When the shoe doesn’t fit…(because it doesn’t exist yet…)

I think I may have finally come to a realization this evening: I will never find the perfect fit, job category-wise, I mean. I keep waiting to identify THE word or phrase that describes my what-I-do-ness — the one that will allow me to fold myself neatly into a little box and not struggle any more to define my own work in the world…

Wake up, Sister (I say to myself). You’re dreaming.

Because my whole existence for the past ten and some years has been dedicated to following the infamous Still Small Voice, and the definition of that journey is that it has no precedent — it is bushwhacking by nature. There is no name for it because it hasn’t been done yet, simply because it’s mine to do.

But that’s exhausting (myself says back to me). It’s way easier to select a predefined role, one that when you say a word or a few words to people they go, “Oh, cool.” Because in that case the cognitive associations related to Who You Are and What You Do are pre-installed. Everyone in the conversation assumes they have a shared understanding of the just-named vocation and the world continues on its merry way.

But that’s not what callings are about. Callings, it’s occurring to me as I write this, are about being called by a faraway voice that you may not be able to totally decipher but that is at least frequently loud enough that you can stumble in the general direction of its whispering. And as you go about deciphering just what the heck it’s saying, you are also deciphering something about just who the heck you are. So that by the time you’ve arrived at some fairly clear understanding of your calling you’ve also, very potentially, arrived at some understanding of yourself.

This is not necessarily the case for investment bankers (my favorite job to pick on).

My realization just now takes this (I hope) to a deeper level: not only am I never going to find a pre-established label for what I’m here to do, I will never experience the FEELING of having a defined label for what I do that pre-dates the doing of it. This point is worth unpacking a bit:

Why do people want to be lawyers? Because they have a fairly well established notion of what it is to be a lawyer. Whether this notion is realistic or not is besides the point: its the felt sense of “lawyerness” that they aspire to — that feels like it fits with whatever sense they have of themselves.

Now if you, like me, were not born with rock-solid clarity about what you’re on the planet to do (like, say, Mozart had, for example), then you’ve probably considered at least a couple different professions. And while this consideration most likely had its practical and conceptual aspects, at its core it was very likely a visceral experience. We say, I can’t “see” myself being a doctor, but what we really mean is that we can’t feel ourselves being a doctor: the imagined feeling of performing surgery or giving injections or walking around sterile environments in the same white coat (or perhaps the amount and intensity of work required to get there) does not feel compatible with the self we already feel ourselves to be.

Maybe you, like me, have actually contemplated scores of potential professions — have hung out with the feeling of them for a period of time, thought “Yes, finally, this is what I want to do!” only to have that certainty become less certain after more time has passed. Why is that? Simple: it’s because your feeling of your own self has changed in the meantime. So the thing that felt like a good fit before no longer matches up.

[Random aside: Perhaps it’s possible to divide the world into two kinds of people: those folks whose decisions about work and profession are guided, whether consciously or unconsciously, by a felt sense of what really resonates with who they are, and those who don’t really do that so much.]

So, my (and perhaps your) paradox is this: How can I expect to find a pre-defined label that fits (resonates) and KEEPS fitting when my felt sense of self changes so gosh darn much??

Answer: it’ll never happen.

So what do I do?

Answer: I do the thing. MY thing. That idealist yet I know it’s going to make a significant difference in at least a few people’s lives thing. The thing I kinda already know I’m here to do but haven’t really started doing yet. (Because–you guessed it–I’m waiting for it to feel like the RIGHT thing…)

Oy! Such self-defeat!

Because the whole point is that the only way I’ll a) know the feeling of what the thing is, and b) get felt confirmation that it’s the RIGHT thing, is to just start doing it and see what it feels like. I already know that it’s coming from inside of me — from my own particular hybridized, interdisciplinary mosaic of meaningfulness that I have been piecing together over the last decade or so — it already IS me from a conceptual standpoint (i.e. my mind has no trouble conceptualizing myself doing this work), now I just have to turn on the ACTION part of the project so that I can begin to develop a felt sense of what it’s like.

That felt sense joining up with the imaginable side will eventually give me the felt sense of confirmation I’m looking for.

And then all will be well.

(Wow. OK. At the end of the day it’s pretty simple. Basically I have no more room to make excuses. : )

Thanks for reading.

CB

P.S. Thanks to Marcel for hammering this point home over the past year and a half. I think I finally got it – lol!

Advertisements

Who you are

Go see Cloud Atlas. The movie might not make sense, but maybe you’ll have a personal version of the experience I had coming out of the dark theater back into the lobby – everything was weird: the neon lights were garish, the red and orange patterned carpet was too loud, and I had a distinct feeling that the people standing, sitting or walking nearby were oblivious to something. I’m not sure what that something was, but it felt important.

My boyfriend and I went out to dinner after and my most persistent thought was, “I have to learn sign language and a martial art so that I’ll be prepared for the future.”

Weird, huh?

Cloud Atlas is either about souls that reappear across lifetimes in ways that maintain specific relationships to other souls, or else it’s about stories that cycle over and over as the big generational wheel keeps on turning. Regardless of which one of these interpretations is closer to the actual truth, the one key insight that the movie did leave me with is this:

It’s not what you’re doing, it’s who you are.

A lot of the threads in this blog so far have been about the archetypal quest to find one’s place in the world: What is it that you are / I am here to do? What’s your / my role in this ongoing transformation?

For this post, I’m going to lay the collective focus aside and concentrate on the individual: who you are is important, and it just might be the key that unlocks the “what you do” part of the equation.

Consider the characters in Cloud Atlas: there’s some essential soul material that makes itself known in each storyline by the appearance of a comet shaped birthmark on the body of the pivotal character. Sometimes male, sometimes female, this person’s distinguishing trait is that s/he is instrumental in disrupting the cultural order of the era. Other characters shapeshift through time also: Hugh Grant plays both a ruddy sea vessel officer and a cannibal (yes, really). Halle Berry plays both a gutsy reporter and a distant-future wise woman. The takeaway for me, in seeing these actors morph across eons, is that in our culture maybe we focus WAY too much on the lateral, present “What” and forget about the longitudinal, eternal “Who.” Maybe the “Who” — a kind of soul essence — is the source out of which arises the “What,” and the “What” changes depending on the circumstances the “Who” finds itself in.

So what does this mean, practically speaking?

Maybe the answer can be summed up in a rather elegant question: “Who is the eternal you?” Meaning that if you strip away all the trappings of profession, if you forget about acknowledged roles relative to other human beings, if you stop trying to be anything for anybody else and really just get down to the naked splendor of your own existence, Who are you?

Who ARE you?

  • What do you love?
  • What do you feel connected to?
  • What are you doing when you feel most in touch with the divine?
  • What have you always, always wanted to learn but haven’t yet?
  • How would you fashion yourself if you could show up in the world the way you see yourself in your inner eye?

Here are a few of my own answers:

  • What I love: the stars, morning air, deeply-felt music, seeing patterns
  • What am I doing when I feel most in touch with the divine: dancing, writing down poems
  • What have I always, always wanted to learn: sign language, kiteboarding, a martial art, ancient Greek
  • How would I fashion myself: working on that one, need about a year for my hair to grow out again…

And now you:

What if you allowed the answers to all of these questions to be more important than the “What you do (in the world)” part? What if you let a delicious commitment to exploring the answers to these questions be the activity that defines a major percentage of your choice-making. What if you really opened up an intentional space for the fullness of your eternal soul to come pouring in to your present lifetime?

Holy F*@#! That would be beautiful!

Go forth and be splendid.

xo

cb

shock the monkey

My small epiphany for the day:

Maybe being respected is more important than being liked.

(in certain situations)

Thoughts?

it’s not out there, it’s in here

Think about the life you want – the career, the lifestyle, the connections, the recognition, the accomplishments. Chances are there’s a superstar aspect to it: you want to be the most (something something) artist, or to revolutionize the field of (something), or to bring about a paradigm shift regarding (something), or wake people up to the obviousness of (something). Whatever it is, if it really happens the way it has the potential to happen, it will change everything — at least everything within a particular set of people or activity.

That’s the trickiness of being visionary. You can look at current circumstances and see future configurations that other people can’t see. What seems and feels obvious to you is veiled behind clouds of (something) to them. And it kills you, because if people could just see what you see and understand what you understand, they’d realize that things–people, LIFE–could be way better after a certain amount of adjustment.

You may have tried to announce your vision to the world in various ways. Maybe there was enthusiasm but then it died out. Maybe only a few people heard you. Chances are you’re sort of depressed because the response you’ve gotten so far feels so meager compared to the magnitude of what you have to offer if you could just figure out how to help people understand.

…and so it goes…

…what can be done?

having pondered this, I think the answer lies in redesigning our spatial-cognitive models. By this, I mean the inner picture we have of what the accomplishment of our grand master plan is supposed to look like. So often we think in terms of large scale, public change, and this is largely out of altrusim: we genuinely want to make the world a better place for as many people as possible. So the video we play in our minds of what the future change looks like is set “out there,” in collective public space–we imagine how people, communities, societies would be different if we could do what we are meant to do.

But I think there’s a secret: not much really happens on large, collective public scales, that’s only a media mirage. The media picks up things happening on small, local scales and balloons them into massive phenomena. The actual thing / event stays local. It’s the reproduction ad infinitum of it thanks to the media that makes it seem huge.

This mirage is tainting our sense of purpose, because we start to think that nothing is worth doing if it can’t be done massively. But that’s just not true.

So the reconfiguration of our spatial-cognitive model means inverting the scale, and finding and “in here” setting in which our activity can take place. Where is the the protected jewel cave of an environment in which to carry out your divine mission? While it might sound elusive, I happen to believe that there are jewel caves everywhere waiting to be discovered: THE perfect place for you to try out whatever it is that you are here to do.

How to find it:

1. Sit for a moment and call the feeling of your purpose and its related activity into your body.

2. Assess the scale of your vision: if it feels anything bigger than a single event in a specific location, bring it in closer until it’s the size of a room (say 20′ x 20′ – can be indoors or outdoors).

3. Within these parameters, imagine the ideal space for what’s happening: if you could manifest your own ideal movie set for this vision, what would it look like?

4. When you’ve called all that up, make some notes: write a description or draw a sketch.

5. Figure out where you can find this space in real-life in your nearby world.

6. Go there.

7. Act out your activity. Bring friends if you can. Be silly but thorough. Then go get tea or drinks and enjoy the rest of your day.

8. Plan the real thing.

9. Do the real thing.

[…]

WHY THE SPATIAL PART IS IMPORTANT: it has to do with our brains & nervous systems:

The way the body understands activity is situated, meaning that we can’t really believe anything is possible until we can actually visualize a complete experience of us doing whatever it is. And that experience isn’t just the idea of something, but is the doing of it–the feelings, movements, vocalizations, and sensory impressions of the activity have to be embodied in order for something to move out of the realm of conceptual and into the realm of the imminent. When we can concretely spatialize whatever it is we want to do, then it goes from being a general category of thing or event to a specific manifestation of a thing or event. And that has power. We can sit there and say, “There are so many painting classes in the Bay Area. Who’s going to come to mine if I offer one?” This is category thinking. But when you say, “I’m going to offer a painting class in this beautiful space on this particular day at this time and it’s going to cost this much” then all of a sudden it becomes real.

If you have the perfect environment, in which the activity of your purpose can unfold in the way it was naturally intended, then chances are things will go well. The jewel cave is “in here” — smaller than you think, intimate, not as visible as you probably think you’re supposed to be on the first go-round. But once you find it, everything else has an uncanny way of falling into place.

peace,

cb

MY NEW MOTTO

“Stop being hesitant. It’s time to change the motherfucking world.”

I thought I would take advantage of my horoscope for July 18th, which reads:

 (from http://www.astro.com)
Inner excitement
Weak, transient effect: This morning you can assert yourself in a positive manner and stand your ground if necessary. You may feel more courage and confidence than usual, which you express by taking the initiative in making emotional contacts with others. You speak very directly and forcefully, but without being offensive, which others will respect you for. This is a good time to work as a leader with groups of people. You understand what is needed, and you can unify your objectives and theirs, usually by talking them around to your point of view. Whenever you talk with others, you radiate an inner excitement, as if you were ready for immediate action. Under this influence you have the capacity to start projects, although you should keep in mind that this is a short-term influence and its effects will not last long.
The interpretation above is for your transit selected for today:
Moon Trine Mars, , exact at 04:33  
activity period from 17 July 2012 to 18 July 2012

and post something with a little bravado. So here goes:

There is a particular kind of beauty that only you have the capacity to imagine.

If you don’t create that beauty in the world, it will never be known.

Georgia O’Keeffe figured this out, obviously. So did Einstein, and Gregory Colbert, and Blake, and Jimmi Hendrix, Martha Graham. And several other folks.

Here’s how it’s done, in 5 easy steps:

1) Dedicate your life to what you believe in. Really figure out what’s at the core of what you’re about and hold this as the source of everything you do.

2) Slog through the period where you’re relatively unknown, possibly penniless, eating lots of Ramen.

3) Find a way to assemble a body of work and figure out how to get it out to the right audience.

4a) Wait for divine providence to intervene. (that right person / moment / opportunity / etc.) (like when the Board Chairman of Rolex discovered Gregory Colbert’s work and said, “You know the Medici? I’m kind of like that…” (I paraphrase)

or 4b) Let go of the “discovery myth” and just start contacting people. Eventually someone will realize how fantastic you are.

5) Don’t become an asshole once you’re famous. That way you’ll stay open to inspiration.

Important things to remember:

i) You should expect the beginning to be messy and flailing. You will not give birth to iphone-level perfection from day one. Creativity does not work that way.

ii) The only way to really rock at something is through committed practice (cf. Malcom Gladwell & the 10K hour rule — especially the hilarious story about the Beatles)

iii) Consistency helps. Even if you work in different media, having a common source theme will help people understand your body of work. (You become “the person who does xxxxxx…” – like Christo)

iv) related to iii: If what you do starts to become boring, stop doing it the way you’ve been doing it and wait for a crazy idea about a way to do it differently, somehow maintaining consistency.

v) Another suggestion: create your own vocabulary. Especially if what you do has never really been done before, then people will need language to talk about it. If you can provide the language, you become doubly innovative.

vi) It’s OK to go through dry spells, doubt phases, “have I been wasting all this time” melodramas. It’s helpful to have an out-of-the-way place where you can go cry and/or scream to the powers that be: “WTF am I doing? Why did you set me on this path? I could use a little help here… please!” But also know that help has it’s own wacko schedule: it might take a while for the response to organize itself in the material world…

vii) when you’re really stressed, try singing. it helps.

Respectfully,

cb

WHO YOU GONNA CALL?

…or, why I prefer small villages to anonymous urbanity

Back in the day when communities were small and operated collectively (and in the present day, in places where they still do) people weren’t anonymous. Everyone knew everyone. Jill was Brian’s mother’s sister. Edward was Aurora’s grandson. Scooter was Nero and Anna’s dog until they realized baby Carson was allergic, so they gave him to Uncle Tim.

And everyone knew what everyone else was good at: when people were having babies, they always called Aurora, until she got too frail to help with deliveries. But luckily she had been training Marilyn, who took over and had such a gentle presence. Carl had a way with plants. Arthur could tell stories. Molly could sing. Nina could play the piano and the violin. Alita somehow always knew when it was going to rain. Riley was hilarious and could get anyone out of a bad mood, even his father. Rich made the best stew. And when Gus spoke–which was rare–everyone made sure to listen.

I’m enamored of the idea that communities can get to this place again, with intention: that we can learn what gifts are available among us and develop a sense of when they can be utilized. There are times when gifts are needed: when people are sad, in pain, or going through a rite of passage, or just feeling like it’s a good time for a celebration. There are people whose presence will make a difference, will allow whatever’s happening to be more open, more full — will help open up the moment to whatever it might be waiting and wanting to become.

Some questions:

  • What are your gifts, and in what kinds of situations might they be most needed?
  • Who do you know that has a particular strength or kind of knowledge?
  • How can you help him or her connect with opportunities where these strengths can be offered?
  • What would happen if we had more and more frequent opportunities to be and do what we’re meant to be and do?
  • What would happen in a community where this was intentionally practiced?

thoughts & responses??

amore,

cb

(P.S. The original title for this post was “the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker” but then I read the rest of the rhyme and realized it didn’t really apply. 🙂

THAT’S THE STORY OF MY LIFE! – or – FINDING THE HIDDEN NARRATIVE…

If anything’s true about the world we live in, it’s that it’s a world of constant change. We’re immersed in a sea of images and narratives engineered to ensnare us in thinking and acting in certain ways (often for other people’s benefit). In the midst of this it becomes really difficult to find the thread of our own stories.

Let’s take a quick look at the importance of story: on a fundamental level, story is an organizing principle that allows us to piece together experiences and events into a meaningful sequence. In his 2008 book, The Political Mind, author George Lakoff (who also co-wrote Metaphors We Live By with Mark Johnson) proposes that most narrative sequences can be mapped to recognizable patterns of roles and events, which he calls “frames.” In the rescue frame, for example, we have the roles of the villain, the victim, and the hero. The villain threatens or harms the victim, the hero challenges the villain, and after some period of struggle and uncertainty, the hero prevails over the villain and the victim is delivered to safety. We’ve seen this frame a gazillion times and yet it’s still enticing. This is in part because each time we witness the playing out of this frame, we’re participating in it ourselves: we’ve all lived through this frame personally, experiencing at least one, probably more than one of the roles. Each time we encounter it in a story, it evokes (i.e. literally reactivates) the very emotions we felt first-hand when we lived through the experience.

On a neural level, the reason why this frame is so gripping is because it engages one of our fundamental biological adaptations: the fight or flight response, which we humans share with all mobile living organisms. When the fight or flight response is initiated, it kicks our nervous system into high gear, increasing heart rate and breathing and pumping cortisol and other stimulating chemicals into the bloodstream, allowing us to maximize our active response (and thus, chances for survival). But the body can only sustain this state for so long before it collapses from exhaustion, which is why the resolution (the defeat of the villain and the rescue of the victim) is so sweet: it allows the body to relax, which is accompanied by the release of happy, calming neurochemicals. The ordeal is over. It’s time for a beer.

Why this diversion into good guy bad guy land? Because one of the vital aspects of the fight or flight response is that it has a fantastic ability to narrow and sharpen our field of attention. All nonessential information fades into the background as our sensory receptors search out and hone in on information and signals that are most likely to contribute to our survival. (This is usually the moment in the movie where the hero/protagonist notices the vent in the ceiling — hark! possible escape…!). This goal then has the effect of hyper-sequencing the nervous system: the body goes into action and organizes itself to achieve the goal.

This process is most effective in life or death situations — the will to live is impressively strong and its sequencing power enables organisms to overcome impressive odds. The same principle applies in less drastic situations, say, when we’re late and are rushing to get somewhere. Reaching the destination is the main organizing principle; all other non-essential data is automatically assigned a lower priority. This is why drivers in a hurry become assholes: their nervous systems are hyper-focused to such an extent that it becomes impossible to run other sequences, such as waiting and allowing other drivers to merge. They’re acting out the proverbial one track mind.

So what does this all have to do with finding the thread of one’s personal story? Here’s the deal: without a narrative driver as an organizing principle, we get lost: we stumble around without a sense of direction; we get distracted by multiple simultaneous threads; we get caught up in other people’s stories; or (my personal favorite), we become Netflix addicts, essentially borrowing other narratives because they help us *feel* purposeful. What we need to do is identify the story we’re living so that we can allow it to organize and sequence our activity.

Here are two suggestions on how to do this:

1) The practical approach: Get really clear about what your goal is. Keep it simple. Break it down into easily achievable mini-steps. (Our brains love accomplishing things. When we “win” at something we get a dopamine hit that makes us want to keep winning.) Choose small steps that are challenging enough to activate your game-self (the milder version of fight/flight) but not so out there that you get overwhelmed or succumb to self-doubt. Also important: find role models–other people who have achieved the goal you’ve set for yourself and study what they did — really break it down step-by-step. This will help your nervous system begin to make sense of the sequence that will get you where you want to go. Try to find ways to embody what they did so that your goal becomes a living, real-life sequence and not just a conceptual idea. Do this enough and you’ll start to gain momentum.

2) The more mythological approach: (This is the idea that inspired this post in the first place.) Ponder this question: what story or narrative do you identify with most strongly? Have you ever read a book or seen a movie and felt down to the bottom of your soul that the protagonist was you? Perhaps you became obsessed with the story or character, saw yourself in his/her shoes, imagined yourself going on his/her journey. Chances are this story–and the frame it represents–is Your Story. (I must credit Craig Chalquist as the originator of this idea. If you haven’t yet taken his Archetypal Myth class at JFK, I highly recommend it.) Go through a similar process with this narrative: break it down, parse it out in pivotal events and moments of transformation. What did the protagonist do to overcome odds? How many times did s/he fail and rise again? What did s/he release / accept / transform that allowed him/her to succeed? You might even map your current situation to the narrative sequence: what scene are you in right now? What happens next in the story that might give you some clue about what you need to do?

(If anyone’s curious, my favorite story is the movie Contact. After I publish this post I’ll be doing my own analysis…)

You might think about combining these two approaches: take one real world example (for me, it’s always Bjork), and one imaginal example (Jodie Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway). Let their stories give you clues. Can’t hurt to have more than one angel.

And as you’re doing this, practice letting Your Story become your one-track mind. Not to such an extent that you slack off on other things you need to do, but just enough that it helps filter out the nonessentials. If you’re not sure whether a piece of info is part of your story or not, just contemplate it for a moment: hold whatever it is in your mind’s eye against the backdrop of the fuller narrative. If it doesn’t seem to fit, don’t try to force it, just let it go.

To pick up the theme of collaboration from the last post (it’s central to this whole blog project) let’s not forget, too, that stories always have more than one character: protagonists nearly always have helpers, teachers, friends, and/or companions on the road. Look into your story and see who these characters are (Ellie Arroway has Kent, her friend and fellow astronomer, who happens to be blind (the blind seer) and who has keen insight into her inner spirit, and S.R. Hadden, the mysterious trickster who appears out of nowhere and gives her major clues that bring about quantum leaps on her journey…hmmmm…). Of course she also has detractors, challengers, doubters, and saboteurs. It would be nice if they didn’t exist but they’re necessary players too: without the villian, there wouldn’t be a hero, right?

My dear friends, I am anxious to hear what your story is and where you are in it. Please reply and share!!

xo

cb

Making the case for Arts & Consciousness as a collaborative process

Dear A&C friends:

If you are reading this, it’s quite likely that you have invested, or will eventually have invested, two, three, four or more years of your life in making contact with your inner self — your soul, let’s call it — the part of you that interacts with energies, the imaginal, the symbolic. The part of you that has learned to some degree to dip into the stream of the great Mystery and come back out of it with new information, which becomes the art we make.

This is special knowledge, which each person has learned (is learning) in a certain way that is unique to who s/he is.

So what do we do with this? I’d like to share a couple ideas…

Idea #1: The Mosaic

I’m writing this email to advocate for the idea that being a conscious, spiritual or transformative artist is, by definition, meant to be a collective activity. That we’re each bringing back aspects of a whole that is meant to be assembled through sharing what we find and figuring out how it fits together. What is the picture it makes? What forms take shape amid the reflections and relationships that are revealed when these works of art are brought face to face in some fashion?

Perhaps you have heard of the book Original Wisdom, by Robert Wolff? I first read it in 2006 and its description of the collective life of an indigenous Malayasian tribe as experienced by a Western medical professional (yes, it’s one of those, but bear with me…) made a profound impression on me in terms of suggesting what becomes possible when a group of people commit to sustaining a collective connection to the imaginal. Here’s an excerpt:

In the morning, we might not all wake up at the same time, but those who woke up early would lie quietly, waiting for more people to awaken. And somehow, as if by magic, we would find ourselves sitting in a circle, rubbing our eyes, stretching to get the kinks out. One person would say, “I saw a bird, a beautiful bird.” Someone else would say, “Yes, I too saw a bird.” “What kind of bird was it?” another would ask. And so we would create a story with images from our dreams.

They did not think that they were sharing dreams as we think of dreams. The Sng’oi believe that the world we live in is a shadow world, and that the real world is behind it. At night, they believe, we visit that real world, and in the morning we share what we saw and learned there. The story that was created around the memories that four or five people brought back from the real world set the tone for the day.

Sometimes one of the group would take the lead in soliciting input from each person in the room: How about you? What do you remember? Other times the story flowed without help. A few times no story emerged at all. It was very obvious that when a more or less coherent story was created around the images we shared, we who had slept in that shelter would live that story that day. Usually the stories were simple: a bird had shown the way to a tree that was bearing fruit. Later that day some of us would find that tree, and of course it did have ripe fruit. Or the story was about a bad storm. People would stay close to the shelters all day, and yes, there was a big storm in late afternoon.  (pp. 88-89)

In 2011, I was a T.A. with Karen Shojolm for Creativity and Consciousness. During the classes dedicated to sharing artwork (at the end of each three week phase of working with one or both opposites), we had some opportunity to observe the relationships between the different pieces within a room. It was very interesting: there definitely were colors and images that surfaced in more than one person’s work. It’s possible to say this is a result of people being in the same class and part of the same discussions, but what if the group really was touching into a collective imaginal space, and that space was coming through in the artwork?

In 2010-2011, elizaBeth Benson, raven reyes, and I also midwifed collaborative installation art experiences at the Poet Tree House, a multi-story live/work loft into which we invited groups of interdisciplinary folks to create three-dimensional imaginal spaces — each show attempting to create a spatial atmosphere with a particular theme (show 1: the Enchanted Forest; show 2: Paris, (show 3 was a little different)). We learned some very interesting things: of particular note was the discovery that kicking off the development of each show with a storytelling circle during which people shared their personal connections to the theme (memories, daydreams, feeling-states…) helped establish an imaginal container for the show. We then created a material installation world that let us enter into and embodily inhabit our shared symbolic space. (For me, this was a big wow!) This is a slightly different example in that the storytelling and artmaking were directed around a particular theme rather than arising spontaneously, but I still think it’s a noteworthy example of the potential of what can be manifested through the collaborative imaginal.

Idea #2: Partners in Healing

Maybe, like me, you’re not sure if you’re first and foremost an artist or if you’re a different kind of *someone* whose work is still very much related to the creative process. What is the creative process? What is Transformative Art? My working definition is that when you’re transforming materials of any kind, there is a simultaneous transformation of self also occurring–and it’s the transformation of self part that I want to focus on. Some of us who go through this program are driven to create work; others have a compelling wish to support people in the transformative process. I think they go together.

A few weeks ago, during a meditation, I had one of those moments of understanding that sometimes happens, and the info was this: these gifts that we have — teaching, healing, facilitating, creating — they’re meant to be shared. That we’re actually supposed to put all the things we know and are learning into practice and heal each other — that by sharing our healing and teaching gifts, we’re creating ways for energy to come into and become part of this realm (ja, I know how this sounds…). The important point is that this collective work, and the field it creates, is actually what helps us all get to the next level.

What would this look like? Maybe you’re a bodyworker, and you can exchange sessions with someone else who does sound healing. Or maybe you’re an herbalist and you can do an exchange with a visual artist who will listen to your  story and then create a healing drawing or picture for you. Maybe you have a special connection to animals, or places, or colors — you can help other people learn these things too. Maybe you’re really awesome at leading people in meditation or guided imagery and you double up on teaching a workshop with someone else who can help people read their own and other people’s energetic states. Maybe you’re a musician and you would be willing to play music while someone else is helping people learn to paint. Maybe you’re extremely grounded and can hold a safe container for groups: I’m pretty dang sure there’s a semi-hyper, very eager teacher somewhere out there who would love to collaborate with you.

The point is: we know things, each person reading this knows how to do some piece of this. These things are not supposed to stay hidden any longer.

I remember, back in the thick of my dive into books about indigenous cultures, I kept coming across books that had a common theme: “For centuries this knowledge has been held secret by my people, but now the elders have said it is time to share it with the world.” Again, this could be seen as a marketing ploy, but what if it’s not? What if we really are living in the age where esoteric knowledge needs to see the light of day and be put into practice in real and exchangable ways that become as normal as any other part of community life? Isn’t that kind of the description of the world that we came to JFK hoping to find or help make happen?

Isn’t it?

Well, here’s our chance.

~~~

Thoughts??  (plz click on “leave a comment” up above in green…)

In determined alliance with y’all,

Catherine

Making the case for Arts & Consciousness as a collaborative process