Tag Archives: prayer cards

Calming Whispers

I have been working on this two-page spread in the altered book art journal I am creating with my mother’s prayer cards for a couple of days. I’m filming as I go and the added pressure is daunting.

I get to a point where I’m relatively happy with the background, but have no idea where the page is going next. My head is calling me to ‘do this’ or ‘that’ to make it go a certain way. My heart knows I need to get out of my head so that I can intuit the creative urges calling me to let go and let be.

I do what I love to do when I feel stuck in my head. I wake up Beaumont the Sheepadoodle who is sleeping on the floor by my feet and go for a walk through the forest and grasses that line the riverbank near our home.

I am immersed in nature.

It is there I find myself letting go of thinking about the page and simply allowing what is whispering to be released to come alive.

Creating this altered book journal, My Mother’s Prayers, has been an amazing journey. It has connected me through time and space within the sacred field of grieving and remembering and honouring and healing..

There are so many moments in my relationship with my mother where pain and regret and despair rippled in angry waves creating crenellated, hardened folds in my memory banks. Over time, the folds solidified and I became stuck in believing only distance would keep me safe.

Creating in this journal has felt like standing in a gentle spring rainshower with my head tilted up to the skies. My arms are spread wide. The rain caresses my face and the breeze flows gracefully throughout my being. I am present to and within it all. I am refreshed. Envigorated. Enriched.

In the present, the hardened folds soften, the crenellations become smooth and the edges drift away. The past quietly floats out of view like a boat on the river rounding a distant curve leaving me embraced in the present moment.

And I smile.

My mother no longer visits me while in the bath. She no longer insists I ‘listen up’.

I like to think she’s having the time of her afterlife, living it up for all she’s worth in the heavenly realms of her prayers. Dancing with her brothers. Laughing at my father’s sweet nothings whispered in her ear as he nuzzles her neck. Sharing a meal at God’s table with her parents and brother’s and sisters and Aunties and Uncles and cousins who got there before her. “It took me awhile to get here”, she laughingly tells them all. “I had to clean up some business I’d left undone.”

I like to think she’s happy with how that ‘business with me’ is cleaning itself up. I like to think she too has found peace.

As I finished the final touches on this page, the quote came to me. “Her prayers were the whispers that calmed angry skies and turbulent seas.”

My mother’s prayers are like that boat. They are the sacred container carrying us all to safe harbour, in good times and in bad today. Whether she’s with us in body or in spirit.

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The following is the video I created of making this spread.

I am constantly amazed by how challenging a science video-editing is, and how creative.

I’m also sometimes quite frustrated with the technology and my lack of experience. Like syncing of the sound to video. I worked and worked to make it happen and finally had to accept, it’s not about perfection.

I also had to trust that in time, I will become more adept!

I hope you enjoy the video — sneak-a-peak — there’s even footage of Beaumont in the trees!

Thank you again Laura Hickli for sharing your amazing talent and voice. Mr. Butterfly is so perfect for this piece.

Her Prayers Were Her way.

No matter the season, prayers dispel the darkness and open our hearts to Love. — Two page spread in altered book art journal, My Mother’s Prayers

I am an experiential learner. I love to try new things. To combine different processes. To learn and challenge what I think I know by expanding upon the things I learn along the way.

I don’t follow instructions well. I don’t walk trodden paths with comfort.

Creating the altered book journal, “My Mother’s Prayers” has been a gift and a learning experience.

When I began, I thought I’d just be using my mother’s prayer cards as emphemera on each page. I wanted to honour her and to somehow enshrine her cards in a way that would preserve them, and perhaps enlighten me as to her true nature.

I have been blessed.

The cards and the process has become so much more than just a ‘task’ or an art project.

It’s become enlightening, nourishing and healing.

I always balked when my mother said she’d pray for me. I thought her prayers were a judgement of me. I thought she was praying for me constantly because she thought I was a horrible human being, an awful daughter, sister, mother, person.

The ‘art corner’ at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

In working with her prayer cards, in allowing myself to be present to the images, their messages and to the process of creating each page with a loving heart, I am discovering a new perspective.

Her prayers weren’t a condemnation of me. They were the only way she knew how to express her love.

It’s one of the many things I love about the creative process. An idea sparks something and from that ‘something’, new awareness, insights, understanding blossom as I deepen into being present within and with whatever is unfolding.

In this case, I feel a deep, soulful shift within. No longer do I experience her prayers as a condemnation of my human condition, I am being gifted the experience of hearing them as her way of saying “I love you and want always the best for you.”

There was a deep gulf of misunderstanding between my mother and me. One of the things she often said to me was, “Why can’t you be more like the others? [my brother and sisters] Why do you have to do it your way?”

She struggled with my experiential learning essence. She feared for me constantly because I love to push limits. To test boundaries. To challenge what is in search of what is possible.

For me, it is just my way. To my mother, I was always in danger. And mothers are hardwired to keep their children safe. I realize now how often she must have felt helpless – she couldn’t keep me safe if I was constantly putting myself in danger.

My mother’s way was scary to me. I didn’t want to walk her path. And in being so vocal and I admit, obnoxious about not wanting ‘her way’, I wasn’t able to give her what she wanted most — peace to walk the path she was on, trying to keep her family safe by engaging God with every step. She wanted to live deeply embedded in her faith. I didn’t want any of that!

And I smile.

In retrospect, (though I thought I was being pretty random) I realize that it is no accident that the book I chose to use for this altered art book journal is called, “Contentment: A guide to finding the path to peace of heart..” The closing quote is from Henry David Thoreau, “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

Most of my life I kept fishing for my mother to tell me she loved me — My way.

In creating this journal with her prayer cards, by being present to their beauty and their gifts, I am discovering my mother always loved me the best way she knew how — Through her prayers.

What a beautiful gift.

Namaste.

as Soft As A Petal Falling

Altered Book Art Journal page — “My Mother’s Prayers” – ‘Soft as Petals’ “As soft as an angel’s kiss, her prayers fell like petals from the heaven’s above blessing everyone on earth.”

For the past three days I’ve been working on a video of my creative process. I filmed myself working on another page from the altered book journal I’ve been creating of my mother’s prayer cards, and have been editing and editing and editing…

It is a good stretch for my brain and a good reminder of how the creative process is not just founded in ‘art-making’, it is everywhere! I have to keep reminding myself that creating a video is in and of itself a creative process. Rather than thinking it’s taking me away from time in the studio, I am focussing on the value of learning new things and how it is expanding my capacity to evolve into new forms of creative expression!

The other day, after commenting on my Mother’s Prayer Cards art journal, someone asked if I was okay. “You seem to be grieving so deeply,” they said. “Are you okay?”

I appreciated their question and concern. It felt very loving.

The fact is, I told them in response, I feel great. Creating this journal of mom’s prayer cards, immersing myself in an exploration of the power of prayer and memory has been a very healing, loving journey. It has expanded my compassion for my relationship with my mother and deepened my knowing of her love. It has also given me an opportunity to heal some of the broken places of our relationship.

In the eulogy I gave for mom at her celebration of life, I wrote, “Being the youngest, I wanted to be the rebel. In fact, for a large portion of my life, I wanted to be anything but like my mother. I am so grateful that through her prayers, I have become more like her than anyone else I ever thought I wanted to be. As I sat with her in the quiet of the night over the final week of her life and prayed with her and sang to her and read to her, I realized that the gift my mother gave me was and is the one I cherish most in my life today – an unwavering belief in the transformational power of Love. “

Kindness was my mother’s North Star. No matter how unkindly I responded to her when she told me she was praying for me, she never responded in kind, she only responded in kindness.

Life is a journey. It isn’t about how fast we go on the road of life nor how long we’re on the road. It’s about how much kindness we invest into each step along our way. It’s about how much we joy we instill in each day and how deeply we fall into Love with everyone and everything on our path.

My mother would have been 98 today. In her life and in her passing, I have found myself growing deeper and deeper into Love through her prayers that continue to be a constant on my path. Thanks mom! Happy Birthday!

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About this altered book art journal page:

I started this spread knowing what the words were. They had appeared while I was in meditation before starting the page and were my guide as I created. “As soft as an angel’s kiss, her prayers fell like petals from the heaven’s above blessing everyone on earth.”

And Roses Fell From Heaven

One of the questions I ask myself when I’m feeling stuck or undecided about what to do next is, “What makes my heart want to dance?”

And then, I close my eyes, take a couple of deep slow breaths. In. Out. And listen.

I listen to my body, my heart, my skin, my heart.

I imagine myself sinking from my head down, down, down into my heart. Further still, I imagine my consciousness sinking down, down, down into my belly.

And I listen.

I listen to the sound my body makes as I breathe. In. Out. I listen to the sounds around me. The quiet hiss of my computer. The piano playing softly in the background. The leaves rustling outside my window. The hiss of traffic crossing the bridge. The birds cawing. The hum of the refrigerator. The purr of the furnace fan. The river flowing.

And I feel.

I feel the sensation of the air entering my body, up through my nose, down into my lungs. I listen to the sound my body makes as I breathe. In. Out. The feeling of my thoughts floating down, down, down, from my head into my body. The stillness within as I sit and embody all that I am. All that is here. All that is in this moment.

And then, when I feel myself settled deep within my body, when I feel my entire being held in silence and grace within the moment, I repeat the question, “What makes my heart want to dance?”

Yesterday, the answer surprised me. Not because it wasn’t about painting or creating. It was.

What surprised me was the image that rose up from my belly and made my heart want to dance.

My eldest sister found a couple of prayer cards from my mother in the room where she used to stay in when she was strong enough to go for weekend visits. One of the cards was of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux, also known as, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

When my mother left India in 1946, her father gave her a statue of St. Thérèse. It was standing by her bedside when she took her last breath.

St. Thérèse was named my patron saint when I took my confirmation when I was about 9 years old. “Pray to St. Thérèse” my mother would tell me in those moments when I was struggling or being a ‘bad girl’. “She is your heavenly advocate. She will help you.”

I didn’t like being called a bad girl and didn’t think a saint would actually call me that. I also wasn’t much into praying so I let my mother do the heavy lifting.

In later years, I left Catholicism behind but held onto the mystical, spiritual nature of life. Angels felt ‘real’ to me. I would call upon them to guide and support me, though I wasn’t too enamoured with the saints. I could not relate to their piety and as a consequence, seldom named St. Thérèse as my advocate.

And then, I fell into a pit of darkness of a relationship that almost killed me. I remember thinking in the really dark moments towards the end, that even death was too busy to bother with me. Why would the angels answer my pleas?

Of all the things I lost during that relationship, one of the one’s that has been the hardest to reclaim is my belief in the spiritual nature of life.

Creating this altered book art journal of my mother’s prayer cards is leading me back. It is connecting me to the spiritual essence of this journey called ‘my life’.

Yesterday, as I held the St. Thérèse prayer card in my hands, a tiny voice whispered in my mind, “And the angels heard her prayers and carried them to the wind who blew them all around the world in a song of love for humanity.”

And my heart danced and I began to create.

This morning, as I checked to ensure I spelled her name correctly and had the accents properly placed, I read the expanded quote written on the card. Words spoken by St. Thérèse de Lisieux before she died at the age of 24. Words I hadn’t read before I started painting…

“When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.”

Thanks mom!

Namaste.

My Mother’s Prayers

My Mother’s Iris At The Altar – Mixed media on book page.

My mother prayed. A lot. No matter the time of day, situation, pressing need, she would pray.

After she passed away, my sisters and I sorted through her belongings and came across the leather pouch where she stored her many prayer cards.

None of us knew what to do with them so I took them, thinking I’d eventually use them in an art piece.

That time has come.

On Tuesday, I started a mixed media online course with Orly Avineri. Orly is my kind of creative force. Free-flowing. No ‘steps’. Just you, the muse, your intuition. And the courage to take risks.

The first exercise includes an invitation to use whatever papers are on hand, affix them to a page and create.

My mind immediately leapt to my mother’s prayer cards. This would be a good home for them. Not just on the first page, but on every page I create in this art journal.

In this case, the journal is an old book I found in a box that I’m willing to release to the creative forces. It is part of a set of three I’ve had for years. Unique to this one is the way the inside pages are inserted. They are all upside down.

A book with upside-down pages seemed appropriate at this time. The world right now feels a little topsy-turvy. Like everything we once knew, relied on, took for granted is no longer so dependable. So known. So inevitable.

There are no mistakes.

Working on this art journal, “My Mother’s Prayers” is stirring up my thoughts and feelings and memories of my Catholic upbringing, my mother’s prayers and her unshakable faith and our relationships. It is giving me pause to look at it all through different glasses, angles, lenses, perspectives. Upside down included.

Yesterday, I completed my third 2-page spread in the book. As with the previous two, this spread also includes a couple of the cards from mom’s collection.

As I created the page using flowers from the garden that were at the end of their life-cycle, my mind swept back to childhood days when my sister and I would help mom with the flowers in church on Saturdays.

I go back to this memory a lot. As if somehwere in that sacred space I might somehow find the key to where my mother’s and my relationship went off the rails.

Because it was. For much of our life together, not a very well functioning relationship.

In one of Orly’s videos for the course, she talks about how it’s important to live within the gifts, not the trauma of the past.

There were many, many gifts that came through my relationship with my mother. It helped forge the backbone of who I am today and who I am as a mother, an artist, a woman, a human being.

In her final years, the tensions between us eased. In her passing, they fade away leaving behind only Love and memories of the sacred moments of grace we shared.

The gifts in those moments are what fill me up today. They give me peace, hope, faith, Love.

Perhaps, one of its gifts is also in the surrendering of any guilt I may be unknowingly carrying from the past.

And I smile as I write the word ‘guilt’.

How very ‘Catholic’ of me.

My middle sister and I used to joke a lot about our Catholic guilt. We were good at it. Doused in it as children, it felt only natural to carry it into our adult years.

It took me years, and lots of therapy, to realize guilt is not natural. Nor is it constructive.

It can however, be a powerful force for change.

To not carry guilt, I must clean up my messes. It isn’t about tidying up the past as much as honouring it so that I can let it go without feeling… guilty.

And so, I create.

A book of prayers. For my mother. For me. For my daughters. My soon to be born grand-daughter.

The Crosses We Bear – first 2-page spread in My Mother’s Prayer Cards Art Journal

A book of prayers that begins with the words I wrote on the very first 2-page spread. Words that surprised me even as I wrote them: “The crosses we carry through the centuries burden us with their blind faith in what to believe in the here and now. Their weighty presence strangles our breath as we struggle to free ourselves of the guilt and shame of a past we cannot change.

I cannot change the difficult times with my mother.

I can honour our past, all of it, and in the here and now, celebrate and cherish her beautiful thread in the tapestry of my life.

Being the mother she was, her spirit is praying for all of us now.

What a wonderful gift of life and death in an unending circle of Love that remains, as always, nourished by my mother’s prayers.