The Illusion of Independence- a Meditation about Love

We are like colours that collide and form an artwork.

We are like jewels that recognise the stardust in one another.

We see the face of God mirrored back to us.

The eternal truth that is at the core of all great spiritual teaching is to love God, and love others. Love is the supreme force of the universe generating creative power, healing and unity.

I don’t know about you, but when I think about how this can be accomplished in the day to day material stuff of life, I find myself out of my depth. I know it’s impossible to truly love and be devoted to God without loving others also.

I realised today that I was thinking about this in linear terms, or in terms of dominant culture which has essentially submerged all of us into a kind of illusion of independence. But we are not independent, we were never intended to be, either.

We are designed to live in community. All are needed, all have a part to play which goes way beyond just the bread and butter of existence, way beyond vocation, success, failure and finding a niche in life. It operates on an energetic, cellular level. Our actions and thoughts truly ripple out, affecting those around us for better or for worse. We are often unable to see how we affect others, especially when we have blessed or encouraged another human being. Deep is the mystery of how souls intertwine and nourish one another. Think of how plants grow- we can’t observe it happening in real time, but plants do indeed grow. Or how children grow physically at night while they sleep. The changes that happen quietly and in secret are the most profound. So too is that ripple effect of our souls. Who knows what that water will stir up or reflect.

To love others is to live with open palms to the world. To loosen our grip on our own ideas and let the water of love do as it will. We can have our intentions, yes, but we can neither know nor guide the outcome. I see it as a divine alchemy, as we come into contact with other souls in a somewhat random way. Jesus says that when we welcome or serve just one little child (or one small, seemingly insignificant anyone), we are also welcoming and embracing God. Love has a habit of hiding in the small and inconsequential.

My prayer is that this sense of unity and solidarity will wash over the world.

We were not made to be independent..we were never intended to be. There is no such thing as a small act of love, for love is found in the things that the world will overlook in it’s chaos. Love is often found in the quiet, the still, the hidden things

Water Baptism- a dream reflection

I want to share with you a dream I had, as the imagery was so powerful, it has given me much to reflect on. I’ve called the dream (and the painting above) ‘Water Baptism’

In the dream I was up in the clouds. There was a teacher with me, relating all sorts of wonderful things about a global perspective. I could see the horizon and the earth below, and it was glorious. But somehow I was slipping and wasn’t able to stay in the sky. So I fell. But the fall wasn’t dramatic as in many dreams, it was soft. I gently landed in the ocean, and woke up as I emerged, face first from the water, which was a beautiful aquamarine blue.

It feels like sacred ground to try to interpret this dream in a linear fashion. I think I will only be able to catch the overarching message, and trust that my deepest soul understands more than my conscious understanding. The most obvious metaphor to me, of the water at least, is baptism. Baptism is a way of representing an inner surrender, as death yields to life.

Submerged in the ocean, we are utterly engulfed by the water, but also buoyed up by it- if we relax. When we are drowning, they say the more we struggle to stay afloat, the more likely we are to actually drown because we are expending so much energy in our panic. To swim, one must learn the skill of relaxing into the water and thereby the body becomes its own life raft and floats. There is a humble beauty in yielding. To circumstances, to God, to who we are. In dreams every element can also be understood as parts of ourselves. So, even the body of water that held me is a part of me, perhaps that sacred space in my heart where God also dwells.

Dreams provide wonderful inspiration for art, and this one is no exception. For me, to paint a dream is a way of imprinting it onto my psyche, and I’m sure the meaning of this one will evolve just as I am evolving. Hopefully others too will be able to resonate with it, since after all, dream symbols are part of our collective unconscious.

St Theresa of Avila describes spiritual metamorphosis in terms of a butterfly which emerges after days and days of being in a cocoon spun around it’s body. It is changed on a cellular level, no longer resembling in any way the lumpen worm that chews its way through mulberry leaves. It’s not merely a worm with wings, it is utterly different, transformed. This body of water can also be seen in terms of a chrysalis. When we are in our mothers’ womb, we float in water, before we emerge into another reality…Truly, as the psalmist says; “Your ways are too wonderful for me too lofty to attain”. Some things are so beautiful and true that we can only trust that somewhere deep in our soul there is a flicker of understanding.

May we all find quiet trust in these waters as we surrender to it’s depths.

God in the Vine- a meditation

‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love…’

This is a little paraphrase from John’s Gospel. It’s a beautiful one to ponder because, for me at least, it evokes captivating imagery of oneness with our Creator.

The Vine…I love this image of God; I get a picture of roots intertwining with the earths soil, a part of the endless cycle of death and rebirth. It’s a picture of closeness, of imminence. God is not content to visit us with a glorified and overpowering presence- then leave. God is found in the very fabric of our existence, inseparable from our humanity as beings who need food, water and sun to nourish and sustain. Love has literally put her roots down right where we are, sustaining us moment by moment. In the words of teacher and mystic, James Finlay;

“Love is our origin, Love is our sustaining ground and Love is our destiny”

But then Jesus says, “Remain in my Love”

What does it mean to ‘remain in love’?

Although in the cosmic sense we are never separate from God, there is no doubt that there is a part of our being that is prone to becoming discontent and distracted. We struggle to remain, rest, stay, be.

When I am not remaining or resting in the Vine, I wither and contract. My own energies, agendas and obsessive thoughts lead to feelings of emptiness. I’m trying to meet my own needs, be my own protector and Source. It’s like I’ve put myself in a jar of stagnant water on the windowsill with secondhand light.

In yoga Nidra, a practise where the goal is deep relaxation, the guide will often say things like, “become aware of your right foot, let it become heavy, relax…” and so on with other body parts. When we rest our soul and spirit in God we can follow the same lines. We close our eyes, and with open hands, we come to God with all of our frailties, anxieties and circumstances. We surrender the need for control. We accept the day before us as a gift. Every breath we take in is also a gift, as the Spirit breathes through us…..We relax, remain, be. We are held and nourished no matter what state of mind we are in. ‘To remain in love’ is the awareness of this everlasting truth.

Like the cycle of the seasons, the day becoming night, the insects, birds and animals are being sustained; We too are being upheld, moment by moment.

Whatever is in your heart today, that feels pressing or overwhelming… Surrender it to the Vine. Your only task is to remain in love.

Light and Shadow: a Meditation

They move with the time of day and make visible the dance of the breeze. Dappling the world shadows are darkly mystifying. When I paint shadows, I often use all of the primary colours, undiluted and concentrated, so that the eye reads them as shades. Darkness gives depth, or at least the illusion of depth. The world is flat and bleached without shadows. In art and life, we need a “Yin” or negative space to balance out the bright and dynamic ‘Yang’ energy. The reflective yielding light of the moon to balance the sharp rays of the sun. We need winters’ solstice to make space for the active growth cycle of spring and summer.

In spiritual terms, the shadow is neither good nor bad, it just is. It’s a part of us that has much to teach us if we let it. It contains spaces that we can only just make out, like something in the corner of our eye, hazy and nondescript. We see reality as ‘through a glass darkly’ (1 Corinthians 13:12). Like the deep ocean, our shadow also contains things we cannot see at all. There is a universe inside of us. Often, we get snippets of our mysterious shadow selves when we remember our dreams, and wake, perhaps realising that there is a lot more going on in our psyches that what we are consciously aware. But we don’t need to remember dreams in order to gain the wisdom and insight of our shadow.  It resides in all of our frailties, our insecurities and failures. It’s our very weaknesses that lead us to God, who is completely present both within our being and outside of us as an anchor for our soul. We discover the life of God in these hazy, elusive impressions. We come to understand that our worth is not found in achievements or the identity we have spent years trying to carefully construct.

Sometimes, every answer to every question seems to be a resounding “I don’t know”. Like tree in a storm, it’s delicate branches billowing in strong winds, we may feel that there is neither gravity nor ground. St John of the Cross says likens this shadow experience as ‘the dark night of the soul’. He says; “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God”. The shadow place is being content in the mystery. Laying aside manipulations and grasping, and with open hands, we are fully immersed in the river of God.

Bird-watching

Some people invest in binoculars for the express purpose of observing bird-life. They take great delight in identifying species by their feathers and their bird-call. It’s not hard, when you think about it, to understand why these enthusiasts are so captivated by the world of birds. Birds are rather enigmatic in a way. Many species don’t even store food, their nests are temporary and purposeful, and who knows where they go when they fly away, or what their daily routine is?

Birds visit my garden often. The parrots come to eat the lilly-pilly’s that hang over my back fence, and the insanely noisy red-tailed galah’s absolutely adore splicing off branches from my numerous cape lilac trees in early summer. I adore the swallows, too that sometimes visit our industrial-town beach. To me, they all seem like winged nomads, little visitors who appear, full of chatter, then vanish. They seem to have a bird-culture we humans know nothing about. I hear them ‘talk’ to each other and I wish I knew what they are saying. It’s startling to think how eerily silent the world would be without their melodic songs (although to be honest crow and galah songs sound more like a cacophony than a melody). Nonetheless, bird calls, to me, are like the singing bowls often used in meditation. I think they help raise our vibration, or our mood. They say to us; “Wake up!”

Like natures punctuation marks, birds connect our attention to both the heavens, and the earth. It’s no small wonder that angels are depicted as having wings also. They too, inhabit the air but are closely linked with life on earth. Some say that when you find a white feather it is a sign that your guardian angels are watching over you. A black feather is thought to indicate that a deceased loved one is nearby and sending a message of love. Why wouldn’t spiritual beings send messages in such a tangible form like a feather? It’s the perfect metaphor.

A beautiful quote from Meister Eckhart serves as something to ponder, as we allow ourselves become curious about the birds we see around us everyday:

“Every living creature is full of God and a book about God”.

So next time you notice a feather on the ground, pick it up. Allow it to connect you with the unseen realms and the present moment in the material world. Let the birds of the air share both their wisdom and wonderful attributes. All we need to do is listen to their story.