October 25, 2013
There was a well-known healer in the nineteenth century who is recorded as having once said to a class, “Love, love, love. That’s all you need to know to be a healer.” Quaker’s use the phrase “that of God within each person.” It’s clear to me that I know God within me when I realize my capacity to love. The first epistle of John reads “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 14:16)
Love is our birthright, and every human has the capacity to love. I studied healing for four years with the Inner Focus School, and I remember one of my teachers saying that what he did for the hour or so of a healing session was to share his heart.
Even after these years of study, I can’t really say that I know what is happening during a healing session. But I know that I am present for another person in a way that i’m not usually present at other times. Whatever healing occurs is not from me, but from the love that is channelled through me.
I also know that there are specific techniques that can help people connect with love and channel it. I’ve explained one of these in a video.
The video makes mention of a retreat I will be facilitating, November 22-24 at Powell House in upstate New York. I will also be leading a session of about ninety minutes for Living Soulfully in Albany on November 6. Contact me if you have any questions about either of these events.
October 10, 2013
In June I posted something about active imagination and gave an example of how I had used active imagination, based on a drawing, to develop a story. About two weeks after I posted that story, I used it as a basis for inner dialogue, developing as imaginary conversation with one of the characters in the story.
Here’s a transcription of what I recorded at that time.
I am sitting with the explorer and asking him to take a few moments for us to breathe together.
I: I’ve read your account of visiting the tribe where the men wear only the penis sheath. Do you feel you discovered what you intended to find?
Explorer: No, because I never was able to interpret the map which that other explorer had drawn.
I: And what did you expect the map to show you?
E: I don’t know – islands, flora, fauna, plants, plants that had not been discovered before by westerners, maybe medicinal plants; but I didn’t have time or even feel I had a way to get the confidence of the medicine man. And I know he healed me. Whatever medicines he gave me got rid of the parasites, but I don’t think that’s what he was trying to do. I think he was trying to show me something about myself, and maybe something I didn’t want to see. Maybe there’s something I try to escape when I go into the jungle or into the desert – into places Westerners don’t go. I try to say, “What am I trying to escape from?” and yet I know I carry that from which I’m trying to escape along with me.
And so there I was in the jungle, just another man – two men who sheath their penises with gourds and otherwise walk about naked. And I think the headband was woven with something that protected us from insects. That wasn’t the problem. He didn’t speak much English, and that just left me looking within myself as we walked, day after day, for probably six days. He never seemed to indicate anything that was of interest to him, and I sometimes think he knew that what I needed was to walk alone by myself – but I couldn’t walk by myself without getting lost. So there he was, walking ahead of me, and all I could see was his naked figure- bare back, bare buttocks, bare legs. If he turned, I’d see that penis sheath. And I’m walking behind him – bare back, bare buttocks, bare legs, sandals on my feet – trusting we were not going to find snakes or dangerous animals.
We walked to a river. We walked upriver, sometimes walking in the water, sometimes walking along the side. We stopped. We removed our penis sheaths and bathed. I looked at him and said, “Is there something special about this river?” and he said, “Sacred river.” And I felt a certain sense of gratitude – this was probably on the fifth day – that he had felt that he could trust me enough to let me bathe in the sacred river. And we followed the river back and then got on a trail.
I would have no way of knowing how to find that river again, And somehow, that doesn’t seem important. What seems important is that I carry something of that sacred river within me. I would like to be able to go back – but I can do it only in my imagination – stand there with him beside the river, take off my sandals, take off the headband, take off the penis sheath, plunge in the ice-cold water, stay under the water as long as I can hold my breath, come up, breathe in, go under – my eyes are open; I see blue all around me; I can see his naked form but it’s hard to distinguish. He pulls me up. He’s afraid I will pass out under the water. I stumble to the bank. I sit on a rock. All is quiet. There are no birds. Of course, it isn’t quiet; there’s the rush of the water, the falls upstream – but all of that is part of an inner stillness – a stillness like one I’ve never known before. And then, all of a sudden, he’s pulling on my shoulder. he’s helping me tie on the penis sheath, and we’re walking back to the village, and the next day I will be on the boat back downriver.
And what does all this mean? What has it done for me? Does it say to me I should give up exploring? No. Should I go to a different place? Maybe. Should I really try to clarify what’s important in my life? Yes.
August 1, 2013
Late in February, I was part of an arts retreat at Powell House, a Quaker Conference Center. On Sunday morning, as I lay half awake, I had a vision of a red object in a chaotic environment. That morning, I started a water-color painting based on my vision, and I finished the painting when I returned home.
In June, I wrote a story based on what I had put in the painting. I’ve transcribed it and present it here as another example of the active imagination that I discussed in my previous post.
In the second year of the Great War, two children lived with their grandmother on the edge of a forest. Gretchen was six years old; and her brother, Hans, was four.
One morning they were awakened by gun shots. They saw their grandmother stagger and fall, blood gushing from her head. They ran from their house into the woods and kept running until they were exhausted. They found a brook and followed it upstream but it ended in a marsh. They tried to walk around the marsh but seemed to only get into more marsh.
They saw a break in the trees and headed for a clearing. It was an opening in the forest about ten feet in diameter, and in it they found something that confused and frightened them more than the war and the soldiers and the death of their grandmother. It was crimson and tear-shaped and about ten feet high.
They heard a voice saying, “Do not be afraid. This object has been placed here for your protection.” They approached and found that it had the texture of a flower bud. By grabbing the surface they could climb it. When they neared the top, the void said, “You will be safe inside”; and as they reached the top the object opened and they slid down inside.
At once, they regretted this action. “No!” Gretchen shouted as they began to slide down as if they were going deep in the earth; but there was no turning back. They thought they would be smothered, but suddenly they emerged into fresh air.
They found themselves on an island in the middle of a lake. The sky was clear blue. The air was fresh. They saw what they thought were birds, but these creatures flew off.
After a short time, three of them returned and landed, and they were astonished to see that each one, though he had wings, had the body of a naked child.
“Hello,” one of the bird children called out.
“Where are we?” Gretchen asked. “Are we in Heaven?”
“No,” said the bird child. “Heaven is for those who have died, and we have not yet been born.”
“Then why are we here?” Gretchen continued.
“We don’t know,” the bird child answered, “but our mentor says we must bring you to her.”
“How do we get to her?” Hans asked.
“You are too big for us to carry,” another bird child answered, “but we can show you where the lake is shallow, and you can wade across.”
And the third bird child added, “We can carry your clothes across.”
Gretchen felt self-conscious, as two of the bird-children were boys; but Hans was out of his clothes before she could think, so she followed his example; and both waded into the water.
One of the bird boys waded with them while the two others flew with the clothes. When they reached the shore, their companion called out, “Artimas, Abraxis – this is no time for a game of hid and seek.” Then he said to the two children, “They want to make a game of making you find your clothes.”
“But we can’t keep your mentor waiting,” Gretchen said, imagining the mentor as a kind of stern school marm.
“She won’t mind, the bird boy said, “but I think you are cold and hungry.”
So they followed the bird boy to the mouth of a cave where they found an old woman in a long black dress stirring a cauldron over the fire. Hans had a fear that she might be a witch, but she had a kindly face and beckoned them with a smile and gave them berries and nuts, which they ate with gratitude.
Gretchen explained how they had come there after fleeing the soldiers. The old lady smiled and said, “I have heard of children coming back here because they needed to learn something that they could not find on earth. Children who die in a war go to Heaven, but you did not die, and you are not waiting to be reborn. We must wait until we know more clearly why you’re here. Until then, you can stay with me and my bird children in my cave.”
She led them into the cave and found a soft spot for them to sleep. When they awoke, they found they were once again clothed and in the forest. There were gun-shots in the distance, but that didn’t frighten them. They found nuts and berries to eat, and an overhanging rock for shelter.
After many days, the sounds of war drew dimmer and finally stopped. They left the forest and walked along a road until they found a building. It turned out to be a church with a kindly old priest. “Heavens! How did you survive the war!” he exclaimed.
“The angels preserved us,” Gretchen answered.
“Indeed they must have,” the priest replied.
That was all they said, and they lived the rest of their childhood cared for by this priest. They never told him the story of the crimson tear-shaped object or what had happened when they went inside.
June 30, 2013
My good friend Vyvyan Chatterjie has proposed the possibility of a week-long program dealing with art and the psychology of Carl Jung. Nothing definite has been set; we’re just considering the possibility. As Vyv is a graduate of the Jung Institute in Zurich, this has led me to investigate Jung’s work.
Until this year, I had read only one book by Jung. I was surprised and pleased to discover that Jung himself painted and encouraged his clients to paint. His paintings became tools in developing active imagination (a kind of conscious dreaming) and inner dialogue. I was first introduced to inner dialogue through the work of Ira Progoff – and I realized that I had used active imagination when I explored the possibility of remembering past-life experiences during a rebirthing workshop in California. I’m now using some of my drawings and paintings as a starting point for active imagination. The video on my May 27 posting, is an exercise in active imagination.
For Freud, psychotherapy was an attempt to cure neurosis and create a well-adjusted person. Jung wanted more. He wanted to experience God within himself, and he wanted his clients to experience this. The process of art, active imagination and inner dialogue became a way to this realization that I am now testing for myself.
Last night I sat naked in my cabin with this drawing in front of me. I started writing in my journal, but abandoned it in favor of recording my words. Today I transcribed what I had recorded. Here it is, with very little editing so that you can sense the spontaneous nature of the original story. The section where the explorer describes his experiences after drinking the herbal infusion seemed to me to come from somewhere deep in my being.
My guide spoke broken English. The native who had brought me up-river wore, like me, a khaki shirt and trousers but this man was naked except for sandals, a headband, and a penis sheath. I gave the man what I had been told was the appropriate gift or payment for a week’s services as a guide and interpreter. My boatman left. I brought out a map, or the only thing I had which might correspond to a map, drawn by some explorer many years ago. My guide studied it carefully. Then he pointed to one spot on the map. “We go here.”
He handed the map back to me, and I took it, ready to start off with him if that was what he wanted to do. But he took ahold of my collar, fingered it a bit, and said, “no good;” fingered the edge of my trouser pocket, “No good.”
I followed him into a hut.The smell in the hut had a vague sense of being something like turpentine. He rummage around in a basket. Everything in the hut seemed to be stored in baskets. Finally he pulled out a pair of sandals and a penis sheath. I could only surmise that he wanted me to undress. When I was naked he rather matter-of-factly took my penis and put it in the sheath and tied its cord uncomfortably tightly around my scrotum, but it stayed in place.
I followed him out of the hut and toward the river. I heard the sound of women singing. We found a small group of naked women weaving mats and headbands, singing as they worked. They stopped singing when they saw us and conversed with the guide in their native language – which, of course, I did not understand, but I heard him say, “white man” several times. Finally one of them got up and got a headband and put it around my forehead. They seemed to want to dress me. I don’t know if that was a way of welcome or they thought me incapable of using their clothing for myself.
My guide beckoned for me to leave, and I followed him to a hut where an old man, also naked except for a penis sheath, sat cross-legged in front of a small fire. Again much conversation in a language I did not understand. I asked my guide if this was a medicine man – got a blank stare – a shaman? – a healer? Finally I said, “What does he do?”
At which point the guide said, “Gets rid of evil spirits.”
The man, at this point, got up and went into the hut, came out with a clay mug, poured some herbs into it and some hot water. It was very clear that I was expected to drink this, and as soon as I had done this, my guide led me to the edge of the clearing where I could see that a trench had been dug for a latrine. All at once I suddenly wrenched and vomited into the pit. He picked up a near-by wooden shovel and covered earth over that, led me back to the medicine man’s hut where he had me lie down on a mat. I was feeling very dizzy. I didn’t know what was happening; but I seemed to, everyone once and a while, come back to some kind of consciousness and was very conscious of needing to defecate so I stumbled to the latrine pit, used it, and covered my watery excrement using the shovel, went back to my mat, and lay down.
I found myself shaking, and I seemed to be hot and cold at the same time, or maybe sweating and chilled. Suddenly, I could see my mother, laughing, the way she had of laughing that when I was a kid almost made me cry. I knew she wasn’t laughing at me; she was just amused by something I did or said, and loved every bit of it, but she had that kind of fast little laugh, and then I saw her collapse right in front of me and turn into kind of a pool of blue water.
I looked down into the water and saw the face of a girl I knew once, in high school. And she also suddenly laughed, and then she was standing in front of me laughing, and I seemed to laugh myself. I couldn’t help it. But then she too seemed to disappear, sort of melt down into a blue puddle, and I stared long into the puddle, wondering what would come next but northing did.
And I seemed to find myself falling, going into the puddle. And again, finding myself shaking – couldn’t stop. I sensed suddenly that it was raining, raining hard, Someone was moving me inside the hut. A blanket was placed around me, as it seemed to be getting cold and dark.The fire seemed one moment right on top of me and one moment miles away, like a distant beacon. I felt I should get up and walk to it. I think I did get up at one point and felt someone helping me over to the latrine, back to the hut, back to the mat, back to looking into a blue pool, diving into the blue pool, seeing my father, seeing the house we lived in, seeing a fire, seeing the time the house caught fire, smelling the smoke, seeing myself running out, looking back at the house, burning, burning, burning, and then suddenly that burning became bright orange, seemed to envelope everything around me; I was back in the house. The house was burning, and I didn’t know how to get out, and I yelled and I screamed, and I felt myself being bathed with a wet cloth, and I found myself relaxing again.
The burning was gone. I did not know what was happening. I don’t know how long I stayed in this, and I can’t remember what happened – and then I felt it was dawn, a new day had been born – or had I been several days in the hallucination? I had no way of knowing. My penis sheath lay on the ground beside me. I picked it up. My guide offered me some fruit. He looked at me and said, “Evil spirits gone.”
I thought that perhaps I had been cleansed of some parasites I had picked up in the jungle two years ago, which modern medicine had seemed to be unable to get rid of and which caused me trouble and diarrhea from time to time, alternating with constipation. I made a note that when I got back to civilization – ah civilization, it seemed a thousand miles away, it was a thousand miles away – I felt weak, all I wanted to do was sleep.
I stayed for a week with my guide. We took walks in the forest, but I never saw anything that remotely resembled what was on that map, if indeed it was a map – and with all the walks the week passed. I wasn’t even counting the days, but I heard a cry of children evidently signaling the fact that a boat had come up-river. It was my native boatman. I went back to the hut where I knew my clothes were, gave the penis sheath back to my guide, and left with the boatman.
As an aside: I was tested, and the parasites were gone, I regretted that I had no way of knowing what herbs I had been given, but I had not reached the degree of confidence with the medicine man that he would show me what he had collected.
June 14, 2013
My previous two postings have been about creating sculpture from my imagination. I wanted to see if I could take the concept of a drawing from the imagination that I found in Judith Cornell’s book Drawing the Light from Within, and adapt it for sculpture. I mentioned that I would be facilitating this in a retreat at Easton Mountain, May 31-June 2. I was impressed with what the men in the retreat created. You can judge for yourself based on these pictures.
Freddy Freeman working on his sculpture
After the men in the retreat had created these sculptures, they were guided by Wil Fisher in writing stories inspired by what they had created. Then we moved into improvisational theater, led by Michael Wilson. Then Freddy freeman set up a recording session in which participants sang, read poetry, made sounds, and improvised characters. Freddy arranged all the material into a short composition which became the sound track for this video.
If you’re coming to Gay Freedom Camp (July 3-7), Eros Spirit Camp (July 29-August 4), or Gay Spirit Camp (August 12-18), you’ll have opportunities to create drawings and sculpture from your imagination in the Art Tent. I also anticipate that we will be doing some life drawing there with nude male models.
May 27, 2013
Last week I posted something about creating a sculpture from the imagination using clay and wire. A friend suggested that the process of looking inward could be enhanced by creating a story based on the sculpture. Shortly after completing the sculpture, I recorded a short fantasy. I had the idea that I could use this in a video, but before I could take more photographs for the video, I left the sculpture in a car under the hot sun and discovered the easiest way to soften modeling clay.
So I redid the sculpture while sitting naked in my cabin, though not wearing a blindfold. That became the basis for a video I completed yesterday. Here it is:
I’ll be facilitating a session of creating a sculpture from the imagination during next weekend’s retreat, Expressing Your Authentic Self, (May 31 through June 2) and Wil Fisher will facilitate a writing session with an option of using a sculpture as a springboard for imagination. I expect that I’ll be facilitating some other art sessions at Gay Freedom Camp (July 3-7), Gay Spirit Camp (August 12-18), and possibly Eros Spirit Camp (July 29 through August 4).
May 24, 2013
I have been writing about my work with the exercises in Judith Cornell’s book, Drawing the Light from Within. As the exercises work primarily with the visual arts of painting and drawing, they are obviously only for sighted people. I consulted with a friend who has a degree in art education about what could be done to make this work available for the blind. He suggested that I work with wire and modeling clay.
The first exercises is Cornell’s book deal with creating paintings and drawings from the imagination. I’ve discussed my work in several postings on this blog. A few days ago, I sat naked at a table outdoors and put on a blindfold. I had a pound of non-harding modeling clay divided into ten pieces. I also had nine lengths of wire, some bare copper some plastic covered. I removed the blindfold periodically in order to take pictures of my work Here’s a video that records my progress.
I’ll be using this technique with participants in a retreat at Easton Mountain called Expressing Your Authentic Self (May 31-June 2). For my session, it won’t be necessary to be blindfolded or naked, though these are both options. One of the other facilitators, who will be leading a session on writing, is excited about the idea of using sculptures created from the imagination as a basis for stories. I’ll keep you posted on what develops.
May 11, 2013
Back on November , I did two drawings after doing a meditation from Judith Cornell’s book Drawing the Light from Within. Last month, following Cornell’s instructions I used one of my drawings as a basis for a painting done with poster paint – black, white and several shades of gray.
I had written of the original drawing that it “has an unsettling quality – as if something is broken.” The poster paint gave the drawing an even more unsettling quality.
As I’ve stated before, I’ve been adapting the exercises in Cornell’s book by using watercolor as my medium, though this is never suggested in her book. Here’s the same drawing used as the basis for a watercolor painting.
I’ve given the painting a title: “Shout!”
Yesterday morning I sat naked in my cabin reading a passage in A Course in Miracles. The painting was on an improvised altar in front of me. One of the passages that I read was, “The beliefs of the ego cannot be shared.” Does this mean that the painting is not of my ego, because I can share it with you?
I’ve used meditation before drawing and painting. I’ve been naked while drawing and painting. Both of these have helped me to be in sacred space while I painted. And yet this painting has an unsettling quality. Is it depicting something of how ego sees the world? Yes and no. This is not how the ego wants me to see the world, but it is a statement of the mind’s reaction to the world the ego has created. The white in the center is the light of divine consciousness. The “Shout” is in a language I cannot understand – and yet without knowing the language, it’s meaning comes through to me. Nothing more needs to be said.
March 8, 2013
“Every loving thought held in any part of the Sonship belongs to every part. It is shared because it is loving.” — A Course in Miracles.
Traditional Quaker public worship consists of sitting in silence. If moved to speak one speaks briefly to all present. To me, this is the sharing of Love spoken of in A Course in Miracles. I’m also reminded that, “To everything there is a time and a season.” For some loving thoughts tt may not the right time to share in Quaker worship.
Last Sunday, as I sat in worship, some thoughts about faith and practice came to me, but I did not have a signal from my Higher Self that I should speak. Then I remembered something that had happened the previous weekend at Powell House, a Quaker retreat center. I was talking to Heidi, an old friend from the Albany area, and Noah, a high-school senior that I’d met at other Quaker programs. My friend’s four-year old son rushed up and hugged her knees, saying “Mommy.” Then he hugged the student’s knees, saying “Noah.” He went back and forth, saying “Mommy, Noah, Mommy, Noah.”
I asked my Higher Self if I should tell this story and immediately get a “yes” signal. As I stood up and spoke, I found the words came effortlessly. I ended by saying that this child was showing us how we are a family. I sat down. and a feeling of joy came over me. I had shared a loving thought.>
You may not choose or be led to participate in Quaker worship. But for everyone, there are times when it is appropriate to tell someone about our loving thoughts. We should not hesitate in doing this, as we strengthen our own ability to love by this action.
February 28, 2013
Dada is a name given to a seminal movement in modern art that started about the time of World War I. It stressed irrationality, and one of its proponents suggested creating poetry by taking a newspaper article, carefully cutting out each word, and putting them together in random order. I have tried this on occasion and used the method to create spoken words that became part of a musical composition.
I have also extended this method to visual art by starting with a random scribble. I did this in a place where I had privacy and thus was able to do the whole procedure described here while completely naked.
Over a copy of this scribble, I placed a grid of squares 1.25″ on each side. Then I cut the drawing into these squares. I randomly selected one and glued it to a sheet of plain paper.
I continued adding squares, until I had added nine more. Each time I added a square I made sure at least one line of the new square connected with a line of another square.
Here’s the progression of lines being added
The resulting drawing was scanned and then cleaned up by removing any lines that came from the edges of the paper. As I looked at the drawing, the title, “Dance of Life” came to me. I asked myself, “What kind of music might be suggested by the drawing?” – “What kind of movement?” – “What colors?”
What do you see in the drawing?