Monthly Archives: July 2020

Make Friends With Whatever Arises

Last week, I had a landscaper deliver and spread much on the few garden beds I have. He’d been out to my place before and is dependable. It’s been a trial over the last several years, finding plants that the wildlife in this outback won’t eat and that can tolerate drought conditions.

It’s certainly been a trial this year in so many ways. Even the flowering plants have largely hidden their color, choosing instead to retain their blooms, leaves frequently curled inward to protect themselves against the raging hot winds.

At dusk, I wandered out to admire what the workers had accomplished. When I rounded the slope alongside my long dirt driveway, I stopped short. I felt a pang in my heart and nearly burst into tears.

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Seeking solitude, I moved to this particular spot nearly 20 years ago because I would have a clear view of the San Francisco Peaks nearly 90 miles to the north. They were precious to me, precious to the Indigenous peoples of Northern Arizona.

When I walked this land back then and noticed small mounds dotting the hillside with waxy leaves on branching stems holding quarter-size violet flowers, it cinched my choice. For me, seeing these brilliant points—each flower only lasting for a day—in this sunburned, high desert landscape has been a kiss of beauty I’ve come to cherish. My love affair with these wild four o’clocks, that I’ve never seen elsewhere, has endured.

A few years ago, several of them started volunteering in the lower bed containing only a large juniper and a few shrubs native here, cliff-rose and Apache plume. The four o’clocks made their home around the juniper where little else would grow. I felt blessed and never failed to glance their way when driving down the hill, looking forward to the day they would completely cover the ground.

But now, the four o’clocks were gone.

At first, I thought I was seeing—or not seeing—things. But then I spotted a pile of wilted leaves and branching stems laying on the wild side of my driveway. They held their beauty close to the vest this year, few of the flowers making any appearance whatsoever.

When I showed my landscaper the next day, he said he felt so bad. I could see he did, having mistaken them for weeds. We searched for some to take their place. Most elsewhere had died back in the heat and lack of water, but we finally found a few. I don’t think the transplants are going to take. I’ve been encouraging them in my daily visits but don’t hold out much hope.

A couple of days later, I began to think about my response to the situation, the visceral sadness, the barely held in tears. I knew something was going on with me well beneath the surface.

A few days later, a friend and I were catching up with each other, a rare opportunity for me to be in the physical (safe distancing) presence of another person, these being pandemic days.

We’d just co-facilitated a meeting via videoconferencing in accordance with safety guidelines. She asked me how I’d been faring, and I told her I was personally fine. But I was so concerned about the Indigenous communities I work with. My nonprofit had been fundraising to provide emergency relief for the Hopi and Q’ero villages who had reached out for help—and the fact that I just didn’t have the means to extend assistance to all.

I knew all were suffering in a variety of ways, from isolation to lack of medical care and protective supplies to food insecurities. I was aware that some of the Maya people I work with are also in a bad way. Across the board, there is serious loss of livelihood for any Indigenous community or business dependent on tourism.

A memory surfaced, and I began to tell her of the experience.

“In 2006, my friend Will and I were traveling in Guatemala. There had been some kind of natural disaster, a hurricane or earthquake causing mudslides and washed-out roads. It was impossible to get to Lake Atitlán or surrounding villages for a few months. We went there right after it had opened up again.

The night we arrived, we had dinner there in Panajachel at an open-air restaurant. I ordered fish. But it didn’t taste quite right, like it was old. I picked around on my meal for a while. I noticed two little Maya girls and an even smaller boy sitting on the curb across the street, their eyes glued on us. When Will and I finished our dinner, most of the food remained. The children ran over and asked politely if they could have what we’d left. Of course, they could! We put it all in a series of napkins, and they scurried back to the curb and devoured the food.

It made my heart ache. Clearly, these little ones had been suffering. Up close it was evident. People just don’t realize how on the edge so many live. How can we ignore such a thing? Once you’ve seen it right in front of your face, you can’t ‘unsee’ it. It breaks my heart, and I know for sure that’s happening now in so many places in the world.”

By the time I finished my story, tears were pooling in my eyes, threatening to overflow. My friend was the same. She said, “You’ve made it real, personal.” We went on to talk about the tragedy of George Floyd’s killing and so many others, the same. I could hardly bear it all.

I don’t want to bear it.

For the last several weeks I’d been participating in online teachings with Pir Shabda Kahn, the spiritual director of Sufi Ruhaniat International, reconnecting with practices.

I suddenly remembered he said something I’d known from long ago:

Whatever arises make friends with it.

And in that instant, the discomfort I’d been so valiantly trying to push down—to make invisible—made its presence fully known.

Grief. I was grieving. How could I not be and still be human? How could any of us not be?

I don’t want my grief to be lodged in my body and forever be carrying it. I don’t want my grief to go underground again.

I want it to be fully present. That way, I simply cannot be complacent or allow anyone to be seen as other.

Pir Shabda had talked about the real meaning of justice, bringing things into balance. Peace won’t come from justice alone but transformation. The remedy comes from each of us. Perennial wisdom has to do with the development of compassion. This is our contribution to send into the world.

The Sufi wazifas are the “99 Beautiful Names of God” that, when chanted, seek to call upon the person any sacred attribute that is named and release it globally. In closing our last session, he offered us the phrase “Ya Jabbar” as a strong way to bring things together. Known as the bonesetter, this wazifa is the healer of fractured human existence.

I’ve been placing this sacred phrase on my breath.

***

Make Friends With Whatever Arises was first published in the Elephant Journal on July 6, 2020 and awarded the status of Ecosystem Winner.

Categories: Contemplative Life, Global Consciousness, Healing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Art and Energy

There is something about Marshall Arisman’s paintings that is…alive…like they’re going to spring right off the canvas.

I’ve never experienced them in person, and if they have this effect on me only by looking at a computer screen, I can only imagine what it would be like to see them in person.

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Marshall Arisman: An Artist’s Journey From Dark to Light, 1972-2017 Exhibition at the School of Visual Arts, NYC.

I first stumbled across Marshall’s Sacred Monkeys series on the web years ago, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. There’s something electric that wanted to draw me into another world where I wouldn’t emerge the same as when I entered—should I give myself over to the urge.

Then, I saw one of his bison. Recently, I learned it was from his Cave Paintings series, which explained my own response to it, but I’ll tackle that more later.

Some of his work is quite dark. I really cannot look at the Frozen Images collection, which is a statement on gun violence. His work has a visceral transference across the board, and some of them show us things we probably don’t want to see in ourselves, in other humans, or contained in otherworldly dimensions. Clearly though, this artist is offering this opportunity.

I’ve returned to his website periodically through time to see what’s new. I finally realized that I’m curious about the man himself. Who is this man who’s able to create such artwork? At least, part of that question has been satisfied.

On my latest visit, I noticed a documentary had been uploaded. A Postcard from Lily Dale is about the grandmother who figured so prominently in his life and art, and also showed some of his personal and artistic development. The film premiered in 2014 at the SVA Theatre in New York City. Within some of the high points I note, I’m also including a personal commentary because they ground my own experience.

Louise “Muddy” Arisman was a gifted psychic, medium, and Spiritualist minister. At the age of 10, an old woman appeared to her, overtook her hand, and Muddy began to produce automatic writing. She went on to find the first church dedicated to Spiritualism in Lily Dale, now billed as the largest Spiritualist camp in the world, located an hour south of Buffalo, New York.

One famous story involved a reading she did for Lucille Ball, who had been told she was a terrible actress and should give it up. Muddy told her she would marry a Cuban bandleader and have a wildly successful career as a comedian. The museum in present-day Lily Dale documents it all.

After Marshall’s birth, barely placed in the hospital nursery, his grandmother saw his aura and proclaimed he would become an artist. Muddy was a healer who read the auras of her clients to identify blocked energy and medical issues. This is the woman who Marshall spent weekends with as a child. Naturally, Muddy was a strong influence, even though his own mother believed all she professed was witchcraft.

As Marshall began to make his way as an artist, Muddy advised him that creating art develops intuition and opens the third eye. Beyond that, she said, “The energy you put into your art will live in your art as long as it exists, giving off an aura of its own.”

Hearing that statement validated for me what I secretly knew. The depth of exchange I experience in creating pieces of art is a sacred conversation that isn’t lost, even at the completion of the process. It becomes contained within the work and exists as an energy, which is an inherent aspect of the story it tells. Only this makes sense to me personally when viewers comment on the emotive nature of a work. The piece isn’t static; it conveys something.

Marshall began to see auras himself when he attended a talk by Jiddu Krishnamurti in 1978, at Carnegie Hall. Listening intently, he suddenly began seeing the speaker’s aura. In disbelief, Marshall rubbed his eyes, yet the visible vibration remained.

I had similar experiences in the mid-1980s when I attended an experiential weekend workshop conducted by scientist Valerie Hunt presenting her work on the human energy field. During a break, we came face-to-face as she exited the bathroom and looked directly into my eyes. At that moment, I felt as though she’d uncovered my soul.

I saw a strong yellow-gold field around her upper body. I was stunned at the time, blinked, and blinked. The impression didn’t go away, but it widened my capability to view the energy fields of others in the room. I had the same powerful experience with spiritual teacher Ted Andrews. The image of vibrating emerald green along his arms still lives in mind.

Marshall began to include his interpretation of energy and auras into his artwork in 1990. It must have been shortly after that when I first came across his paintings, and it explains to me now why I’ve found them so powerful: there’s a transmission.

When in the Dordogne of France, he secretly put his hand over a bison and felt heat coming from the cave painting, which is 12,000 or more years old. He proposes what he read in a thesis to be true. The walls of the caves provide a curtain separating the material world from the spiritual world. With the help of an invisible guide, the shaman crossed through the wall to another world, and after returning, he recorded his experiences in the form of paintings on the cave’s walls. In this way, the members of the tribe could place their hands over the cave art and receive the agency of the journey.

It was evident when I entered Les Combarelles and Font-de-Gaume a few years ago that each was a sacred space, a church of sorts, embodying the ritual transference of things unseen. The energy that permeates these places nearly overwhelmed me.

With this, I’m compelled to wonder if Marshall Arisman himself hasn’t made many explorations through the veil and then, upon returning, recorded what he saw and felt it, so that we could acquire the knowledge.

Muddy relayed a secret to him long ago:

“Learn to stand in the space between the angels and the demons.”

I’d say Marshall mastered it. Muddy said she was blessed with astral light and undoubtedly passed it on to her grandson.

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Watch A Postcard from Lily Dale on Vimeo streaming for free.

A Postcard from Lily Dale is a film that’s interesting on a historic level, a snapshot in time of the spiritualism movement. But more so, it’s a tribute that tells of the lifelong reverence that Marshall Arisman holds for a grandmother who so influenced his life that he still calls her mentor, teacher, and friend.

***

Art and Energy was originally published in the Elephant Journal on July 14, 2020.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Film, Spiritual Evolution, Visual Arts | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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