Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tears of Transformation

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Today in Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine
is my latest article called

Tears of Transformation

Walks Tall Woman felt the tears of transformation run like slow moving, lazy rivers down her cheeks. The truth had taken root in her heart and the impregnated seed of change had been planted in her womb. It would gestate until it was time in the future for the Clan Mother to give birth to her new, more vulnerable self. She quietly sat and reflected on the words Mountain Lion had spoken before she asked a question. ‘How can I be an example to other women, Mountain Lion, when I have to learn these lessons for myself?’
Click this link Tears of Transformation or the one above to visit Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine to read the full article.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mojo Monday ~ Believing

There is something about this time of year that encourages many adults, even those who no longer believe in magic, to suspend that rational way of thinking.  The holiday season is a time of Santa, elves, flying reindeer, and speed traveling around the world in one night.  It is a time of encouraging the young ones to continue to believe in wonder, mystery and magic.  

In one of my all-time favorite books The Book of Awakening, author Mark Nepo writes about the topic of believing.  It is one of the shorter essays in the book, but is nonetheless a deeply contemplative sharing.  It begins with this quote: "Believing is all a child does for a living." ~ Kurtis Lamkin.

Here is how it continues:

"Picasso once said that artists are those of us who still see with the eyes of children.  Somehow, as we journey into the world, more and more gets in the way, and we stop questioning things in order to move deeper into them and start questioning as a way to challenge things we fear are false.

As a child I used to talk to things -- birds that flew overhead, trees that swayed slowly in the night, even stones drying in the sun.  For years, though, I stopped doing this freely because of what others might think, and then I stopped altogether.  Now I learn that Native Americans do this all the time, that many original peoples believe with their childlike eyes right into the center of things.

Now, almost fifty, I am humbled to recover the wisdom that believing is not a conclusion, but a way into the vitality that waits in everything."

* When you can, talk with a child about how they see the world.

I am so moved by this short essay by Mark Nepo.  Is there anything particular about this passage that resonates with you?  

As a child did magic and creativity play a big role in your life?  Was it encouraged or discouraged? 

Imagine you have a magical pair of glasses that can allow you to return and look at the world through the eyes of your former child self.

What do you see when you look around yourself right now?

What do you see when you walk outside and look around?

Try communicating with any animals you see - cat, dog, squirrel, birds, or maybe even wild turkeys perhaps?  What do you want to tell them?  What do you think they want to tell you?

Now try communicating to the trees, bushes, flowers, and grass your thoughts and feelings.  Now share a message with the sky, the dirt, the rocks and water if there is any nearby. If it isn't too cold out take off your shoes and stand on the ground in your bare feet. What does communing with our earth mama feel like?  Do you hear any messages in return?

Considering how we are also about to end one calendar year and begin another one anew, is there anything that you want to believe as you enter into a new cycle?  Are there some beliefs in magic and wonder that you want to recover and feel deep in your soul?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mojo Monday ~ Courageous Acts of Art

Art is a personal act of courage,
something one human does
that creates change in another.
- Seth Godin -

In the past couple of days there were two stories I came across that are completely unrelated, except for an invisible red thread that I saw connecting them.   I recognized in both stories some common messages about the power of art.  Both are also stories about courage and how art can save lives and transform challenge and hardship into beauty and creativity.
Alice Herz Sommer photograph from The Times
Let me introduce you first to Alice Herz Sommer, who just turned 110 years old in November and is the world's oldest pianist and holocaust survivor.  In July 1943, Alice, her husband, and their six-year-old son Raphael were sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp.  Theresienstadt was originally designated as a model community for middle-class Jews from Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria.  Many educated Jews were inmates of Theresienstadt.  In a propaganda effort designed to fool the Western allies, the Nazis publicized the camp for its rich cultural life.  Alice played more than 100 concerts in the camp along with other musicians.  Her young son Raphael remained in the camp with her, performing in a children's  chorus at the camp.  Unfortunately her husband, Leopold Sommer, was later sent to Auschwitz and although he survived the camp, he died at Dachau  in 1944.
As a child in Prague, Alice spent weekends and holidays in the company of Uncle Franz (Franz Kafka) and other notable figures like Gustav Mahler, Sigmund Freud, and Rainer Maria Rilke who were friendly with her mother.  When Alice moved to Israel after the war, Golda Meir attended her house concerts, as did Arthur Rubinstein, Leonard Bernstein, and Isaac Stern. Today Alice lives in London, where she still practices piano for hours every day.  Alice has been victorious in her ability to live a life without bitterness and she credits music as the key to her survival, as well as her ability to acknowledge the humanity in each person.  Here is a short featurette from a documentary made about Alice called The Lady In Number 6.

Camille Seaman
The next story is about Camille Seaman who is currently a 2013 TED Senior Fellow and a Stanford Knight Fellow.  I was introduced to Camille by a wonderful syndicated interview by Richard Whittaker called Camille Seaman: We All Belong to Earth.  Camille has many artistic talents, but she has become most well known as a photographer.
Let me share with you first Camille shares about being introduced to photography as a teenager in the interview: 
So in high school they recognized that I was at risk of getting into trouble, ending up pregnant, on drugs or whatever. So they put me in this after school program and they gave me a Nikkormat film camera. They took away the manual and said I’d have to figure out how to use it. They taught me how to bulk load black and white film. They taught me how to develop using an enlarger and chemicals, all that. Then they said go out and photograph your experience.  I didn’t realize it, but that probably saved my life because I was given something creative in my hands, so I could express whatever anger, frustration or emotions I was feeling as this teenager. So I did. I photographed everything; all my friends, all of our adventures. I realized having that camera in my hands gave me excuses to be somewhere in a positive way.
Later on in the interview Camille shares about her experience with facing fear while she learns to surf. Let me share an excerpt with you.
     I was like, okay. I started to try to paddle out and my balance was terrible. It felt really awkward. The water was so dark, cold and murky. This was at Bolinas and the Farallons were 29 miles away. And there were all of these great white sharks out there, which meant they could possibly be here. That was all I could think about and I freaked out. I turned to him and was like, “Oliver, I’m scared.” He turned and looked at me and then he paddled away. And I was so mad. I was so angry. I was like, “Oh my god! He was my friend since we were like 16 years old and he just abandoned me.”
     I tried for a while and then it was like, forget this. I got out of the water and just waited for him. I was like you’ve got to get out sometime. And when he came out and I asked, “How could you? I told you I was afraid and you just left me.” And he said something that really resonated. It was really a great truth. He said, “No one can teach you to manage your fears, but you.” And he was right.
     From that day on, I would go out and I would sit on the board. I got a little better at paddling. I got a little better with the balance. And I still sometimes would freak out. Then I would be like, okay, what’s the worst that could happen? Well, a shark could bite you and kill you. Well, is that happening now? No. Okay. You know, you kind of just work through it. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, I can drown. Is that happening now? No. So I surfed for over a year every day. And then I was hooked.
Camille's courage, love of adventure and travel and a free plane ticket later lead her to fly to the Arctic Circle.  There is a point where she is fives mile away from the nearest town and all she can see in all directions is just white and she has an epiphany.
 On this extreme part of our planet I was realizing that I was a creature of this planet, that I was literally made of the material of this planet—that we all are. And in those moments, I realized the absurdity of tribe, of border, of culture, of language—because at the bottom of it all, we are all made of this material. We are all earthlings. There is no separation. There is no distinction. None of us were born in outer space. We will all return to the material of this earth.
     What was so clear was that I was standing on my rock in space. I understood the immensity, and also the minuscule nature of that. I understood that I meant nothing in the scale of time and space and history of this planet. That it would blow over my cold dead bones without a thought. But the fact that I could stand there on the ice and actually ponder such things was a miracle. That was a self-realization at its finest. It made me realize what my grandfather was trying to show me.
     I started to think about that; if my sweat becomes the rain, whose sweat is this ice? How many ancestors ago, what creatures created this? They’re all my relations, all my relatives. And in that, I understood the integral nature of this planet—that we truly are a web of life.
Here are two of her amazing photos.
The Last Iceberg
The Last Iceberg photo by Camille Seaman

Photo by Camille Seaman
Photo by Camille Seaman
Here is a TED talk given by Camille about her iceberg photography experiences.  

The experiences of these two women inspired me.  What are your thoughts?
Creativity and art (music and photography) play significant roles in Alice and Camille's lives.  What forms of creativity and art play a role in your life?  
This post began with a quote by Seth Godin that reads: Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.  Do you agree with this quote?  Have you ever felt changed by an experience with art?