The Belle of Hope by Cindy Casterlin

 

The Belle of Hope

The Belle of Hope

In the early 1950s, Mental Health America issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded iron chains and shackles. On April 13, 1956, Mental Health America had these inhumane bindings melted down and recast them into a sign of hope: the Mental Health Bell. I incorporated this symbol into the demo painting for a Color of Woman class held at the Binghamton, New York Mental Health Association. She is an inquiry into the relationship between resistance and hope. The finished painting was included in our silent auction on Sept. 19th. to raise funds and support our services, offered at no cost, to community residents.

I offer about 20 hours per month working in support groups providing expressive art component. Intentional creativity is part of every class I teach, be it Smashbooks, Color of Woman Method, exploring body image, writing poetry, music,  voice and even photography. We explore our stories and what we want to shift/create in our lives.

One example is 3 hour workshop called Lush Layers, exploring the relationship to our own bodies. A recent painting shared by Color of Woman Teacher Kate Langlois, inspired me to include a step where participants marked areas on their silhouette (hot/cold/or numb spots) that continued to hold pain, trauma experiences, shame or a sense of loss. This was done in water color on canvas.

Lush Layers by Cindy Casterlin

Lush Layers by Cindy Casterlin

All around the body shadow was written whatever thoughts or feelings came up as they contemplated their body image. Afterward, we journal a bit around the areas that call to us and then, using a spray bottle, melt most of the image away. Next a layer of acrylic color over whole canvas, selecting one intuitively that felt most healing in that moment. A new body silhouette came next, choosing a pose that most expressed what was needed in that moment. Going into inquiry, students asked themselves, was it playfulness, more rest, to feel powerful, or perhaps a sense of calm/stillness? We added more layers of symbolic language, asking the body what it most needed and exploring what we have within our control to offer. What needs to shift, what benefits will I claim if my body becomes a beloved friend, a cherished companion? Since this workshop was a group who have been meeting for 12 weeks to support healthy weight loss the body image work was a powerful experience

 

October 7th- SMASHBook Workshop with Color of Woman Teacher Cindy Casterlin 

The Awakened Heart – A Shift from Chaos to Connection 

A workshop to support cancer patients and their families

LOURDES Regional Cancer Center in Binghamton, NY

To register, please call LOURDES: 1-877-956-8733

More about Cindy Casterlin—> HERE

On the Bus for the Mystery Tour by Susan Rossi

 
When I was a child, I knew what I knew – I could literally count the information I held as mine.

Lineage Pollinator

Lineage Pollinator

I knew 15 jokes, and I would tell them, counting to myself, so I wouldn’t forget them. I knew the name of every book I had read. My parents had names and siblings and parents of their own, and I learned our system of family relationship, repeating the names of all my living relatives in my prayers at night, holding them in the pattern. My world was solid, finite, which for a kid growing up in the city, was a good thing. It felt known and safe – if I could name its constituent parts, there would be no surprises, no upsets, no changes. Everything was in its right place, like a filing cabinet where I could put information away until I needed it, then go right to it.  “Mystery” was what my grandmother read in her Agatha Christie books. And mysteries always had solutions. All you had to do was follow  the proper clues to the information you needed and voila – you had the answer!  All the pieces in life fit perfectly, and I didn’t have to live with the tension of uncertainty.

Mystery began speaking to me when I was older, when my life was breaking into pieces. My certainty about how the universe works was in shreds. I was involved in a custody battle over my daughter and in danger of losing my home. Waking up in fear’s cold sweat, heart pounding, happened every night.

Except for one night.  I woke up hearing a voice saying, “We have never yet let you live in your car. Why do you think that will happen now?” This voice, this perspective, was not mine. Oh no, it definitely came from somewhere else. But it wasn’t scary. In fact, I felt  comforted – I had never had a thought like this before! But I knew I wasn’t crazy because of how my body felt – safe, protected. My perspective on was happening in my life radically shifted. And even stranger – what was actually happening in my life also radically shifted. One day, when I was walking to work to save transit money, I found a $20 bill on the sidewalk. No one was in sight! That weekend, I found a pack of transit tokens in an old purse I had put away. REALLY? I began to feel like I was cared for, watched over. And I got that this care and love was being purposefully communicated to me in a way I could understand.  It wasn’t abstract – I could feel its presence.

Present to Mystery

Present to Mystery

I have had other experiences of Mystery speaking to me over the years. And the communications come in forms other than voices. Once, it was a wave of Love like nothing I have ever felt before or since moving through me, assuring me that, no matter what happened, everything would be all right. I realized later that this wave was letting me know that one of my beloveds, given 3 months to live, was cured. But I also knew that even if the cure did not happen, that was also perfect, because this Love was always present with us. Another time, Mystery showed itself when I opened my eyes during a ceremony and saw the lines of light that connected all the life forms in the room, like a true web of life.

These communications are precious gifts. They are glimpses into layers beyond our “form” world. It is as if the flat chessboard on which we are pieces opens up to the 3-dimensional chess played in Star Trek. We become aware of the infinite levels of existence and how intricate the interrelationships are.  There are so many more pieces in play on the 3-D board. On the Mystery Tour, I have a sense of invisible realms working with us, holding us.

                                                “…certainty is the booby prize.” – Caroline Casey

I understand Mystery as the field of all potential possibilities – in other words, Creator.  And when I invite Mystery in, I begin to see the invisible connection between me and everything else that I cannot see when I am looking at the flat chessboard.  I can see patterns of connection to different possibilities, outcomes I had not considered.

True surrender is the Knowing that there are possibilities I cannot see, patterns I don’t understand – and may never understand.  Some things cannot be understood nor explained.  And when I can live with the tension of uncertainty, I know the mystery play is unfolding in ways I cannot begin to imagine.  And then I live in wonder, rather than uncertainty.

69px-RWS_Tarot_00_Fool

In our Color of Woman work, Shiloh speaks of “alchemical consciousness.” For me, alchemical consciousness is the practice of shifting perspective, of knowing that these other layers of consciousness exist and that we can see them and access them, if we shift how we interact with the world of form. Surrendering certainty about how events “should” unfold in the form world is key, in my experience. The need to own information, to count what I know and store it safely because it explains how the world works, gets in the way of dancing with Mystery. It’s only when I surrender information and data, when I inhabit uncertainty, when I have no idea how to move next and am willing to wait, that Mystery – Magic – 68px-RWS_Tarot_01_Magicianinfuses the form world of my life and opens access to the Unseen.  I don’t even know what the question is, just that I don’t know.  Connections become apparent, new possibilities show up, miracles happen. When I surrender my authority and become the Fool of the Tarot, and then invite partnership with the Great Unknown, I move into place of the Magician.

Our Red Thread Nation work with intentional creativity is one way of inviting Mystery to infuse our lives and to bring us its gifts, to open us to the Sacred Dimensions pervading our 3-dimensional world. When we create in sacred space, shifting consciousness to a place of inquiry with the intention to connect to that which is bigger than we are, our work communicates that energy and intention to those who see it.  Our paintings contain and transmit the energy of this dance with Mystery and its gifts to us. The paintings are points, portals, where power and Grace have entered the world of form, where human and Creator have met. To paraphrase Caroline Casey, who reports the Mythic News, as humans, we are myth and image – seeking beings.  To see and understand the depth and multiplicity in patterns is to be able to see in layers of meanings – to understand symbol and metaphor.  The Greek roots of “metaphor” mean “to bear” and “to

Bridging Worlds (in progress)

Bridging Worlds (in progress)

carry across.”   The images, symbols and colors present in our paintings are feeding us and everyone who sees them, at the soul level and bringing through the Unseen in ways that we cannot explain.

” Metaphor is the incarnational garb through which power enters the world.”
– Caroline Casey

I often feel afraid when I stand in front of a blank canvas. I know I am extending the invitation, I know the Dance is about to begin. I certainly don’t know what will happen, what will show up. I do know that at some point the images will become alive and will enter into the Dance with me. Then the fear becomes an ecstatic feeling, a surrender to wherever the Dance wants to go. The ecstatic dance is not always joyful. It can be painful and full of tears, but it is always a Dance of power and grace.  Unlike Agatha Christie’s mysteries, there are often no definite answers, because the Dance goes on as long as I am willing to continue.  I want to see what happens next, how the next act of  the Mystery Play will unfold, where the Mystery Tour will take me.  And no matter how scary or suspenseful,  I know that I am loved and cared for and held tenderly by the Mystery.

Susan Rossi

Susan Rossi is a Practitioner of Shamanic Arts, Wake-Up Artist and Guide to the Way In at Flying to the Heart. She works with people seeking to creatively travel the sacred path into the Heart of What Matters Most.  Her core belief is that each of us holds inside the seeds of creativity, healing and transformation. Each of us holds a sacred story wanting expression. Her passion is helping clients and students discover how to nurture themselves in the garden of possibilities, to align with their unique purpose and calling, and to shine their own brilliance and beauty in the world.  She uses traditional and contemporary shamanic work and the process of intentional creativity with clients to bring transformation, healing stories and symbols into their lives.

This journey is not for the faint of heart.  It requires the willingness to  look deeply at what can seem impossible or frightening to change. It calls up the courage to paint the images of connection and write the healing stories that reshape lives, relationships, families and communities. Setting out on the journey awakens the ability to author the future we want to create. It is Susan’s privilege to be your creative collaborator and guide.

Susan is a passionate long-time explorer of mystery and metaphor and the relationship between mind, body and spirit.  She has a shamanic practice working with clients, students and apprentices, and has studied with Sandra Ingerman, Betsy Bergstrom, the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and indigenous healers, teachers and mystics for 20 years. She has explored painting, poetry and musecraft with Visionary Artist Shiloh Sophia McCloud and Poet Caron McCloud and is a certified teacher of the Color of Woman Method.  She is a hypnotherapist, Reiki Master, reflexologist and yoga teacher.

Susan can be contacted through her website www.flyingtotheheart.com or at [email protected]

Paintings above by Susan Rossi-Lineage Pollinator, Present to Mystery, Bridging the Worlds

 

A Grateful Perspective on Creativity by Wendy C. Hassel aka Weaver

 

Renewal

Renewal

In the midst of overwhelm, I sat. I moved gently to and fro upon my porch swing, gifted to me many years ago.  Closing my eyes heightened my hearing.  The drone of the insects singing their summer songs, and the calling and bantering of the birds, as they trumpeted the approaching evening, back and forth across the meadow, captivated me.  Opening my eyes after awhile, I was  greeted with the golden glow of the setting sun, bathing all it touched with warmth and promise.  The very air seemed to pause as the magical dusting of dancing pollen ignited everything, as well as the child within me, and the artist that was straining to capture this moment. I remember smiling…I remember the feel of the curving of my lips…my breath moving easier.  I turned back around in my swing, and caught my reflection in the window, startling me. The reflected woman looking back at me was serene, wearing a small smile, that promised whimsy, along with croning wisdom.

Tuning in to our inner realm reveals perhaps what we knew all along…

I find it so very interesting that perspective will shift and morph, depending on what lens we move with it.  When I find myself suddenly in a place of fatigue, orneriness and/or doubt, I believe it’s heightened by viewing what I am dealing with, when looking thru the lens of my inner critic. This critic often delights in shaking me up, thus skewing my perspective, and subsequently, interfering in my desire to create! She croons to me at times, insidiously lulling me into despair…and I find myself starting to “play cards” with her.  You know the card game “War”…that can go on and on and on and on…and it eventually becomes apparent that this is simply not fun?  So, after grappling with said despair for awhile, and sitting on that sun drenched porch swing, and sinking into that birdsong, and soaking in the joyous cacophony of the insects, hawk announced itself, screaming defiance.  Reminding me that hawk encourages change, and upon opening my eyes, and locking gazes with my reflection, the change needed, and soul felt desire…was gratitude.

Storyboard

Storyboard

“Look to this day for it is life,

in its brief course lie all

the realities and truths of existence,

the joy of growth, the glory of action,

the splendor of beauty…

today well lived makes every

yesterday a memory of happiness

and every tomorrow a vision of hope,

look well, therefore, to this day…”

(ancient Sanskrit proverb)

When looking and living through the lens of gratitude, it allows an opening of our hearts and an opening of our souls. This gentling perspective allows our creative self to rise up, and wield that pen or paintbrush, or that camera, or in the preparing and blessing of our meals, our gardens, or for those that garden for us…that guitar, flute or drum that has been silent can now burst into joyful  expression…the care in how we touch our children, family, friends and lovers….the new uncovered well of patience for our co-workers, the cashiers we interact with, the drivers on the roads, even the red lights that allow us to slow down.  Most especially, the patience we can have with ourselves.  Embracing gratitude and expressing our inherent creativity, can help us move, with grace and ease, as we experience life in its myriad twisting turning pathways.

 

Close up of 'Changes'

Close up of ‘Changes’

When we bring into form through creativity that which arises from the song of our inner voice is nothing short of magic…

Our individual muses long to be heard, acknowledged and applauded.  Sometimes it can take time, which  may be needed to tempt, cajole, coax and woo that brilliant being forth.  When we do, and gaze through our muses eyes, and dance our pens or paintbrushes with gratitude and joy, our previously skewed perspective on life erupts in laughter, or even a quiet sigh, and we can feel whole, and holy, as we then become a conduit for the Divine to move through us and imprint love, or beauty, or peace…healing us.  As we heal and continue to create in whatever we are drawn to do, a light is released, drawing others to ourselves, or our creations…thus stirring curiosity, or an “aha” moment.  How grateful then, and thankful can we be, to be given the privilege of sharing on such a personal level? Behold this intense earth journey we all share, and again be thankful for the opportunity to witness one another as we grow into our creative selves.

As creatives, we are given, by the Divine, the ability to transcend, experience and express form.  Form in whatever matter we are moving through or within.  Form rising from our creative imagination,  form rising through emotional release, or form, very simply rising from the joy in the process of creating.  When we are in that place and space of creating, we become vulnerable, like a child, and through this vulnerability, we dance with the very Creator.

Allow gratitude to infuse your being.  Listen to and honor your muse, your own divine spark. Release the CREATIVE within you, that we may touch others on a soul level.  For we too, are the Makers. So I invite you to please: MAKE express, RELEASE, share and DELIGHT . Growing further into your unique creative self.

Possibilities

Possibilities

In closing I wish to breathe a heart filled prayer for you and yours:

“May the blessing of light be on you-

light without and light within.

May the blessed sunlight shine on you

and warm your heart

till it glows like a great peat fire”

(an old Celtic blessing)

Wendy Hassel

Wendy C. Hassel, aka Weaver, is a joyful weaver of words, images, life experiences & observations. Graduating from the inaugural class of the  Color of Woman Teacher Training taught by Shiloh Sophia McCloud has sparked her desire to share…

The seasons of my life have all offered up deep learnings along with creative yearnings. The maiden and mother seasons of my life brought forth creation, birthing and nurturing my four glorious children.  Even then, amongst the sticky kisses and exuberant hugs, below the surface of utter exhaustion, my dreams were still there…quietly simmering and shimmering patiently, as I was doing important work, mothering my babes…occasionally stealing time for some sort of stitching; needle and thread, crochet hooks and knitting needles…or creating small alters of the treasures that the children found outside.

I know now, that there was beauty and creativity bestowed in the meals prepared and shared, in the harvested foods that I washed for freezing, or cooked for canning.  My energy, my essence was given in the making.

Embracing the crone season of my life, I become reflective.  I look back and sift thru memories, recognizing the karmic value in each rich experience.  Even through the most excruciating pain of loss, I eventually rose again to joy…with the deep knowing that I can move forward.  From this wealth of experience, I have been given the gift of empathy and thru this well of empathy, can connect with others on a deeper level…that place beneath the surface that we wear in this world.

It is from here, that the artist arises, that I come forth, at first so tentatively and hesitating…and  I gaze and dream ahead. How nice to look forward and within, instead of backwards and within. It is from this place again, that my muse, my legendary weaver and my spirit guides come together, singing songs of celebration every time I write, every time I paint, every time I look upon my creations with delight.

I’ll be painting, writing and sharing from this heartsong, instilling all I do with my own unique energy and essence.  I offer classes, exploring intentional creative expression, and delight in the sharing of this heart/soul enriching practice.

All Artwork 2012-2013 by Wendy C. Hassel

www.indigomusings.com and http://wendy-hassel.fineartamerica.com

 

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