the laundry?)  Were you able to be present with it?  Were there the distractions of a busy family as you performed the task?  Were you able to have a meditative moment?  Was there a quieting within as you performed this task or was there a feeling of fragmentation?  No judgment, only noticing and writing about what you noticed.  Take whatever amount of time you need to write about this.   Ask yourself, “Did I feel presence or division of attention while doing this task?”  Notice and write about the task and how present or distracted that you were.

WRITING TIP:
Five minutes of presence with a task goes a long way towards calming the mind, focusing one’s attention, refreshing the spirit so that inspiration can enter.

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For me, the repetitive task was skimming the thyme leaves off the stems to dry them for later use in winter soups and stews…there was no one else here.  There was neither television nor other background noise.  The house was completely quiet.  I scraped the leaves off the stem between my thumb and forefinger, repetitively for over half an hour.  I appreciated the fragrance of thyme.  I contemplated the flavor that this spice lends to food. I loved the idea that I had harvested this herb from my own garden plot (and that I had beat the predicted frost).  And then, I was just quiet and present with this pleasant and calming task.  It is my experience that sometimes, in moments like this, I am recharging, integrating and tapping into wisdom.