An Eye On Intentional Creativity:: Woven Devotion and the Handmade Art of Life

Emily K. Grieves, Teotihuacan, Mexico

I am racing to gather my thoughts for you before the words fall away. I have just returned home from a week in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I co-facilitated the “Awaken the Great Mother Within” journey, and I am so filled with images and impressions, colors and sensations, that I wonder how I can gather them all to share with you. I will begin by saying that Oaxaca is a blessed land, a rich fertile land, a land of art and an innate creativity that seems to grow from the soil itself like corn for tortillas or agave for mezcal. It is a powerful but sweet energetic vortex. The people are noble, proud indigenous people who dignify their roots, their traditions, their languages, their beliefs, their ecology, their culture and their artwork. I have never seen a people so peacefully and lovingly present and grounded in their identity. The lilting sounds of Zapotec sing through the market place as braided women in embroidered aprons and woven huipil dresses sell their creations and negotiate their wares.

 As we sat in our opening circle for the journey, and the women who had gathered shared stories of their lives and what had called them to journey to Oaxaca to explore their connection with the “Mother” (physical, real, earthly, imagined, divine), I listened to my own story. I heard myself say that I struggle with the discipline of a practice. I have trouble keeping up with a regular way of maintaining my devotion. All my best efforts to pray the rosary or to meditate or to chant mantras end up falling by the wayside after a few days or weeks. Even as those words fell from my mouth, I realized the frequency with which I call a deep circle of women together to pray and explore Life and the Divine Mother. Every three months or so, I create a journey or retreat like this, and I realized that this is my practice. This is my body of work as an artist. This is my way of keeping my connection alive, of reconnecting, of cultivating my devotion and fulfilling the Mother’s mandate for me, the mission She has given me – to live in Her embrace and to help other women find their way home into Her arms.

 We entered into the dark underground chambers of the 2000 year old Zapotec temples at Mitla. Mitla was created as a representation of the Underworld, where the Lord and Lady of Mictlan ruled over death and the afterlife. I had never been to Mitla before, and my co-facilitator had told me that one of the chambers was tomblike and had a dark heavy energy that was hard to shake. As I entered the tunnel leading to the chamber, I was struck by the fetid odor and the pressure of the air. My friend was choking on her breath, and whispered “isn’t it so heavy, like death?” I felt into the energy and while it took me a moment to put my finger on it, I suddenly had a sense of recognition and certainty. This was the energy of birth. This was the stain of amniotic fluid, blood, labor pain, tears, piss and shit, placenta, the pushing of life through a dark passageway toward a point of light. The energy of birth and death are essentially the same. I looked at the symbols carved into stone all around me on the walls. They were all symbols of water. Water, the stuff of life. We are born into it. And when we die, water flows in the tears that are shed for us.

The ancient peoples of Mesoamerica seem to have universally held the belief that death is but a birth into the next life. They often buried their dead in the fetal position. They buried babies and small children in clay pots as if returning them to the womb. Symbols abound representing the death gateway as a birth gateway. When we emerged from the “tomb” chamber at Mitla back into the blasting sunlight, we moved to another set of downward stairs that led into another chamber in the middle of which rose a great pillar of rounded stone known as the “Column of Life.” This was a place that held an energy of joy and light, almost ecstatic as it rippled across my skin. I realized that this column of life was a phallus, rounded at the tip as if penetrating the vulva of the subterranean chamber itself, entering into the Earth herself and inseminating the spark of new growth, a new life. I felt as if the cosmic ovum choosing cosmic sperm could be each one of us taking part in a greater whole. The integrity of life depends on our choosing, on our saying yes to life. Ultimately it doesn’t matter on what side of the life/death coin our experience falls, but rather on our answer to the question that always is: are you saying yes?

 After our visit to Mitla, we visited a natural wonder of petrified waterfalls called Hierve El Agua. If our excursion at Mitla took us into the Underworld, Hierve El Agua took us into the Upper World, into celestial realms, but with the continued experience of water as the primary symbol and reminder of life. Imagine waterfalls that have flowed laden with minerals for millions of years, slowly calcifying into hard rock formations that look like boiling water. Imagine this place honored as sacred in pre-Hispanic times. Imagine that at the top of the cascade, rivulets of water still bubble through cracks in the hard surface, pooling and flowing in a million year old urge to birth from the inside of a dark Earth into the Light. I stood in soft water at the ledge where a vast expanse of valley and mountain opened before me and felt the sky hold me at the meeting place.

  One of the highlights of our visit to Oaxaca was a journey to Teotitlan del Valle, a village famous for its indigenous rug weavers. We had the opportunity to visit the home of one of its most illustrious families who have maintained the art form throughout generations. They still make all their own natural dyes.

They still card and spin the wool by hand, and labor for months over a single rug woven with an understanding of the meaning of each symbol. Learning about the plants, flowers, minerals, and insects that gift their color to the dyes and watching the working of the shuttle through the loom made me realize that the people here on this land literally weave the Middle World, our experience in this physical reality, into being. They stand at the passageway from the Underworld to the Upper world, and make their existence by hand, investing their time and labor and expertise and knowledge into the tapestry of life … not just for themselves, but for all of us. They live a life of careful attention.

They live a life of intention. They honor the magic in their work and understand the privilege of alchemy. They live a life of devotion to the tradition that binds them to the elements of the Earth. They pulled strings of white yarn from a metal pot of sickly greenish-yellow liquid with a big two-pronged wooden fork, telling me that the dye was indigo, from a plant grown on the Isthmus. With the glee of little boys, they told me to watch carefully, that as soon as the air hits the yarn, an oxidation process would begin to affect the dye. I noticed a color change, as the yellow turned to green, the green to turquoise, and the turquoise then began to darken and take on bluish hues. In a matter of just a couple of magical minutes, the color settled into the beautiful rich dark blue we know as indigo.

 All things come full circle. I had dreamed the idea of painting on shawls, called rebozos, months beforehand for this circle of women in inquiry of the Mother. The rebozo is a quintessentially female garment. It is a multi-faceted garment that accompanies women throughout their entire life – it rocks babies, carries children, warms the shoulders in winter, covers the hair at mass, and wraps the masks of the dead. It is useful and beautiful and inextricably linked with femininity. The first time I wrapped one around my shoulders many years ago, I immediately felt like a goddess, and I felt like my female ancestors must have felt, sitting around the fire telling stories or stitching the hem of a dress or moving the soup in the pot. I felt a connection to the ancient world, to traditions that had been forgotten, and the shawl was there for my remembering. I felt like Mary. I felt Biblical, as if I could sit in an olive grove and hear my sisters talk of God. I felt indigenous, as if my Celtic and Germanic foremothers whispered into the weft of the fibers across centuries of tilling the soil and brewing herbs into medicine that I was one of them. I was of the Earth.

 As I dreamed the painting of rebozos into reality, I thought of Mari, an indigenous Nahuatl-speaking woman from Atla, Puebla, who I had bought some blouses from a few years ago. She makes gorgeous hand-embroidered blouses from natural woven muslin and come down from her village to sell them around the pyramids here. I remembered her having some lovely rebozos, too, thinking their simple cream color would provide the perfect blank “canvas” for our painting project. I imagined that if the women gathering for the journey could paint an image or symbols of the Mother on a rebozo, then wrap it around their shoulders, it would feel like the Mother Herself was enfolding them in an embrace. I hadn’t seen Mari in a long time, but as soon as I thought of her, it was as if I conjured her up by magic and she soon crossed my path. I ordered a bunch of rebozos without embroidery from her, just woven natural cotton with the hand-knotted fringe, and she had them ready a month later.

 As soon as I had the rebozos, I started playing around with painting them to see if the project would work with my group. I quickly realized how difficult of a task it would be. The open weave and natural cotton absorbed too much paint, in spite of the special textile paint I had gotten. Painting an image of the Mother would be beyond technically challenging for beginners as I myself struggled as a seasoned painter with decades of experience. I dreamed back into the idea that had sparked the project and remembered that what was important was the sensation of being held by the Mother when we wrapped the rebozo around our shoulders. I realized that if the shawl was a color other than white, then it would be easier to make intentional marks and symbols representing the Mother as we experienced Her presence.

I decided to dye the rebozos indigo, a process that took me weeks. I felt the rebozos should be blue as this color is so often associated with the Divine Mother’s mantle, visible in painting after painting of Mary in particular. In the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, her dress is red to represent the earth, and her mantle is blue as symbolic of the heavens. We seek all our lives for connection between heaven and earth, and I felt that indigo blue rebozos would help us bring that connection a little closer. This was long before I ever imagined that I would see the actual process of natural indigo dye in Teotitlan. I bought indigo dye at the fabric store and carefully dyed each rebozo individually, boiling big pots of water, rinsing the starch out of the fabric that Mari had used to keep the fabric crisp and smooth. I stirred the dye and moved the bubbles. When I finally pulled each rebozo from the indigo water to rinse and hang them, I was horrified that the hand-knotted fringe had become a tangled mess. I worked for a long time to slowly and carefully unravel the tangles on each garment. Once the freshly-dyed rebozos were dry, I painstakingly ironed them as best I could.

 As I reflected on the entire process of creation, from Mari’s efforts of weaving and my work to dye and iron and prepare them, then the work of the gathering women to paint them, I was reminded of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ writing on the handmade life. “The handcrafted life is very much like this. It takes a lifetime to accomplish. It emerges from a small and infinitely exquisite piecing together of one’s inner and outer lives, these being crafted, played, woven together every day, every week, every month, come summer, come winter, the same. The overall magnificence takes many years. It cannot be fast-forwarded. So, when there is a hunger in the psyche because not enough love or nourishment is forthcoming from the outer world, then there is a temptation to seize at things that might relieve some of the suffering. But the shortcut, the easy way, always falls apart. Then one returns to the handmade life. One has to pick it up painfully, and piece it back together, holding the overall pattern in one’s mind, but working patiently, piece by piece.”

 The day before we were to paint the rebozos in the garden of our host casa in Oaxaca, I was out exploring the city. I tried to withdraw money from an ATM, but the bank system didn’t work. As I walked the streets hunting for another bank, synchronicity led me to see a sign on a building ahead of me. It was the Museum of Oaxacan Painters advertising an exhibit called “Arte Empoderando a las Mujeres” – “Art Empowering Women.” For 23 pesos, I had to see what it was all about. My jaw dropped to the floor when I climbed the marble staircase and peered into a gallery of 100 rebozos, all painted by women with images of women’s experience, of women’s life. The dreaming thread that led me to the painting of rebozos in Oaxaca had woven us into a common tapestry of life and of the land, a Mother who welcomed us all into the colorful folds of Her shawl. I sent my circle of women to see the show for inspiration right before we painted our own rebozos. We gathered then at rented table under the bougainvillea blossoms and meditated deep into the sensation of the Mother’s arms wrapped around us. Each woman painted her symbols quietly onto the indigo fabric, listening to the singing birds nestling around the terrace, pulling needle and thread into simple embroidered shapes of stars and roses, moons and suns, and even the words “Amor.” We sat by candlelight that evening, hugging our shawls close and feeling loved.

 On my final morning in Oaxaca, I visited a church down the street. I walked into a hand-carved ornately adorned sanctuary, bathed in gold and light. A woman patiently worked on restoring relief sculptures and columns high on a scaffolding to the left. I turned to the right into a chapel that called me and found myself standing in front of the Virgin of the Rosary. A shaft of sunlight beamed through a side window, illuminating my hands as I raised them in reflection of the Virgin’s hands, delicately holding Her mysterious circle of beads. Every time I stray from devotional practice, I find my way back to Her. She calls me back into Her devotion and reminds me that the rosary is not about how diligently or how frequently I say specific words of prayer to Her. The rosary is the circle of Her heart. The rosary is the pillar of light that runs from Underworld to Heaven, wrapping our Earth into a round embrace. The rosary is the circle of women that I called to remind myself, to remember collectively, that we are Her daughters. The rosary is the circle of birth, life, death and rebirth that is Her greatest gift to us. The rosary is an art form, a thread of color, a woven tapestry, a prayer spun on our every heartbeat and beyond. My rosary, my body of work, my devotion, my art, is to connect to Life, to be in and of its Creation.

I receive the knowing

that I am part of all things in this world.

My direction is toward the doorway

in between all things. My experience is to allow

myself to stand in certainty

in that doorway between worlds,

to be as present as I can. The doorway

is a gate to dreaming the in between.

How do I stand there firmly? I am a pillar.

A pillar of light. I consume the darkness.

The shadow is my meal. I offer the plate

served with soil and worms and gravel and clay.

I offer the dish of divine compost into the fields.

May they grow ripe corn, glittering like citrine

on the stalks. May the leaves lie cupped like hands

against the shaft, holding nourishment

to the light. May we walk together with eyes

open to the gleam of sky above, sun raining

kernels of light into our cells. May our cells open

like embryos to the insemination of life

into our souls. I stand on the brink of skyward

shores, leaping into vast landscapes of Sierra Madre

mountains, my mountains that have bound me

to the heavens all my life. But here they have sprung

waters for millions of years that run laden

with minerals, turning flow to stone, so that I may walk

on water in my final days. I am doing this not

only for myself but for you, for your mother, and all

the mothers who came before us. Mother, may you

feel the healing I am becoming. I remember

the time before the land formed, before

the ancestors walked upon it, and I remember

the end, when all was released back into water

and fire and powder of earth, dissolving into air.

The end is at the beginning. I have always said, death

is a birth, the passage the same, the rush of water, the pressing

of matter, the bursting of breath. There is air at the end.

Respiration. Inspiration. Spirit.

Nothing and All.

Copyright 2019 Emily K. Grieves

As of 2004, Emily K. Grieves makes her home in Teotihuacan, Mexico, where she has painted murals at the Dreaming House Spiritual Retreat Center and has created a body of artwork influenced fy the cosmological imagery left in the ancient murals and by her relationship with her Muse and the Divine Feminine. In 2014, she opened her studio, Taller de Arte  El Refugio, in Teotihuacan.

Emily is a certified Intentional Creativity Teacher in the Color of Woman Method developed by Shiloh Sophia. She is a member of the Intentional Creativity Guild, an international organization that promotes intuitive artistic expression as a way to make positive change in the world. Visit her at www.EmilyKGrievesArt.com


An Eye On Intentional Creativity:: Our Lady of Balance

Jacquie Shenton, Stamford, UK

In March 2019, we spent the weekend exploring what it takes to be balanced as a women in today’s busy world.  Breakdowns were had, breakthroughs were achieved. Good food, tea and chocolate was a plenty! It was a pleasure to run this workshop, to see the shifts in the sisters and experience their transformation throughout the weekend.

I was joined by 4 powerful sisters.  A mix of creatives; some of whom had not picked up a brush for years and others who had never approached a canvas before.  We journeyed deeply into our own stories using Intentional Creativity. In meditation we met our internal guide of balance and bought her through onto the canvas.

On day 1 of our journey we looked at commitments that didn’t serve us, were holding us back or were imposed on us by society and/or family (without any real meaning for us personally) and made a conscious choice to lay some of that down.  In doing this, we created space to bring forth things that had meaning to us, gave us joy or bought pleasure into our lives and then wove them into our canvases as a reminder of what to focus on.

Day 2 of our journey brought us to really connect with our visual work and receive a message from our painting that would guide us going forward.  The sisters received powerful wisdom from their inner selves and felt excitement for bringing this into their lives. The workshop concluded with a sharing experience of the journey and an honouring of their paintings.

Jacquie is a Color of Women 2018 Graduate and a Priestess of Transformation through the Creative Arts. She has been painting for therapy and her own healing since experiencing a breakdown in her late 20’s.  Hundreds of paintings and images later she still believes it is one of the best ways to move stuck energy or thought patterns and connect with the inner world.  On a mission to create wholeness in her own being, Jacquie serves women who wish to reconnect to their creative essence, remember passion and discover the freedom of self expression.


Find out more about Jacquie’s work in the world www.harmoniousbeing.co.uk

An Eye On Intentional Creativity:: Rien Cassidy

Rien Cassidy: Bahrain

I was contacted by Farah Alaradi, a fifteen year old Art Student, about interning with me for her work-study assignment. Farah said that she had always been told how to create art in school, and was curious about Intentional Creativity. She was pleased with the opportunity to work with me, learning to create in a more intentional way and think differently about art.

My Medicine Basket Workshop was held prior to the Work study with Farah. I invited her to join to experience the Intentional Creativity process first hand and get a feel for the sort of work I do. 

I’m starting to offer Red Thread Circles here in Bahrain- for sharing Intentional Creativity and creating community. While interning for the week, Farah helped me create ads and organize materials for my upcoming Gratitude workshop.

She also spent some time researching IC and doing a Q&A with me in the end. Farah got a taste of creating an intentional workshop by planning out a class for teens who are getting ready to go off to university. She said she never thought art could be used like this, to heal and work through school stress. I told her she may want to consider becoming an IC teacher one day!

Come find Rien’s workshops, art and more : www.riencassidy.com


Can ‘Healing’ Make Us Too Tame?

Does our version of healing, tame us into submission?

Is our desire for domesticity, over-riding our call to the wild?

How can maintaining originality help us
navigate the rough terrain of life with innovation?

Is our potential for pleasure, and even bliss,
being forced into the background in the name of moderation?

“Learning to See in the Light” 2010 by Shiloh Sophia

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BECOMING TOO TAME and FEARING THE WILD SELF


To summon the inner outlaws
won’t take extraordinary measures
for they are always listening at the gates
waiting to break free, break in, break out
 
Once they hear your voice respond
to the cries from inside, they won’t stop asking
Give them a pen, a paintbrush, a bell, a drum
a slim volume of verse or an invitation to tea
 
Don’t expect niceties, though words will be said
Don’t expect apologies or exhortations
Give them some room to expand into being
They carry medicine for our too-tame-times
 
Those who have been accused before
Who clamor within for a position at the front
Will soon enough be enchanting you
Stories from the edge of time will be spoken
 
So if your inner outlaws are bending your ear…
Listen up…Listen in…

Shiloh Sophia

Dear Ones,

I am writing today to explore an idea about healing that has been on my mind and heart a lot lately. As you likely know, I work with a lot of women, so I hear a lot of stories. 25 years of stories. What I find is that so many of us need an invitation to get more free, more self expressed, less apologetic and have more access to our intuition.

I don’t find a lot of women who are too big for their britches, think they are ‘all that’, have ideas way too out of the box, or that are just too wild for words. I don’t see much of inflated egos actually. I see us becoming more and more conservative as we seek to survive in our current paradigm. Trimming the edges and the hedges to be more invisible, call less attention to ourselves, and to not invite further attack, the ‘you don’t see me’ posture. There are good reasons for that, and I too have an invisible cape as needed.

The challenge is, hiding has become habit. Even when we don’t need to hide anymore, like in our women’s circle or a place we feel safe, many of us still keep most of our colors under wraps. Or when we are at the canvas or at the drum or at the writing desk, we STILL don’t self express in our own personal space. We aren’t free in ourselves. Ouch. Not free in front of others is one thing, not free in our own soul space is what I am exploring here.

Let’s be clear, we have done a lot of healing to get our sh*t together and I applaud us for that. But something is bugging me… I wonder, if aspects of that healing have left us thinking that a good life means that nothing is out of place? Nothing wobbles, nothing worthwhile is in the shadows, and that novelty and curiosity are optional and occasional.

Have we put the great mystery out with the compost?

What’s up? What’s down? What’s coming through for you?

Certainly this silencing of the wild self is not in all cases, all the time. And it is not just my personal experience I am speaking to – but what I see and hear a lot. And certainly continued healing is needed, but after the initial healing journey, where is the invitation to dance with shoes off, hair flying, heart out and colors flying? I am suggesting that after the ‘return home’ from any quest and some cleaning up of our messes – there is something to be considered about our own authentic self expression and the role that plays in healing as a whole, in living out our healing in our day to day lives.

I am concerned that some of our healing practices may result in curbing our wildness too much. Our desire for the ‘ever illusive balance’ may be dimming the spectrum of our eccentricities. Clipping the wild wings that long for freedom. Trimming up our jagged edges where the magic resides. Dulling the colors of our inner landscape. Fogging out the vibrancy and calling it normalcy.

Originality lives within each of us, but is often only celebrated by those who are ‘talented’ in expressing their originality. The rest of us may be seeking conformity in a desire to fit in, be loved, and survive. We may be dumbing down our own original voice as an act of self preservation. Yet that original voice may soon insist on an audience. It may come out in ways you do not expect. This part of you, may turn on you (as the critic) or turn on someone else (blaming others for your being unhappy). If we are lucky or perhaps clever, the inner outlaws will arrive on our doorstep laden with possibilities we didn’t dare consider.

Each person must define for themselves what healing looks like. We know this. Yet authoring this awareness needs further curation. We don’t learn early enough that our journey is very unique to our own being, and that discovering it for ourselves may be essential. One size does not fit all. What if nurturing these untamable parts of ourselves is part of the key to staying alive? What if ‘staying weird’ is part of the medicine? Just how weird, may be the question…just how wild is allowable?

Our contexts demand the adjusting of wildness in children, almost from the beginning. We wonder if the child is ‘socializing well’ and define for them what we think that means. Meanwhile, the inner world of the child often goes neglected after ‘imagination’ turns to homework. Should the backpacks of children become so heavy so soon after the crayons are put away in the kitchen drawer and the art is removed from the fridge? Too often, this transition is NOT well narrated.

We lose access to the hidden domains too soon. It may be a long time before we get back “in”. Yet the desire to return will always be with us, because vivid imagination lives on in us, even if we aren’t making use of it, in the way that we could.

Our imagination can help us heal from trauma. As we know, the impact of trauma goes everywhere in us (mind, body, spirit, field, story), so trying to heal it through talking, energy work, or body work without those being somehow linked, is a long road. We do our best to link modalities, to find the thread. Imagination can help us link the modalities and create a context for the journey. The one who is capable of telling the healing story needs nurturing, and that one is often hidden from view and is connected with the wildest part of who we are.

I believe each soul has their own information. I know that access to that information is often hidden for much of our lives. I hold dear the experience that gaining access to that hidden, albeit often swampy terrain, can be life saving. I am also aware that some of us can get stuck there and not be able to come back out easily. Yet it is TIME for us to try harder and work smarter to link up the modalities in fresh ways AND invite the realm of imagination to play the key role. Trauma lands everywhere in us, but so does our imagination permeate everywhere in us. Yet we have to ‘ask and engage’ with that imagination for it to turn on.

How can we keep accessing the richness, the fertile darkness, the unexplored, the usefulness of the hard stories in the past, the light from the wound? I believe healing the imagination is one of the pure links to healing trauma that can keep the channel open to wildness. Yet this way of working with ourselves and others must be chosen. This awareness, to value the wild, is not a default and no longer obvious to many of our systems and structures. The Indigenous communities on earth have always known this, according to the mythologies we learn from them.

I feel like one of my essential and beloved invitations is the call to the wild that has gone dormant. The invitation is to come home to our innate creativity. The re-awakening of the edges that both cut and define. The summoning to the slumbering poet, artist, singer, storyteller, actor, chef, jeweler, potter, visionary. The makers I call! Yet all are makers.

Many of our mood drugs turn down the volume on the circumference of our deep seeing. Much of our ‘programming’ enhances the dream of ‘keeping up’ as primary. Some days, when the seeing of this paradigm weighs on my psyche, it all feels very enforced. This severing of our original voice, inner knowing and seeing. Is it a systematized, organized enforced reality? (This moving towards beige.)

I know it is not everywhere. Not all the time. But enough to make me wonder and ask. How do we maintain the wetlands of consciousness in the healing journey? How do we honor the badlands of our stories?

One of the hopes for recovery for the sleeping self, is to include all that has happened, to make it relevant and even useful to our current story. Not to make it go away, be dissolved or so transformed to the point we can no longer recognize the teachings. We need to honor the part of us which is resistant to domesticity and compliance. Note that I do not suggest that bad things ‘had’ to happen. Yet they just do happen, don’t they? We make what we will make of it.

Innovation, authenticity and resiliency are functions of a healthy imagination. I want to pay closer attention to the link between imagination and true well-being. Not a tamed version of ourselves that fits into societal structures. This means, that one of our collective assignments is to cultivate communities where there is enough space for the unplanned, imperfectly glorious spontaneous wild card.

When we first encounter this often hidden part of ourselves, crazy and messy and loud may be the most visible parts. Give us some time to see what may exist just beyond the initial outbursts. Give the wild ones a little more space within yourself and circles. There will be plenty of time for boundaries and protocol once the intelligence of rewilding has rejoined itself into the presence of being. Who knows how long this will take? No one. We just know without the wild ones, our circle of chairs soon ends up in squared, neat ordered rows.

True selves in hiding can become unruly. They do act out. Over time, we are taken out by them, and our addictions, or we stuff them down. We may even promise a return one day, but that day rarely comes.

Courage is called for. This is that call. From my heart to yours, creativity is the act that will forge the pathway to the inner world that waits. Maybe you have heard the cries from there before…Maybe you even answered and now you guide others to listen…

If you do not have a creative space in your home for you, your children or your grandchildren, please make one.

As for pleasure, and even bliss, engaging in one’s own creative flow can be one of the most satisfying experiences in our lives. For me, creating is pure presence, embodied access, when I feel the very most me. Feeling good can be a rare experience for many of us. So when transformation and feeling good are linked, that’s a really good thing.

When we become too tame, we naturally fear the wild self. When the wild self is too far underground or behind lock and key, we may find ourselves very disconnected. The wild self seeks consciousness at every crossroads. This is one of those crossroads collectively and individually. Let’s continue to do the work of waking up.

By wild self I mean the person who is sovereign. Who thinks for themselves, has cognitive awareness, is able to access their inner world, knows largely what they think and feel. A person who can break free of systems and is willing to not follow popular thought when it doesn’t feel right for them. You define your wild self for yourself, that is pretty wild right there.

#intentionalcreativity

Feel free to Share. Comment. Suggest. Inquire. Here

The most important part of this whole Red Thread Letter is right here – to ask you the questions….

  1. Has your healing journey made YOU too tame and in what ways?
    What about others you know? Children? Lovers?
  2. Where did this story resonate or dissonate? And do you know why?
  3. Is there an ‘inner outlaw’ trying to get out?
  4. Is there a form of self expression calling to your wild self?
  5. Do you have some wisdom or story to offer on this topic?

If you want to comment on my Artist FB page, I do read all the comments on posts like this 🙂 Comment here

Thinking of you. Truly. Lovingly. Holding you, and all of us, in my prayers.

P.S. Looking back I can see that this inquiry was a huge part of my choice to call women’s community as Cosmic Cowgirls – women who incorporate both/and.



From our research in the Intentional Creativity Foundation with over 500 participants about their experience with creativity:

93% experience creativity as a mindfulness practice

89% include creativity as a part of their spiritual practice

89% felt a sense of connection with the Divine

86% felt that their creative practice positively impacted those closest to them

92% feel that creativity influences their compassion for themselves

83% experienced compassion for others they did not know through stories they heard

80% said they would suggest creative process to others who experience depression

87% consider themselves self expressed as compared to before they were creating

86% said they have experienced breakthroughs and aha’s during creating

90% said they have experienced a shift in their default thinking

89% bring insights into their life discovered in creating

85% said they experienced an expanded sense of self

79% noticed an ease of physical symptoms while creating

93% experience creating as a relief/break that benefits their overall well being

90% have experienced a shift in recurring emotional pain through creative process

90% said that creativity helped them maintain a healthy outlook


“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.”

— Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Please note : My email is changing soon to [email protected], so if you can add that to your address book. We will also begin to communicate more as MUSEA : Intentional Creativity in the coming months. More on that soon…

My Teacher…this painting is astonishing…

“Paint like you have all the time in the world”

~ Sue Hoya Sellars

‘Centaur Becoming’ painted by Sue Hoya Sellars
for my sister, Shannon Cinnamon McCloud

This painting, to me, is astonishing. Just take a moment to pause and look at it. The expression on the horse’s face, the hills, the mist, the hands, the extension of the hair… the untold story of my sister and her red roan…

Dear Ones,

April 20 was the 83rd birthday of my teacher and the mother of my heart, Sue Hoya Sellars. She has been gone from this dimension since 2014, yet remains in my cosmic soul dimension as a constant presence.

I want to share her with you a bit today because Intentional Creativity, my sacred work in the world, is alive because of her and what she taught me. Sue and my mother were best friends, and shared the same week for their birthday. In the last Red Thread Letter I shared about my mom, and in this one I am sharing about Sue. I wish to honor them the best I can, as I honor the origin of their arrival on earth.

When I think about the gifts she gave me, it is beyond imagining. The grief appears unmovable, a part of who I am now. I used to want it to go away, but now I know this is what love really feels like. To love someone so profoundly, and to experience the loss of them from this known life, is the bittersweet gift. I feel she lives on in another place in the great mystery. If I believe she came to find me….then I can believe that one day I will go to find her again. Somehow.

What’s more, is that one person could have such a profound impact in the life of another, to the degree that without her I KNOW that I would not have chosen this life path. I KNOW I would not be teaching painting the way I do. I KNOW I would not have created Intentional Creativity. BECAUSE the information she gave me informed all of these choices so powerfully, that they are forged from her energy and intelligence. As if her ways of knowing built the matrix upon which I stretched my own awareness like a canvas ready for the brush. Sue built the frame, the container. My mother Caron wove the canvas, the context. I bring my own content, yet fully informed by the two of them. I am so grateful.

To try to speak to it, feels futile. Like trying to describe the magnificence of a forest. Impossible. I bow in great thanks to the Creator of all, for Sue coming into my family in the years before I was born…and staying so close to us for so long.

I give thanks to her teacher, Lenore Thomas Straus, who gave Sue what she gave to me, that I give to all of the women I serve with Intentional Creativity.

Happy Birthday my great teacher, American Master Painter, Sue Hoya Sellars 1936-2014.

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A few quotes from Sue that I love…

“We are all cooling sacks of stars”

“Paint like you have all the time in the world”

“Pay attention to what is happening at the end of your brush”

“We are standing in the cosmos”

“Who lives in here?”

~ Sue Hoya Sellars

An invitation to give thanks…And so one of my reasons for writing to you today is with an invitation. An invitation to reach out to someone who has taught you…someone who has guided you…shown you the path…and to thank them. Living or not…who comes to mind?

How about a letter, phone, text, speaking to the stars. There are so many more things I wish I had gotten to say to her. I feel I speak to her, apologizing for certain things over and over…and giving thanks for certain things as they arise…a continual dialogue that is part of the grief journey – an ongoing reconciliation. If your teacher, guide or mentor is living…why not give a shout out or do a social media post.


This weekend I got to deliver a message, on Jesus and the Women in His life at Woodside Village Church. It was wonderful to be serving with my friend Rev. Pastor Ama Zenya again. For many years we worked together at the First Congregational Church of Oakland. We also hung an art show there of my paintings of Mama Mary and Jesus and the Magdalene. I got to see new and old friends, and meet women who work with me online that I might never get to meet otherwise. #showingup

So dear one….if you read this far, thank you for your care, for your listening time, and your presence in my life. The red thread of connection continues to weave us.

With great heart,

p.s. My email is changing soon to [email protected], so if you can add that to your address book. We will also begin to communicate more as MUSEA : Intentional Creativity in the coming months. More on that soon – I just like to give myself a long lead time on important projects…

Tree of Transformation ~ The Evolution of my Body of Work through Intentional Creativity®

Tree of Transformation Painting and Story

Dear Ones,

I wanted to share this writing with you today in honor of my Mama’s birthday. She loves trees so it seems just right. It arose as a response to one of the Intentional Creativity Teachers asking me to share the ‘structure’ of our work. I tried to say it in normal words, but it just failed. I feel I could keep editing and refining this for hours…but here it is in draft form. A story told. A body of work.

Blessings on your day. Get a cuppa’ tea and enjoy. If you have been curious about our work this will shed some light…

Tree of Transformation

The Evolution of my Body of Work through Intentional Creativity®

By Shiloh Sophia

I dreamed a seed of hope…

The seed of hope growing within my 23 year old self was encoded with a prayer to end violence against women and girls. To change the face of the feminine image in popular culture in my lifetime. To gather community in an act of revolution that would last beyond my generation. To awaken the sleeping to rise into consciousness through a culture of creativity. Living these prayers is my sacred assignment, my devotion, and my ministry.

The original seed arose out of a context of creative content that came from the wild wisdom shared with me through my mother, Caron McCloud. She is the Poet Mother, my birth mother, and the most beautiful person I have ever encountered. She taught me context, content, curriculum, and container as my vocabulary. The Painter Mother, Sue Hoya Sellars, came into our lives before I was born, adding her unique cosmic framework and imagery to the context of my family. She is the mother of my heart. Sue also brought the gifts shared by her teacher, Lenore Thomas Straus. Their work, their love, their art and writing informed who I became, as did all the women in my family. (1970-1993)

I was created to create, so my own art making and writing grew as I grew. A glowing warmth nurtured the seed as I shared what I was learning. With time, the seed that arose from my desire was planted in good compost in good ground with great love. When the seed sprouted and broke ground we named her Color of Woman. I felt the power rising from the sprout. A potential was making itself known. I followed the call from the city to the mountain to dream freely. There I found language and image for what was growing. I studied the medicine from the two mothers as a form of healing for myself and others through painting and poetry, pottery and prophecy. (1993-1995)

The sprout grew towards the sky and the story roots hung out in rich soil keeping company with creatures often hidden from light and sight. The sprout reached up tall and focused, tender leaves mingled with the dew and the stars. A connection between heaven and earth lives in all trees. Through books, circles and classes I shared what I knew about the the emergent tree and the the information that was coming through. The women who gathered affirmed what they saw, felt, and created in the presence of the shared tree wisdom.

The little tree came to be tended by many gardeners. Especially my family, Eden McCloud, Shannon McCloud, Janet Seaforth and Bridget McBride. And the musician who sang the love for the me and the tree for 16 years. The women who gathered declared themselves Cosmic Cowgirls. Then along came the Muses who would stay with us from the beginning until now, Elizabeth Gibbons, Mary MacDonald and Jenafer Owen. There were many others who came and went, too many to name in this telling. Some stayed and played and told stories. We held fast to the red thread of connection between all us. We enjoyed such good company and lots of dancing! Spirit Warrior, Carmen Baraka chanted for us and we are certain the grandmothers heard our call. (1995-2004)

We came to know the soil through working it. We asked questions of the ground and spoke into it, and wove poetry between the sparkling particles. We called that ground Intentional Creativity and knew that the tree sprout we originally called Color of Woman grew in a good place. Awareness of “where” something grows creates context. This kind of soil is located all over the world; yet many do not know how to find it. This is part of our work, to let the others know about the context of the ground beneath their feet.The Cosmic Cowgirls are fond of saying we have our head in the stars and our feet on the earth. We began to tell the legend of the tree and the ground far and near. Many came to learn and discover their own ground. Claiming the language for what we experienced would become one of our primary creations. Developing paintings that told our story would be at the heart of our evolution. As time went on, those roots spread throughout the earth and the young sturdy tree became stronger and taller and lovelier. We were all so grateful to see the trunk so strong. (2005-2009)

With our attention the tree grew many branches. We began to understand that the tree held the information for the collective, not just a few of us. Self expression would become the way we understood and intuited the content that was arising. We curated conscious community and celebration!

The women who studied the tree and the ground became Intentional Creativity Teachers. The branches that move out from the center are the teachings and are tended by women once they graduate, and become the Intentional Creativity Guild. The branches together, with the leaves, are the canopy that create the keepers of the collective wisdom. We make shade and beauty and color and light for each other and our Beloveds. (2010-2012)

I remained a primary gardener, but tending the tree was a great work as the borders of the garden expanded. I entered into joyous union with another gardener who knew about permaculture and how to work the soil in new ways: Jonathan. He made it possible to share the harvest with many who could not come directly to the birthplace of the tree. We went quantum and the stars were happy with our leap into the cosmos. His sacred assignment is to “carry the medicine” on the Mothership.
(2012-Ongoing)

To you, those of you who are graduates, the Intentional Creativity Guild, I say,

“You are a bright bird, coming from your own land with your own information. You joined us for an initiation. You came to preen your brightly colored feathers and develop your wingspan and flight pattern. You had to test your winged eye in good company with those who see between the worlds. You came to find your voice and chirp or cluck or sing along with the other birds. You came to bask in the shade and to sit in the light. Your wingspan grows strong and you know you can fly wherever you want. In time, you will fly off to your own tree and plant your own garden. Some of you come back to sit in the shade and share our company for a while. For others, this tree is home. We all know it is big enough for everyone to gather around. In community is a humble belonging. Some of us who are bright birds, also become gardeners.”

With our songs and our company we bloom. When there is abundance, we share those flowers and fruits. We cannot pick everything. The harvest, should the tree choose to give one, is the offering of our gifts to our Beloveds. The philanthropy of the Intentional Creativity Foundation is an offering of our own abundance and this offering is a gentle gathering over time. This offering is measured with focus on the health of the tree, and the ground from which it grows. Not designed for speed or production – but the long term vision. (2017)

When have become a healthy enough tree, we can name our own garden. The garden is yet another context besides the ground or the tree, the larger framework in which it is all happening. Each awareness expands the context in which we understand ourselves. Naming is bestowing a power of knowledge upon a being. We named the garden, MUSEA, meaning many muses and many museums. This is a quantum garden that supports this tree and many other trees. The wind sends her seeds airborne to other gardens, where other life rises. (2018)

Many have asked for a map to the garden and discovered the magical Red Thread Cafe just past the garden gate. As our tree and our garden has flourished it has become known further and further afield. Many people come to see what is growing here and to sit in the garden a while. As we bask in the beauty of our magnificent tree, we see red thread tied to her branches with messages which flutter in the wind. They float intentions, placed by many souls and circles. Souls we know, and by others we haven’t met. When tragedies or blessings happen, we reach out and pull on those threads. Some of us become Red Thread Guides and call the circles.

As she has matured, our tree called Color of Woman has become known as a Tree of Transformation where the creatives in the land come to learn. We love our tree with an incredible might! The trees which are grown from our one tree will be so many different kinds of trees! Each bird and every gardener chooses her own garden space, and tends her own trees. Yet, we still gather here at the original Tree of Transformation. (Now)

Our Lineage of Intentional Creativity ancestors shines on us from the sun and the cosmos. Their prayer for us to thrive as creative beings resonates in our bones and our homes. Finally we know truly that we are stardust as we splash our canvas with the awareness and memory that this knowing brings. Flowing around us are the rivers of life that nourish us. The loving water from forever ago has been moving toward us for such a long time.

When you feel the call, you will find us, leaning up against a great tree of transformation, grown from intention and love in action. You may also find us dancing a jig in the garden, under the broad branches when the moon is full and yellow gold. Or at the salon by the sea, speaking the philosophy of muses. You will find our sketchbooks are in our hands, taking note of the universe and our easels are sprinkled throughout the world with our images and stories.

The Tree is magic and is wherever we are, the tree and garden is. The one contains the many and the many contain the one. Seeds are like that. The Tree is everywhere we are. We love the company of the others who know the story of the Tree of Transformation. We have our own stories, and then we also have our together stories. The Tree of Transformation is a together story. You are welcome here, we are glad you found us, and that we found you along the red thread.Me? Oh, I am just one of the gardeners. Come sit awhile…I will make us some tea harvested from tiny flowers that grow at roots of the Tree of Transformation sweetened with honey from the bees in our abundant garden.

I share this story today as a record of where the philosophy, ethos and practice of Intentional Creativity came from. I share it on my mother’s 82nd birthday. This writing also reflects the organic nature of our emergent business structure. April 25, 2019


Happy Birthday Mama Cloud! Our community loves you SOOOOOOOOO MUCH and we are so very grateful that YOU were born!

My mama is so brilliant, so beautiful and so encouraging. Her love for me made it possible for me to grow as a woman and an artist. I am so grateful to be her daughter.

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