Monday, December 13, 2010

Waiting

Want a quick reading based on one of the world's oldest advice columns (the I Ching Book of Changes)? 

We'll look at #5 of the 64 hexagrams that make up the I Ching: on Waiting/Nourishment.  

First, you might want to check in: is there something particular you're waiting for? Maybe jot down a question about handling the wait.
 
And, pick a number between 1 and 6. Write that down too.

Read below about the hexagram, or, scroll to the bottom of the post to see the suggestion/pointer corresponding to your number. 

_______________________________________

"This hexagram shows the clouds in the heavens, giving rain to refresh all that grows 
and to provide mankind with food and drink.
The rain will come in its own time.
We cannot make it come; we have to wait for it.
"

--Hexagram 5, I Ching Book of Changes, Wilhelm/Baynes trans.
_______________________________________

What are you waiting for?

For a lucky break? To find out what happens? To finish something so you can get on to something else? For an ordeal to be over, a danger to pass? To get to the head of the line? 

Waiting has been on my mind. I'd been working on a picture that meets the suffering side of waiting–a portrait in fabrics and paint inspired by a sketch called 'Woman Waiting' that I saw in a book of artwork made during the Holocaust.

Woman Waiting

More recently, I'd been fidgeting while waiting to find out whether something I really hope for will happen. 

I've noticed that this wait is only a problem when my impatient mind rushes ahead trying to stack up future decisions on the shaky foundation of the not-yet-known.

When I wait impatiently, I wheedle for insider information from the Universe--come ON! Give me a hint? My hungry mind is like a kid badgering for candy at the checkout. This is tiring and not-nourishing. The I Ching reminds me to conserve my energy for later when there's something to do.
_______________________________________

 "We should not worry and seek to shape the future 
by interfering in things before the time is ripe. 
We should quietly fortify 
the body with food and drink 
 and the mind with gladness and good cheer. 
Fate comes when it will, and thus we are ready."
--I Ching Hexagram 5 Wilhelm/Baynes
 
_______________________________________

 A quick way to fortify the body-mind

Sometimes good cheer isn't so easily come by during a wait. Here's something that usually helps me when I remember to try it: Instead of seeking to drop impatience, simply shift attention to the space behind my back.

No matter what fills it, there's always just as much space behind your body as in front (likewise above, below and to the sides). What happens if you just notice that back space, and allow the body to settle into it instead of pressing forward and up in a posture of rushing towards the future?
 

There is a comfort in letting yourself be exactly where you are, as you are, even when it's not comfortable. And it helps to recognize that your state is always changing. You might watch your breathing for a moment, noticing its shifting qualities, without trying to alter it. Give yourself full permission to rest here and let gladness restore itself even before you know the outcome you're awaiting.  

It is also possible to wait too patiently 

Sometimes I catch myself putting life on hold while waiting for something important to play out. If I endure in limbo for long enough without agitating, will my enforced 'good attitude' somehow be rewarded?

Circumstances don't often bend to fit this fantasy
. The antidote the I Ching advises? Self-honesty--get real.

_______________________________________

"One is faced with a danger that has to be overcome. Weakness and impatience can do nothing.
It is only when we have the courage 
to face things exactly as they are, 
without any sort of self-deception or illusion,  
that a light will develop out of events,  
by which the path to success may be recognized. 
This recognition must be followed 
by resolute and persevering action."
--I Ching Hexagram 5 Wilhelm/Baynes
_______________________________________

 

Consult the Oracle

So, did you consider a question you may have regarding waiting? And did you pick a number between 1 and 6?

Read the suggestion corresponding to your number and explore how you might relate it to your question or situation.
  • 1. A challenge is coming, but it is not yet close. Go on with your life in a simple, alert and open way. Don't waste your strength on anticipation or rehearsals. Enjoy your present.
  • 2. Impending change is stirring up some insecurity. Take care not to indulge in blame (especially self-blame) or defensiveness. Remind yourself that it really is ok to not know what is going to happen yet, even if you don't like it.
  • 3. Don't hold back from fully completing a needed change. Half measures will not work now. Be vigilant about not following fearful or despairing thoughts or acting from their influence. Fears can make things appear stuck or impossible.
  • 4. There is nothing else you can do right now. Stop trying to force solutions or to figure anything out and remain calm, trusting in heart knowledge to get you out of danger when the time is ripe.
  • 5. Even though everything isn't resolved yet, now is a good time to pause and enjoy yourself. If you are waiting for something to be over with, you may be missing the true nourishment available in the present. Everything can't happen at once.
  • 6. Your good fortune may come in disguise. Question the thought, "I have to do it all" and remain alert and available to receive help in unexpected forms. All goes well in the end.
----------------------------------- 
Want to reconnect more deeply with your own wisdom, clarity and ease? Creative Mind Coaching might help: www.TruthDareCoaching.com

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Retreat Report


fabric and thread water picture
Pond Prayer
(painted canvas and silk threads) Jude '10

I gave myself four creative retreats this past year, of 10 days each. It seems miraculous in retrospect that this was possible.

One thing I hoped to work on was a fresh way to integrate painting with the fabric collage process I worked in for 30 years. I've experimented with this plenty of times before. But even though some approaches have been satisfying, a breakthrough had eluded me.

The first 3 retreats had been pretty much a flop as far as finding this opening, though none of them felt at all like a waste of time. I wound up with more pictures of water--worshiping the pond that is one of my all-time favorite gurus. And I made the self-portrait eyes that went into the header for my new coaching website at www.selftreasuring.com .

(Actually, the first retreat had resulted in the Self Treasuring name, which came about from working on nests--you never really know what you're really making while you're making it, in a way).

The final retreat of the year, in late fall, had the earnestness (or recklessness) of endings about it, a now or never feeling. I really wanted to try something different.

But I found myself digging out something old--a piece I'd started in fabric collage 15 years ago and never finished. It was based on a drawing I'd xeroxed from a book of art created during the Holocaust--I'm still trying to track down the artist's name.


Sketch of woman
Woman Waiting sketch (artist unknown)

Here's where I'd stopped with the fabric collage 15 years ago:


Incomplete face in fabric collage
Woman Waiting 1 (fabric collage)

As I went back into the piece, I felt in collaboration with two other artists--the person who'd done the drawing, and the artist I was 15 years ago--along with the energy of the woman portrayed in the sketch. I was being all of them at once as my hands picked up pieces of cloth, the iron, glue, the paintbrush.

I heard anxiety in the mix: a WhatWillPeopleThink? voice, worried about making something unpretty, not 'uplifting'--something no one will want to see. I heard a deeper thrum of the fear of the injustice, loss of control and death represented by the Holocaust. I heard the dreaded gremlin MizSpiritual trying to levitate above that fear, sometimes grousing about hadn't we evolved past Hard Stuff pictures?

And all the time, that feeling of being carried, of choice-making happening of itself, that no-self experience of giving over into a creative process which feels so profoundly at-home. How should I know what I'm to make? It was being made. There was a fullness of gratitude that can't be expressed. Making light of hard stuff without even trying to.

When I could stand back from it and let the finished piece teach me, I witnessed something fiercely beautiful after all. I saw how light just pours out of us, even when we're angry and afraid and hurting, even when terrible things are happening, and we're waiting for something worse. Every moment, everybody is just such a beacon.

Even when nothing terrible is happening, sitting in front of a screen, just witnessing and connecting--maybe like you, now. Making light.


Portrait in fabric collage and paint

Woman Waiting
(fabrics and paint on unprimed canvas)

I don't really make anything--making happens through me--but all I ever want to make is something about that Light. (And that's not MizSpiritual talking, it's just the facts, m'am).

Now that the paint/fabric intersection is happening in a new way, I'm ready to go back into another piece that started during the summer retreat, a portrait of Ramana Maharshi, who radiated the peace behind and around and within every beauty. I'll find a way to open time for this in the winter, when that Stillness is so palpable in the north.



Fabric eyes and photo of Ramana
Ramana Maharshi eyes and photo


This winter, I'll also be leading a coaching group for 9 self-aware women who are ready to meet the creative challenge of their Next Big Thing (even if they don't know what that is yet). Might you join us? Read about the Mystery Mind Creator's Colony here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Warm-up


Scorpio Rose, detail 4x6 in(?), fabrics '97


Just found this little write from back-in-the-day. My writing group was invited to take on an older opposite-gender persona and invent a personal ad from that voice:

Hunky widower (don't worry, I didn't kill her, I waited her out) hates walks on beach, wine by fireplace, golden retrievers. Let's get real, sweetheart: your place or mine? Time's a-wasting. You've got some meat on your bones and you don't whine about arthritis; you just know how to take your time. Me, the same.
You actually love the smell of cigars. You're a classy lady looking for a true but wicked gentleman. If I tear up at the phone commercial, you'll hand me your hankie, thank you very much, which I'll wash and fold before I return--ha! no stereotypes here. By now you've learned not to try to organize a man or fish in his pockets. Me, I've learned to turn my hearing aid down without you noticing, so you can go ahead and give me all the details.




Sunday, November 14, 2010

One Holiday Behind


What are you?



This was my headgear for answering the door at Halloween, asking friendly metaphysical questions concerning identity, "What (or who) are you?" while dishing out candy to children in outfits. (Hat by the amazing Syd Rhoads of WendyBird Hats soon to be on Etsy--I added the fabric eye, temporarily, to make me look more discerning).

There's no hesitation about answering: "A witch!" "A hockeymask monster!" Funny no one ever answers, "A kid in a costume."
-------

A while back a sort of obvious realization gave me belly laughs followed by a zingy bubbly energy that wouldn't sleep. I can't quite remember now what struck me as so funny about it, but I'll give it a try.

Here goes: the "I" thought is the same thought in each brain. Hilarious, huh? (Maybe you had to have been there.)

This thought "I" elaborates itself out into endless flourishes and intricacies, but it's all coming from the same root. Before adding "am..." and all that follows, there is only that one "I" thought, pretending in each person to signify a unique and separate reference of experience.

Something like 75 trillion cells make up a human body. There's almost 7 billion of these aggregates of cells on the planet. Every one of them (give or take) calls themselves, in whatever language, "me" or "I."

I never quite saw before that in each one the same "I" idea lives. This "I" thought that our lifeform hosts and serves, that we believe in as our very own, it's everyone's. Such a laugh! Joke's on 'me'.

There are 20 times as many bacteria, with their distinct genes, living in each human body, as there are mammal cells. (More about that here). Do we count them in as "I" too?

So, aside from a chuckle (perhaps) what's the benefit of this awareness? For me, it gives an instant's break from all the striving and effort to maintain, track, update and improve the I-identity, through everything "I" do or don't do, think, feel, etc. When 'I' is seen as only a concept, one shared by everyone, simply a mental artifact--it lets us off the hook. There's nothing to do or be. Just for now. Breathing happening, reading happening.

No one here! Just an idea-someone. And yet...there's still this lifeform, and what animates it.

Who's that? Who's still here, unidentifiable, laughing?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Time Truce

What if time weren't money?
Can you invest 3 minutes to stop the war with the clock?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blessing?


I spoke with a gloomy friend on the phone a few weeks back, when the lilacs were first out.

Nosing lilacs gives me shiver-thrills. It's the scent equivalent of listening to Wilda's purr, a direct drink of comfort and joy.

As we were ending the call, I said, with a touch of the Mary Sunshine Cheer Up Vibe that sets my teeth when I'm grumpy, "Well, I hope you at least get to smell the lilacs sometime today!"

"Uh, yeah..." he said, sounding dubious.

"Don't you like lilacs?" I asked, relentlessly peppy.

"It's just that I'm deathly allergic to them. If I smelled a lilac directly, I wouldn't be able to breathe, at all."

"Oh. So basically I was signing off with a curse--I hope you at least get to suffocate sometime today. Not exactly what I meant...."

"I know what you meant," he said, with just a hint of a smile in his voice.

-------
Here's a first attempt at a video, of Herself, purring.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Mud Season


Occasionally the most thriving
creative life
gets bogged down, stuck and stagnant.

Don't know what to do?

Has "the true way been wholly lost"?(Dante)


Welcome to Mud Season
of creative work/life



Just beyond the winter
and just before the spring
--Kathleen Hannan


The Seasons in Maine:

Brief summer, gorgeous fall,

winter, more winter
and mud season

(followed by a couple weeks of spring).


Mud season isn't pretty.


Everything dead and unlovely
hidden frozen beneath snow
starts oozing into the open.

Impatience for soft breezes and flowers

makes time feel sluggish.
It seems like nothing is happening
except deepening ruts.


a beginning, a muddle, and an end

--Philip Larkin on structure of novels


The Surprise of Stagnation

In the uncharted middle of creating something

--a painting, a conversation, a business plan, a book--
sometimes inspiration wanders off for no apparent reason,

taking momentum and confidence with it.

You feel confused, out of alignment
with
the clarity of your Source.

In creativity's mud season, all you want
is for the standstill to end,
to welcome
the new green of productive work again.



The creative powers are not in relation
all things are benumbed
confusion and disorder prevail...

--I Ching Book of Changes, Wilhelm/Baynes trans
Hexagram 12 Standstill/Stagnation

Consult Jude's I Ching on Standstill/Stagnation



Get Going

You probably have good ideas about what might help--
maybe more outdoor exercise, less internet, cleaner diet, etc.

Sometimes just moving into action freshens things up.

You can find simple, small steps to take.
They don't have to relate to the area that feels stalled,
and you don't even have to feel like it.
Worth a try.

The Futility of Impatience

But activity doesn't necessarily bring clarity.
It can bring wheel spinning instead.

A command to 'just snap out of it!'
simply can't hurry spring.


Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

till the right action arises by itself?

The Master doesn't seek fulfillment.

Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.

--Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching trans Stephen Mitchell


Meet the Muck

How do you find patience
when you're feeling anything but?


For a moment, try just stopping
the mental activity of seeking improvement.
Welcome the whole of what's here, mud and all.

Relief begins with willingness to be present

with what's actually happening now.


The quickest access to Truth, and also to beauty,
is when you are totally intimate
with all of experience, the inner and the outer,
even if the experience isn't "good".

When you are being intimate with the whole of experience,
the divided mind has to let go
of whatever its project is at the moment.

Whether the qualities of the experience
are unpleasant or beautiful,
as soon as you are intimate with the whole
of experience, there is openness...

and whatever is happening tends to resolve itself.

--Adyashanti in Emptiness Dancing


Good Reasons to Be Here

Mud season is an essential transition time.
It accelerates decomposition into fertilizer
and softens the ground that tender shoots
will need to push up through.

What if a creative mud season comes
for similar good reasons?

Is there something that's been frozen in you,
held feelings, outworn approaches
misunderstandings, habits,
old stuff that hadn't fully composted?
Maybe it's dissolving now.

This could nourish future work
beyond what can be imagined.

When we stop agitating, even for a moment,
for things to start moving forward and looking up,
we can directly experience looking down, and in.

Unexpected treasures may be found
right under our feet.


More about ordinary treasures in Nesting

See Jude's ugly-beauty photos in Looking Down


Why Not Wallow?

Wallowing has a bad reputation,

(way worse than mud wrestling).

If permitted, it seems it might never end.

But if you're suffering through
a long mud season,
you may want to
risk some conscious wallowing.
How better to get intimate with the
whole
of a muddy experience?

For me, what makes wallowing conscious

is open listening to the burdened aspects of self.


Let the Swamp Creatures in you
express
what's bothering them,
perhaps with
the help
of a coach, friend or journaling.

Try to simply listen, without blaming,
defending or correcting.


Thich Nhat Hhan on compassionate listening:

You listen with only one purpose:

to help [someone] to empty his heart.

Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions,
full of bitterness,
you are still capable
of continuing
to listen with compassion.

If you want to help him to correct his perception,

you wait for another time.

For now, you don't interrupt. You don't argue.


You just listen with compassion
and help him to suffer less.

--Thich Nhat Hahn in O, the Oprah Magazine, Feb. 16, 2010
(read the full interview here)


Don't Control, Relate Instead

The I Ching identifies the time of Standstill
as one when the creative powers
are not in relation.

Listening is relating.
It may bring conflicted aspects
of the situation and your response into harmony.

When you become this kind of compassionate listener
you already enjoy the patience that lets your mud settle.

This patience has no agenda, nothing to wait for.
It trusts the power of non-action.

The clarity of the compassionate witness
is already here, available to notice
the next right action arising of itself.

You'll know it when you see it.



Doodle: Scruffy Before-Spring by Jude Spacks

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Standstill

The creative powers are not in relation
all things are benumbed
confusion and disorder prevail...

--I Ching Book of Changes, Wilhelm/Baynes trans
Hexagram 12 Standstill/Stagnation


Is there an area of your life or work that doesn't seem so creative lately? This hexagram addresses stagnant situations where there appears to be no progress.

Want some oracular advice? Before reading further, think of a particular situation where your inner guidance and inspiration seems shut down, sluggish or simply absent. If you can persuade yourself to, write down a question about what you'd most like cleared up. Then pick a number between 1 and 6 and jot that down.


"When we perceive that there is no progress...
tension and inner conflict arise.

The remedy is to disengage from looking at the situation.

We abandon neither our principles nor our goals.

When we have re-established inner calm,
the clarity needed to put things into perspective
becomes possible. Until then, nothing can be done.

In all striving the ego attempts to find some
way to
make things work in order to stay in control.

If we can accept that we are meant to patiently persevere,
then, by itself, Fate will indicate the way."


--Carol Anthony A Guide to the I Ching, Hexagram 12 Standstill/Stagnation


The hexagram as a whole counsels a retreat from trying to force solutions. Fruitful activity is temporarily impossible, because fundamentals are out of relationship with each other. Best not to focus on externals, even if tempting offers appear. Public action now could wind up compromising your principles. Instead, withdraw, be patient, and allow right action to arise of itself.
------------------------------------

Remembering your particular stuck situation, read the advice corresponding to the number between 1 and 6 that you wrote down earlier.

Keep an open mind, and see if your question's answer reveals itself to you.

(If you didn't pick a number 1-6 above, go ahead and choose one now.
Or, just read them all and see if one feels like it is meant for you.
Or, don't. )

1. Stop pouring attention into the negative situation.
Quit trying to influence it or to strive against it in any way.
Instead, persevere inwardly to stay connected with your truth.

2. You may have to endure self pity, discouragement and mistrust
from others and from your own childish aspects. For the good of
all, don't act on pressures to try to fix or convince anyone.

3. Misunderstandings within and without are beginning to clear up.
The futility of trying to force solutions becomes evident.
Take care not to humiliate or rush those who are changing
their confused ideas for the better.

4. If you remain open, balanced and alert,
you may be called into action by events now.
Keeping free of willful ambition,
you advance as the way opens and
pause if you meet further obstructions.

5. The transition out of standstill has arrived.
Take great caution now.
Don't be carried away
into grand gestures.
Instead, take small steady steps
to secure the transformation from many angles.


6.Through keeping your inner attitude correct

you have brought about better conditions.

The time of standstill has come to an end.

Creative energies flow into harmony.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Looking Down

If things are looking down,
and you're sick of trying
to make them look up,
well, just look down!
Look for ugly-beauties
right here on the pavement
under your feet.
























Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Nesting

I've made nests on and off for years, unruly wild-crafted webs of willow, grapevine, and seaweed, among other materials. They became home to some of the little things I can't help picking up and keeping.

Seaweed Nest and Sand Dollars JS '97?

Making a particular place for things, an appropriate container, feels like a fundamental domestic satisfaction. I remember meeting a woman with alzheimer's. Her favorite activity was sorting and arranging beads and buttons in a little grid of boxes. Her daughter said she still recognized her mother, who had been a scientist, in this kind of play. There was something essential to it.

I don't tend to live in an orderly fashion. Plenty of times I cross over from creative chaos into squalid mess. Things are definitely not in their places. And contrarily, sometimes I use housework as a procrasto-gizmo to avoid creative work. (There's a cartoon about people who have to do the dishes before they can art at the end of this Art First post).

At least I don't have all my eggs in one basket.

But maybe everything is really in its rightful place even when it seems out of order. Every place and every thing is impermanent, after all. Form is a giant game of musical chairs.

One-Egg Basket crocheted yarns and threads, JS '07

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

This past year I moved out of my own little nest in the sky. I had lived there for 18 years, hidden away in a small attic apartment. It had become an exoskeleton, an extension of myself that I felt alarmed and exhilarated to molt out of.

Before taking apart my studio, I found myself making a little house-shrine. It felt like a meditation on mortality as a change of address--a visual response to the koan, "What was your face before your parents were born?"

Our mother's body is our first nest. Then we live in the temporary container of our own body, sheltered in changeable clothing and houses, held by gravity to our place on the round mother planet, within the moving, living universe. Who or what is contained here?

Before Mother House
shrine with vases and candles, fabrics, paint, mirrors Jude Spacks '08



Interior of Before Mother House, showing mirrors

The front of the piece has curved openings, some of which are covered with sheer fabric. This is participatory art: it needs you to complete it, to bring presence to it. As you look through the semi-veiled openings to the mirror and colorful wall in the rear of the little house, you see only a foggy, mysterious suggestion of a face looking back at you. Who is that?



The flowers offered in the little vases, fresh only a few days, and the hand setting them there, a hazy suggestion of its movement doubling in the curved mirror shapes and disappearing: all the same essence, held so fleetingly.

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

Packing meant seeing freshly the hoard of ordinary treasures I chronically save. Some things still held memories of when they appeared in my world. But with most I had no idea how they came to be here. There were some startling encounters with beauty that had been hidden, overlooked, taken for granted, forgotten.

Equally mysterious was the knowing that chose what to let go of, what got thrown back into the ocean, literally or metaphorically, and what got packed to come along.

One day shortly after I began living in my new house, I happened upon a citrine crystal of a very deep burnt orange, set into the top hole of a sea urchin skeleton of cool filigreed silver-green. The citrine glowed with gold flecks inside, like a wise, wild eye.

I used to collect crystals, and knew some of their magical properties. Citrine supports cleansing and ordering, as I remember the lore.

The urchin shell fit around the crystal with perfectly symmetrical grace: curved radiating rows of light dots increasing in size towards its periphery--a divine artifact of astonishing intricacy. In my palm the combination felt potent as a wand. I had to make a Place for it.

The feeling I had was of a grounded mystery, of tangled order, an organic, spontaneous, stillness-in-motion, a secret cave. It took more than a month of working with those colors, deep orange and light grey-green, not an easy combination, looking for the energetic harmonies in 3D that could house them.

Oracle Cave, mixed media with mirror JS '09 (available)




detail, Oracle Cave: Citrine Urchin's padded throne


In the fall, my sweetheart was getting ready to drive off on a long trip. There were acorns all over the yard. I painted one with a heart in pearlescent pigments, and adapted a matchbox with glitter to house it and her other car-blessing talisman.

There is a cherishing involved in this tiny nest-making.

A week or so later, I saw my neighbor sitting on a big rock with his beloved granddaughter cuddled up in his lap. They were both curved around something she held cupped in her little hands.
"We like to pick up chestnuts," he said.

So then I had to make a chestnut nest. A celebration of the love of mundane treasures. There's a whole potential chestnut tree in there! Miracles abound.


Self-Treasuring Nest, fabrics, shells, chestnut, composition gold leaf, JS'09

I thought also of how common mussel shells are where I live, but how glorious. What's common can be overlooked. There's royalty in the humblest things.

The chestnut is removable--another found treasure could go there, or the gold leaf center of the soft encircling throne (inspired by granddaughter hands) could be left empty and open.


I found myself reflecting (heh!) that there was no mirror in this piece--they'd been showing up pretty much in every other shrine I'd been making. Then I wondered, what if the beauty, dignity, humility, simplicity and miracle of a chestnut is a mirror? Or the Place where a chestnut was... can you see your Self there?

We pick up treasures here and there, and keep them a while,
every one temporary, the memory of what made us want to
gather and sort them fleeting too.
Is it for the sake of the treasuring?
What's precious? The holding itself? The impermanence?
The little girl's hands, the old man's hands,
the chestnut, the breeze around them,
the ground that the tree could grow out of,
the light, the colors,
the whole world holding us all?
So that would include you too, wouldn't it?


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


Wilda in Wildanest

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