My Journey East – Notes from the United Nations
March 16, 2013
Here are my speech notes that informed my talk at the United Nations last week that I shared during the Soulfire Collection Slideshow featuring 126 paintings– If you missed it, I have reposted it below.
For over 50,000 years, images of the feminine have been sculpted, painted and created by the people in honor of what is sacred and important to them. But over the past 5,000 or more, years a dishonoring of women, family, and in particular the feminine image has been systematic, intentional, devastating. The results of this are evidenced in more crimes to the innocents than ever before.
We are an image-based people, as form, as beings, we are in-formed by image itself. Therefore our self-image is often defined by the external images we see around us. Images can be used to dominate, to sell us things we don’t need, make us think and feel we are worthless and to keep us from thinking for ourselves. The revolution we are calling for, right now, is not a fight, or a resistance, it is a revolution in how we see ourselves, and therefore define our lives. We all are in recovery from learning to be invisible. We must now choose to be visible.
What are you called to create in your life?
What is the shape of the longing within your own soul?
The 2013 Annual Color of Woman Art Show: The Soul-Fire Collection is designed to LIGHT up your souls with the fire of what is possible, for you, using the image of the feminine as your spark. We share this collection with a specific intention in mind – a call to action for each of you viewing this show. That the images will inspire and provoke you to consider seeing yourself in a new and powerful way. And to discover the ways we are connected across cultures and geography, through art. Art that reflects personal story. We see these kinds of images, and beauty based therapeutic tools as an antidote to violence against women.
The images you see are not drawn from external sources; They are images called forth from the soul of the one holding the brush – from internal seeing, from getting to know ourselves from the inside out. The results are images that reflect discoveries from journeying to the internal world for information, and together they document a story of an uprising of teachers, leaders, healers, shamans, visionaries, entrepreneurs, dreamers, doctors, poets, change-makers. Our mission is to uplift, empower, inspire, inform and light the soul fires of creativity for women and men worldwide. Each one of these women is an artist and writer in her own right and each one of these women has chosen to teach others what they know about the transformational capacity of creativity to heal story and self image. Artist becomes teacher. Healed becomes healer. Wounds become gifts of transformation. This is the work of Intentional Creativity, a therapeutic approach to healing that combines ‘visionary imagination’ (a type of meditation method that seeks personal language and symbol) with the creative arts of word and image.
When we journey inside to discover who we truly are, we get access to tools for healing our stories, our self-images, and ultimately ourselves. When we dare to believe in ourselves we generate the courage to create lives that reflect who we are and what we care about. This is an invitation to explore our common language of image and provoke self expressed creativity in you!
What self-expression in you is longing to be revealed?
What is the thing in you that wants to light up your soul?
This work is a collaboration of women’s organizations and individuals who have gathered together to express themselves and their voices in the world and we collectively are called the Red Thread Nation. There is much being done, by so many of us who care, to reform the systems that are harming our people. And while we are doing this great work – our ability to stay connected to ourselves and our own unique voices will be a sustaining power for us as leaders, and for those we serve and long to bring living waters to. We cannot forget that we too need nurturing while we go about the daily task of saving the world. We are a movement of artists and poets who BELIEVE that it is time for an uprising.
Through our understanding of the Divine as inclusive of the feminine, regardless of specific spiritual tradition, if women are a part of it, the feminine is a part of it. When the feminine is a part of it, the conversation of wholeness and healing is possible. I don’t need to tell you all the statistics, since you are here, you already know. Being from the United States I often encounter people who don’t think we are still in trouble here – then I tell them that right here, every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted, and that 80% of the victims are under age 30. That one in five women will be raped or experience attempted rape in her lifetime, and that at least half off those women are under 25. Worldwide, the statistics are much worse than that; but I am here to offer hope. I’m here to extend a red thread of hope to you instead of remind you of what you already know, that there is much work to be done.
I want to state this because it is important: To work for women and the feminine is not about being against the masculine in any way. The work we are doing relates to men and women. Women are the mothers of the future, boys and girls. And when the mother is not safe, no one is safe. And of course men need to be included and integral for the true healing to happen – we can include this in the conversation, while not denying the realities. This method of creativity is being shared with men and women globally, and works equally well for both.
The Chinese legend says that those who are supposed to meet are connected by an invisible red thread since before birth. Each one of us is a part of the larger circle of the great red thread that encircles and connects all beings. What is your piece/peace of the thread? We are connecting our own piece of the red thread through image and word and the invitation to Intentional Creativity, our common language.
To be self expressed is the greatest risk and the greatest gift.
When our stories and images are expressed, our truth will be known and never hidden again. Through our understanding of who we are and what we are capable of, we can open the space for miracles to happen. Healing always happens in the realm of miracles. We are creative beings sharing these stories, images and ideas across the world that connect us – this IS the Red Thread Nation.
Report from Shiloh’s Journey to the East – A Quest for the Red Thread
I have been on a week-long quest for the Red Thread on my journey to New York. This is the quest for what lights us on fire from the divine spark inside our hearts. What makes it grow brighter? What extinguishes it? How can we organize our lives so that we’re surrounded by that which sparks; instead of that which diminishes? I came to New York to speak at the United Nations for the CSW 57 – Commission on the Status of Women by invitation from WUNRN, The Women’s United Nations Report Network on a panel about ending violence against women through the arts and films and how creativity and poetry could contribute to this vision.
First a taste of New York
I am writing you from the Red Thread Café on the plane home from New York City. I have to tell the truth, I fell in love with New York. But I heard from New Yorkers that when you are in love, New York is in love with you and when you are broken hearted, everything seems against you. A city sensitive to our emotional state – I like it.
Walking into Grand Central station I cried with the beauty of being in one of our worlds ‘great spaces’. Walking Central Park, eating a hot dog with sauerkraut on a Winter day, I felt a part of everything and as if the bare trees were speaking to me as Trees of Life. Taking communion in Saint Bartholomews, one of the city’s oldest churches, the Priest spoke of the two selves, the true self and the false self, and I was quaking inside to find a message akin to my own. Having a Waldorf salad at the Waldorf Astoria and a Manhattan in Manhattan. New York was saying ‘taste me’. And I did. We stayed at the Waldorf and enjoyed walking in the halls of ‘legend’ and there was beauty everywhere I looked: Chandeliers to rival a cathedral and live piano music that begged for pinot noir and black hats in Peacock Alley and it just goes on. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was beyond my wildest dreams – and the show, Matisse – In search of True Painting made me ache for my paintbrush and wish so much my students could be there seeing what I was seeing, and, understanding more about what we are doing in our work that he demonstrated in his. He was the FIRST artist to SHOW each step of the painting as a public installation, and guess what? Very much like the Color of Woman Method! O and the lox and bagel with capers (why doesn’t it taste like that at home?)–They promised me they would overnight me a dozen with all the fixings anytime. Our annual Cosmic Cowgirls conference is coming up, shall we order some New York bagels, my darlings?
I felt like I was hungry for this city. I would work until my eyes were bleary and insist on going out at all different hours of the day or night to ‘consume’ New York. One step out the door and the greeting from the cosmic hum of this place resonated in my soul. I understood ‘taking a bite out of the big apple’ though I hadn’t considered that metaphor until toward the end. Similar to leaving one’s heart in San Francisco because the city requires it of you, this city wanted to be tasted- ‘bit into’, and I did.
Touching Red Threads of East and West
We enjoyed an amazing round table evening with Cosmic Cowgirls and a few Cosmic Cowboys from the East on Park Avenue; I lead a workshop there with 17 women, some of whom traveled by bus for 8 hours and flew in from around the country to come to the Open Center and sit in red thread circle. IT was beyond – we really GOT to where we were headed, lighting our soulfires up in a proper blaze of creative love and glitter. Yes, the streets of New York really were glittering because of us. Literally. (That is how you know you have been to one of our workshops: there’s a trail of glitter behind you.)
I was there to share the work of 42 women artists – to demonstrate through image the power of creativity as a tool for healing. I was invited to share my art and poetry there, but the more I sat with it the clearer I was that it was only a truly effective means of healing on a larger scale if it was clear that the work went beyond just one woman; if it was evidenced in the lives of other women. As I surveyed the content of the works created in the Color of Woman Teacher Training, I found such a diverse offering of images that seemed to truly move beyond culture, geography, nationality. These images were ladies of green, purple, gold, brown, turquoise and Red Madonnnas with symbols that defied known tradition and moved into an expansive voice of the feminine that felt like ANY woman could feel like she belonged to it. I want to say up front, the women’s work that is featured in the slideshow, is the work of artists, but it is also the work of teachers. Women who have said YES to teaching creative ways of healing to others; Women who walk between the two worlds, both serving self and serving the other selves all around them.
I felt you with me
You were with me. I felt myself as if in a constellation of love connected by red thread as strong and expansive as the strength of a spider’s web. I felt held inside of it at all times, as if you were around me in a palpable sense. Pressing in and expanding with my own breath. I knew I went for us. Those of you in my immediate community of Cosmic Cowgirls and Red Madonnas let me know you were there to help continue to spark my fire for the work at hand. You wrote songs. You made videos. You painted paintings. You posted prayers. You wrote poems. You lit candles. You posted these on Facebook. We were a part of something bigger and we knew it. And I felt it, relied on it, leaned on it, and in my hardest moment during the day at the UN, I let you hold me up and let your voices come through.
What was I really there for? To share the work we created, and to launch the Red Thread Nation, a Global Tribe of Creative Beings. To expand the conversation between women across the globe through our common language of creativity. And what was the Red Thread Nation, really? It was scheduled to launch on the Monday of my speech and I felt I had been working on it my whole life – in fact it was one of my earliest domain purchases. Now ten years later I finally know. But still. What is it? A Place to say ‘Yes’. A place where the creative beings of the world would see and KNOW that we are united through word and image.
In my presentation I had to touch upon the possibility of creativity affecting women post-trauma; After all the bad stuff has happened, when we are left with pulling the pieces or our lives together to make some semblance of a place we could actually live inside of. I didn’t want it to be flowery – instead I wanted it to have teeth. At some point in my speech I remember saying: ‘…imagine if the tools to heal were placed in the hands of the women themselves, no longer a therapy based on needing someone to lead them through; A method based on showing women how to use tools to heal themselves and their stories, that they themselves were in charge of…’ Finding language for this element of our work felt like a million wings being released into the cosmos. Yes. This is possible. Yes we were already doing it. Yes we would continue to do it, only now it would be available to more women. Starting immediately, the plans are in place to make the technology we are using available in Spanish and Chinese. This is where to start.
The very first course in this method of creativity was taught in Mexico during the very same weekend.
Teaching women to think
In my talk, I wanted to provide evidence of what was happening in our fledgling global village. Everyone was providing that: Evidence of war, rape, violence, poisoned water, missing children. But I did not want charts or statistics or numbers. I was proud to say that we serve over 300 women a month across the world (mostly US and Canada but with a growing reach). By sharing the work of the women who are living proof of the miracle of this kind of creative work, what kept rising to the top was the concept of being able to teach women HOW TO THINK using their own internal navigation tools. HOW heart-connected image combined with word gives us a WAY to heal. For the first time I ‘got’ this about our community, the keepers of the red thread: Our work is dedicated to raising up leaders, poets, writers, visionaries, healers, dreamers, by first healing ourselves; and from that space of health and connectedness, reaching out to bring our gifts and wisdom to the others in the world…with as much sparkle and chocolate as we can because when we’ve been through hell with our hair on fire any glimmer of hope can happen in the smallest, silly kindnesses. (Yes, we had chocolate at the United Nations. -It was on the altar).
Does the vision lead you or do you lead the vision?
When one is a visionary you set out to cause your vision and, you allow your vision to guide you on your way. Following the threads, circle of stones, raven calls and rose petals. Right? Your heart tells you about where to go and how to be inside of the journey – turn here. Choose purple. Buy that hat. Call that person. Reach out here. Turn this way, NOOO silly, THIS way. Share this tidbit. But often there is a larger vision, that you may or not be aware of that is in the invisible realm, that at times will make itself visible but mostly remains between the veils as something that cannot be viewed directly, so illusive and powerful is it that when you try to look at it, it so big you cannot see it at all because it is the larger context. But it is what is calling your name and waking you up in the night. ‘That’ thing which may have no name but somehow, defines everything.
How does this work?
When I shared the slideshow of the Color of Woman Teacher Graduates and Artists, the faces of the people showed they were right there with me. Heads were nodding and hearts were being held. They saw, in the work, the miracle of what was possible. I told them we drew our images from within ourselves – where the stories of our lives live. I told them how each canvas holds a part of our story that gets transformed as it transfers itself from our psyche onto the canvas. I told them this work could be taught globally to women who are in post-trauma, those who are continually plagued by the retelling of their story but not really seeing that story move to transformation. I told them that neuroscientifically their brain was not designed to change without the tool of image to reshape it. I told them that this was not a spiritual concept, but a scientific reality, about how the right and left brain are part of what will make it possible for us to live inside of ourselves differently by learning how to navigate our inner terrain. I told them about the muse and how she begins over time to transform the voices in our head and how she needs training to do that, and how image and symbol and story are held inside of each being.
At the end the people came to greet me and I was able to give them the newly minted Red Thread Nation business card. One woman said: “This presentation was worth my entire visit to the United Nations.” A nun from the Philippines asked for a copy of the poem I read. Teenage girls asked to be a part of it, and so much more.
I’ll be back, United Nations!
Still I was searching for the real reason I came; The red thread that was connected right to my heart. The ‘finding’ of that red thread for my journey wasn’t revealed to me until the very last day. We had to get to the airport, and a blizzard was coming in but there was one final thing I had to do. We accepted the risk, left our luggage at the hotel and hopped in a cab to the United Nations Plaza for one last visit.
I walked into the Conference of that day, which was the planning for the 2014 CSW 58. I was clear: I would be back next year and I would find a way to make it happen. Seeing the women sitting behind their placard: South Africa, Kenya, China, Argentina, Europe, each nation with its own placard, It was so mind blowing to SEE it! It was like when I saw VanGogh’s Sunflowers for the first time in person… you see it, but you didn’t really SEE it. My placard I carried in my heart and on my wrist: The Red Thread Nation – A Global Tribe of Creative Beings. I listened to statistics and atrocities, of progress made and not made, about water, sanitation, healthcare, injustices, access to education. As each woman’s nation was called on, she said her peace/piece: that which she had traveled across the world to speak. With each one I sent her my love and back up; that she would have her voice heard. I felt proud of us as a people, as the United Nations. I felt part of it. I felt hope. I felt desperate. I felt love. I felt wonder. I felt loss. I felt, soul fire. I felt ready. I felt …ignited!