Wednesday, April 29, 2009

FROM OUR WORKSHOP: Chibi Liz, A Self-Portrait


This one is just too cute. My daughter did a chibi version of herself most recently as a self-portrait, and I can't resist sharing it. She's got her "Twilight" jacket on, too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Amma 2009: Part 2


Inspiration

Friday evening, finished with work, I walked down Market Street with my bag and laptop slung over a shoulder. I was headed towards the Embarcadero BART Station. My theme song music of late is Alanis Morissette singing the James Michael Mix of “Crazy” by Seal. It’s on the soundtrack from “The Devil Wears Prada”, and it was blaring in my ears from an iPod. I walked briskly as the usual scenery of people flew on by, a colorful dichotomy that reeks suspiciously of the growing class divide in America. The homeless woman begging for change in front of the escalator, the one I’ve watched deteriorate over the last ten years is a testament to that; however, the child who’s been selling candy for two weeks is new. It’s easier to see this in the city, if you haven’t desensitized yourself to it.

It was a long week.

I pulled off an Earth Day Mini-Expo on Wednesday, fed 50 people pizza, chased around ridiculously busy principals asking for Admin Day donations for three days in a row, and had more than my usual share of intense one-on-one conversations with staff. Work is getting stressful, and people act differently under stress. Leslie and I also struggled with the offer we made on a townhouse, and the real estate agent we were working with who got greasier by the minute.

I was very tired.

As I walked, the strangest thing happened.

One moment I felt bogged down by the weight of the week, and then suddenly, I felt buoyant, as if a ray of sunlight straight from heaven shined down on me. I am so happy to be back in San Francisco, and I appreciate every moment of it. My job is great, and I am successful with it. My family is happy, and we are looking for a new home. It felt like anything was possible. It felt like absolute liberation from the weight of the world.

And then, I felt tired.

And again, I felt buoyant.

It went back and forth like this a number of times as I walked to my background music.

It started the night of Amma’s public program.

I was so happy to see Her, and consequently very focused on She and the personal issues I brought with me to think upon; my health, my creativity, and my spirituality. Leslie and Elizabeth were there, as well, getting their dose of divine love.

Amma opened her night time public program with a very intense Ganesha mantra. We hailed Ganesha as the remover of obstacles, and appealed to him asking for the removal of barriers to our efforts. Talk about personally appropriate. Amma hit it hard with Sanskrit acid rock that I felt from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes. As Amma chanted, accompanied by Brett on his tom tom, the beat resonated heavily through my chest like a battering ram. I happened to be sitting right underneath an enormous speaker, as well.

Eyes closed in meditation, I began to unwind.

Ah.

My mind wandered back to the two years we spent in Connecticut. They were emotionally demanding, quite difficult really, and something I’ve only just come to terms with emotionally. Intellectually I was all over it, but emotionally? I’m very good in a crisis, but slow to absorb the fall out.

I felt a slow acceptance of the recent past made more expedient.

The lessons and the loss caused a crust of emotional protection, sister to grieving, which begin to soften and then dissipate, as well. This layer was followed by spiritual defenses requiring demolition. Those subtle barriers went up without my conscious knowledge and are consequently much harder to identify, never mind disassemble. Over time and with considerable work, I’ve gotten a handle on my emotional defenses, but the spiritual barricading surprises me.

My emotional and spiritual bodies are intrinsically linked as they are in everyone.

The evening went on, and I listened to Amma’s discourse. With it, she addressed the concerns lurking in my conscious and subconscious mind. The words meant for me hit the arrow right on the mark. There was no mistaking it.

I thought about my spirituality building up to this visit. How could I avoid it after spending time with other devotees whose commitment was enduring and unquestionable? Am I where I should be, I wondered. I grapple with the demands of my home life and spiritual progress I thought I should be making. I know my family is my priority, but I worry that I don’t meditate enough, and when will I ever give up meat? What does this commitment to my family mean to the rest of me?

Amma’s answer, given to the entire crowd, was succinct.

“Amma is here to inspire you,” she said. “You are already very spiritual. When it’s time, it will fully blossom.”

I took a deep breath as She stated by the time we are fifty we should be better focused on our spirituality, as well.

Amma does this in a most mysterious way. She doesn’t answer general questions in a formalized forum. As her visit approached, I spent time worrying about a certain topic, and in her public program, She addressed my concern practically to a “T”. I bet if you asked others in the audience, they would be astounded by the same thing. How does she do it? One might say She is the goddess, revered as Saraswati. At the very least, She is a holy person fully realized in Her divinity. If the goddess is within all of us, the only difference would be one’s ability to realize it through and through. I imagine there are universal laws at play, too, right? I feel that somewhere, there are dots waiting to be connected, and I’m convinced the true magic lies in the connection.

I find myself seeking a bridge between the esoteric and mundane, between my faith and what I know in my heart to be true. I realize these are answers I am most apt to discover when I am ready to focus more readily on my spirituality, but still the answer seems just outside my grasp.

And I’ve come full circle.

There are times when I can’t help but wonder.

Amma focused considerably on the energy transference that occurs through food, as well. She encouraged us to eat fresh food only and offered stories that support her view. More than once she asked the group to lift their arms up high and laugh out loud. She called it laughing yoga, and commented that we were all too serious. Being in a group of people that laughed about absolutely nothing worked it’s magic on me, breaking me out of my serious reverie, bringing me that much closer to true childlike surrender.

And it made Her laugh, as well, which was wonderful, so wonderful.

As always, I am inspired to truly understand the changes brought upon me by my spiritual mother. I feel a quiet and subtle internal realignment which spirals outward slowly from the vortex that was our time together, and I am inspired to view my entire self, including the shadow. I feel a gradual acceptance of the recent past, the lessons, the loss; as well as an emotional softening of resultant protection, sister to grieving, that is no longer necessary.

More than anything, I am reassured that I am right where I should be in my journey.

I am right here, right now.

And for now, that is enough.

Notes: The photograph above is copy written by the SMVA Trust and is a photo of Amma recently in Houston. View Part I of this installment here. The next installment, Part 3, is coming soon.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

FROM OUR WORKSHOP: Spirit

My new found internet friend, Angela Starlight, at Enchanted Starlight Studio in Colorado, posted an art prompt that got me ta thinkin'. The prompt is SPIRIT. I've done so many pieces inspired by divinity and feminity, even celebrity, as I find so much of my inspiration from popculture. But I wonder... what piece speaks to the spirit in me?

In the very early 90's, when I was heavy into drawing female superheros, I started a vignette on a science fiction idea I've had since high school. I never got past three pages, but some of my favorite personal images come from that vignette.

This piece specifically speaks to the spirit in me. It's called "Rapture".

Rapture

This black and white piece was done in india ink on Bristol Strathmore Water Color Paper. It is unsigned and undated. The pentacle is a symbol that holds personal significance for me, and the feminine figure, always reaching upward toward divinity, is resonant of my spirit. The figure on that lady? Well, maybe I looked that way in my teens ... maybe. That was a long, long time ago.

There you go ... SPIRIT.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

FROM OUR WORKSHOP: Chibi Emotions


Elizabeth has been into drawing in the Anime style of Chibi. She watches "how to" vids on YouTube and is developing her own personal style. Can't help but share. I love my baby's art! Here is more ...
Konniption Kit
Konniption Kit
Live Laugh Love <3
Live, laugh love
And last ... here is Chibi Kevin, a little dude from school!
Chibi Kevin

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amma 2009: Part 1

Affirmations

I visited with my Eternal Mother several weeks ago for three wonderful days under a spectacular Northern California sun. It is Spring, and a time for new awakenings, budding ideas, growth, and expansive gestures. Things once buried, our “nuts” so to speak, are now recovered and urged to grow to potential. That sun has burned me in the past, scorched me readily, firing away karmic layer after layer, along with layers of skin, leaving me bright red and sore for days after. This time the burn was minimal and the karmic reconstruction not outwardly obvious. I also had enough sense to wear a hat.

It’s been five long years since I’ve spent any time greater than a half day with Amma. The year 2005 was a major turning point in my spirituality and emotional healing, as well as a wonderful visit, full of lessons in self-worth and confidence. An introductory focus on sloughing off dead baggage from the past like an unnecessary layer of skin was immediately followed by the unveiling of new horizons that would continue taking shape and form as they were affirmed, and continue to be affirmed, in real time. In 2006, we were moving from California to Connecticut and missed Amma, literally, on both ends of the United States. The years 2007 and 2008 were only one half day visits each in New York City. There were moments in that lovely church in Manhattan when she smiled at me, and I know she recognized me. “You need a good job,” she said, “I will help you,” and I was secretly relieved she didn’t forget me. I didn’t see Ammachi at all when I was on the East Coast. My spiritual tanks were drained in such a way that makes me believe our time in Connecticut wasn’t just about emotional baggage, or spending time with my grandmother. It was also about relying on one’s inner resources.

The weeks prior to this visit were heavy with animal symbolism. A tarot card reading I received from intuitive web-friend, Avia Venifica, highlighted this to me in succinct ways that continue to resonate even now. This makes sense as symbolism is Avia’s forte’. Other symbolic markers came up between Avia and I confirming she was a link in Mother’s chain this time around. You can read more on my card reading here. However, squirrel symbolism is highlighted first and foremost, particularly at spring time, encouraging me to recover those nuts I’ve put aside to focus on my new job.

In real time, we’ve had one little nut hoarder scurrying industriously around our yard since we’ve moved in here, leaving little holes dug up here and there. It had a run in with our Boston Terrier, Daizy, one evening a few weeks ago that brought Elizabeth into the house huffing and puffing about a doggie/squirrel stand off at the base of the palm tree, and did I know that squirrels can growl? Despite that direct message, it never occurred to me to think about what it was saying. Not until now, that is. We finally named the squirrel Nutmeg, and you might be interested to know that Nutmeg has recently found a companion. Now there are two of them racing around like Red Bull lunatics.

But this particular nut wasn’t just waiting to be taken out. It was waiting to be turned out! And riding the wave of Amma’s abundant energy, I launched my artwork publicly on Cafepress and RedBubble. This was a leap of my faith for me, and an indication that my confidence continues to develop. I have my friends to thank for encouraging and embracing this.

Amma knows how much I need to be needed, and like she did in the 2005 program, she connected me immediately with the local group of volunteers, and put me to work. First, it was in a small poster making party, at an ashram in San Francisco, which was like stepping back into the 70’s when my Aunt Edwina lived in an ashram in New Haven. We sat there, in the main room, folding and folding and talking. There was another devotee with us, a woman that I’ve seen in many photographs, and who is frequently pictured following Amma closely. I’ve seen her in programs crying many tears, as well. She stood out to me then, but on this day something was different. In the course of conversation, she described taking her first trip to India recently. I think perhaps the trip changed her. She was confident, purposeful, and navigating around people she didn’t know with relative ease. I believe that for some of Amma’s children, navigating around strangers is most challenging due to sensitivities and empathies. I didn’t say anything, but the transformation was notable. The message I received was notable, as well, yanking the knowledge from a generalized intellectual awareness and plopping it right down into personal acknowledgement. We are all God’s children. The Divine Mother considers each and every one of us her babies. And when She sees fit, She knows what cosmic carrot to dangle before our hungry eyes. She knows what motivation will bring us along the path to our personal evolution. She did it to me a few years ago and in a way that is still working it’s magic. Now I understand that devotion or bhakti can change even the meekest or angriest of Amma’s babies. Bhakti holds the power to change the universe.

Amma’s divine love is life changing, true, but the purposeful and anticipatory love of her devotees is an amazing and palpable thing. Their focus is so intense, no matter how attached you may or may not be to Her, it is hard not to get caught up in it. One never knows what they do outside of their work for Amma either. Some of them are householders, Indian families who live in the West, but are devout Hindu’s who give both their time and money from the heart. Others are Western devotees whose lives, jobs or careers provide them with the funding they need to follow Amma from one end of creation to the next. Given the way I feel when She’s around, I can’t say that I begrudge them that opportunity, although at this time I don’t feel the need to physically follow myself. I often wonder if doing so is in my future. Some Western devotees wear traditional Indian attire, and are immersed in the Hindu faith. I noticed people from Ammachi’s camp, as well, wondering what all the hub bub is about. Others, people who simply saw a poster and grew intrigued, are drawn to Her for inexplicable reasons. When everyone is together, we’re all one group of Her children, and to my surprise, I am at ease with them.

In anticipation of these visits, there are different things going on in my head. Conscious worries are thought bubbles you might picture in the forefront of my cranium. In the rear, are the less conscious thoughts I touch upon now and again, things I don’t think about too much, but which are present none the less. There are visits when I have something quite specific on my mind; for example, 2007 in Manhattan when I needed a job. But at other visits, like this one, my immediate needs and those of my family are well met, and I’m without worry. I look forward to being with my mother until my heart is fully bloomed like a lotus flower, and I’ve achieved a state of complete childlike openness. Only then, when my defenses are completely down, am I truly in the moment and being myself for myself. Then, the pure love of Mother’s divine energy permeates every fiber, every cell, of my being, and whatever cellular and karmic restructure She wills can occur.

The tightest group of Amma’s volunteers are all warm and welcoming people who asked Leslie and I to the host’s home to receive Her. I was so excited about it! Amma ran so late, Leslie and I had to leave to get Elizabeth at school. In the past, I’ve been in conflict between the love and needs of my family, versus my desire put everything, even them on hold, when Amma is in town. This trip highlighted how I’ve grown to better understand this dynamic, which is in essence an extension of understanding my boundaries at work and home, as well, all most pertinent lessons. So, when dealing with the volunteers, who tried to pull me in deeply because I am a very organized and task oriented person, I heeded my boundaries, to successfully balance the love of my spiritual mother with that of my family. Having to leave early, although disappointing, was part of that lesson.

Finally, after all the anticipation and preparation, I saw Amma as she arrived at the church in Palo Alto for the first night’s program. She was positively radiant in a pink sari as she reflected back the love of her children who worked so hard to make her visit possible. The color of Ma’s sari is always significant to me. At times it offers a hint to Her mood. Will she be the warm and understanding mother, full of cookies and acknowledgement? Or will she be the stern and serious mother, with intense and at times frightening expectations and little time for goofing around. I’ve seen both. She was draped in pink, which, like the color of rose quartz, is indicative of love and fertility, all appropriate to Spring. Fertility isn’t just about making babies. It frequently refers to a ripening of purpose, activity, creativity or ideas, as well as countless other circumstances which quicken in manifestation.

Her sari couldn’t be more appropriate, I thought standing there watching Her, and feeling wonderful. She is the embodiment of Spring time, as well as the living incarnation of the Goddess.

Thus far, and even though I’d seen Her for only a moment, Amma’s visit was an affirmation. Between the spring time symbolism, the squirrels and the nuts, I heard Her loud and clear. I had an entire day of individual blessings ahead of me and then the homa, or vedic fire ceremony, which is one of my favorite parts. What I heard the loudest, however, even beyond my own persona lessons, was that in Her eyes, we are all the same. Beneath the often disruptive layers of our personality, that which is simply our nature, we are all Her children. And in that, we are worthy of love.

Each and every one of us is a keeper of the most precious god/goddess force, which resides, at times forgotten, in our hearts.

Note: The photograph above is owned by SMVA Trust.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

FROM OUR WORKSHOP: Mommacita by Liz


Elizabeth did this pencil portrait of her mother, Leslie, while we were in the car yesterday driving home from the city. We saw our rainbow during this trip, as well. Neato!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Percolating ...


I haven't written about this experience because it's still percolating... the animal symbolism at play is somewhat intense. I'll blog on it soon. It was a wonderful experience. I went to the first program, individual blessings (during which I was very and happily busy with lunch preparation), and the Homa. The Homa was staggering. I've always wanted a photo like this. She is so generous to give me this token of her affection.
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