Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Giving Oneself Permission

December 23, 2017

Today was nothing out of the ordinary by way of work demands, but somehow the juxtaposition of those demands and the expectation of three days off for the Christmas holiday made the emotional drain of the day salient in a way I have not previously recognized. Yes I know that my work pulls hard on my energy. It also gives energy rewards in the form of appreciation and thanks for the help I am at least occasionally able to offer. I’ve not sat down to try to put the outflow and the inflow onto any sort of balance scale. I rather doubt I am capable of such an assessment, and not sure that there is any real benefit to be had from the effort. I won’t be changing my employment any time soon and I have no control over, and no way to predict the arrival of, expressions of appreciation for what I do. Those are simply givens of my daily life.

What I do have some control over is my ability to recognize when an energy drain is more severe than usual. I can also, usually, identify what makes the drain more severe or more noticeable. And I can, if I practice what I know to be effective, consistently make an effort to re-balance myself. The “catch” lies in those seemingly simple few words, “consistently making the effort.”

Nothing seems harder, when I feel drained, than making an effort of any sort. Sporadic, halfhearted, minimal are as much a challenge as consistent or purposeful.

Moment of clarity! This problem needs redefinition. Activities to recharge my energies must not be categorized as achieved through effort, but rather as the result of desire. I must not be telling myself I should do what I know I will find refreshing. Instead I wish to hear the voice in my head saying “go on and enjoy … “ (whatever the activity may be), “you need and deserve this time for yourself.”

How is it that we so easily slip into making have to’s of what began as want to’s? I enjoy stringing beads into jewelry, yet I seem to only sit down to create when I have a gift to give someone, and a limited timeline for completion of the project. I equally rather enjoy writing these blog essays, but rarely do so simply to relax and focus my attention. For awhile now, I’ve thought that I’d like to return to piano lessons, and see how much I’ve retained from my childhood instruction. What stops me is the voice in my head saying that I will then “have to” make time to practice, and I already drown in too many have to’s. Why isn’t that voice saying “If you think you’ll enjoy the activity, try it” since, if it doesn’t provide me a pleasurable relaxation, I can always stop?

Some twenty years ago I wrote a long letter to my spiritual teacher that included a discussion of my understanding of responsibility and how that quality developed in me, as well as how deeply embedded it had become. I identified how limited, by contrast, was my experience with spontaneity, with love and with simple pleasure. Over the decades since I have learned to be much more present in the moment, and to enjoy many of those moments purely for what they are: this morning’s colorful sunrise, for example. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to love and be loved, and have become overall a much happier person. I apparently have not, however, yet freed myself from that deeply ingrained orientation of being responsible, as though to do so would turn me into someone less worthy.

The most loving people I know are also the most responsible to others in their lives. The most responsible people I know are (were) among the most difficult to live with, for others in their lives. As frequently as we are exhorted to think more of others than of ourselves, one could believe that selfishness rules the world and sadly, seeing the actions of government in the U.S of late, one would be correct. But I do not think the appropriate response to the sort of greed dominating political life is to be angrily, stridently demanding change. Yes I am concerned for the loss of integrity being manifested, for the furtherance of what to me are ugly values best buried in history. And yes I will do my part in speaking up in protest, but mostly I need to do my part by living my day to day life as best I can from an expansive place of happiness rather than from within the restrictive atmosphere of responsibility and “must do” that drains energy and leaves me snappish and deeply dissatisfied.

In the language of my Teacher, I am saying simply that I will continue to move toward living my life as pure Soul, unclouded by dualist mental considerations of right/wrong, selfish/generous, open/closed, responsible/careless, etc. Since Soul is a happy entity and happiness spreads naturally and effortlessly from one to another, there is no more effective way to re-balance both my own energy and that of everyone/thing in quite a wide sphere, than for me to keep my attention firmly focused on Being. That focus is both necessary and sufficient for responsibilities to be met, energy to be in balance, joy to replace exhaustion, and all that is meant to occur taking place as it is meant to do.

Baraka Bashad – May these Blessings Be.

 

The Tools of our Trades

September 23, 2013

I make it to the New Mexico State Fair just about every year, including this one. Some events, like the Fine Art show, and the Hispanic, Native American and African American art and cultural shows are housed in permanent buildings not too far from the entrance to the fairground. To get to them – and to all the other “housed” activities – one must walk past a midway full of rides and also past clusters of food booths selling barbecued turkey legs, ribbon potatoes, lemonade and – this year at least – such exotica as frog’s legs and fried ravioli on a stick.

Next one must negotiate the plethora of booths filling both sides of the main “streets” of the grounds. These are all commercial. They offer multiple opportunities to acquire surprisingly similar items, from painted faces to sports memorabilia and cell phone accessories, purses, dresses, make up, the latest fads in hair adornment, and cheaply made but not cheaply priced glitz jewelry.

Farther into the grounds are a Spanish village and a Native American village where culturally traditional items and foods are sold, and groups perform appropriate music and dances. Also near the middle of the grounds is a large building housing the many types of items we older folk associate with the shop and home economics classes that used to be mandatory in all junior high and high schools, but which now seem only to be found in the context of career programs at community colleges. Wood workers, quilters and seamstresses, experts in home canning and baking submit their finest products in hopes of winning a coveted blue ribbon.

Nearby there is also a space for flower arrangements. Other hobbies are represented as well. I acquired a book mark with my name in exquisite calligraphy, and watched two ladies carefully making lace, twisting bobbins around the pins which mark out a pattern. I remember seeing the famous lace makers of Bruge, in Belgium, sitting in the sun and chatting as their bobbins flew in complex designs they knew by heart from a lifetime apprenticeship in an ancient craft.

One has to complete a long walk across the full length of the fair’s main street in order to get to the true core of a state fair – the animals.

4-Hers and adults spend years breeding to obtain a perfect specimen to enter into their county competition before advancing to the state fair. Horses are trained to perform complicated maneuvers, mule and draft horse teams pull wagons or increasingly heavy loads on sledges, demonstrating their ability to perform the classic work of a ranch. Judging the quality of livestock is a learned skill, often passed down within families. As I walk along stalls with handsome palomino heads protruding to be admired, I overhear a discussion of which judge will be in charge – competitors clearly have their own favorites.

There is much less foot traffic at the livestock end of the fair grounds. Kids tug their parents to the petting zoo and pre-teen girls congregate in the open space between the rows of stalls where their horses wait with them to be called into the ring for their classes (the level of competition each has achieved, showing off the gait and conformation of their rides). Older teen boys lead cattle of various breeds and sizes to and from their show ring, talking about weight and sale price. Many of the animals, like much of the handwork in the crafts building, will be sold or auctioned before the fair ends.

Sitting on a bench near the horse stalls, enjoying a treat of ribbon fries, I try to imagine what the fair would be like without all the commercial booths – or at least only with ones related to farming and ranching. There are no representatives of John Deere on the main street. Instead, lines of old cars are displayed, most from the 1920s, including an early fire engine whose siren sounds whenever an ambitious child cranks its handle. What was marketed at the fair when the attendees arrived in those early Fords? Back where I relax in the livestock area, it is not hard to imagine myself in that earlier time.

I suspect there would have been many more teams competing in the draft horse heavy sledge pulls. And many of the contestants would have arrived by horse power, not automobile. Canned goods, instead of being one row of the crafts building, might well have taken up a tent all on their own. The same with sewing and quilting.

I can’t help but feel dismay that our modern preoccupations, if assessed by the balance of items offered up to view at this year’s Fair, have become so faddish. And so mass produced. And so poorly made.

OK, we’re living in a wired age and we are hooked on our technology. So, where are the hand-beaded cell phone covers? Why don’t I see tooled leather cases for laptops? What has become of pride in beautiful, well made, durable crafts to embellish the tools of our modern everyday trades? Why are hand painted Easter eggs, braided rugs and crocheted blankets considered only to be examples of “saving the skills of the past?” How did these arts become locked into traditional forms, instead of adapted to the items most commonly in use today?

In the Vicinity of Acoma

In the Vicinity of Acoma

English: Original lithograph for report of J.W...

English: Original lithograph for report of J.W. Abert of “His Examination of New Mexico in the Years 1846-47” to the Secretary of War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The day following my visit to the State Fair, I was escorted by a friend to one of the last places in New Mexico that I wanted – but had not yet made it – to see, Acoma Pueblo. The majority of current tribal members live in two communities in the valley, near Interstate 40 in the western half of my state. According to our guide, only about 30 people (of about 6000 tribe members) still live atop the mesa that is historical (from the 1100s) Acoma. Most of those who do live on the mesa appear to be the potters and practitioners of other traditional arts who market their wares to the groups of visitors escorted on tours coordinated by the tribe.

Our tour guide provided a lively account of the history of Acoma, in an interesting language style which notably did not use standard past tense. “The people were living atop the mesa and were welcoming the first Spaniards to come to their area. Because the straw in the mud coating of their sandstone homes reflected golden in the sun, the Spanish were thinking they had found the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola, so they were demanding that Acoma turn over its gold and, not believing there was none, they began subjugating the people with torture and killings.”

The effect of our guide’s narration was to make his listeners aware of how differently the Acoma people (and most other Pueblo tribal groups I’ve interacted with) perceive time – how intimately their distant history informs their present day lives. The mixture of tradition and history with modern innovation and adaptation is also evident in the Acoma art – mostly finely painted and incised pottery – which was on offer. Some of the artists appeared dedicated to repeating ancient family patterns; others clearly added personal perspectives and made use of new colors and forms, while still reflecting traditional cultural styles. I was delighted with the demonstrated Acoma talent for maintaining art forms yet adapting them to modern needs!

WLA brooklynmuseum Pueblo Acoma Water Jar

WLA brooklynmuseum Pueblo Acoma Water Jar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope some of my online friends whose work lies in the decorative arts will take up the challenge implicit in my two days of contrasting experience. Can someone run a contest to see how many different “traditional arts” can be adapted to making modern day accessories for our ubiquitous cell phones, laptops and pads? How about a quilted dash cover? A pretty lace wrist strap for the new wearable smart phones? It would be such fun to visit the State Fair again in a few years and, instead of what I overheard one visitor describe as “so much schlock”, see rows of booths offering well-made, hand crafted items of practical use to the modern, hip visitor!


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