sacred

The Art of Sacrament

Sacrament is traditionally explained by use of the definition given by St. Augustine of Hippo a Christian theologian who was instrumental in many of the formative ideas of the church through his writings in the 4th century. The definition is simple:

"Sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace"

Although it was expressed in a Christian context, I feel this definition can explain why ceremony and rites of passage are so important in all human experiencing. They are the both the evidence of and the facilitators of evolution.

Last month my husband and I celebrated a wedding anniversary with a vow renewal and a party for our friends and family. As I prepared for the event, I wondered why I had decided to celebrate this way.

The details of the event had become overwhelming, food, flowers, travel, schedules, iced tea! I could not remember why we didn't just go to Cancun or something. I mean who cared that we were renewing our vows. Why did it matter to anyone except for us? Why did I feel the need to create such a public display of our private life?

I know from the inside of my marriage how much love we have put in to our partnership. It is extremely hard and beautiful work. We have changed and grown so much together over the years and I am grateful to have a partner who is just as committed to development as I am. We are not the same people or the same relationship we were ten years ago.

By inviting our community to witness and honor our development with us, it becomes a hundred times more real. We are a hundred times more accountable to it. People can see how renewed we are and confirm that yes, it is real. 

The cool thing is when they see that we have grown, they also grow. They think about their relationships, their life ten years ago, the things they have to be grateful for, the challenges yet to come. In that way, our one sacrament shared could set in motion a domino effect of growth. 

Love is meant to be shared...and so is grief, so is joy, so is truth. 

If human beings horde those inner graces (experiences) by keeping transformation and learning private, it all just ends there.

The lesson of the change sits inside the heart like a seed in the earth. We have rites, ceremonies and sacraments because the light of community must shine on that seed in order to fulfill it. 

I argue that to fully receive the grace of the change, we must invite it to be both inward and outward; to become a sacrament.

The script is simple. Stand up in front of those you trust and say; "Look at me...I am different than I was".

Thus a grace is not just confined to one soul's evolution. Everyone who sees and says "Yes, you are", also grows. 

 

 

 

Get Behind Me, Satan

I had a powerful spiritual experience this past month in a group I was leading. It was a watercolor class, designed to allow the participants to relax and enjoy the free flowing fun of a simple medium. But I know, as much as any other teaching artist, that any time you invite people into a creative process you are also inviting something darker...more sinister. 

The course went as planned and all participants seemed to enjoy the activity. It wasn't until afterward that I realized something strange and powerful had happened. As we were cleaning up one of the older women in the class approached me. Her gentle energy instantly grabbed my attention.

"I just want to thank you." she said. 
I listened.
"I am going to say something the only way I know how and it is going to sound crazy.", she whispered.
I nodded.
"I have had this thing lately, this devil. It has been in my way and it has been telling me things; lies."
"go
on", I said.  
"Well, today when we started our class I thought there was no way I could do this, that whatever I made would be terrible. Then I realized it was the devil speaking to me and I told him to get out."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, I loved it. I am so proud of what I made", and she held up her artwork for me to see. 
I smiled at her "beautiful".
"It is. So, thank you for helping me get Satan behind me."
"Oh, I think you did that all on your own. I hope you start to banish him more often"
She smiled.
"He has no power here". 
She chuckled and gave my arm a squeeze.

"He sure doesn't"

Who knew that the strength and might of the very devil could be swayed by simply picking up a brush and dipping it in water!

 

Although I don't often think in terms of demons, I did know exactly what she was talking about. It is what I call the "inner critic", but has had many names throughout the ages. It is simply the part of ourselves (or our egos) that tries to stop us from being who we fully are. 

The devil's intentions are sometimes honorable. This part of us is just longing for survival, it wants to save us (or our egos) from annihilation. Sweet...kind of...because, most of the time we can keep it in check. Sometimes, however, our inner critic gets out of control. It starts working over time, day and night, stopping us in our tracks by letting us know how weak, undesirable, incapable, and unloved we are; lies!

It is in these instances that we must figure out a way to get the devil behind us. We must say "you have no power here" and let him slip out for a coffee break. Once he is no longer blocking our view, we can return to the light and see our own beauty.

 Similar watercolors

Similar watercolors

Symbol in Ceremony

My favorite thing in this world might just be a good symbol. Defined by Webster, a symbol is "a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract." 

The abstract is inherently hard to grasp, and so we humans have developed a complex language of symbols and metaphors to help us make sense of the biggest parts of our lives. I often tell the people I work with to look for the symbols, because having a symbol follow you through your experience can really enrich the meaning making. A couple that I recently had the honor of working with embodied this philosophy perfectly. 
 

Let me first say, I adore these two and working with them was an absolute pleasure. I know Sarah and Rafael through the local storytelling show Testify and so I have known for some time Sarah has found a lot of joy in and a deep connection to birds. As she and Rafael grew in love, he also grew to share her deep respect for birds of all types. Which is one of the reasons that they chose to hold their intimate wedding ceremony at a local bird sanctuary. Chaetura Canyon is located just a 25-minute drive from downtown Austin, and while the facility is only open for special events and Travis Audubon programs, I recommend that you attend one of their programs if you love natural beauty.

 

Once Sarah and Rafael made the decision to include birds in their ceremony by holding it at a bird sanctuary, my work was set. How could we build a unique ceremony that incorporated their love of birds without beating the subject over the head? The beauty of a good symbol is that it has many interpretations; many points of potential connection. By subscribing specific meaning to a symbol, you can very quickly remove all its power.

When using a symbol in your ceremony, the goal should be to offer it to the event as openly and loosely as possible so that the symbol can expand and grow right along side you.  

The task for me as their counselor/artisian/celebrant was to find out what the bird means to them and where they find personal connection to the symbol, and then to build slowly and carefully from there. We started by collecting images, songs, and words that spoke to how they felt for one another.
 

 Photo credit Lowell Bartholomee

Photo credit Lowell Bartholomee

As I listened to them, I began to get some clarity. Rafael seemed to me to be a deeply visual person -- he connected with the natural beauty of the bird, with its softness and its motion. Sarah is a writer (check out her funny and insightful blog), so she seemed to really meet the bird in its story, in its character. 

After sorting through all the media we had shared, we all landed on a short story that featured a bird and that felt right. Sarah wrote up a beautiful retelling of it and we included it as a reading in the ceremony. That was the only direct mention of birds in the whole ceremony and it (along with the beautiful setting) was just enough to honor the symbol out without pushing it in everyone's face. 
 

Much like a bird, the symbol sat quietly and peacefully in the milieu of the event. The result was a wedding ceremony beautifully tailored to fit a creative and insightful couple. It was a joy to be a part of, and I wish these two "lovebirds" tons of goodness as they build their life together.

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

There are experiences in life that change us.  A rite of passage takes a life changing experience out of the body, out of the secret, so that it can be seen clearly and moved through.

3 Reasons to Stop & Look at the Moon

ONE: This Sunday (September 27th) is the Harvest Moon, the full moon that occurs closest to the Fall equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. The term "Harvest Moon" conjures up a moon radiating a warm Autumn glow.  In China it brings the Moon Festival, a time when families gather together to eat mooncakes and watch the moon, a symbol of Harmony and Unity. In North American cultures the Harvest Moon is a time of reaping when farmers can work late into the night gathering crops by the light of the moon.

 The Harvest Moon by Sammuel Palmer

The Harvest Moon by Sammuel Palmer

 TWO: It will also be a supermoon, meaning the moon will be huge. This happens when a full moon coincides with the point at which the moon is closest to the Earth during it's elliptical orbit. Legends link supermoons to earthquakes and tsunamis. Although there is very little science supporting a link between supermoons and natural disasters, they symbolize the power of nature in our lives.

THREE: There will be a lunar eclipse visible over the sky of the Western world. If you have never taken the time out to watch an eclipse, I advise you do so. This will be the night to see it. The moon will be big, the sky should be clear. As you watch I invite you to think back on ancient humans watching in wonder as the moon slowly disappeared and reappeared. All sorts of magic was concocted to explain the mystery and we still live with the remnants of that magical thinking. We experience it in some sort of deep place in our souls a place of curiosity and wonder.

We have more in common with those ancient myth tellers than we like to admit. Maybe as you watch the moon this Sunday, something magical will happen to you; maybe you will be reminded of the seasonal renewal occurring in your own life. Perhaps just taking the time to stop and watch the moon could become it's own sort of ceremony. A ceremony to honor the passageway you find yourself in right now. 

enjoy.


Death as Transition

Some of life's transitions are more filled with sorrow than others. Recently, I lost my father after a three year battle with cancer. He died at his home peacefully with my mom and me by his side. I watched him exhale his last breath, just as he watched me inhale my first breath. It was circular, and meaningful, and as beautiful as a death could possibly be.

Still, I am sad to find myself in this passageway between life with my father and life without him. 

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Death is a transition both for those dying and for those left behind.

I happen to believe there is life after life. I have no idea what it feels like or about any of the specifics, but I have learned that the amount of mater in the universe is fixed. It does not disappear, it breaks down and transmutes into a new form. So while whatever life he has found on the other side of this transition is beyond my comprehension, my belief that nothing truly ends has been of great comfort to me. 

Something else has been a comfort to me; my passion and interest in the art of transition. In my previous post on the birth of my son I broke down the three stages of transition as I conceptualize them; Preparation, Culminating Event, and Acclimation.

Sometimes the intellectualization of a life process helps us gain footing in an emotional sea. I would therefor like to take a second to breakdown my father's death into this same model. I can not know what it was like for him, and so I am not exploring his experience of the transition, but my own.

Preparation

Those of you who have experience with a terminal diagnosis know that it is very rare for doctors to give you any sort of solid prognosis. We live in a world very focused on keeping the terminally ill alive for as long as possible and no one wants to admit to a person that the time has come to say goodbye. In our case, multiple treatments were available and we started out fairly optimistic that one of them might cure his cancer entirely. However as time went on, it became clear that the treatments were making his quality of life much much worse. My dad, forever an entrepreneur, did not see it this way and kept on trying to heal. 

It was painful to watch his process. But in retrospect, it was a gift my father gave me...I was continually called to hope. It prepared me to practice hope even now, in the midst of despair. My dad never gave up. Even in those final hours on hospice care, he never said "goodbye". A large part of me wished he would, but now I realize it was simply not in his nature. He was not a quitter. 

However, in those years of fighting I was also quietly preparing for his death. I worked with death and dying as part of my graduate studies and I volunteered with hospice. I was getting ready to face the inevitable loss by moving towards and pushing myself to look deeply at my own beliefs. I also have to admit that I pulled away. I unknit my father from my daily life as a way of preparing for life without him. Although this is natural and I felt him simultaneously pull away from me, it is not something I am proud of. 

There was one other very important way in which I prepared. I had a baby. I wanted desperately for my father to feel his own importance and the continuation of his love. I would have wanted a baby anyway, but the desire for him to see his grandchild was deep and strong. His grandson, named after his family, was in his arms during his last lucid moments and that will forever be something I cherish. 

During the preparation phase of the transition my thoughts were on the future. I wondered "how long do we have?" and tried to make myself ready for what ever life might be like without my dad. It was about waiting and making the way for loss. Although it was a painful time, I am so grateful to have had it. So many people do not have long preparations when they experience loss.  

Culminating Event

The day he died I was present, in body and mind. I used techniques I had learned in my hospice work to make him more comfortable, I showed up in time to visit with him before he slipped into a comma, and I pushed back my fear so I could be with him in those not so pretty last moments. The whole time thinking "this is it", "wow...it is happening". 

Time stopped entirely and my mind was focused in the present moment, no where else

Acclimation

Here I am now...still getting used to the idea that he is gone. Kubler Ross's stages of grief abound and could probably applied to the acclimation period of any of life's transitions. (but that is another blog post).

As I move through my grief, I am caught off guard by tears now and then, but I am more surprised by my lack of tears. Life as a new mom is filled with distractions and even now I am cradling a sleeping baby as I write. 

Still, my theory of the stages of transition apply. My mind is in the past, I am overwhelmed with this new life, and my thoughts are "how do I do this...I am doing this". 

 

My life and my mother's life have transformed. My father has transformed, but in all of these stages I have felt his love. Even now that he is gone, the love he shared with me is not. That is a great gift, a great legacy of our relationship and throughout all the transitions in my life it will remain a constant. Love is the beating drum that drives us on through dark passageways to new life. 

 

5 Reasons to Hire a Celebrant

The truth is, anyone can officiate a wedding. You could pick a favored uncle, a dear friend, or even a court appointed judge to perform the ceremony. If you aren't sure of who to pick or how to pick someone look over my list of reasons to hire a celebrant. There are definite benefits to investing the time and money into a professional service.

Reliability

Your wedding day is not a day you want to spend worrying about details. Hiring me means the ball is in my court. I will have done the prep work and show up ready to be at service. I will not have stage fright, flub my lines, or forget my cues. I have done this many times before and I know what to do and how to do it.

Community Building

When I work a wedding or any other sort of special event I am available to all the people present for counsel, support, or even just casual chit chat. I see myself as a hostess and my job is to draw people into the moment. This is a skill that many family members or friends might lack but it is essential. The ceremony is important because it is witnessed, all present should feel welcome and excited to be a part of it.

A Unique Ceremony

Imagine a ceremony that is entirely true to who you are. One that is built up of pieces of your story, culture, and beliefs. There is no limit to what a ceremony can be. It can be traditional, funky, edgy, ancient, comic, sincere, or silly. Multiple rituals can be combined and woven together. Words and poetry can be entirely your own or borrowed from anywhere and everywhere. This is YOUR ceremony it should be meaningful to YOU.

In the role of ceremony designer, I see my self as a quilter. I listen carefully to what my clients want and use my experience as a storyteller and theatre director to craft cohesive beautiful reflections of the hearts of my clients.

Meaningful Preparation

When I got married, my partner and I had pre-canna classes provided my the Catholic church. Although I am not Catholic and was not looking forward to them, I still treasure the classes and what they taught us. We had been together for nearly five years, but the pre-canna classes gave us both a chance to clarify our expectations, fears, and desires for married life. I can not over emphasize how important it is to take time before the ceremony to review what exactly you are doing and why you are doing it. It sets your next stage of life off on the right foot.

In the process I conduct, the ceremony planing is the class. As you make choices for your personalized ceremony, you will gain insight into what is important to you. Deciding what you want to say and how you want to say it will tell you so much about the ways you are growing and intend to grow. Also, ceremony planing hours will soon count as part of the Twogether in Texas program and will get you discounted marriage licence fees and privlidges!

Transition Support

My skills as a certified coach with a masters degree in expressive arts therapy are available to you as my client. You are not alone in the process of preparation. It will be a rich meaningful time for you to acknowledge and come towards your full potential. My nonjudgemental client led process is friendly and warm. In coaching sessions we enlist your own creativity and personal resources to manifest change in your life.

If you desire support beyond my expertise I am connected in the Austin counseling community and can provide you with excellent referrals. I care deeply for all my clients and desire their honest unfolding in what ever manner it comes. I do this work primarily because I love to watch people grow and transform as they move through life's passageways.

Caught in the Rain

This week there were isolated Thunderstorms in the Austin area. I love that term "isolated thunderstorms". I picture a cartoon character being followed by a cloud raining directly down on them alone.I chuckle and think of the few instances in my life when I found myself surrounded by a storm with no warning.

The one that comes to mind happened just a few months ago. I was on the highway traveling to work. Up ahead I noticed that cars were applying their breaks. As I took my foot off the accelerator I wondered what had caused them all to stop so suddenly. The road ahead looked clear. All of a sudden, before I could complete my thought, all my windows fogged up and I lost visibility. I had driven into an invisible storm front that caused the outside temperature to drop by about 20 degrees. I quickly applied my breaks and flipped on my windshield wiper. Slowly the world came back into view.

That event left me shaken, but also amazed. As with most things in nature, I marvel at the spiritual truth laying just behind that front. Sometimes we do indeed hit invisible walls, things that we can not see coming but that drastically change our worlds. They cause us to slow down and revaluate what we thought was possible.

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The metaphores avalible in weather do not stop there. Other times, the storms of our life come on slowly. The world grows yellow and smells that particular way that a ripe moment smells. We know something is coming and we take a deep breath of preparation as the rain begins.

Here in Texas it can rain. The rain is hard and fast. It pelts the earth, drumming out it's anthem. When storms like this happen you have to just find a spot and hold still. They stop you in your tracks but, you know that this "isolated thunderstorm" will shortly pass. And sometimes the metaphorical "storms of our life" are like that. They hurl a lot of energy at us and all we can do when caught in these storms is hold still and wait for them to pass.

Infact sometimes waiting for a storm to pass provides peace or a much needed moment of rest. If we find our self in a safe place when these storms pass through we can sit cozy and enjoy them. Alowing the weather to remain outside and the booming cries of chaos to lull us to sleep. It is a lucky day when safety can be found in the midst of a storm.

And of course, rain makes the earth blossom with new life. Hopefully, when the storm is over we can start anew in a world that feels somehow refreshed.

This Moment

We spend so much time planning or reminiscing. Perhaps it is time to take a breath and just be here now?
In Spring I am full of hope, longing, and excitement. I often have to remind myself that hope is not just a propelling force, but it can be a place of rest. I try to rest in my hope, to lay about in it and enjoy what it feels like to want.

As I do so, I start to wonder about the nature of hope. I believe that my potential is unlimited and that I already have all the tools I need to thrive. So, what is there to hope for?

Hope for me, is a personal thing. It is an energy that leads me towards truth, revelation, and wholeness. It is a desire for the next thing for. While I have all I need, hope tells me that I can still long for more and seek better for myself. Hope reminds me I am strong enough to face my desire and propels me forward towards the nearest unstable ground in search of riches. It is a medicine that we can use

I had an experience of hope this month as I joined with some very dear friends to bless their child and welcome him to world. Holding that baby, I was overcome with hope and I realized how great it felt to imagine all his potential in this world.

That is what Springtime is all about; new life and this very moment...brimming with hope. 

Springtime Ritual Ideas

Around the US this has been one heck of a winter and slowly but surely we are being released into Spring. This season is so often associated with rebirth in the Northern hemisphere as flowers, insects, and animals bloom and grow before our eyes. It is a perfect time to get out side and notice nature awakening.

If you feel a change in your own life at this time of year, you are not alone. Many of us have mood shifts that closely follow the seasons. It isn't just about how much sunshine you get (although that is a huge factor) it also has to do with our life patterns and emotional states reflecting the changes in the natural world. 

I invite you to use Spring as a season of rebirth to clean out what you no longer need and refresh your inner resources. It has come time to shake off that snow and start opening your heart up to the newness and possibility that awaits. 

EGGS 4 SPRINGTIME!!

Here are a few simple rituals you can do on your own or with your family to welcome in the Spring spirit.

1. Start a mini-Garden

It doesn't have to be fancy but planting a few seeds and watching them grow might be a great comfort and joy in the Spring season. Try saying your favorite poem or prayer as you plant the seeds and repeat it every time you water or adjust your little garden. The seeds will grow right along side your prayer.

2. Go for a Daily Walk

Take a spin around your neighborhood or office building once a day. If you practice going on the same path at the same time everyday you will begin to notice the changes in the world. Pick one of your favorite Spring themed pieces of music to join you on the walk. It is a time just for you to breathe clean air, be outdoors, and reflect on the new opportunities in your life.

3. Have a Spring Fling

The Spring Equinox is Thursday, March 20th. If you manage to catch that date make it a very special day. Try to do something just outside of your comfort zone; something kind of a little crazy. Please stay safe and responsible, but maybe you need to jump in Barton Springs that morning or have a bonfire at the beach. Take a risk! Maybe you will look silly or feel weird but you can call it your "Spring fling" and chalk it up to the season. Perhaps you will discover something new?

4. Clean and Sort 

Okay, this one often gets a bad rap but there is no feeling quite as wonderful as eliminating clutter. Take a day to clean out your closet and donate items you no longer need or want; or get around to sorting through that pile of papers. Eliminate some un needed stuff that has just been in your way. Then when you are done reward yourself somehow. Take a deep breath. Notice that by clearing the old you have made room for the rewarding new. 

5. Photograph the Changes

Set an intention to take at least one photograph a day of something "new". Do it for at least 15 days and see how many changes you have collected. After the 15 days are up, print the photo graphs and use them in an art project. Write a short story using each photo as a sentence, or use a big canvas and collage them into one painting, or make a photo album of Spring 2014; whatever works for you! See if you notice how these small changes add up into some bigger changes.

6. Paint or Play with Eggs

No need to celebrate Easter if that isn't your thing, but eggs are a perfect symbol of Springtime and the potential for rebirth. However you want to doit, work with eggs. Go to a farm and collect them, paint them. or turn them into cascarons and have a confetti fight! Enjoy yourself! The world is all shinny and new.

7. Make a Springtime Playlist

Making a playlist is one of my favorite Expressive Arts activities. It is a musical collage of your thoughts, hopes, feelings, and struggles that you can turn on when ever needed. Use Spottify or itunes to craft a mix of your favorite songs that you want to play for yourself this Spring. Listen to them as the mood calls you. This is your time to defrost. 

Those are just a few ideas to play with ritual at Springtime. Use them and adapt them to work for you. If you have ideas or want to share how you used these ideas comments are much obliged. Or just pass this list on to someone who you think might need a bit of meaning making in their life. Remember this Spring that "to everything there is a season, and a tme to every purpose under heaven". Live it up.

love, 

Genevieve

10 Lessons from Hospice

End of life and bereavement work is not something that gets a lot of focus. So often those who work in hospice and palliative care are wondered at. I frequently get asked why do I continue to volunteer for hospice and work with clients at end of life. Well, as hard and real as it might be working with death and dying is filled with joy, beauty, and life. Here is a list of some of the best little tidbits of wisdom uncovered in my recent hospice volunteer training. 

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Focus on the Beauty

Often hospice work is filled with unpleasant sights, smells, and thoughts, but if you walk into each situation looking for the beauty you will be able to do what you need to do. Notice the person before you; their eyes, their smile, the flowers at the bedside. Pay attention to the beauty and it will grow.

 

Follow the Undercurrent

Instead of getting caught up in the details of the situation, try to see if you can hear what the emotional message is. For example, some one might say "my daughter is always complaining that I watch too much television". What are the unspoken messages of that comment? That is what we should respond to; the undercurrent of each communication. 

 

All Grief is Unique

Everyone grieves differently. There is no perfect pattern for healing. It looks different, feels different, sticks different, is DIFFERENT. So, all we can do is just observe and support people in their unique process.

Also, bereavement comes from a latin word that means "to be robbed". (just a neat fact)

 

Being Still is an Art

Seriously. Try to say nothing and be still. It isn't easy, but leaving space for the other person will be the greatest reward.

 

Validate Yourself

Never expect a thank you. Find the gratitude for your service in the service itself.

 

All Pain is Non-Physical

I could write a whole blog post about this one. Hospice and palliative care has a goal to lessen suffering, but it is not an easily obtained because suffering is a complex experience. The pain felt from a broken leg is not the injury, rather it is the perception of the injury in the brain. So pain, like grief, is a unique internal response to an outside stimulus. Once again, everyone's pain is different.

 

We Teach People How to Treat Us

Everyone who spoke to us in the training mentioned "good boundaries". It is important to be able to know where you stand, why you are there, and what the limits are of your service. We will treat people how to treat us by the way we treat ourselves. 

 

Ask your Self Hard Questions

 What would be the hardest things for me to have to give up in my life? How might I handle having to die? Who would I want to be my power of attorney? What is a risk I need to take, right now? By asking myself hard questions...all the hard questions I can think of...I am growing empathy, and understanding for others and myself.

 

Tears

Don't stop someone else's tears by saying "it will be okay" or giving a pat on the shoulder. See if you can lovingly hold a space in your heart for the other person while you witness tears. Tears comfort us by releasing chemicals and hormones. They are a necessary part of healing and sometimes the best thing to do is cry.

 

The Only Way Out is the Door

This was presented as a quote from Hellen Keller. It seems to sum up a lot of what goes on at end of life, and in all life transitions. Walking through that door can be terrifying, painful, lonely ...but at some point we simply can no longer stay where we are and we have to move on to what ever comes next. 

The Art of The Heart

Love is often not an easy topic of discussion. Valentine's day gets done up each year with flowers and boyfriends and candy. Romance,while important, is only a small portion of loving. I have wanted for a long time to do something that could bring people towards a larger understanding and appreciation of all the love in their life.

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So, this weekend I facilitated my second holiday workshop with local crafts woman, Amber Lackey. It was designed to creatively delve deeper into the themes of Valentine's Day. Hopefully allowing the participants to experience the holiday on a personal and meaning filled level. We started by discussing the heart as a sacred symbol, specially it's value in ancient cultures as the seat of wisdom and intuition. Then we held a guided movement meditation where participants had an opportunity to expand their abilities to listen to the intuition of their hearts. The meditation led to a creative experience in which we sewed together a heart for our selves. Each participant crafted a completely unique little token and packed it with symbols of love in their lives. The workshop culminated in a beautiful ending ritual, in which we passed our finished hearts to one another as a circle of support.

While the whole event was an utter joy to facilitate, the closing ritual truly moved me. I felt such responsibility as I received each heart and inspected it's tiny details. By observing the nuances and textures of the artwork I felt myself loving the artist. I learned something unexpected. This is how I love in the world. When I am actively loving I am I appreciating and giving thanks and noticing beauty.

Amber and I had worked long and hard to plan this event, but no where in my plans did I expect to learn something so valuable about myself. It was such a surprise that even as I facilitated the ritual I had tears in my eyes. I did not let myself get caught up in my own emotions, but I noticed them and allowed them to pass over me so that I could continue to do my job.

On numerous occasions when conducting certain rituals or ceremonies, I have felt tears or joy wash over me. There are moments when, as an officiant, the wedding or baby blessing, or vow renewal that you are guiding becomes personal. In those moments you step into the ceremony with the participants and you engage directly in the transformation. If handled correctly, the officiant's brief entanglement in the moment can deepen the ceremony and bring all participants closer in.

For me, it is a bonus; like receiving a tip or a great referral. I add it to my paycheck as an asset, a perk of the job. Because while facilitating and witnessing the transformation of others is quite enough, there is nothing quite like experiencing transformation yourself. I am so grateful to be able to be touched by the work I do; to be learning from teaching and growing from facilitating growth. It would be fair to say that I love my job, I love my clients, and I love being witness to the unfoldment of life's bounty.

(sorry for the cheesy fancy worded post...but hey, it is Valentine's)

Conjure Woman

I have recently realized that I love to CONJURE. every job I have ever liked has involved some sort of conjuring. My involvement in the theatre had everything to do with this love of mine. I am a teacher, conjuring students passion for creative exploration. As a therapist (therapy student...for the board), I am constantly working with clients to conjure up healing and expression. And here I am as an officiant, conjuring sacred moments...inviting the spiritual to touch this world and drawing forth presence and meaning in times of transtion.

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As a wedding officiant, I have a deep love for facilitating important moments in life and consider it an honor to hold the space for the love my client's share. One such moment that I will never forget came from a tender and loving groom. As he began his vows, he started to cry. What began as a little sniffle turned into deep sobs before he could finish what he was saying, which was something about how he felt he could always rely on his partner. His bride, with a calm smile, pulled a tissue from her bouquet and handed it to him. As he looked up and took the tissue he exclaimed "See, that is exactly what I'm talking about, babe". Everyone present turned on a dime from tears to laughter. 

It was a perfect moment and an illustration of the kinds of honest and sincere weddings I love to be a part of. The groom felt safe enough, and had done enough prep work, to allow himself to be swept into the moment. The bride followed suit and so did everyone in attendance. That wedding was alive. I can't put my finger on what exactly to call it but there are moments of pure life that can be called forth in a ceremony, if the participants are willing. That is why I do weddings. To facilitate and amplify those moments when the world stops and everything becomes beautiful.

Resolution

When I was in 7th grade my parents told me that we were going to the beach for New Years Eve and I could take one friend. If you have never been to Galveston, Tx you won't know why I was a little disapointed with this plan. It is a beautiful part of the world the ocean is tame and still on the Gulf. It is a place where I can reliably find peace. However, my 13 year old self wanted anything but peace. Those myths about New Years had already set in. New Years Eve was supposed to me raucus, wild and anything but peacful. The word that came to mind was BORING.

Anyway, I grabed my old friend Nicole and we tradged along to the calmest little peice of our worlds. When we arrived Nicole and I went to Walmart. It was the only place arround that was open with bright lights. I was despratly looking for a way to make this evening special. At Walmart Nicole and I talked about our 7th grade lives. She had a lot on her plate, I knew that. Her parents were in teh midst of a divorce and she was about to be uprooted. We had lived across the street from eachother our whole lives and both of us knew that was about to come to an end along with so much else; childhood, inocence, imaginary powers on magical abandoned islands. Soon, if not already, Nicole and I would be playing very different games.

Of course I couldn't articulate that at the time. In the midst of transition we only felt a need for something big this New Years, something memorable. I had an idea, we bought candles and returned to the house where we were staying. I don't remeber the ritual we came up with but I know it inovlved lighting a candles for what you wanted in the next year. We decided that saying what we wanted was much better than coming up with traditional resolutions, wich ussualy require judgement and sacrifice. In the midst of a vast ocean of unknowing, what we needed was a place to swim to not a thing to leave behind. We did not want to make resolutions rather we needed a resolution.

As midnight came we retreated to the loft and began our little ceremony. I still remember the way that the light looked on Nicole's face as she lit her candles and talked ernestly of what she wanted. If we went back and listened to ourselves we might even laugh at what those girls said. It wasn't brilliant or particularly well put, but it was the truth and we heard eachother say it. How powerful it can be to speak your truth and be heard, to have it rembered maybe not in content but at least in context.

This afternoon I am running the first workshop that PassageWay arts has hosted. I am runing it with another good old friend and we will be lighting candles for our intentions. I hope that those who have wondered there will find what I found that night in Galveston almost 15 years ago; a new years resolution.

The Sacred Arts

What are the Sacred Arts?

There is a lot to unpack here, so let us start with definitions. What do I mean when I say "the arts"? What does that term mean to you?

My background as an artist grew from my love and studies of theatre arts. The theatre is a unique place in the art community because a theatrical work it is made up from multiple art forms. There is the wordsmith, the poet, the playwright who gives the piece its voice. The musician or DJ composes and compiles a score. The director and choreographer are visual storytellers, pulling out the narrative and enhancing the rhetoric. The scene, costume, and light designers are the visual artists contributing color, texture, composition. Finally, the performers use their bodies and voices to enact the art, bringing to life the creative choices of the entire group. Within the theatre show you have all "the arts" enfolded together; music, literature, movement, visual, and performance.

It is the theatre that made me reconsider myself as an artist able to work in multiple modes of expression. I have written, painted, sculpted, danced, crafted, cooked, gardened, decorated, performed, and sung my creativity. Each of these modes of expression serves a different purpose in my life. From authentic expression in each modality a new perspective can be gained.  In her book, Walking on Water, Madeline L'Engle wrote it very simply "art is communication".

 

Through my graduate studies in Expressive Arts I have learned how to use the arts and the connection between creative processes to heal myself and others. Sometimes words can not hold an emotion and it must be danced or enacted. Poems can be used to contain and conceptualize thoughts. Watercolor allows tears in paint to flow onto the page and oil pastels can bring the color of our dreams to life. Songs are sung to build community. The arts are a tool. They are an alternate way of listening to a problem, of letting a process unfold, and of communicating the truth of the matter.

In my next post I will go into the connection I see between creative process and spiritual process.

Was there a time in your life when you used a creative process to heal or serve? How are you accessing your creative energy right now in your life?

 

 

 

Sacredness

Autumn is often full of transition. As the world turns darker and the days shorten, life prepares for the cold months ahead. This happening in nature is reflected in our inner lives. Sometimes the Fall can bring depression, anxiety, and even hopelessness. However, the world has set up systems that pull those feelings out of us and place them in sacred traditions. We light candles, carve pumpkins, dress up in costumes, and get a chance to believe (even if just for one night) that the unknown is knowable. The holiness or sacredness of these traditions push deeper into life, past fear and confusion to the heart of the season; preparing for the next thing. When something is sacred it is “oh, so much more than it seems”. Simple wood and string becomes prayer beads. Wax and thread transforms into a candle lit in the darkness. A date on the calendar becomes a special anniversary. And someone simple and ordinary, that you pass on the street, transforms into the voice of your heart.
That is how sacredness works. It is a window clarifying that the world and all that it contains is “Oh, so much more”.

I invite you in this season of transition to notice the sacred rituals that surround you. How are you transforming the simple in your life to see the sacred?