I just read Mindell’s “The Shaman’s Body” and it reminded me of how much I used to know–how much I have always known that had become deeply buried in the last 35 years. Carlos Castaneda’s “Journey to Ixtlan” was an important book during my college years. Now I look back and see that as a time when my inner being became so out of sync with the consensus reality around me, that I couldn’t integrate the two. I drank a lot, painted and partied. I dove into a challenging business life and made promoting art and achieving success my goal. After mastering that, I had children. Parenting then became my world. It was a “happy” life, but it was smaller than me.
It wasn’t until after my daughter left for college and I was offered an artist’s residency in Arizona that I circled back to myself. For two weeks I lived alone in the middle of the desert.
No computer, no TV, no family. I was completely disconnected from my usual world, and I had never felt so alive! I arrived at this place with only the light of the moon to guide my floating body between tall sage bushes to my little adobe cabin. I had been transported to another land. The warm wind purred and coyotes howled in the distance. I felt complete peace.
Everything during that time was magical. Of course there were the spectacular sunsets and the fabulous mountains and beautiful vistas. But those things were no more or less awe inspiring than anything else. I was completely in tuned with it ALL. I found a tiny seedpod shaped like a spiral funnel with a sharp point at the bottom. Immediately I understood the perfect design of this pod and how the wind could drive this spiral down into the ground with perfect efficiency so that it could live on. In the night, crowds of prairie dogs would chit and chatter and push their sweet little paws under my door. I never saw them during the day. But I knew they were very much present. Everyday, I painted, and walked, and dreamed. Every second was bliss. I have held that state of dreamlike completeness ever since. Things swirl around me, but they are not in me. I am free.
This new landscape is something I am going to want to paint over and over again. Sky, clouds, mountains, mesas, boulders, stones, sand, land, Juniper bushes, Pinon trees, sage, yucca, prickly pear cacti all shift with the changes in the sunlight creating a beautiful visual symphony. It all looks and feels so perfectly perfect. How do I capture the essence of it all?
This is an oil painting capturing my initial response to the unusual landscape in Placitas, New Mexico. I think this may be the beginning of a series since there is so much to say. We moved from the humid, green world of North Carolina where our house was engulfed in a woods of tall towering trees. Here, in Placitas the rolling hills of cream, taupe and apricot colored rocks and earth are dotted with Pinon and Juniper bushes. All this new flora and fauna is laid out under extraordinary skies.
Watching the jelly fish at the Albuquerque Aquarium reminded me of how magical and mysterious we all are. The photos were perfect for my presentation about Interpersonal Neurobiology and Art Therapy for my Art Theories class at Southwestern College. Here is a short clip. Looking at how the process of making art helps us integrate our right and left brain functions, explains the healing potential of Art Therapy. Interpersonal Neurobiology is one of the more concrete, measurable techniques which helps validate our successes in the field. Understanding the amazing resiliency of the human brain, makes wellness possible for me, you, and for the world.
I want to say my body left. But those aren’t the right words, because it wasn’t like anything was missing. It was the middle of the night–the room was a solid deep midnight blue. I watched my body dissolve.
I experienced the sensation of my physical being very slowly disintegrating into twinkling stardust. It was beautiful and freaky at the very same time. Words are wholly inadequate for conveying this phenomenon.
1 minute video, captures the essence of this experience better than my words.
Last night I brought my dream into a lucid state where I was skating as a child. In our Minnesota winters my dad would flood the backyard with a hose for several days and create a huge skating rink for the season. It was cold. Way too cold– but looking out of our wall of windows and seeing the crowd of kids playing made joining in irresistible.
I have crude metal plates with runners strapped to my boots. I can barely stand up but I am part of the group. They are my brothers and their friends– although it doesn’t really matter who they are. They are laughing and I am safe. I am one of them. I look up and watched the wispy snowflakes float through the soft blue gray sky toward me. I open my mouth and feel the crisp cold tingle of each flake melt as it touches my tongue.
I lower my gaze and my body shifts. I become aware of the tentative contact of the double metal blades against the ice. A little push and I coasted a few feet. My tightly bundled body feels warm and protected as I drift smoothly a across the ice. I am smiling.
That vivid dream recalled a fifty year old memory. I have the same kind of feeling right now. I am surrounded by people I love– even though I just met them. I am intensely focused and feeling the pure sensations of what I am coming to know. At times I am standing still, in silence with heightened awareness. And at other times, I feel a nudge forward into a new place with a fresh perspective. The moments of fear only come when I look down at my skates and wonder how I am going to do this. As long as I can be present and trust my feet to know the way, I drift smoothly. I am smiling.
I just picked up Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, ten years after my first read, and was struck by how much clearer it seemed this time around. I think I used to be trying too hard to “get it”. I may still be far from “enlightenment”, but I now have frequent glimpses into that state of quiet bliss.
I moved across the country to New Mexico in September. I had the perfect life back in North Carolina, but I wanted to study Art Therapy, and I had the freedom to go do it. So we moved. I quit my bookclubs, my teaching, my art groups, my daily painting, my family caretaking, my baking, my gardening and my home improvement. I just dropped it all. And, remarkably, for the first time in my life, I feel like I am doing enough!
Every morning I look at the glorious sky and the awe-inspiring mountains and it takes my breath away. I am here. I have a profound sense of gratitude for everything. (Well, almost everything… when I am present.) The landscape here is spectacular, the skies here are different, but so am I. Having stepped back from raising teenagers and managing a demanding art career I see a glaring contrast between my scurrying mind and my quiet mind.
My husband, Rog, and I love it here. We plan to stay. Soon, I am sure, I will add many of the same old favorite activities back into my life. But it will be gradual and with intention. That is a whole new way of operating for me. I will add things because they are in line with what is right for me and not what I think I “should” be doing. I will paint, but I will not BE an artist. I may show people how to paint, but I will not BE a teacher. I will tend plants, but I will not BE a gardener. I will just be.