Sunday, March 6, 2011

Love the One You're With

A certain Stephen Stills song has been an anthem in my life lately. Maybe not in the original literal sense, but relating to the need to forget old worn connections that block my path to the life I need to live. Let go the old tired stories, it says to me, the unproductive ties to people and institutions. Truly love the life you have or find a new one.

In my youth (and I consider that period extended until about age 50),  I was an emotional thinker. I dealt with change in my life in a very personal way. I was living under the control of what Eckhardt Tolle calls the "Ego".  If you aren't familiar with his philosophy, this is the part of our personality that saves all the stories of our lives and retells them again and again. Mostly, Tolle believes, this is to our detriment, because the retelling of the past is the very thing that separates us from our true life, here and now. It feeds on the negative emotions and defines boundaries, and builds walls between your true self and others. Its main job is to justify its own existence.

At first it is a scary thought to contemplate not needing the past, but that is not to say we need to forget. What is imperative is learning the skill of living in the moment. Most people will say that of course, they live in the moment, where else could they be? But the reality is that very few actually do. Most people's conversations, if you listen closely, are centered on the past or the future; their bodies, even down to the act of proper deep breathing, are strangers to them. How many people do you know who actually eat and move with conscious awareness of the experience? Even participating in sports in not in the moment if your mind is set on the completion or the win.

 I am coming to believe, that for an artist, presence is really the only way to live. When you are truly in the now, you are in the work at hand. In fact, it is no longer work, just a conduit to something that you are. Sometimes your art will convey a story, sometimes emotion, other times just a quiet connection. This last is for me the state I am most often in these days. 

My first attempt at painting a moving object, my very active kid.  Even completing the portrait involved following him around the house for several sessions.

I have been practicing Tolle's lessons of being present for several years now, and the more time goes on, the more I am enjoying the release from the past.
At first I thought, how can I live without my stories? But the irony was, living in my stories kept me from enjoying the life at hand, the possibilities it held. It is only since I let go of so much that troubled me that I have come to find the mental space for art as a way of life.

The Hippo Journal: with good humor and joy

The Hippo Journal: and other select friends

A  close friend passed on this week. She had battled cancer for several years with grace and dignity and fully engaged in her life until the last few days. That is how I hope to continue with my journey, however long that may be, no regrets for what didn't happen, but always ready for more. My reaction to the news of my friend's passing, and then through the events of honoring and celebrating her life that followed, may have seemed a tad distant or cold to those who continue to live with regrets. I felt an utter calm and acceptance, in my head and in my body. 

Mourning has begun to enter a new sort of understanding for me: I honor the dead by continuing to live. It has become quite clear to me that change is the constant rule of nature, and all loss must be balanced by gain. My job, while I am here, is to be a conduit for life. If I take loss as a personal affront, I might as well be gone myself. I remember well a conversation with a famous quilt artist about her father's 100th birthday celebration to which 100 guests had been invited. I asked if this wondrous crowd were the generations of an especially large family. She assured me that, no, these were mostly his friends, because this was a man who had continued to celebrate his life by making new connections all the time. 

A spring story continues: basic quilting is done, time for embroidering the details

So I am learning not to mourn the broken connections in time and place, the body that by nature, must wear out before the spirit.  While my flame still burns, I'm wearing a smile. I'm seeking connections to other bright flames. I'm putting myself into the painting and the stitching. I'm talking to others to share as best I can my understanding of joy in the moment.

My new Facebook profile picture. A recent shot by my husband seemed to capture it just right (with a little tweaking on my part)

I hope my art, the physical manifestation of this presence with life, may pass on and be an inspiration. But if, (and surely it will be), it is lost to the ages, I won't mind. I did what I was supposed to do. I burned my lamp and lit the darkness for just a moment. I passed on the torch of the human race. I mattered.


  1. Wow! What an inspiration you have been to me tonight. Thank you so much for taking time to put all your thoughts and feelings into words. I've spent some time with you and, hopefully, learned from your very wise path of affirmation of life.

  2. Lovely post. I LOVE the denim jacket.

  3. continuing. that is what we do.

  4. Thank you for such an inspiring piece. You certainly were doing just what you needed (and apparently what I needed).

  5. You have indeed lit the darkness. Thank you for the wise words and inspiration.

  6. Fantastic words and sentiments! Beautiful art to go with it!

  7. Ata girl! You know why I like making art? Because it is an active meditation. It is a slowing of the mind, breath, and body. It focuses me on a single thing. It is the only sort of meditation I am truly good at and it is only in the making of a thing that I can do it. So making, seeing, drawing, painting, stitching are the only ways. Luckily I get pretty things out of it but that is a side benefit.

  8. your jacket looks fabulous. just saw your post on shibori site. more fun on its way.

  9. A truly wonderful post!
    I think your jacket and your philosophy are wonderful!
    I am enjoying your comments in the class with Jane La Fazio!

  10. love your jean jacket - the sketching is wonderful, did you learned that in Jane's class or did you sketch before?

  11. Wow! I really enjoyed your insight. It is so true that when involved in creating a piece of art, you are engaged in the movement. I love that meditative state I enter when I'm drawing and painting.

  12. Just found you through the artist blog hop. As someone who spends a great deal of time meditating - I really appreciate this post. Thank you.
    The Jean jacket is amazing. Can't wait to see it finished.

    if you have time and interest, I would be honored if you would consider joining a community art project I'm trying to get off the ground:

    I could extend the due date some also.

  13. Great work, Cheryl! All of them are great but that hippo is too cool and I love the cat paintings!