Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I am opening like this flower. We all are, petal by petal, in a blossoming symphony.

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

"Breathing in, Breathing out,
Breathing in, Breathing out,
I am blooming as a flower,
I am fresh as the dew.
I am solid as a mountain,
I am firm as the earth,
I am free."

"Breathing in, Breathing out,
Breathing in, Breathing out,
I am water reflecting
What is real, what is true.
And I feel there is a space 
Deep inside of me,
I am free, I am free, I am free."

(A sweet gatha/song from the Plum Village Song Book - Thich Nhat Hanh Sangha)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Celebrating, I am, this wonderful place to write

I have a fortuitous history of having learned from brilliant teachers, both so-called spiritual ones and academic ones. And sometimes, the two have come together in a teacher and not just two things but a multiplicity of things, the things that make us multi-faceted beings. Things like creativity and patience, kindness and flexibility, all combined with great humour and unique presence. What prompted these words is a remembrance of my Hindu Literature teacher at University of Arizona (where I studied East Asian Studies and received a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese Thought and Religion). Dr. Chandola brought Hindu Literature to life with stories he told from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the Upanishads, Kalidasa's MeghaDhutam (or Cloud Dancer), and with illustrations from the Theory of Rasa-Bhava and Shakuntala. All this came to me in a flash just now. Mostly, I was thinking of a single sentence Dr. Chandola had spoken to illustrate the need for settledness for the arts in civilization to flourish, for the cultivation of the thing we call the arts. 

I have been living in many places since February of 2009. I have been able to create art consistently as I travel; I sell and trade my paintings for fresh organic produce at farmers' markets and for the US and Japanese currency that I have needed to use for buying other things (while travelling in the U.S. and in Japan). Along the way, I have taken to heart the saying written on the back of our paper money: "In God We Trust", and I do. In these last six months, especially, I have experienced that I am always in the right place at the right time (as I have always been), that my home is in my heart, and that I take each step confidently, knowing that I am wholly supported and loved. 

Presently, I am enjoying a friend's home where I have a place to write and use a computer. As I travel, I have been able to use the public and university library system to connect to the internet and to share my art. My own laptop "crashed" in December just after I wrote about wishing for a break from the internet and from all the complexities of the electronics and social media that I was living with and using. Yet another example to be careful and caring with the thoughts I cultivate! Tomorrow, I plan to ride to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff. I will go on my touring bicycle, Seedling, the Kona Ute. It is another step for me toward expansiveness, into the unknown, following my heart, and knowing I am home.

Simultaneously, I am feeling, conjuring, visualizing, and creating ~ with heart ~ images and sensations of the perfect home for me in which to cultivate the art, writing, creativity, and, beauty that flows out of me. From me to you, for all, for the unique expression that comes through me as me and that benefits the world.

In the meantime, thank you, for this place to write!

Reverberations of Love: What Turtle Told Me

Several years ago, when I was teaching pots for tots, we were making turtles, one of my favorite projects. I had been taking the colorfully glazed turtles out of the kiln when a forest green turtle leapt onto my back. She tapped me on my shoulder and said, "Nicole, I would like to tell you a story that my grandmother told me. Do you have time right now to listen?" "Yes," I said, "I have a few minutes before the tots come."

The following story is what she told me, to the best of my recollection: 

"Once upon a time in a very ancient valley surrounded by jagged high mountains, there lived an order of turtles. The turtles were known to all far and wide as the guard turtles. The guard turtles offered protection to the villages and monasteries, day and night. From birth, each guard turtle received training in recognizing, playing with, and controlling the life energy that moves within us and animates us all. The ultimate aim of such training was to become a clear channel and transmitter of love vibrations."

"These love vibrations are also known as Life Force, Loving-Kindness - metta, prana, and qi, etc. The guard turtles spent their days sending out metta in circles around the walls of the monastery and village. When a "stranger" approached, even if the stranger's intent was to harm (which the turtles could sense), the guards increased their flow of loving vibrations. Without taking up weapons in defense, the turtles focused on greeting the heart of the stranger with Love. These strong metta vibrations had the effect of causing the stranger with unwholesome intent to flee."

As turtle finished the story, I heard the door of the studio open and with it an influx of bubbly young energies. I thanked turtle and turning to go, asked if that was all she wanted to tell me. 

"There is one more thing," she continued. "Please listen closely." I nodded. 

"We can effect weather patterns and Earth energies with our practice of sending out Loving-Kindness." 
 "Remember, the Earth is a living being and the manipulation of Life Energies is vital." "What we do to another, whether s/he is a plant, an animal, space, the ground we walk on, a human, or a fish in the sea, etcetera, we do to ourselves; our every thought, deed, word, and action will cause reverberations." "Let's love everything; it is time."
"Yes," I said, glancing up at the clock, "It is time - and, I need to go! Bye, now, Turtle, and Thank You!"

I could hear laughing and little voices coming from the studio as I carried in a tray of shiny glazed turtles.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wild thing, you make my heart sing

I am listening to Bach's Concerto for Oboe d'Amore. A cool breeze is balancing out the heat emitted from the desk lamp above the keyboard where I write this entry. I've been reading through my blog these past couple of nights and, I must say, I have been delighted and moved by my own writing. I laugh, cry, and feel my heart inflate like a feathery bird's chest plumps out in the winter cold. It was Yuki and Jesse that made my heart plump up like that (and little Bodhi) and these words I had written about them produce the same sensation. Yukester, Jesster... I wonder what I will call my new animals when they come to me? I know they will find me when all the conditions are sufficient; things always work out that way. 

Here's a Concerto for Pyrrhuloxia d'Amore. It, too, expands my heart.

** Pyrrhuloxia (desert cardinal), seen at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thistles and volcanic earth under my feet

I went for a short walk this evening, walking up the road on a hill of volcanic earth. All day, the clouds filtered the Sun and droplets of rain fell upon the ground. I'd look out every now and then to check the moisture content in the darker wet color of earth and to observe the big sky full of grey and white clouds. The Peaks are still familiar to me; they are my friends, though we have both changed some in the intervening 30-odd years since I've lived here and walked through her tinkling Aspen groves. 

A clump of thistles caught my eye as I walked back to the house where I am staying; each periwinkle thistle head was illuminated and glowing with the yellow-white radiance of sunset light. I don't know what moved me to tears as I sensed the thistles and light... I do know that I laughed just seconds later and that I allowed a memory of Yuki walking with me to fill my heart to near bursting -- Yuki, sniffing everything as we meander together in the last rays of light. There we were, crunching pebbles and red dust under paw and rubber flip-flop, past prickly pear and mesquite, past slender palo verde, vibrantly green, dodging miniature teradactyls in the now cooler night air. Jesse would have been waiting for us inside; our silky black kitty with her pointy black ears attuned to our approaching footsteps.

I welcomed myself home to a home I am visiting for a short while and glanced up to the Peaks all aglow with orange light. I decide I want to write something in my blog. Something. This. The thistles. The light. The light in my heart, and that I am never alone. My favorite response on my bicycle trip to people who ask, "Are you alone?" is "no, I am never alone." And this is true.

A Day of Silence

© Nicole Raisin Stern
Watercolor and fountain pen ink on handmade Sri Lankan paper.
Hafiz poem translated by Daniel Ladinsky (I Heard God Laughing)