Someone sent me this video of Jim Carey introducing Tolle for his Ekhart Tolle TV, and I was intrigued by Jim Carey's ablility to be so funny and at the same time so sincere about the profundity of spiritual experience.
Another reason the Solstice celebration was special for me this year was because this is the year my friend Gisela Wendling, who lives in Australia, brought the painting she has been working on for me since we launched her blog/site Liminal Songlines just before the last Solstice.
The name of this painting is "Businesswomen Doing Women's Business", and it reflects our collaborative efforts to support each other's work in the world. I had asked Gisela for something that would inspire me on a deep level, and to do that she drew on her experiences in ceremony with indigenous women in the deserts of Australia, powerful spiritual practice specifically described as "women's work".
While Gisela makes it clear that what she does is NOT Aboriginal painting, she uses some of the same iconography, which in Aborginal art is very literal, figurative and descriptive rather than abstract patterns as they may appear to a Western eye.
The two figures in middle of the central circle of my painting are Gisela and I, and we are surrounded by other circles of women sitting in ceremony. The circle in the top right is of men, also sitting in ceremony, and the circle in the lower right without people is what's "on the edge", or horizon. The flowing colored lines that frame the top and bottom are reminiscent of the snake that plays such a central role in Aboriginal creation stories, while the flowing lines in the background are the shifting sands of life at this time on earth as we come together in a sacred way while everything in our external world is changing.
Gisela and I were able to sit together for a few hours after the Solstice, reflecting on this beautiful painting and how it came into being. She was asking how what we did by supporting each other - me by helping her articulate her work through a web presence and her by creating a place of inspiration for me - reflects a way of being together as women that could inspire similar forms of relationship and mutual generosity in others. Unwilling to separate the sacred and the secular, together we recognized and affirmed that our work is sacred and that's the place we want to stand in the world.
Remarking on the central figures in the painting, Gisela said "In a way it's about us, but even more it's about what we are sitting for."
I am blessed to wake up to this vibrant call to life every morning. Thank you, dear Gisela.
“Perhaps the wisdom lies not in the constant struggle to bring the sacred into our daily lives, but in the recognition that life is committed and whole and, despite appearances, we are always on sacred ground.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
I've been part of Kay's live-in caretaking circle for the best part of the last two weeks, my life simplified down to the minutia and routine of end-of-life care. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most painful forms of the disease and much of our time was spent trying to keep her comfortable. Thank goodness we were mostly successful.
Now that I'm back home I feel as if I've been floating in a state of grace. There was a one-pointedness to our days, a unified clarity and focus that brought us intact through some pretty difficult hours. Now that it's all over, I'm a bit disoriented and not sure how to shift back to the very different demands of "real life". But perhaps most of all I'm left with the sense of having been blessed - it was an honor to have been able to be there and to have shared an experience so profound and so intimate. It is such a gift (thank you to my patient husband and flexible clients too), to be able to respond when it really matters.
And Kay really mattered. To me, and to a lot of people. She perfected the art of deep friendship and had so many friends, so many people who loved her. A shining example of what a human being can be, when faced with a diagnosis that would knock most people to the ground, she responded with elegance and grace, compassion, strength and fortitude. She was grateful for every single day she was given. She lived a beautiful life and died an extraordinary death, surrounded by love and the tender devotion of family and friends.
My sister Karen died this week. She went into the hospital on Monday night and was gone by Wednesday a little after noon. She'd been feverish and feeling bad for a few days before Christmas, but she didn't have insurance and felt she couldn't spend the money to go to the doctor and see what was wrong. By the time the pain was so bad she finally relented, it was too late.
She was 48. The youngest of my siblings, you could say Karen was the heart of the family - everybody's favorite sister, aunt, daughter, friend. She made friends wherever she went and had that something special that made us all want to be around her. Maybe it's because she was so much fun. Full of high spirits and ready laughter, she was always the life and soul of the party and she made wherever she was the party.
She was also stubborn and brave and an incredibly hard worker. Succesfull in her chosen vocation, Karen won national awards for her dedication and skill. Deeply loyal, she loved her family and was fiercely protective of her boys, providing a home for them on a single wage. She brought our mother to live with them in Hawaii when she was transfered there and spoiled her with special trips & vacations.
My sister Karen was good and kind and one of the strongest people I've ever known. I guess some part of me thought she could never die.
I was wrong.
Anything I can say about her or how it feels to lose her seem trite and meaningless; the words burdened with an impossible task.
In the end there are no words at all, so I hold her in the silence of my broken-open heart and know her light will always be alive there.
The always relevant Tim Merry shared a link on the Art of Hosting list-serve to a delightful insightful music video on the joys of being alone. It was written and performed by poet/singer/songwriter Tanya Davis and filmed by Andrea Dorfman. For those of you not on that list, it's too good to miss (check out the clever digital imaging by Sam MacDonald):
"The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.
More than that, it is cooperation with violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys her own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful."
I've been falling in love with Salinas, a sleepy fertile town that has been growing on me ever since I moved here at the beginning of the month to join FireHawk in teaching a summer intensive course in Vision, Storytelling, and Digital Media at Hartnell College. I was head over heels in love with my class from the first day...
I've always dreamed of having a room-full of bright young minds to explore with, and the reality has been all I could have ever wished for. My kids (I say kids but they range in age from one impossibly capable 15 year old to a deeply thoughtful and ex-homeless man in his 40s, with most of them bright sparks between 19 and 23) are incredible - sensitive, intelligent, curious and creative.
The course we've designed for them is a bit unusual; it's a multi-dimensional fabric of social, spiritual, technological and vocational threads - but they have taken everything we've given them and made full use of it. Let me take you back to the first week, for example, where we asked each of them to begin thinking about what having a vision might mean for them...
For many it was the first time they'd been asked this question, and we spent the time it took to uncover a vision for each student - first for their lives and then their community, before beginning to create digital art from what they found. Each student, whatever their background, level of education, or expressive style, threw their heart and soul into communicating their visions through video. With their permission, I'm proud to share the results of their work on the Vision Nest Studio video channel we created.
And that was only the first week! Stay tuned for more about Vision Nest Studio Productions (the "brand" that has come from this adventure for FireHawk and I), and to see the class' final video project - done in teams each focusing on a vision for (one of) the Agriculture, Health, and Construction industries in the Salinas valley in 2020.
I came across the coolest thing the other day - an idea so simple and old and yet so profound and so needed in this hectic modern age. It's called the Sabbath Manifesto. The founders offer ten principles to help us slow down and reclaim the power and grace of observing the Sabbath - one day among seven dedicated to rest and reflection.
The conversational debate about their first principle, "Avoid Technology" is absolutely fascinating and I love their little Cell Phone Sleeping Bag to deal with the distraction of all those blinking lights.