Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Becoming an Earth Monk

April 30, 2022
Earth Monk watercolor by Liza Hyatt

I haven’t been active on the is blog for several months because I have been writing chapters of a book whose working title is The Dark Night of the Earth and the Earth Monk’s Vigil. I am now ready to share here what my writing and research are enlivening for me.

Like many people, over the course of the past few years, I have felt growing despair for what is happening on our Earth and to our Earth. I feel a deep need to be with others who feel the same despair – and the hope that humanity can mature through the dark times ahead and learn to live more compassionately with each other and with reverence and caring for our local ecosystems and the planet as a whole.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction to The Dark Night of the Earth and the Earth Monk’s Vigil:

  As a young woman, I hoped that our collective transition away from the Earth-destroying culture we currently inhabit and participate in, toward new, sustainable, more just and compassionate systems, would be completed in my lifetime, with a relatively brief and collectively chosen period of transformation. Now, I grieve for how we are only just entering what must be an extremely complex, dark, painful, disordering, chaotic, conflict-filled, multi-generational liminal expanse, from which a radically altered, profoundly humbled human culture might emerge –  into a very different kind of rebirth than the world-conquering Renaissance of the past – if we don’t render Earth uninhabitable along the way.  

     Now, as a woman entering my crone stage of life, I am starting to see that I will live my elder decades as a participant within a time of global descent into disorder and confusion, revealing that what we have lived through in recent years has been merely the beginning ripples, the early distant rumblings of the much larger storm of change, struggle and painful psychological and spiritual initiation necessary to make us surrender our old familiar ego-centric cultural systems. The transformation that we must undergo will be humiliating in the truest, root sense of the word – a process in which we are brought low, back down into the earth, into the humus nature of being human, a return of Adam to adama –  the clay, the earth to which we belong and must be real stewards of.  Initiation, the soul’s process of ripening us, is humiliation of the ego, rendering us more in service of community and of the needs of soul. Only through such an initiation will humanity learn again to live in relationship with earth and each other. I do not expect this human-humus initiation to be completed in my daughter or granddaughter’s lifetime. Perhaps my great-grandchildren, and even more fully, my great-great grandchildren will be born in a truly Earth-stewarding culture.

     At the same time as I’ve been stripped of my younger naïveté, which hoped for an easier transition and an easier era in which to live the second half of my life, my soul life and spiritual love has grown and deepened. This is a love that encompasses the whole Earth, humanity, and the sacred web of interconnected relationships within which we are woven. The spiritual formation through which this love has expanded gives me strength, courage, groundedness, and personal commitment to living as one engaged within present and future suffering, complex and scary as it will be. I want to be as present as I can, in deep relationships with people around me, witnessing and staying awake, keeping vigil throughout what is to come – the collective dark night of both the human soul and the planet itself. 

     The state of being in vigil is a state of being liminal. Of opening to silence, unknowing and darkness. Of suffering and lamenting and witnessing the pain within our depths. Of meeting our own demons, which we created in fruitless effort to be in control. Of surrendering to waiting in prayer dark for dawn.  

      More than anything, the Earth needs us to enter this state of vigil. To stop doing what we have been doing, to surrender our being in control, to face the demonic mess we have made of things, to meet the trauma we have inflicted and carry within us. To grieve, soften, and acknowledge the collective pain in which we live. And to wait, learning to listen to nature itself for what will heal us, and for the real work that is needed of us.

     To grow capable of such vigil, we need to learn to be more patient within the liminal. We must be willing to become monks – Earth Monks born from the spiritual and communal needs of our era, committed to living in service of healing the collective trauma of humanity and our planet. 

I hope this post finds its way to many others who are also called to become Earth Monks. In the coming year, I will continue to post excerpts from my book project, including suggestions of practices to help us unlearn the conditioned behaviors of Western society and its colonizing and consumerism. One of the key wounds to our soul-life in this society is the impairment of imagination, without which we cannot experience the world as alive and sacred. Therefore many of my upcoming posts will be about ways to heal our relationship with the imagination, first through the primary imagination that we encounter in our dreams, and later through the secondary imagination found in contemplative art making practices.

Poem of the Month

June 18, 2021

cicadas

Song of the Cicada

 

                                    What will you do,

                                    you, who have endured

                                    month after month,

                                    year after underworld year,

                                    in a dark silent place

 

                                    and now wake to a strange new strength

                                    and the desire to unbury yourself

                                    with which you squirm free

                                    and emerge

 

                                    into a world

                                    of sun and thunder,

                                    catalpa flowers and bees,

                                    birth upon voice upon song?

 

                                    Join us,

                                    the other ecstatic souls

                                    who are already here celebrating.

 

                                    Grow gold wings,

                                    devote the rest of your life to love-making,

                                    and raise an irresistible ruckus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem of the Week 3-7-21

March 7, 2021
Poet God

God is a poet of few words,
singing, over and over
in meditation:

And, yes! let us be…  

And, yes! let us be…  

And, yes! let us be…  




Poem of the Week – December 13

December 13, 2020
As we head toward Christmas, this poem spoke to me,
I wrote it after winter's meditation during my workday commute. 

Commute Home
 
The audiobook is talking about 
the disappointment of the early Christians,
waiting and waiting for the transformation
they believed would happen 
in their lifetime,
until they grew to find
eternity and salvation
inside the waiting,
as waiting changed them,
teaching them 
to love each other.
 
A livestock semi-trailer
is slowly passing me.
Pushed into each oval air-hole,
black and white fur of cows
packed in for a long journey.
From one of these holes,
a single, velvet cow ear,
flapping in the winter air.
 
I long to reach out
and touch its softness;
I feel sudden tenderness
for these animals
and their life of sacrifice.
 
I arrive home
less disappointed in marriage,
practicing the faith born
from knowing we
failed and fail and will fail
yet continue to chose
a forgiving-love, 
with which we redeem 
each other.
 

Poem of the Week

November 29, 2020
To encourage, enliven, and inspire 
your journey as seeker, 
I am now offering  
a "Poem of the Week", 
sharing one of my own poems.
Here is the first offering.

Prayer for Choosing to Soften
 
At best, we will need therapy 
and meditation practice
for the rest of our lives,
and some of us will soften 
and begin to heal,
and some of us will keep resisting,
afraid to be other than
alone behind walls.
 
And the world goes on
as it always has 
and always will,
warring more
wherever we resist,
and warring less
wherever we soften.
 
Sometimes we feel like fools.
We could be getting drunk
and screwing around
in opulent, burning fortresses,
instead of humbly sitting here,
becoming naked.
 
But the love we seek
needs us to live in the wound
like maggots cleansing 
an open sore of infection,
like bees finding pollen 
to make honey,
like mystics waking in the heart 
of the cosmic rose,
realizing what we called self
was a simple portal,
a crudely carpentered door,
we are quietly passing through,
beyond which
compassion is
forever opening.
 
 
 
 


Covid-19 and Dreams

July 11, 2020

Kneeling

Here’s a link to a blogpost I contributed to the Natural Dreamwork blog. You can learn about Natural Dreamwork and access other posts from the team of Natural Dreamwork practitioners at http://www.thenaturaldream.com.

Natural Dreamwork During COVID-19 and Global Liminality

In My Contemplative Artist’s Toolbox

January 11, 2020

deer dream

Deer dream

As a contemplative artist, my tools include metaphor, creativity, imagination, and symbolism. But what exactly are these tools? Here is how I understand these essential human capacities:

 

Metaphor

 

Metaphor is a poetic linking of two unlike things to reveal a deep inner connection between the two. Metaphors are not just a literary device. All creative processes engage in metaphoric connecting. Spiritual experience can only be expressed through metaphor, a dance, an image, an AUM of breath and heart vibration, carrying some essence of the ineffable within them. Metaphors are packed with emotion and sensory, felt experience, which, when taken in consciously, wake those feelings inside our bodies in ways that make us more deeply alive. The roots of the word are from meta(over, across) and pherein (to carry, to bear, including to bear children as in give birth), so in the most ancient, embodied sense of the word, metaphor means to bear across. Engaging in metaphor pushes us beyond the threshold of what we used to know. Metaphors birth new life.

 

Imagination

 

Imagination is the making of images within the dreaming mind. This imagining is active in us at all times. During sleep, the imagination breaks free from the control of the ego and we wander in realms not possible in waking life. But while awake, we also imagine. We imagine as we remember, as we share stories, as we tell our histories, as we plan events, as we create and anticipate the future.  There is a primary imagination, as in our dreams, that comes without our conscious effort, and a secondary imagination, as in our art-making and other creative activities, in which human creativity extends primary imagination into manifest form. The material that primary imagination gives us is made of image and raw emotion within the living body. Because we are disconnected from emotion and the body, we dismiss this primary imaginal material as bizarre and meaningless. But when we learn to feel into it, we discover that every offering from the primary imagination is innately healing, somehow born from the wholeness we have been separated from. Those who engage in a regular practice of dreamwork experience the healing depth of primary imagination.

Imagination is often lumped synonymously with fantasy. This is a superficial misperception.  Fantasy is the ego’s conjuring. Imagination comes from soul.  When I picture my dream house, my ego is fantasizing something it may strive for.  When I am afraid and picture threatening scenarios unfolding, my ego is fantasizing, offering fight-flight stories, which is ego’s speciality. Self-aggrandizing and self-protection, the functions of ego, are the purpose of fantasy. To meet the healing bear in a dream, to write a soulfully true poem, and to paint from deep within, we must learn to clear the ego, and all its defensive fantasy, out of the way, and to humbly meet the frighteningly transformative soul material imagination gives us.

 

 

Creativity

 

Creativity is our way of solving problems while playing.

All humans are creative. We have survived for millennia because we are creative. Many animals are creative too. (To see animal creativity in action, look for the Youtube video of a creative raven using a metal lid to slide down a snowy roof.)  Whether we are figuring out how to sled, fly to the moon, paint luminous flesh-tones, or express emotion in violin patterns, we are engaging with challenging questions, encountering unknowns and seeming impossibilities, and experimenting in ways that increase connection to the materials being used, expand our learning, and awake a desire to keep going, building up on what has come before. Some creative processes feel scary and painful, fraught with many obstacles, seeming failures, and states of feeling blocked or thwarted. Some creative processes feel lyrical and vibrant, richly alive, blessed with states of flow.  Everyone engaged in creativity will feel both these states, and everything in between. To get to moments of flow, many long treks full of unsure stumbling and unsuccessful first drafts will first be logged.

In art therapy, we utilize a framework called the Expressive Therapies Continuum, or the ETC, developed by art therapy pioneers Lusebrink and Kagin.  In this framework, creativity is at the top of the continuum, and involves the engagement of all the other layers of human expression, which are our kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, affective, cognitive, and symbolic ways of experience and engaging. When we are creative, we engage all these functions.

 

Symbolism

 

Symbols are object or images that substitute for something that is not itself present.  We create symbols to stand for things and codify collective meaning. Sometimes the symbol substitutes for another physical object. For instance, before my daughter left home for college, I bought us both silver rings on a Mother’s Day art fair outing. Five years later, I still wear my ring every day to feel connected for her. The symbolic ring substitutes for her. Sometimes symbols substitute for an abstract thing. For instance, a nation’s flag symbolizes patriotism, love of country. We have cultural symbols, behavioral symbols, religious symbols, personal symbols, mathematical symbols, language symbols. A stop sign is a symbol standing in for the behavior to stop. The number 2 is a symbol standing in for any group of two things. A drawing of two parallel lines with a bumpy oval shape on top is, in pictographic language, a symbol of a tree. Because we are able to think symbolically, we have created language, writing, and other vast systems of meaning.  When a symbol really means something to us, we connect to it with both heart and mind, like the ring I wear, or specific religious symbols for specific people. Meaning is always connected to symbols. We read symbols, interpret them. There is always a cognitive element to symbols, an encoding of meaning.  Symbols can forge rich personal and cultural belonging. They are essential in how we pass on cultural wisdom. But we may know what a cultural symbol means without experiencing an emotional response. Often, we defend ourselves from feeling by staying in symbolic interpretation and its structures of intellectual scaffolding. For instance, when asked to draw a tree, a person might quickly make the typical stick figure tree they learned as a child, a symbol of a tree, instead of drawing a tree with bare branches and hollow trunk that would potently express their feelings of grief. Our we might interpret elements of a dream symbolically, looking things up in dream dictionaries and compiling vast cultural data on what a bear, or chalice, or hollow tree has meant to people in other times and places, but never experience the anger of our specificdream bear, the thirst stirred by ourdream chalice, or the emptiness inside our hollow tree.

 

 

This Poet’s Most Cherished Words

May 7, 2019

sacred words

From time to time I’ve contemplated what words are most essential to me. My list has grown slowly over time, through lived experience. The first word to become sacred to me was the word “we.” Culturally, we livin in a me-against-you time, and so the healing essence of the word we is even more needed. This year, the word “vessel” became part of my list, as the best word for the deep inner space where soul-life cooks. Here is a list of some of the words that capture the heart of living, forming connection, entering relationship with each other:

we

us

home

empathy

belonging

earth (earth)

poem

tree

roots

breath

ground

weaving

dancing

singing

attached

open

now

cosmos

peace

dream

wonder

wander

feel

vessel

yes

Yoga, Expressive Art Therapy, and Dreams

March 9, 2019

 

It’s been a wonderful year long journey!  I went to Costa Rica in March 2018 and completed training as a Let Your Yoga Dance Teacher.  In September, 2018 I began a 200 hour yoga teacher training program at my local yoga studio, Flourish Yoga + Wellbeing, in Fishers, Indiana.  On March 3, I graduated!!!!

I am already including yoga in my body movement group for eating disorder patients at Charis Center for Eating disorders.  And I am looking forward to starting to teach Let Your Yoga Dance at Flourish and to helping with their yoga nidra offerings.  My long term goals are to incorporate yoga and expressive art therapy into workshops and retreats.

While doing this yoga training, I have also been working with my dreams, with the help of a Natural Dreamwork practitioner. (www.thenaturaldream.com) The combo of dreamwork and yoga is incredibly healing and transformative for me. As yoga helps me unravel and release old conditioned reactivity and blockage within my body, the dreams are helping me untangle the emotional and spiritual wounds within my soul.  I am now a practitioner in training in the Natural Dreamwork tradition. And so, though I graduated from the yoga teacher training, my spiritual learning journey is far from ending.

Before teaching my first yoga class, I dreamed that a group of humpback whales were arriving at the yoga studio and would fill the whole space.  At first I reacted – there will be no space for me!  Where will I teach yoga?!  Then I realized the whales are arriving for my yoga class!  So much living, ancient embodied energy, showing up in to be with me, to celebrate this journey and the new growth and vitality it is bringing me.

I look forward to many more postings here about my new yoga and dreamwork path and how they deepen and expand upon creative healing work with others.

 

Coming Home to Belonging: My Pilgrimage with Soul

January 26, 2019

godvesl3

I belong myself to that which I love. (Toko-Pa Turner)

In the past few years, my capacity to belong to self and World has been healing in ever-widening and deepening ways. I have been discovering how to “belong myself to life” as author Toko-Pa Turner writes. But more is happening than my own practicing of belonging. As I belong myself to life, world and Self are also belonging me to them.

The imagination that lives in the body and expresses itself through dreams and art-making is at the heart of this belonging, and is absolutely essential to soul-life. Much happened in my life to sever my connection from soul.  For most of us, the severing begins by just being born in this age of empty materialism and environmental destruction.  We are all wounded by this soul-deadening, imagination-impaired age.

I have been lucky and blessed to have found my vocation as art therapist at the beginning of my adult life and to have followed it for 30 years, through early novitiate stages, through challenging times of doubt, exhaustion, and disillusionment, and into years of deepened learning, increased mastery, and improved self-care. I have been rediscovering belonging every step of the way of those 30 years. And now, as I stand on the foundation of the mastery that I have painstakingly established, I am finding my capacity to belong is ripening, as is my courage to welcome and accept soul’s invitations for ever-evolving belong that arrive in dreams, sacred encounters, wild moments.

The threads of belonging radiate out from within the electric warmth of the body. The threads of belonging radiate out from the heart, from the flesh. They radiate out from every living presence in the natural world, the dream world, the universe.  I have lived too often feeling I am alone, all my threads of connectivity tamped down by hurt, pulled in by fear of further hurt.  In the past couple years, through an intensified engagement in art-based self-reflection and contemplation, I have seen the extreme severing of my connective threads. I have begun to unfurl them again.I have found the eternal vitality in these soul fibers. I have felt myself re-attaching to life, and life re-attaching with loving welcome to me.

The photo above is an overhead view of Vitality Vessel, a 24-inch tall vessel I created using torn, painted paper and torn strips of my unpublished memoir. The entire outside and inside of the vessel is lined with these strips. This vessel is the culminating art piece made during an 18-month period of self-reflection and inquiry into the roots and growth within personal compassion fatigue experiences. During this expressive artist pilgrimage, I wrote both a memoir and a weekly image journal, in which I logged reflections on my own art processes (visual art, poetry, dance, music) and also reflected on how I had been impacted by the week’s complex therapeutic interactions in the expressive art therapy groups/sessions I led. (I took a break from this blog during this time of contemplation, feeling that my pilgrimage needed to be personal and private in order to deeply ripen before I began sharing publicly about what it taught me.)

During this pilgrimage,  I also took retreats to natural settings, where I made art and hiked in the mountains of Massachusetts, New Mexico and Washington and danced and did yoga in Costa Rica. I also interviewed other art therapists about their experiences of compassion, fatigue and vitality. Many of those I interviewed were fellow faculty at St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana.  We created art about our compassion fatigue/vitality experiences and displayed these works in the first faculty show of the Woods’ Art Therapy MA program.  Vitality Vessel is one of the pieces I contributed to this show.

During my expressive arts pilgrimage, I also looked for and found mentors and guides who could help me deepen into and find the soul-gifts within the journey. Most helpful to me were: depth psychologist Francis Weller, with whom I had monthly mentoring Skype session; art therapist wise elder Maxine Junge, with whom I also had monthly Skype mentoring sessions and who I visited at her home on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound; and Mary Jo Heyen, Natural Dreamwork practitioner with whom I consulted bi-weekly to tend dreams that came (and still come) nightly in abundance, offering healing encounters over and over again.

In the above image of the vessel, you are given a glimpse of the depths within which I searched as I wrote, painted, scribbled, danced, dreamed and journeyed through the profound soul-work passage that this expressive arts pilgrimage became for me.

I was gifted with generous funding for this pilgrimage by applying for and receiving the Creative Renewal Fellowship given to me and 29 other artists and art administrators in Central Indiana. I was the first art therapist to receive this fellowship, which was first offered in 1999. I was a fellow during the program’s 10th round from July 2017 – December 2018.  It took me many years, and many failed applications, to finally receive this generous award. Each application involved learning to validate myself as art therapist and artist, and though each failed application was incredibly painful, the learning and struggle involved to finally receive and embark on the fellowship was essential. I can now say I received the fellowship at just the right period of my life and that all the other attempts were part of what made me so ready, so prepared, to engage fully in the fellowship pilgrimage. In fact, I could say that the pilgrimage included all the years of those initial attempts.

What I experienced and all that unfolded during the fellowship is too complex to describe with any clarity in one blog post.  More posts will follow throughout the coming year going into each of the richly rewarding components of my journey.  Here I want to share that the essential healing theme woven through all aspects of my pilgrimage, which was that of returning home, of re-belonging to self and world. This belonging is experienced as threads of living energy, waking, unfurling, rejoining the vibrant web of life.  Vitality Vessel depicts those out-reaching, in-reaching pulsing fibers of connection. It is a self-portrait of my own healing. It is a portrait of what I call “godding” – another verb that speaks of belonging, as divine energy expressed in living, flowing, all-embracing longing, the soul’s eternal homing.

(Opening quote from: Toko-Pa Turner, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home,  Her Own Room Press: Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, 2017)