Not an easy feat in a world of enhanced images, carefully curated words, autocorrect and delete. It is so tempting...so easy to refine, polish, edit, enhance what we show to the world, just as we have difficulty letting the hand of the artist (that stray pencil mark, that dripping paint) remain uncovered in our work. But I am convinced, if we crave authentic connection, we must resist - mitts off! Let your own self shine.
And now, we return you to your regularly scheduled day. :)
This place help us grow both softer and stronger, says Nepo. Holding these opposing concepts in my two hands, I see the truth of it. As in the painting, strength and softness can (and must) co-exist for us to be ourselves in the world. Lifting the mask, unfiltered, knowing we are strong enough to be soft, and soft enough to feel the joy in everything.
In a chapter called "Everything Changes and Ends" (ACK! Stop showing me my life!) there is instruction for a two-handed practice in which you hold your fear in one hand and your commitment to no longer act in a fear-based way in the other. As in a Buddhist practice, you sit in your fear and breathe into it (not denying or pushing away) and then, simultaneously have awareness that you can handle whatever it is and get through it without becoming devastated. Richo says "One hand is serenely mindful; one is courageously working. When I hold both realities this way, I am agreeable to things as they are, and I am doing all I can to change them for the better as well." Relinquishing control and still doing your best. Saying "yes" to things as they are and holding hope they will be better. Reality plus hope = serenity and courage.
So I am practicing this holding of opposites in my thrice-daily walks (thank you, Wonder Mike, for keeping me moving). And I am watching the fear fall away as the self-empowerment grows. Yes to all the things. Yes to all the hope. Leaving a trail of cast-off control urges in the gutter with all the pretty red and yellow leaves.
Coincidence, obstacle, miracle, surprise as musical notes of the one song. These things that thread us together and bring us alive. There have been some obstacles - oh yes. But the coincidences (serendipity, synchronicity, magic) have lead to some surprise miracles that lift me into the one song and set my heart soaring.
In this painting, the layers are built and then heavily washed again and again and again. Each washing leaving a little of the layer, but also moving some of that paint in an uncontrolled manner. The telling of our stories, even the "what went wrong or how we failed" washes away some of the hurt but leaves a little shadow of what was, blurring into other stories until, one day, we are freed beyond the telling into living the one song.
So as I contemplated this painting - this warrior woman - I spent an afternoon listening to all the songs I think of as power anthems for women: Janet Jackson's "Nasty", Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation", Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire", Beyonce's "Run the World",, Lauren Hill's "That Thing", Ariana Grand's "God is a Woman" - to name a few. (I didn't require any coffee after that. Whoa! There is a lot of powerful energy in these songs!)
But there was just one song for the woman in this painting. And it isn't just a song for women, but for all of us imperfect and beautiful humans. Dear reader, this song's for you.
Mark Nepo says "It doesn't matter what splinter the Universe gives us to stop us in our tracks". Oh really? Couldn't MY splinter be something meaningful and elegant in a universal metaphor of brilliance kind of way? Nope. I can handle the really big stuff. But those little splinters....ooooh they get under my skin (and cause bad puns). Nepo says "...it's no one's place to judge or say that what unhinges us doesn't make sense or that our heartbreak is too much..." The only thing that matters is that we trip into...what matters. Or, in my case, fall headfirst while having a tantrum. "The truth is that we are here precisely to fall off the deep end..." (Nepo again).
Ok, here is where that pesky Universe gets tricky with helping me learn something when I'd rather blow a gasket. "Our work...is to investigate what these sharp incidents are opening in us." (Nepo) Well other than wishing it had opened up a can of whoop-ass specially designed for government bureaucracy, it did help me realize some things about how helpless I felt in certain aspects of my life. And how that helplessness was really messing with my inner peace. Nepo calls this getting under it instead of getting over it. Which is apparently exactly what we humans are supposed to do.
And once more, my very, very dear reader, you've spent a few moments reading my musings and looking at a piece of art. I hope you get under whatever is harshing your mojo today. If not, I've got some unused whoop-ass you can borrow. :)
Though she is wearing away, she appears solid. I wondered what that meant. And then, well, not Nepo, but someone Nepo quoted (see how tangled this web is?):
With each passing (and passage), there is a further wearing away of the layers or coverings that obscure our essential selves. And so, as we say "goodbye" again and again, we feel thinner, narrower, more naked, more transparent, more vulnerable in a palpable, holy way" - ELESA COMMERSE (as quoted in Mark Nepo's Things That Join the Sea and Sky)
Just like that, I can see glimpses of her essential self revealed under the waters of the loch. Not quite unlocked, but less obscured. And so are we, dear reader, with passing and passage, more vulnerable in holy ways.
With a focus on the face, and with adding some depth and interest to the background, my own mixed media version became a little more ferocious. Are those cage bars behind him? Has he escaped?
And once more the chant of RESIST RESIST RESIST in my head when I felt the urge to smooth, soften, accentuate.
"To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have: our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive ---the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans." DON MIGUEL RUIZ
Once you reach a certain, ahem, age (shhhhhhhhh - no need for numbers!) thoughts of mortality are more prevalent. Along with the preparing of wills and other documents which we'd much rather postpone until they are really necessary, by which time it will be too late. While watching my thoughts (don't you do that? It's like stalking your own mind...) I recently noticed way too many were about being old, passing away, fleeting time. So I wondered if I might be having a little anxiety or fear about death. Until I read the quote above in Ruiz' The Four Agreements and had a little epiphany. AHA! I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of being REALLY alive and being EXACTLY who I am. Wow. Now there is a little something to sit in awe about.
I mean, really. How many of us are out there living a bold, fearless, carpe diem kind of life? How many of us spend an inordinate amount of time worried about what others think about how we [insert word here: dress, act, believe, eat, look, drink, decorate, write, drive, walk, think] and less than no time at all about what we'd really, REALLY like?
Maybe, my dear, cherished reader, you already seize the day in a brazen, Pippi Longstocking kind of way. If so, would you comment below with some much needed HOW TO for the rest of us? Though my intern is back at university now, Wonder Mike has volunteered to step in and send a little something sweet to the commenter whose comment is most commendable. Ready? Go!.
Jen Jovan and her imaJENation