The Victim’s Story

Later, after I have climbed down from my high horse, he will tell me that he didn’t like the ride either. But, while I’m on it, while I am riding high and feeling mighty, I convince myself he’s lovin’ it.

And it only makes me madder.

It had begun with a silly comment, an incident of not too big circumstances.

I decided to take umbrage. To pick up the gritty remains and devour the bitter after taste of disagreement. To make it mine. To make it all about me.

In the moment, it was not all about me. In fact, the critter was convinced it wasn’t all about me. “You can’t keep doing what you’ve always done, Louise and expect a different outcome,” he hissed. “It’s time he decided to change and you have to stand your ground so he will.”

He’d already convinced me that I was weak. Stupid to let it go. A patsy if I simply ‘rolled over’ once again and just took it.

“Fine!” I yelled at the critter who was leaping around like a banshee in front of me. “I’ll do it your way!” And the victim slid in, shoulders slumped, head slowly shaking side to side. “Good idea. Your way never works anyway and if you keep giving in, they’ll just keep walkin over you again and again.”

Talking it out is my game. But, when I’m emotionally charged, when I have donned the cloak of self-righteousness, my talking it out is more like the inquisition. Fires burning, hellfire awaiting if you don’t answer correctly — and the correct way is with the words I want to hear, not yours, btw!

Talking it out wasn’t working so, to prove my point, I slipped into silence.

Not the beautiful, graceful, silence of solitude and contemplation. I didn’t heed John Chryssavgis words to use my silence as “the pause that holds together … all the words, both spoken and unspoken.”  I didn’t allow silence to be “the glue that connects our attitudes and our actions.”

I let it become my weapon. My burden. My guilt.

I don’t do angry silence well. (Does anyone?)

In fact, in playing the silence game I can make myself sick. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Because, when emotionally charged, what I’m really hearing is not reason, but rather the critter’s call to ‘teach ’em a lesson’ and not be the first to get accountable for my own actions.

The critter isn’t interested in my emotional well-being or ensuring I am living up to my higher good or for being accountable — it’s not my fault anyway, remember?

The critter only wants to protect. To stave off change so it can maintain status quo.

The critter likes discord. In discord, the critter doesn’t need to yell, he simply needs to hold his ground and let my victim story have its way with me.

We all have a victim story. That story that we repeat in times of distress that tells of all the wrongs, all the sorrows, all the woes we’ve experienced — and how they were not, “all my fault”, but rather someone else’s.

The victim likes to lay blame, as long as it doesn’t land at our own doorstep.

The victim likes to be right, as long as it’s about how everyone else has hurt us, lied to us, abused us, brought us down, been mean, stupid, blind…

The victim cares only about survival, and, as long as it doesn’t have to give up its protective veneer of innocence and being unjustly treated, the victim will do anything to appear like it is strong and knows the way out of the darkness. Problem is, in the darkness, the victim can’t see because its back is turned to the light of truth — there is only one way to peace and that is through Love.

I fell into the critter’s discord and awoke to the victim’s convincing litany of reason’s why it wasn’t my job to step out of it.

It had nothing to do with what someone else had said or done.

It had everything to do with my decision to hold onto what was causing me distress and not give into reason calling me to let it go.

Fortunately, I learned a valuable lesson through discord.

I learned that I do not serve myself, or anyone else, well when I play down to my lesser self urging me to DIVE! Take cover. Man the parapets and get ready to battle.

Battle never has to happen if I choose to lay down my guns and open my arms up to peace.

I don’t have to forge into the wilds of despair if I choose instead to do the right thing and take the loving path to peace, harmony and joy.

Namaste.

 

Songs of Enchantment

IMG_5673

There was once a little girl who was afraid of colour. To see the golden yellow of the sun, or the deep green velvet of the forest, or the vibrant hues of the garden filled her heart with fear.

Terrified of all the colour in the world, she walked through each day with her eyes squinted against the onslaught of beauty that she could not witness. Fearful of the world of colour  that bombarded her senses with every glance, she covered her ears to the songs of enchantment all around and cowered beneath the belief that she was right to cling to her fears.

“Give me black and white,” she pleaded in the darkness of her mind.

And the world closed in around her until all she saw were the shadows between the colours of the world.

The story above appeared in my meditation as tendrils of thoughts whispering their away into substance.

I opened my eyes and let the words flow. Let them form themselves upon the page.

It is what I find most enlivening and mystical about the creative process. When I stop squinting my eyes, when I stop fearing what might be, or not be, magic and wonder happens.

When I fear. When I force or try to push the muse into a container, to direct her into this way or that, the wonder disappears and I am left feeling left out, apart, and let down, telling myself, there is no magic. There is no mystery. there is no possibility of beauty rescuing the light from the darkness.

In fear, I fall into that place where all I see is what I fear. Where all I know is what I expect to be the mundane, the same as, the predictable of life lived in the comfort of the darkness I crave when I let go of seeing the light in every thing and everyone.

At River Rock Studio, immersed in the creative process, without access to Internet or TV, the world fell away into that place where all I knew was its beauty. There was no war, no famine, no hurricane or jet planes being shot down. There was no enemy, no terrorist, no terror.

There was only the muse and me. Connected. Committed. Creative. And in that connection, I was part of the flow of the essential essence of the Universe. I was one with life. One creative expression flowing with the expressions of everyone all around me.

It is rarefied air. Elementary. Essential.

I tell myself, it is impossible to maintain such a connection to the essential nature of the world around me when I live connected to the world through everyday happenings.

“It is much too hard work to continuously live with your senses open to being alive,” the critter hisses. “Don’t tire yourself out. It’s not worth it. The world doesn’t care if you create. The world doesn’t need more creation. It needs more safety. More same old. More conformance to staying the course so it can keep ticking along without interference from the likes of you.”

And I sigh.

I know that critter’s voice. It is the voice of self-denial. Of refusal to see, we are all essential to the evolution of life. We are all creative expressions of amazing grace.

Anything is possible as long as I do not shut my eyes to the colours of the world. As long as I stay open and available to the song’s of enchantment flowing all around, all the magic and wonder and mystery of the world is mine to explore, to see, to know.

It is the beauty of the creative process. The wonder of this space where I let go of fear and fall, fearlessly, into awe knowing, to do my best in the world and for the world, I must allow my best to flow free.

 

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I have also shared another poem I wrote at River Rock Studio during my art retreat — this one was written when I returned home and carried the memory of the joy of creativity into my weekend.  Breathing Under Water.

River Rock Studio – Painting in Words

Day 5:  River Rock Studio – Painting in Words

Composition is like a pasta dinner, our instructor, Jonathan Talbot, tells us. If you list the ingredients from least interesting flavour to most interesting, you find that the more interesting the flavour, the less of it you need to use.

We eat our art, he says, and proceeds to enthrall us with one of his many stories of art-making and life and a series of paintings under the name Patrin (‘patron’). It is a Romani word representing the signs travellers leave for each other. Here is a welcoming place. Don’t go to that door. They have good cheese. This vendor cheats… As a teenager, Jonathan lived rough for a while and was taken in by a Romani family in the States. He is a beautiful story-teller and his story is one of family, loyalty, bonds of gratitude that pay homage to a people who treated him kindly and set him well on the road of life at a time when he was lost.

In a field of white sheep, a black sheep is more interesting, he finishes off his story-telling and I am reminded of the analogy I used years ago when teaching creativity to grade schoolers. The cat sat on the mat does not paint a very interesting story. But, when I say, the cat sat on the dog’s mat, what happens?  And the students would get all excited about the possibilities of what could happen if…

Collage-making is an exploration of ‘what could happen if…’  If I put this image next to this, if I layer this on that, if I juxtapose this thought with this idea…. what could happen?

Like life, the outcome is seldom predictable, often uncontrollable. We must stay unattached to the outcome to give ourselves the freedom to explore the context of the elements and aspects of where we’re at to find ourselves free of expectations that the journey will be anything other than….. fascinating!

Benjamin Zander, co-author with his wife Rosamund Stone Zander, of “The Art of Possibility” shares his response when life throws curve balls or he takes a left instead of the right he’d planned. Rather than judging himself, or calling himself a loser, or stupid, he throws both arms up above his head, puts a huge grin on his face and exclaims, “How fascinating!”

I make many mistakes working in a medium I’m not familiar with, learning new techniques. When I choose to judge them as ‘mistakes’, I limit my capacity to push through what is happening into that mystical place of all that is possible when I let go and fall into wonder, awe, Love.

How fascinating!

*******************

Painting In Words

©2014 Louise Gallagher
(Written at River Rock Studio, July 31, 2014)

Lost in a sea of colours and shape
painting in words
poetry pouring down
from cerulean skies
burnished with umber and quinachrodone gold
floating on a sea of Pyrrole Orange
I forget that place where right and wrong
matter as I attempt to hold on
to a design I cannot let go of.
Lost in the deceit
of believing letting go
will kill my dreams
of creating under water.

Diving into the nothing
that is left
when I let go
I fall
effortlessly
into the divine essence
of life
flowing in all directions
immersing me
in its wonder.

Letting go
I fall
free
of holding on
to nothing
but everything
I am
when I
let go.

Day 4: River Rock Studios

Day 4: River Rock Studios 

“It is not our job to criticize our work,” says Jonathan Talbot, our instructor. “It is our job to do it.”

Art is a way of seeing. Of knowing beauty in the world and expressing it. Art is man’s nature. Nature is God’s art, or, as Aristotle wrote, “things come into being either by art or by nature.”

The discussion of what is art stems from a comment Barbara, one of the other student’s shared about the beauty of the sunset the night before. We had been speaking of women artists. Discussing how few have been recognized throughout time, yet how many there were. “We’ve forgotten the greatest female artist of all,” said Barbara. “Mother Nature.”

And immediately upon hearing her comment, Jonathan asked the group, “What is art?”

Art is language to me. It is a way to communicate with each other, to connect, to share our unique expressions through creative works and ideas and expressions. Art inspires. Evokes. Creates meaning. It liberates our inner voices, opens us to the true essence of being human. Art is the language of our human greatness, from every perspective, whether we judge it good or bad. Art makes room for us to ‘speak’ of our aspirations, to express our dreams, our yearnings, our heartbreaks, our fears and sorrows. It raises our awareness from the mundane into excellence.  The horrific into beauty. It is all possible realities expressed through the being of its creator.

What is art to you?

***********************

Every morning, Jonathan invites the group to gather outside as we light the candle to honour the artists who have come before us. We are all connected. Through time. Through our creativity, through the collective nature of the muse.

And each morning, he asks me to create the space for us to connect.

Here is the story I wrote for the group this morning.

Journal Entry, Wednesday, July 30, 2014  Mixed media on watercolour paper
Journal Entry, Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Mixed media on watercolour paper

And The Moon Beamed

Patience dear ones, the moon whispered to the stars. It will come to pass. The sun will slip into dusk and your time to shine will come, but first, you must learn to shine in the light of day believing in your own magnificence. one night, the whole world will see the brilliance of your light. But for now, you must practice patience.

And the sun shone, and the moon beamed and the stars twinkled knowing their night would come.

And then, it came to pass that the sun fell into night’s seductive embrace and the stars came out and played Twinkle, Twinkle upon the velvety blanket of night delighting in the lightness of being all that they were born to be in the light of day.

And they shone. Bright.

And the world turned and the sun slept and the moon beamed down upon the earth wrapped in eternity’s embrace.

See my dear ones, whispered the moon to the glittering stars. There is no need to be anything other than what you are born to be. Brilliantly bright and magnificent.

Shine dear ones. Shine.

Day 3: River Rock Studio

Day 3: River Rock Studio — On the way to finding the path, I found my way.

We painted until midnight. Four adults revelling in the joy of discovery, initiation, anticipation of what happens when we let go of judgement to fall into that place where all we know is what is right before us in the presence of the present of now.

We laughed. Teased. Shared stories. Of art. Art-making. Art-treasuring. We shared ideas. Scraps of paper, “here try this piece there.” “Does anyone have any Green Gold?”

We shared ideas, thoughts, experiments that worked and one’s that didn’t.

We painted medium over magazine pages and set them to dry. We ironed on and peeled back. We worked alone and together. Separately and as one.

And through it all, the muse entwined us in her seductive call to let go, become, allow.

“It’s not only having the information that counts,” Jonathan had told us earlier in the day. “It’s knowing how to share it.”

With yourself. The canvas. One another. The world.

“Art is a visual language,” Jonathan said. “the more we play with it, the more comfortable we become with the elements.”

I am stuck. My piece is not working.

I am attached to the elements, the composition, the path I’ve chosen.

Jonathan sits on the other side of my work table. “Take the elements off the substrate,” he says. “All of them.”

I take them off.

“You have 3 minutes to rearrange them,” he says. “Make a new composition.” And looks at his watch, timing me.

I rearrange the pieces of my collage.

“Do you like it?” he asks.

“It’s okay,” I tell him.

“Do it again,” he says.

And I do. Again and again, each time working to place the elements without thought, without attachment.

“None of it is permanent. None of it,” he says when I have arranged the elements into a final pose.

And in the reconstruction of the composition, I discover harmony in other ways.

There is no one right way to discover the path. There is only the path I take and always, there are many paths to find myself.

 

I had arisen early to sit outside in the morning light. In silence, I sat and heard the birdsong, the leaves rustling. Somewhere in the distance, I heard a coyote yip, an owl hoot. Somewhere in the distance, there were many things I could not hear. Voices talking. Laughing. Calling to one another, rising to greet the day. Cars passing over asphalt, a bird landing on the still surface of a pond, rippling it for a moment as it touched down.

I knew all these things were happening, somewhere in the distance, and still I sat. Alone. Quiet. At peace in the early morning light.

Another day of wonder and awe awaits. Another day unfolds in the joy of creating without any intention other than to learn and express and experience the gifts the muse has to share.

My poem, Falling Away, is about the journey to find the path. You can read it HERE.

Day 2 at River Rock Studio

Day 2. Monday, July 28th, 2014

It is the official first day of the course. I am excited. Eager to delve into collage, art-making, being in community.

We are eleven. Four students in the downstairs studio space with the instructor, Jonathan Talbot, at the front of the room where two long tables span the width of the space to accommodate his needs. The other six are in the beautiful upstairs studio. Big windows looking out at the forest beyond. Bright sunny space. I had chosen to be in the downstairs space the day before because I didn’t relish the idea of lugging my six heavy tubs of art supplies up a half flight of stairs. I’m grateful this morning as the downstairs space, though darker, is cooler.

It is already warm outside by 9am.

Jonathan gathers group and asks, “How long does it take to win the 100m race?”

He answers his own question. About 10 seconds if you’re an Olympian. But it takes a whole lot of time getting there, he adds.

Art-making is like that. it takes time. Effort. Patience. Practice.

We practice. Practice. Practice. Experiment. Test. Attempt. The difference is, in art-making, there is no winning or losing, there is simply that place of exploding ideas, that space where judgement falls away and all we are left is the act of creation making something out of what wasn’t seen before, visible.

The edges of your substrate are your limitations, he tells us.

Don’t play to your limitations. Play to the elements of your creativity.

I like that.

Play to the elements. With the elements. Be one with the elements and let creativity play with me as I play with being creative.

Yes!

To read the Day 2 poem from Aug 28, Rest Again at the End of Day, click  HERE.

A Week At River Rock Studio

Refreshed. Renewed. Calmness settles in like a welcome friend. Quiet contains all that I am, at peace, at One.

It was a week of wonder, awe, joy. A week to revel in the art of creating in the woods. Of walking amidst the wildflowers. Of deer in the grasses and owls in the trees. A week of finding myself connected in a community of artists, connected with the muse flowing all around.

There is a shift, a change, a movement away from, a settling into, a gathering of — the evolving awakening of my creative core, a widening of my essential creative, a deepening of my gratitude for the gift of creativity.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing from my art journal as well as art-making that happened, using each day here as a means to capture the  week, day by day.  I’ll also be sharing photos I took along the way with my trusty smart phone!

Day 1. Sunday, July 27th

Last minute grocery shopping. Loading the car. So much stuff! Getting out of the city. Driving west, then north. Winding road into the foothills. Summer sun, hot. Wind dry. Air filled with possibility.

Arrive at River Rock shortly after lunch. Carry in 6 tubs of art supplies. Set up table. Wander the woods. Meditate at the edge of the forest. Breathe into the space, the essence of being  away, of being here where I am not away.

Only a few of us here. Five staying at the Studio, the others driving in each day from the City, from the mountains.

Jonathan Talbot greets us. Chats. We organize our workspaces. We laugh. Share stories from the surface of our lives.

Tomorrow it will begin. For now, I begin to settle in.

The poem I wrote, From Where I Sit, is on my poetry blog, HERE.