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Where do our self-critical voices come from? Can we silence them, or is there a better way to deal with them? Can we be motivated to change and excel while still accepting ourselves as we are? Why is it often so much easier to feel compassion and forgiveness towards others than towards ourselves?
What are the answers to these questions and is there a solution? Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company with the mission of disseminating spiritual wisdom, created The Self-Acceptance Project to find out.
After many years of ‘working on myself and my issues’ I know that I can still, usually automatically and sub-consciously, fall into a dark place of self-doubt and negativity. I’ve recently been inviting my daemons of Self-Doubt and Über-Perfectionism to join me at the table and am getting to know my Inner Critic. They are not the most pleasant companions, but when we can befriend and learn to dance with the characters who populate our shadows, we can find the freedom to unfold and be in all of our glory.
In this free 12-week video event series, Tami Sharon, publisher and CEO of Sounds True, speaks each week with two luminaries in the fields of creativity, psychology and spirituality on Self-Acceptance. Some of the people I have heard of while others are new to me.
Each Monday, I get a notification via email that 2 conversations are available to view online. Previous weeks conversations remain on the website to view or download at my leisure. After each launch, video or audio versions of the talks are available to download free. I’ll be listening, and sharing my response to some of these conversations over the coming weeks.
You can register for the free event here.
So, we’re back home. Well, Steve had to go right back out to work, but it feels good to be back at home base after our travels around Southern Ireland. I’ve been unpacking, doing laundry, working on some publicity material for a couple of important art showings this late summer, went into Exeter on some errands and to meet a friend for lunch, had a nap, went to the gym, cooked dinner, Skyped with Steve. In other words, I’m back to my day-to-day life, nuancing it to what’s happening now and in the near future.
I’ve also been thinking about our trip. Sometimes when I travel, I feel anxious at times. I know how I prefer my surroundings to feel and look – calm and quiet and beautiful and interesting. When I’m travelling, the place I get to may not be how I envisioned it or I might look at the road not taken with a pang of yearning or feel overwhelmed with a place I love and feel a touch of melancholy when I realise that I can’t absorb it for as long as I’d like to.
What I love the most about travelling is finding the places and things which resonate deeply and find a Home within, experiences and people who take root in my Soul. When it happens, it’s amazing, although I confess that I don’t enjoy every single bit of the travelling part. That’s me though, an INFP (Idealist) and a Type 4 (Romantic).
A huge part of how I process my travels, is to reflect on them when I’m back in the comfort of Home. Tonight I’m thinking about being on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. A place where the sea and sky disappear into one another and the setting sun silvers the water.
The land cradles and is cradled by the ocean.
I stood for a while on this clifftop and walked along the edge, following the Dingle Way for a few hundred yards. Swallows skimmed the tops of the grass. I wanted to keep going!
I’m also thinking of some of the Stone Age and later Anglo-Celtic art work I saw including Newgrange Passage Tomb, The Book of Kells, Bronze Age gold jewelry, Celtic Christian stone work.
Trying to keep this fairly short, but here are a couple of favourites. They are both about three miles from where we stayed, on the westernmost point of Ireland.
This dry rubble masonry oratory was built by a monastic community in the 7th century AD.
Gallarus Oratory (Irish: Séipéilín Ghallarais, literally “The House or Shelter for Foreigners”, the said foreigners being “those pilgrims who had come from outside the Peninsula.”
Next to it is this beautiful and simple cross-inscribed stone. I love the cross-quartered circle. This is an important symbol in both Native American and Celtic religions.
The sacred circle filled with a cross, four equal lines pointing from the center to the spirits of the north, east, south, and west– or to the basic element: earth, water, air (or wind), and fire. In Native American traditions, it forms the basic pattern of the medicine wheel and plays a vital part in major spiritual rituals. Many contemporary pagans consider it their main symbol for transmitting the energy of the goddess. It’s been incorporated into the cross in Celtic Christianity.
I like the people who made these objects of simple beauty. My curiosity is piqued and I look forward to finding out more about them. It felt good to be there and to bring back some of the awe, peace and happiness that I felt from having encountered and experienced what they left behind. My creativity is inspired to travel deep within and to discover where this new path will lead, following all of the artwork I saw on our travels.
Turbulent river roils,
Journey with me -
- Melinda Schwakhofer, 2012
eu·ryth·mic, adjective, (esp. of architecture or art) In or relating to harmonious proportion
Over Lent, I went on an online retreat/journey with the Desert Mothers and Fathers. Along the way, I was invited to consider the three virtues or practices in my life right now which feel essential for cultivating my connection to Self and God.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been practising the virtues of Stability, Patience and Presence. As an EdgeDancer and someone who for many years sought Home over the next horizon, these don’t come easily to me. But I am learning to trick my small self and ‘just try them for a moment’ and before I know what has happened, I am in the Eternal Now.
I’m playing with practising one or more of the three virtues, when I remember, at different times of my day. For instance, I can practise Patience if I’m working at a slow computer. Or Stability if I want change just for it’s own sake; rather than begin a new activity, I can relax into what I am already doing and really focus on the task at hand. I find that these small awarenesses give me a different perception of time and a deeper connection to everything.
The apple orchard I walk through from my bike parking spot to my bus stop is a great teacher of many things, including these virtues. It is a grounding Presence in the spiral of changing seasons, embodying them and also remaining constant. In November and December, I stop to count the diamond stars shining through the bare lichen covered branches. Now, I find constellations in the blossom laden boughs.
And I know that in the Autumn, the orchard will give us an abundance of sweet and juicy cider, cooking and eating apples, each with a star in the centre.
And again in the Winter, a beautiful lattice through which to view the deep night sky and shining stars.
So please forgive my silence (not that there aren’t hundreds of other diverting, deep, Muse-inducing blogs and things to keep you occupied!) while I’ve been finding a different point of view and new ground beneath my feet.
Each morning that I ride my bike to work, I cross a very old stone bridge. Everytime I cross the hump of the bridge, I stand up on the pedals and look downriver. And on most mornings, a heron stands right at the edge of the icy, rushing water. The first couple of times, I parked my bike and walked back, hoping to take her photograph. But she startles when she sees me and flies away.
I was disappointed at first: I wanted to capture that sight and always have it and be able to prove that I saw a heron fishing in a wild river in Devon. But I have learned to treasure the glimpse that I have when she is there. The beautiful silver and grey and slate-blue and white plumage, the yellow beak and legs, burnished with cool winter morning sunlight. That utter stillness and concentration, yet awareness of everything round about. Her beauty and elegance. The graceful silhouette of her body and neck against the rocky bank and gnarled tree roots. And always the river flowing, coming from it’s source, rushing, hurrying to meet the sea.
When I see the heron poised in the river, I hold the moment. The moment where here I am, riding through a cold winter morning with a chill wind on my face. All at once, I know all that the river has to tell, I can understand all that the trees have to say and I feel the deep, deep peace of the heron. If, as Mary Oliver says, prayer is the doorway into thanks and a silence in which another voice may speak, then this is my morning prayer.
Here’s the recalcitrant fibre artist finally getting around to writing about how I quilted Cleaved, our wedding quilt.
recalcitrant 1843, from Fr. récalcitrant, lit. “kicking back” (17c.-18c.), pp. of recalcitrare “to kick back,” from re- “back” (see re-) + L. calcitrare “to kick,” from calx (gen. calcis) “heel.” Verb recalcitrate “to kick out” is attested from 1620s; sense of “resist obstinately” is from 1759.
That’s pretty cool. I grew up saying ‘K.B.’ (to kick back – Southern California surfer slang), but that it originated in 19th c. France gives it a certain cachet and je ne sais quoi.
So, the last time I wrote about Cleaved, I had made the backing fabric and pieced the front of it. Next step – Tada . . . . quilting!
Normally when I make art, I fly a little bit by the seat of my pants, maybe get into a corner and have to figure my way out if it. Most often, this gives me a surprising, serendipitous result. However, this is my wedding quilt that I’m making, to hang first at our wedding altar and then, over our marriage bed. Serious stuff. So I thought, ‘This time, I’ll have a plan when I get started’. So I spent the best part of an afternoon researching Art Nouveau designs. In the process, I stumbled upon the brilliant Textile Blog by Cornwall based John Hopper. Some of the images that inspired me:
I drew up this design:
and got out my (supposedly) super-washable markers.
I was very, very certain that I had used these same markers on some fabric in the past and it washed right out. Anyhow, I marked out my carefully researched Art Nouveau design, started quilting it and decided to dab away some of the ‘superwashable’ ink. Do recall that our wedding day was in about a fortnight.
To my horror, this ‘superwashable’ ink didn’t. . . . . superwash. I went into a downward spiral of doom and panic for about 5 minutes. I thought about re-printing and re-appliqueing all of the rose petals. Or having to postpone our wedding (remember, this quilt was going to hang at our altar). Then I pulled myself together and took my still safety-pinned quilt to the bathtub, got out the Fairy Liquid and a nail brush and managed to scrub 99.3% of the ‘superwashable’ ink out. OK. Probem solved. I hung my quilt up to dry, but was back to square one with my quilting design.
The next morning, I went for a walk with my friend Nicky and her little terrier Wilf on Dartmoor. I said a little prayer for quilting inspiration. Towards the end of the walk, I found a crow feather near a stream and realised that my motif needed to be about the river and feathers. After all, the river is where the slate came from and feathers have been an important motif in our courtship.
I went into my album of photos that I took of the river where I found the pieces of slate.
And I redid my sketch with some of the Art Nouveau shapes and textures, transformed into river ripples, stones and feathers.
I had to work the following day and Steve went into Exeter and got me a proper water erasable quilt marking pen. So I was able to mark out the basics of my design worry-free. And the quilting just flowed. When I quilted the feathers, I was so happy with how well they came out in stitch, that I was floating myself for about a day.
By the way, these two fish arrived unannounced, but very welcome, during the quilting.
I often dialogue with my artwork to see where it would like to go. As I said above, I don’t plan ahead very much and sometimes this ‘letting go’ can get a bit scary as I become immersed in a piece of work and lose myself in the journey. It takes a big leap of faith in my talents and problem solving abilities. And a big trust in the creative process. That it is going where it needs to go and a remembrance that I, the artist, am the vehicle that it passes through. This realisation humbles me every time. Because ultimately, it’s the reminder and the realisation of the Divine presence who moves and flows through all of Creation and all that I create.
So I think that my quilt wanted to be of the river and forced me to baptise it and start anew in a different place than from my carefully researched and planned out design.