Cleansing and Purging

quick pen sketch of a rose

quick pen sketch of a rose

So, I know I have been MIA for a couple of months, but it’s a good thing.  There have been many positive changes in my life. I have moved into a new space, I had a wonderful visit with my children, and I am moving away from old sources of negativity and grief.  Those old sources of negativity – and my resistance and anger toward them – had caused additional sources of negativity to enter my life, as they always do.  In fact, that right there is the Law of Attraction, Karmic Law, and even the Wiccan Rede.  Our resistance and focus on negativity merely enhances and encourages it. Once we allow it to be what it is, distance ourselves from it emotionally – and let it teach us what it needs to teach us – it eventually dissolves.

I knew this intellectually, but somehow seeing it play out graphically in my life – a person in my life mirroring the EXACT style of negativity I was trying to escape – made me sit up and take notice.  My not allowing myself to react to it, but rather going about my business as peacefully as possible, sped up the dissolution of the relationship.  As disruptive as this has been, it was exactly what was supposed to happen and I am grateful for it.

So, stay tuned for more conscious art and spiritual musings!  With the time and the space to do what I love, I expect to return to my previous levels of productivity.

My focus lately has been on quick pen sketches of whatever pops into my mind.  I plan to continue to experiment with mediums over the next year with a bigger focus on drawing in addition to various forms of painting.  The difficulty of pen sketching is that you can’t erase anything, so you just have to go with whatever happens – kind of like life!  Peace and richest blessings…

The Search For Love In A Patriarchal Society

There has been a persistent theme in my life over the last few weeks of analyzing romantic relationships and how I feel about them.  I just finished a wonderful book on the subject entitled Communion: The Female Search For Love by bell hooks.  Hooks is a feminist writer whom I had heard of but had never read any of her books.  The book was an excellent analysis of how patriarchy impacts romantic relationships.

Hooks’ basic premise is that enlightened women, especially feminists, who have been largely successful in fighting patriarchy in so many other areas, want romantic relationships that are deeply intimate and fulfilling.  At odds with this goal is the patriarchal tenet that says that real men are unemotional, closed, and unwilling to talk about their feelings.  This is a learned social behavior, not something innate in male babies.  Male babies cry for the same reasons female babies cry.  But, over time we learn our roles within the patriarchy; and these roles provide built-in conflict when it comes to relationships.

Happily, more and more men are embracing feminism, knowing that equality and decency towards one another is not merely a “woman’s issue”.  Every living human being has had a mother at some point, so women’s issues affect everyone.  In addition, the happiness and success of our daughters, sisters, friends, and coworkers affects the society as a whole, not just those individual women.

While hooks’ book title implies that the topic is romantic love, that is only part of it.  Love is love, and it shows up in many different forms.  Strong platonic friendships in addition to healthy family relationships, where they exist, are key to a sense of community and to one’s overall happiness and security.

What I took away from the book for myself is a confirmation of what I see going on in many romantic relationships and a rational explanation for why I have resisted them.  Within patriarchy, women are taught to find their fulfillment within the boundaries of a romantic relationship.  Men are taught that marriage is a trap and a burden that should be postponed for as long as possible.  Women are taught that being loved by a man is the highest form of validation and the key to a happy and successful life.  Men are taught to find their validation through work, that women are an accessory to their lives, and that a wife’s goals and aspirations should be secondary to the man’s career goals and to the happiness of the family.  Men are also taught that they should be superior to all women in all relevant aspects of life and that a woman’s beauty is a reflection upon his worth as a man.  This is why many men, especially those whose financial success makes them feel entitled, leave their marriages in pursuit of younger women once they reach a certain age.  A woman’s worth, under patriarchy, expires once her youthful good looks and innocence give way to wisdom and maturity.

Given this sad state of affairs between men and women, many women understandably try to navigate their happiness as best they can without directly challenging the system.  To challenge the system is to risk “being alone” – which is patriarchy’s ultimate punishment for lack of conformity.  Society has always taught women that the worst thing that could happen to them is to end up a “spinster” or “old maid” (notice that there are no male equivalents for these derogatory labels).  So women try to find love anyway, within the system, and often tolerate a lifetime of disrespect, uncertainty, and a lack of love.  Those who are luckier either find loving enlightened men or “benevolent patriarchs” with whom they are able to forge reasonably happy unions.

The whole topic is fascinating to me, but I am happy to be a spectator for now.  My goal is to fill my life with love of all kinds.  I love my children, my friends, my career in art, my God, and myself.  I find a great deal of fulfillment in just Being.  Ironically, self-love is the first step and represents the only real shot any of us has in finding romantic love.  But a general sense of happiness and fulfillment is what’s important and is what we are put on this earth to experience.

May this week be one of deep, profound love and connection with Reality and with each other.  Peace and blessings and, as always, please continue to follow your Bliss…

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad If You’re Single

I have been thinking a lot about coupledom lately for a few reasons.  For one, marriage equality has been at the top of the headlines lately.  Another reason is the approach of the 4th of July.  I used to love to go out on that holiday but after having several years of very bad dates on that day, I have come to dread it.  The third reason relationships have been on my mind is the fact that I had an extensive conversation with a friend on the subject of love and relationships, which brought several issues to the forefront.

It made me think about the following questions: a) do I want to be in a relationship? (b) if so, what kind and with what type of person? And (c) what do I think about relationships in general?  These questions will keep me occupied for a while, but in the meantime I began to pay closer attention to the relationships of the people around me.  It is hard to judge the quality of people’s relationships sometimes, especially from Facebook because people tend to only brag about the good stuff.  So, since I’m not in a relationship right now, I started thinking about all the reasons why I am happy to be single:

1)      I can move wherever I want (out of state, out of the country, etc) without anyone’s permission or approval.

2)      Money never “disappears”; if I haven’t spent it, it’s still there in the bank.

3)      When I am tired and not “in the mood”, I just go to sleep.  I don’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings or getting cheated on.   I don’t  have to force myself to go through the motions in order to avoid an argument. (and when I am in the mood, it’s 100% satisfaction every time).

4)      I can wear whatever I want.

5)      I can cut my hair off or leave it long – it’s totally up to me.

6)      When I am in church services I get to pay attention, focus, and absorb the total experience without distraction.

7)      I don’t have to dumb myself down or fake incompetence in order to preserve someone else’s ego.

8)      I don’t have to limit my dreams to accommodate someone else’s expectations of me.

9)      I can flirt just for fun without guilt or repercussions.

10)  I can still entertain silly, romantic notions about “the one” because I haven’t met him yet.

From a man’s perspective:

1) Getting to keep all your money and not waste it on dates that go nowhere.

2) Not feeling like you have to earn a certain amount of money to keep up with someone’s expectations or spending habits.

3) Not having to justify going out with your friends on a weekday or for a long weekend.

4) Being able to leave when you’re ready to go instead of waiting around for someone else.

5) Not having to feel guilty for so much of what you say, do, and think

6) No pressure to outline the future in detail.

7) Sexual variety

8) Focusing on things that are deeply important to you: work, spirituality, school, etc., without being made to feel guilty

9) Watching movies and television without interruption

10) Getting to entertain silly, romantic notions about “the one” because you haven’t met her yet.

This is not to disparage anyone who is in a relationship.  I hope all my readers have happy, fulfilling relationships that bring you many years of joy.  However, with our culture’s emphasis on romantic love, this is a reminder that it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be.

Whether you’re married or single or something in between, ultimately you are a unique expression of the Divine.  Your first allegiance should be to the evolution of your own soul – and being a blessing to everyone around you.  Then you will know true Joy, regardless of your relationship status.

And don’t forget to follow your bliss!  Peace and love.

To Thine Own Self Be True: Self Knowledge = Good Decisions

One of the main things I had to do this week was finalize my class schedule.  In doing so I had to do a little soul searching. I am continually amazed at how much a class I took last semester has helped me in making all kinds of decisions.  That class was Human Development 5, Career and Life Strategies, at El Camino College.  Rather than simply working on resumes and such, we spent most of the semester getting to know ourselves.

The main self-test we used was from the workbook Follow Your True Colors To The Work You Love by Carolyn Kalil & Don Lowry.  Of the four colors to choose from, I found out that I am a “Green”.  Greens have the following traits: place a high value on competence and knowledge, have a low tolerance for rules and restrictions, tendency to form intellectual bonds with people, desire to figure things out and improve systems, strong ability to analyze, interpret, and work with abstract ideas, a tendency to come across as serious and reserved,  and a personality that is composed, cool, and calm.

Through that class I received validation that art, especially painting, was a great career for me and why.  It allows me to work with abstract concepts, it is flexible and unpredictable, and it allows me to express myself creatively and intellectually.  I chose horticulture as a backup career because it is also a great match for my personality.  So, in considering myself and how I am wired, I was able to finally decide which classes to take and why.  I ended up with: tennis, African art history, life painting I, general horticulture, painting II, life drawing II, Ceramics II, and horticulture 42 plant propagation.  This thinking process can help anyone make any kind of life decision they may be facing.

Although class schedules are what I was dealing with, knowing who you are and what makes you tick can help you make decisions regarding career and relationships and can help you understand your friends, family, and coworkers.  In case you’re curious, I will give a very brief description of the other personality types.  And, by the way, we are all 4 colors, to different degrees.  The order of my colors are: Green, Blue, Orange, and Gold.

Blue: These people are highly sensitive and caring. They are motivated to help and encourage others, they are stressed out by discord and aggressive people, they want everyone to feel validated and nurtured, they are highly emotional and have a strong sense of spirituality and calm.  They tend to like careers like coaching, teaching, therapy, and ministry, and any job that allows them to work with and help people.

Orange: adventurous, loud, boisterous, life of the party, hate routines and restrictions, tend to be physical rather than intellectual, impulsive, late and unstructured, competitive, tend to like jobs where they get to perform, fix things, assemble things, talk, sell, build, entertain, and where they get to determine their own schedules and make things fun.

Gold: These people like their environments to be structured, orderly, and predictable.  They don’t like change or people who are late and/or don’t follow through. They like to control things as much as possible, maintain accurate records, organize things, create schedules for themselves and others, supervise, budget, etc.  They tend to like jobs that are very professional and predictable, where their job descriptions are clear, and where schedules and deadlines are maintained.  They are attracted to jobs like accounting, bookkeeping, supervisory, etc.

So… I hope you found yourself in these descriptions.  If not, I encourage you to read the workbook because it goes into much greater detail than I can here.  If you know yourself, then all the decisions you make will be filled with integrity and self-respect.  We are all great – exactly the way we are – but at the same time we all have our strengths and weaknesses.  The more familiar we are with ourselves, the more effective we will be in working with others and in finding our true path in life.

Have a great week filled with self-love and authenticity.  Now go follow your bliss…

The following are a couple of this weeks’ works in progress (my little camera phone is not the greatest but I’ll take better pictures once the works are completed):

Are You Really More Evolved Than A Chimpanzee??

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Ethics seems to be a theme in my life today.  I saw a special on students and cheating on CNBC.  Apparently, the incidence of cheating in school – among and teachers – is alarmingly high.  Later, I saw an episode of American Greed where a hedge fund manager bilked millions of dollars out of his customers and was then, ironically, swindled himself by another con artist and then staged a phony suicide.  Right after that, 60 Minutes ran a special episode on the Bernie Madoff affair and various financial schemes in general.

On the flip side, I just read an article on the website of Scientific American Mind  that challenged the largely accepted interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Darwin’s intention with the phrase “survival of the fittest” was that the species that survive and evolve are those that are best suited to their changing environments.  Unfortunately this has evolved into an excuse for social Darwinism. This belief system claims that “survival of the fittest” proves that the people on the top are the ones who, in fact, deserve to be on top, no matter how they got there.  Overlooking, for the moment, the self-serving nature of this belief, it has been proven scientifically that this actually isn’t true.  Societies – human and animal – that cooperate with and look out for one another tend to be stronger and more likely to survive.

The article described a scientific study involving chimpanzees that tested their reaction to unfairness.  The chimpanzees reacted to the unfairness (in the form of different food rewards to different chimps) with tantrum-like behavior.  However, the “privileged” chimps went the extra mile of refusing to accept the unjust reward while their compatriots suffered.

The bottom line is that we as humans can do better.  We do not have to settle for the dog-eat-dog society we are so often presented with.  Through the timeless qualities of love, support, cooperation, and basic common-sense fairness we can create a world that is satisfying and safe to live in.

And as artists we have the added privilege of making the world a very BEAUTIFUL place to live in!

Have a great week and follow your bliss…

Art and Communication

Art is my passion and life commitment, but I consider myself a student of Life in general.  I love learning about how things work and the connections between different subjects.  One thing that fascinates me about art is its ability to communicate without words.  In fact, art is much better and quicker than words at communicating.  How many times has someone misunderstood your words?  How many relationships have been destroyed due to a lack of communication?  Perhaps if we just walked around holding pieces of art over our faces instead of speaking, or sending small drawings to people instead of emails, many a relationship would be saved.

Dr. Demartini, a famous New Thought motivational speaker, gave a talk where he says that not only do people want to be loved and appreciated for who they are, who they are is a reflection of their highest values.  This makes a lot of sense.  That is why some people are harder for us to communicate with than others – their value system may be very different from ours.  Value systems are a reflection of one’s culture and upbringing, which is also why people of similar cultures and upbringings tend to understand each other a little better.

Ultimately, art can bridge gaps in communication that words are simply inadequate for.  Political leaders all over the world have used portraits, statues, stamps, coins, etc. to communicate their authority.  Corporations use logos to quickly identify themselves and their values.  The toughest thing for most artists to establish is their unique point of view.

As an art student, developing my point of view is something that is still in process.  I know what is important to me, and I have lived a very eventful and unusual life in many respects.  However, communicating what I’ve learned from my crazy life experiences through a cohesive body of work is something I am still working on.  My craftsmanship is improving,  so it is now time to start putting more of “myself” into my work.

All of us can benefit by putting more of ourselves into everything we do.  To do anything less is to live in fear and not in love.  Some people won’t be able to handle it and will drop out of your life.  If they do, they were meant to. Others will be intrigued and will adore you for who you are which is, as we already discussed, the basis of all effective communication.

Communicate without fear and go follow your bliss…