An Imaginative Connection

I was scrolling through my WordPress Reader when I came across Sue Vincent’s latest #writephotoimage.

When I saw it I did a double take for I spent hours yesterday making this collage – 001.jpg

What a strange imaginative connection links Sue’s photo and my collage.  I have no idea what motivated Sue to post that particular image but the inspiration for my collage came from thinking about the life and work of the 11th century Christian nun, Hildegarde of Bingen.

I find Hildegarde inspirational for she was an accomplished writer, herbalist, mystic, composer, artist and environmentalist back in an age where women were too often voiceless and powerless.

The brilliant colours of her manuscript art inspired my own collage –

Image result for hildegard of bingen manuscript illumination https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scivias

Her music is hauntingly beautiful.

One of Hildegarde’s most enduring ideas is the concept of Viriditas, a Latin word which loosely translates as vitality, freshness, lushness,greening, or growth.    In Hildegarde’s philosophical writings the word is used as a metaphor for spiritual and physical health.  She celebrates the sacred energetic force that animates all life and actively sought to connect with the natural world for she saw it as a source of creative and healing power.

“O most honored Greening Force,
You who roots in the Sun;
You who lights up, in shining serenity, within a wheel
that earthly excellence fails to comprehend.
You are enfolded in the weaving of divine mysteries.
You redden like the dawn
and you burn: flame of the Sun.”

–  Hildegard von Bingen, Viriditas

Hildegarde experienced visions from an early age but it wasn’t until she was 42 that she felt compelled to share her visions with the world despite the disapproval of patriarchal church authorities.  Later on in life she undertook four preaching tours where she told her male superiors that they would fall from grace if they didn’t change their attitudes.     Huffington Post – why Hildegarde matters  Her words have relevance today as the male clergy that control many Christian churches are being held to account for their role in covering up child sexual abuses.

There is so much to learn from Hildegarde’s life and work.   What came through for me yesterday while I was working on my collage was an understanding of the energy and inspiration found in having a sense of purpose that is greater than personal self interest.

Hildegarde’s voice speaks loud and clear down through the centuries.   I hear it in the calm pure notes of her music and in her writings.  I see its imprint in her art.  “Take your time,” she says to me.  “Celebrate life.   Create with clear intention.  Discipline the will and seek to serve the greater good. Speak your truth.”

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Aging as a spiritual journey – part 2

I spent yesterday finishing my art journal on aging as a spiritual journey.  I realized I could have done more blog posts on this but they would just be compilations of other people’s ideas.  Instead I copied ideas that resonated with me into the journal.   If you want to follow up on any let me know and I’ll send you a link to the source material.

Here’s the completed journal page by page.   As you can see some pages have been altered but the journal never did get any neater.   If you missed the post about how I constructed it you can find it here

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You can find my other posts in this series  here and here

Aging as a Spiritual Journey

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are.”   Carl Jung

Coming to terms with physical decline and with the loss of old roles that occurs during the aging process takes conscious effort.  Carol Osborn, author and founder of Fierce with Age says “Mourn your lost youth, illnesses or other losses.  Acknowledge that it’s happening as a passage you have to go through.”

The journey through this passage can be the thing that propels us to shift our awareness into a more spiritualized view of the aging process.

The University of Maryland Medical Center defines spirituality as “a belief in a power operating in the universe that is greater than oneself; a sense of interconnectedness with all living creatures; and an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life and the development of personal, absolute values. Even the non-religious may describe themselves as spiritual.”  aging as a spiritual process

The clinical psychologist, Dr. John Robinson writes:-
“While we can hang onto past identities and achievements, these memories grow stale for they no longer represent who we really are. But this procession of losses, as the mystics tell us, constitutes the quintessential pre-requisite for enlightenment. What’s left when the ego’s filters of identity, time and story dissolve is consciousness itself, which the mystics also tell us is the consciousness of the divine.”  http://www.johnrobinson.org/

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Robinson describes the process of coming to terms with the losses of age as a descent – either a descent into distress or, if we move to the spiritual side of the matrix, a descent into ‘the arms of the divine mother.’

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I like the idea that the descent is a mystic journey back to the divine mother for that is where my own meditations take me.

Through some alchemical process I don’t know the words for, this journey into the mystical depths can lead to an intuitive awareness of the interconnection of all life.  The sense of purpose that grows from this awareness is greater than purely personal concerns yet it infuses the personal life with meaning and a sense of joy.  It is here where the path into aging opens up into a greater awareness of the wonder of life.

It is here too where the interior landscape becomes archetypal and the spiritual journey is shown to be a journey that anyone can take at any time.   Age is not a pre-requisite.

I will leave my quest across the landscape of aging here.   My quest to find new stories continues.  I might blog about that in 2019 but I’m not sure.

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 HAPPY NEW YEAR

This is the 3rd post in my series ‘Aging as a spiritual journey’
Part 1 of this journey can be found here
Part 2 of this journey can be found  here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defining the Journey

More on the quest to age well –

Although I wrote the words “Aging as a Spiritual Journey” into my journal I had only the vaguest idea of what I meant by them.  Googling them I discovered many people have written books and articles on the subject.

Most of these articles begin with acknowledging the fact that aging is inevitable. Although western culture tends to deny the aging process and to glorify youth we are completely unable to stop the process altogether.   It’s a fact of life – we all grow older and we all eventually die.

The psychologist Robert Peck defined three psychological phases of aging.

1. The first phase happens around retirement.    This is when we begin to wonder “Who am I now?”   The more our identity has been tied up in our career, the more difficult this stage can be.  Around this time we are also beginning to show the physical signs of aging.  Many people feel they have become invisible.

The spiritual teacher Ram Dass sums this phase up well:-

“I can remember when I became irrelevant.  I mean, you can walk down certain streets in any city and you’re either a potential, a competitor, or irrelevant. I became a walking lamp post after awhile. It was incredible because people look right through you, they don’t even see you. At first I got all uptight about it and I’d wear my hair spread all over my head and do all these things. Get tighter suits and diet and everything so I’d be somebody, but then it’s a new moment, and you realize that’s the way it is.”  https://www.ramdass.org/important-come-terms-aging/

At some point we come to terms with this invisibility and discover freedom within it.  It doesn’t matter so much what others think of us for, chances are they are probably barely noticing us.

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Peck’s second phase of aging begins when we realise the body is changing with age.            We are slowing down and don’t have the agility we once had.   It can take longer to recover from illness.  This stage is particularly difficult if you have identified with being physically fit.

The third psychological phase of aging is about the preparation for death.   This phase is often foreshadowed many years beforehand as we consider just what we are leaving behind for future generations.

For me this third phase is like a tune playing in the background.    I think about it from time to time but my main pre-occupations are more immediate. What do I do in the interim between having a busy, active life in the world and my eventual demise? Keeping busy and distracting myself with hobbies, shopping excursions and reading the novels I never got around to reading when I was younger gets boring.   Traveling isn’t always an option – the finances don’t always stretch that far and beside, my physical stamina is sometimes just not enough.

As the old roles and identities I have inhabited fall away I am left wondering ‘what next?’  It seems to me that I now face a choice.   I can either despair or I can figure out ways to age with integrity.

Somewhere in all my reading about the aging process I came across the idea that although the physical body declines the potential for spiritual development increases.

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In her book, “The Measure of My Days”  the Jungian analyst, Florida Scott-Maxwell wrote of this approach to aging –

“The purpose of life may be to clarify our essence, and everything else is the rich, dull, hard, absorbing chaos that allows the central transmutation.”

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I will develop these ideas in my next post.  You can find my first post in this series here

(as you can see the journal is continuing to develop as I read more about aging well.    It’s become a place to work out what I’m thinking and feeling about everything I’m reading.  I’ve had to leave my inclination to tidy it up and make it neat for the spontaneity gets lost when I try to do that).

 

 

 

 

 

The quest begins

Although I said I would wait till till the new year to post again I have been working away at making blog posts.   I’m starting to feel I need to start posting again to clear the way forward into 2019.     Here’s the first one:-

Thoughts on ways to age positively –

In my post time-for-a-quest I wrote ” Growing older and moving into the third stage of life I find this culture is not providing me with models of aging that sustain me.  The medical model of age as a disease is sickening- literally –  the cultural idea of denying and/or defying age doesn’t work for me either.   Of course bodies age and interests change – that is the way of life.  The idea of retiring to play golf and bingo bores me witless.   There has to be more fulfilling ways to age.”

When I attempted to sort through my thoughts around aging I found I had so many conflicting ideas they overwhelmed me.   I needed some way to organise the chaos within – some way of externalizing my thoughts so that I could sort them out.  I decided the first step would be to make an art journal.

To get started with this I collected together 8 small pieces of watercolour paper that were roughly the same size (15 x 20 cm).    I then painted on these with acrylic paint.   At this stage I just slapped on colour to cover the white paper.

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When the first side was dry I turned the paper over and painted the back.DSCF3008

Once both sides were dry I started embellishing them with words and pictures cut from magazines.   I also used a few of my own photos and digital images I had printed out some time ago.   To select the magazines pictures I flicked through old magazines without much conscious thought.   Whenever I found a picture that made me look twice I tore out that page.  Once I had pile of pages I cut out the bits of the pictures that attracted me.

I struck the words and images onto my painted papers using a glue stick.  At this stage I had stop myself getting caught up in my thoughts.    Whenever I started to manipulate the pages so that they reflected a specific idea the process would bog down.  For example, I stuck the words ‘building blocks’ onto one of the papers in the photo below but soon after taking the photo I pulled them off again as they seemed too definitive.  Luckily the paper was still damp from the painting process so they peeled off easily.DSCF3010.JPG

I then drew and painted on the papers – again without too much pre-meditated thought.

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Once all the paper was dry I folded the pieces in half and collected them into a book format.   To make a cover  I used a piece of leather.  I punched three holes into the pages and the cover and laced them together with thonging.

Although a lot of the pages were incomplete the book began to develop a theme.   On one page  I had glued a photo of a Buddhist woman on a spiritual pilgrimage.  It was only when I had assembled the book that the words “Aging as a Spiritual Journey” popped into my mind.   I wrote them on a scrap of paper and glued them onto the page.

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I now had a journal to work in and a broad theme to work with…

more in the next post

Going beneath the surface

This post is inspired by Sue Vincent’s write photo prompt:  beneath

The reflections on the lake shifted and distorted as a cool breeze ruffled the water’s surface.   The woman shivered and pulled the opening of her jacket closer to her body.  “I should move on,” she thought.  “Do something.”   The thought drifted away before she could form a clear idea of just where she should move on to or what exactly she should do.   Since she’d arrived at the lookout by the lake she’d been immobilized.   The shifting patterns of the reflections held her in thrall and her mind slipped into reverie – some not quite conscious state where thoughts and feelings drifted without ever really taking concrete shape.

Time passed and still the woman sat.   The sun came out from behind the clouds and warmed her.   Birds flew by but nothing of any note occurred.   Slowly the woman’s consciousness slipped into a deeper realm where impressions of past events shifted and flowed through her mind in much the same way as the reflections on the lake shifted and flowed.  The breeze stirred the leaves of the overhanging trees and rustled them together so that they made a gentle hushing sound.   The woman drifted deep still until it was as if she had entered her ancestral timeline.   Perhaps though, the fragmentary visions she now saw were imprints from previous lives.   To even try and fathom the origin of any of it was beyond her current powers of comprehension.   Easier still to flow with the journey.   Interpretations of it could wait until she returned to her rational conscious self.

In this state she became a child – not a child from her own times but some ragged half starved waif of a child that stared now into a crystal an older woman she sometimes called grandmother had placed in her hand.   Healing energy emanated from the crystal and the child gathered it into an etheric thought form that she sent to the sick man she and the grandmother woman had visited earlier that day.    She kept up the sending until she knew the man had received the energy and she felt his spirit rally.   Not quite knowing how to explain what had occurred the child returned the crystal to the grandmother.   “It’s done,” she simply said and the grandmother nodded her understanding.  “You must never talk of these things,” she muttered to the child.

The woman by the lake was startled.   Although she had heard the words in a vision it was as if the old grandmother was standing right beside her and whispering them to her in this reality.   The knowing came to her that the child and the grandmother were from the time when females with second sight and with the gifts of healing were persecuted.

Coming back into her body with a jolt the woman realised the words the grandmother had uttered were like a scar upon her psyche.   They were like a wound that had never healed but had been passed down through time, generation after generation.    The woman realised she had carried this scar into her present lifetime.    Without realising it she had lived under its shadow for her entire life for there was a part of her that was always held in check.    Those moments when her intuition guided her or when some second sight showed her what lay ahead were never spoken of.    Often too she buried those moments and would not acknowledge them even to herself.

Now, as she contemplated her life and the state of the planet she loved so fiercely, the woman came to understand that it was time to heal those ancient wounds and move on from them.   It was time to speak out.

Climate Change and The Shift

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photo prompt:  https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2018/12/06/reenas-exploration-challenge-66/ 

Will the world as we know it crumble and fall?   Will the archaeologists of some future race stumble upon the ruins of our civilization?   Will they then shake their heads and wonder why we did nothing to halt the climate change that brought about our demise?

Lately I’ve been thinking that there are two ways to respond positively to the threat of  climate change .    One response is the outer response – this where assessing the facts takes place – it is where we petition governments to change their policies and it is where we to make changes in the way we live our lives – where we learn to consumer less,  to eat less meat,  and to monitor the ways we use electricity in our homes etc.

The second response is the inner one.   It here where we shift the way we think about life on Earth and humanity’s place within the ecosphere.

Quite possibly the driving force that will implement real and positive changes in our outer world will come from a shift in consciousness.

We humans tend to think we are at the top of the evolutionary ladder.    From that position we assume the right to dominate and exploit nature for our own gain.   What we forget is that we are actually part of the natural world.   It is the ecosphere of planet Earth that gives us the air we breath, the food we eat and the raw materials we use to create our ever more elaborate lifestyles.

This attitude of superiority hasn’t always motivated humans.   Indigenous cultures across the globe live in ways that are in harmony with the environment.    Looking at the archaeological evidence of human society before the birth of the city state it’s easy to imagine that once upon a time our ancestors were more in tune with the rhythms of nature.   A shift in consciousness would take us to a similar place.

I am not suggesting though that we all go live in caves or herd reindeer.    Rather, if our hearts and minds become more tuned into the natural world around us, the way we live on the planet will inevitably change. 

With increased awareness of the inter-connectedness of all things the focus of hearts and minds begins to change.   We are no longer so fixated on exploiting the Earth and it’s people and animals to satisfy our desires for more money, more stuff, more power etc.  We become more interested in working out ways to live in harmony with the natural world.

Opening up to this shift in consciousness can be remarkably easy.   It can be as simple as going for a walk in the park and becoming aware of the air quality, the light on the plants and the way being in such environments often creates a more relaxed mood.

Speakers at the climate change conference in Poland are telling us the end is nigh.   If we continue down the path we are currently on they will be proven right. 

If we shift our consciousness to a more holistic understanding of the world around us and our place in it we will start to change the way we live on the planet.  Instead of being the exploiters of the Earth, its animals and disadvantaged people we could become the caretakers.

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