faith

When We Pray – Progress

Greetings Family,

I was unable to complete the whole manuscript of my book last month. Although I was quite enthusiastic to get it done, I think I was a little unrealistic about the amount of time I could actually put not the project without going to a retreat location and write from there. However, I did manage to get four chapters completed which places me at the halfway mark! I have four more to go and will be ready to get back into writing mode as we refocus for a new month.

Unfortunately, I was sick with the flu the whole holiday weekend and spent 85% of my time at home in bed! 😦  But I’m almost well now and plan to get back into the swing of things later this week.

Below is a summary of each chapter of the project. As you can see below I don’t necessarily complete the chapters in order because my brain just won’t work that way. I meditate upon which chapter should come next and trust that Spirit will guide me to the write one, as it inspires me with the needed content.  Hope you find them of interest!

WHEN WE PRAY:
8 MEDITATIONS ON THE AESTHETICS OF PRAYER & THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
CHAPTER SUMMARIES
Preface

Since the book is really a series of essays or meditations (or monographs??) I don’t think a formal introduction to the contents/concepts is needed. However, I do think it important to basically set the tone for the reader and provide a few insights about the overall direction of “When We Pray” and my reasons for developing its content.

When We Pray
Making the Connection: Prayer, Aesthetics & the Spiritual Life
This initial essay will paint a picture of the overall conceptual framework that allows the reader to begin to see and understand the connections between prayer, aesthetics and the spiritual life. In this section, I will define some essential terms, provide some historical and contextual grounding, and lay the overall framework for the more specific points of discussion that will comprise the other meditations.

When We Pray
The Aesthetics of Enlightenment: the Universal & the Particular – COMPLETE
It is here that the real work begins. I delve into the most misunderstood paradox in spirituality, how the seemingly particular act of going within through prayer and meditation ultimately leads to an ever more intimate understanding of that which is most common to all – the universal. This essay will delve into this paradox and help us to understand how the aesthetic dimensions of spiritual life help us to better understand the universal and the particular.

When We Pray III
Making Special: Sacred Symbols, Sight & Geometry – COMPLETE
What does it mean to make something special? How does our concept of the sacred relate to our use of symbols and the ways in which symbol is used on the spiritual path? This meditation will examine these ideas and relate them specifically to the process of spiritual growth and discernment – particularly with regard to the ways both humans and Spirit utilize symbols and signs as a means of communication.

When We Pray IV
The Work is all Divine: The Role of Imagination in Prayer & Manifestation – COMPLETE
In this essay, I will explore the ways in which imagination and manifestation play a central role in prayer and the spiritual life. It will present the conceptual framework and context through which manifestation and imagination helps us to see understand the inherent connection between prayer, imagination, and the process of manifestation.

When We Pray V
Awakening: The Art of Prayer & the Art of Life – COMPLETE
We use the term “art” in relation to a wide range of human endeavors that stretch from the actual creative work of the “Arts” to the facility with which we live our lives. This meditation will explore the term “art” by defining it in a manner that allows us to connect it with aesthetic experience, inspiration, and the spiritual life. Particular emphasis will be placed upon the notion that prayer is an “art” and how human beings can harness the aesthetic dimensions of prayer in order to live inspired and artful lives.

When We Pray VI
In Defense of the “Woo-Woo”: The Aesthetics of Mysticism and the Spiritual Life
The contemporary scientific model and its accompanying evidence-based approaches in the softer sciences have given mysticism a bad name. Even many Spirituality and New Age professionals will often shy away from the mystical or qualify any mystical statements by apologizing for becoming to “Woo-Woo”. In this chapter, I will address this phenomena and put forth a perspective that argues for mysticism and spiritualization as key components in prayer and spiritual development. This meditation will explore the ways in which the aesthetic dimensions of mysticism and mystical experience have always been and continue to be integral to prayer and the spiritual life

When We Pray VII
In the World & of the World
This chapter will focus upon the more practical aspects of living the spiritual life by examining how our spirituality should deeply ground and connect us to the world in which we live. How does one think about and frame their response to the world’s problems from a spiritual perspective, and what can the aesthetic dimensions of our spirituality bring to that discussion? There is a real and needed place for social activism, global thinking and reflection upon the ways in which our spiritual life can be brought to bear upon the needs of our current place in human history.

When We Pray VIII
Coda: There is only Love
Ultimately, love is all there is. This final essay will serve as a concluding segment that will weave together the various strands from the previous meditations through an examination of the concept of divine love. It will provide an overarching vision that incorporates the key concepts from the meditations. However, it will not be a summary, but rather an inspirational vision that is both a didactic and beautific discussion on love and the ways aesthetic insights can aid us in the expression of love in our every day lives.

When We Pray copy
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Love: The Harmony of Coherence

INSPIRATION

This is the one everyone seems to have been waiting for. Since I began painting the chakras everyone who’s entered my studio eventually asks, “When are you going to create something for the heart chakra?” ” I really love this series. I can’t wait to see the piece you create for the heart chakra, “ or variations thereof.  Most of my patrons appear to go blank when I tell them, ” I am waiting for direction because the process is rather intuitive so I really have no idea which chakra will be next.” 

Hindsight is always 20/20. 2 weeks ago I came to the realization that all of the chakra work I had been doing for the other pieces was in preparation for the internal shifts I needed to make for the creation of this one. When discussing the root chakra last month, I spoke about going deep within and grounding myself as I began a period of deep inward soul-searching. This led me to what I understand now as the next logical step –  cleansing and purification. I needed to clear away and jettison the things which no longer served me. I needed to go into my prayer closet and not come out until I could see with a much clearer vision. I needed to unburden my mind, body, soul, and heart. It was time to let go and release.

For me, this process began with a firm push from my guides to finally invest in the Neurogym program with John Assaraf. I have been following his work for a couple of years now but had been hesitant to make such a heavy investment. But now my guides were pushing me. This was the worst possible time since things were becoming progressively more intense around money. Every time I asked, I was given the go-ahead to get on the payment plan as Spirit said, “trust me!” From the ego’s perspective, everything about this decision was wrong because it appeared as if everything was falling apart around me. But Spirit kept repeating, “trust me.” Shortly after making the initial payment I also began a period of cleansing and preparation which ended up lasting 15 weeks. No drinking, no smoking, no sex, no dating; combined with weekly periods of intermittent fasting, cleaning up my diet, consistent exercise, and the completion of a series of spiritual clearing and discernment exercises that included daily affirmations, intense journaling, and discernment exercises – all while completing the daily requirements of the Neurogym program! It was only about a week ago that I realized I had designed and enrolled myself in my own personalized holistic Bootcamp!!

The Nuerogym program consists of neuro-linguistic programming, guided visualizations, guided self-hypnosis, self-affirmations, and brain training exercises to and more. The inner work I was able to do, combined with my own spiritual practices and exercises would have easily taken me another 1.5-2 years if I hadn’t invested in the program. Having said all of that, I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about internal transformation and wants to make a real investment in themselves. As with anything in life, you only get out what you’re willing to put in, so spend the money and commit to doing the work.

Love The Harmony of Coherence
Love: The Harmony of Coherence

Coherence is defined as “the quality of forming a unified whole”. Unity and wholeness can only exist when there is equilibrium and harmony. This is the work of the 4th chakra and the reason why it serves as the center-point of the entire chakra system. From this center, it balances and harmonizes the energies of the chakras above and below it thereby creating coherence. In the heart chakra, the externalized, egoistic, desirous energies of the 2nd chakra become internalized and we begin to see the world from the broader lense of relationality and reciprocity. This shift toward the more internal states generates a higher vibrational frequency that opens a channel for inner and outer harmonization. The balancing and harmonizing force resulting from this coherence is love. Love is an inside job!

Love is a unifying force. It creates balance and harmony through the allowance and acceptance of interdependence in order to create a greater whole. All things strive toward harmony and equilibrium. Imbalances can’t and won’t endure. The key to creating this unity is acceptance. Self-acceptance is the key that unlocks the door to greater and deeper levels of self-love. From this perspective, we don’t make or create love we, discover and allow it through our willingness to open, accept and allow. This means allowing things and people to be who and what they are. The greater our capacity to do so, the greater the coherence created which increases our capacity to love.

I needed to learn more deeply about the nature of love. I could go no further until I was cleansed, purged and opened. There were too many blockages, too many aspects of my life that needed to be either accepted, reconciled or jettisoned. They had been holding me back from growth and consequently blocking my expansion to the higher levels. The imbalances had become much too great and much too costly. Every aspect of my life was being affected. I could no longer piece-meal it or wait. I had to do the work!

It was time for me to confront and accept myself. I had to let go, forgive, allow, trust, listen,  purge, cleanse, re-fill, discover, open, appreciate, give thanks, release, admit, fortify, pray, meditate, shift, cry, scream, push, be still…until the end was the end and also the beginning.  Just like Jacob, I wrestled with the angel in the darkness and was determined to not let go until it blessed me. When the morning came, Jacob received his blessing but he was also wounded. When the dawn finally cracked across my horizon, I too received my blessing.  In my case, I was already wounded and am wounded still. But this time the wound is different. I accept it, have peace with it, carry it, nurture it, treasure it, and allow it a special place on the altar of my heart as a reminder of the costs of transformation.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, this creation has also been the one I too have been waiting for. I would never dare to say that I have arrived. But my heart has been opened and what lies there now is vastly different from what occupied the space before it. There is a great deal more acceptance, a deeper level of coherence, greater harmony, and a more open, willing and desirous capacity for love. There were many things I had to confront and let go, but letting go is not same as giving up. Love is the harmony of coherence.

SYMBOLISM

As with every piece within this series, the graphic lotus-like symbol above the figure contains the Sanskrit symbol for that particular chakra and the corresponding number of leaves that indicate the heart or central chakra (12).

The central figure is seated in the yogic full lotus asana with his palms turned upward and his hands loosely cupped. Upturned palms are predominantly a receptive state which matches the yin energies associated with the heart chakra. His eyes are closed with his head slightly bowed as he focuses his awareness within. My initial inclination was to use deep rich browns, blues, and purples for the skin tone in order to make a connection between the dark fertile earth and the deep green of growth and vegetation, but the color sketches I produced all made the figure overpowering among the green. This also kept the viewer’s eyes stuck on the darker shades in the center of the composition – thus making the entire composition too static. The lighter sienna tones provide a much more soothing complement to the greens (red and green are complementary colors) and allow the eyes to move in and around the composition giving it a feeling of spaciousness despite the large figure and lotus.

The lotus beneath the figure is large by design. It partially encompasses the lower portion of the figure while the leaves extending behind the figure give the impression that they are almost supporting him.

The background composition incorporates the all of the shades of green used throughout the painting and gives the background a soothing quality that appears to be both dynamic and static all at once. The activity gives movement without competing with the key elements in the composition.

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Polarity: The Balancing Of Desire

INSPIRATION

Most people think the second chakra is all about sex and sensuality, but to limit this chakra’s energies to such a narrow bandwidth is literally majoring in the minors. Sex and sensuality are one the many by-products resulting from the actions of the 2nd chakra’s core responsibility: the balancing of polarity. Polarity is the action or power that connects two opposing forces. In this case, the old adage “opposites attract” is right on target. An easy example lies in the action and attraction of yin and yang both intermingling and interpenetrating one another. Polarity is the energy which binds the power of dualistic forces. As beings of Spirit and matter our very existence is an exercise in the balancing of dualistic forces in polarity.

The 2nd chakra is also associated with the moon, water, emotion, and the gift of clairsentience (the ability to receive information through feelings). This emphasis on motion and change compliments the dynamic movement of forces needed to maintain polarity among opposing dualistic forces. Likewise, the age-old association of the moon and water with feeling and emotion matches the mercurial nature of emotions themselves – as we can be happy one moment and sad the next. Humans can experience the depths of emotion and then enter a complete state of shock that renders us incapable of feeling. These are the mysteries of the sacral chakra. Upon close examination, you will find that the binding agent between these forces, the glue which acts as the substance of polarity is human desire. It is my contention that it is this connection to desire which links the sacral chakra so closely with sex and sensuality.

Each and every moment of each and every day we are desirous of any number of things. To be human is to experience desire. Desire itself is decidedly neutral – for without it none of us would be able to accomplish anything. But if left unchecked or untempered, our desires can so easily become an enemy from within. A trojan horse that is capable of undermining and destroying all our hopes and dreams. If we repress our desires we dam the flow and our manifestations become dull and lifeless. However, if we allow our desires and passions to overshadow everything they will eventually consume us. Therefore, we strive to maintain an equilibrium among our various desires through the action of polarity. Just like water, our emotions, energies, needs, and desires must flow. Shifting and re-forming as needed to fit the multi-form contours of our desires as they expand, contract and intermingle according to the demands of daily life. One of the most easily identifiable areas for observing this need for polarity lies within the realm of sex and sensuality.

Polarity- The Balancing of Desire

Polarity: The Balancing of Desire

SYMBOLISM

The predominant color representation for this chakra is orange. For each chakra, I use a minimum of three variations of that particular color ranging from warm to kool. All other variations in tone are created by mixing a particular hue with white. For this image, I used the orange found in the lotus as the primary tone of the entire image. This tone colors the lotus, serves as the base tone for the background and was painted as a lighter layer on the flower beneath the seated figure.

The 2nd, or sacral chakra is symbolized by the six-petalled lotus with its accompanying  Sanskrit character (Savadhisthana). This same decorative flattened Lotus motif is found at the top and a more realistically rendered lotus is found underneath the seated figure.

The seated figure is meditating in the full lotus position with his hands pointing downward in the shape of a triangle. The triangular mudra has its opening in the location of the sacral chakra. I opted not to place a small graphic image of the chakra within the space for two reasons: I wanted to keep the imagery consistent with the remainder of the series, and I felt that a bright graphic image there would draw the viewer’s eye directly to that location where it would remain stuck – thus sapping energy and movement from the overall composition.

In many ways, this particular piece has been the most difficult one to create thus far in the series. The choice of which chakra to work on next has been Spirit-led and intuitive. This exercise has also meant that a major portion of my focus for this series has been an exercise in tuning in for guidance. Not only tuning in but more significantly, exercising the courage and discipline to trust and follow that guidance once it has been received. In “learning to trust my gut” as the old folks used to say. Learning to balance my inner feelings and hunches with the knowledge and skills I have acquired along the way has been a source of tremendous growth for me. I look forward to the coming year with courage and wonder.  I have finally begun to realize that the process is as important as the outcome. Balance is the key. Namaste’

Look out for a discussion of the 6th chakra next month!

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There is only Love

 

WHEN WE PRAY: THERE IS ONLY LOVE

INSPIRATION

There are certain themes in life that continually repeat for each of us.  Lessons we must learn, ideas and concepts that require us to continually expand our understanding of them, seasons of lack and plenty…and these too are an integral part of our soul’s journey.

An ongoing theme for me is Love. In this case, I seem to have come full circle because I thought that the “When We Pray” series was complete last summer. I completed what I thought was the final image of the series (#VII) and began to move on, but the inspiration for this image burst forth in me and has already inspired me to begin another in the series. You may also remember that I was addressing the theme of Love inspired by Rumi in my creation of the “Resurrection of Love” triptych. But it appears that neither Prayer nor Love are through with me yet.

My efforts to strengthen my intuition and maintain a more consistent connection to my guides are steadily convincing me that we are forever and always surrounded by Love. It’s not that I didn’t already know or believe this, but my vision was clouded by my own biases and preconceptions. It is one thing to understand a thing conceptually, but truly knowing it in the depths of one’s spirit is something drastically different.

Most of us believe that God is love, that our souls have come here to give and receive love, that we are loved unconditionally; but very few of us have been able to truly experience the power and depths of divine love – let alone consistently dwell in that state of experience. At best we have epiphinal moments through which we are able to experience glimpses of glory. We know that familiar feeling you get with family or old friends when you feel completely safe, whole, known, accepted and loved. Those moments when all is right with the world and we silently wish that we could suspend time in such a way that would allow us to spend the rest of our lives suspended in that moment.

I am coming to know and rest assured that there is only love. That each of us is loved and cherished with a depth that we will never truly understand on this side of the veil. That our higher selves and guides pray with us, for us, and undergird each of us with an unfathomable love! Find the courage to trust it. Let go of fear and cling to love. What has been holding you back from love – both spiritually and romantically? Be quiet, become still, open your heart to Spirit and in the darkness of that silence, you will come to know that love is all in all.

There is Only Love72.5

SYMBOLISM

I made use of the repeating heart motif because it is easily recognizable within modern cultural iconography. This motif is repeated throughout the composition not only as a symbol of love but as a means of guiding the eye downward through the image. The heart motif with its downward edge helps push the eye downward from the heart of the angelic guide, down through the bottom of the heart shape surrounding the angel, then down through the hands framed in the heart shape, then we dive once more into the heart of the human figure which will also help guide our gaze into the power of love symbol located beneath the figure. A love that is always flowing downward to each of us through various levels of being.

The angelic being who floats in the large heart above the figure is also engaged with the human figure below it in meditation and prayer. This figure also holds and receives divine love with its heart. A love that is echoed in the heart of its human companion. This connection is symbolized in the identical hearts the two figures share. The two figures are communicating heart to heart through the medium of love. Earthly intuition is perceived in the gut, but spiritual intuition is perceived in the heart and transmitted through love. This being holds its hands in the form of a teaching mudra – as it imparts divine wisdom and blessings upon the human figure below.

The halo above this figure is a symbol of divine grace, majesty, and power; while the symbol directly below the figure is an Adinkra glyph indicating divine love.

Since this image is a companion to the When We Pray series it was imperative that the hand motif occupy a prominent role within the composition. As in the other pieces in the series, the hands symbolize the hands of the divine as an ever-present source of comfort, protection, support…etc. In this case, the hands have formed the shape of a heart to symbolize the presence of divine love which surrounds the praying figure within. The hands operate almost like a frame that we gaze into to find the small but significant human being within them. Not only are we surrounded by love, but it serves as the very framework through which all humanity must be viewed.

The figure within the divine hands is deep in prayer and meditation. His closed eyes and traditional meditative posture indicate his turn within- while the halo and biomorphic energy field surrounding him are indicative of the higher spiritual energies he is receiving as a result of his practice. His hands form the mudra associated with blessings and wisdom. His practice brings him both divine blessing and love, but also provides wisdom into the deeper spiritual insights that are only available to those who consistently go within. The symbol below the figure is a West African glyph indicating the power of love. A love which is filling his heart as symbolized by the heart shape within the chest of the figure.

To purchase the original image please use the link below:

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The Flowering of Truth

INSPIRATION

The impetus for this work has been part of an ongoing struggle. A struggle that has been uniquely mine yet paradoxically experienced by each of us at various points throughout life. From the earliest stages of human development, each of us learns about self through the experience of contrast between us and that which is other. A baby begins to comprehend the difference between self and mother through the contrasts created by the touch. sight, and sound of its mother versus that of its own. Later in life, we often learn to distinguish who we are through the experience of contrast between the ways others (friends, parents, classmates…) are like us or different from us.
 
This process of self-discovery continues throughout the life cycle because each of us is always changing. The person you were at 3 is still present within your DNA and consciousness but is definitely not the same person who is reading this post right now. This process of continual growth and deepening consciousness requires that we not only discover who we are in terms of likes and preferences but also necessitates that we come to know self with depth and profundity. In a sense, one could postulate that we don’t actually learn who we truly are, but rather that we find the courage and strength to discover, and then become who we truly are. That living a conscious life is a continual process of becoming or embodying the spiritual beings whom we truly are.
  
As our eternal being, our essence becomes more fully integrated and embodied within us it shines forth more brightly through us under the guise of personality. In order for this to occur, we must first find the willingness to look within, the strength to face what we find there, and finally the courage to be that person in the world regardless of what others may say or think about us because of it. This kind of courage requires that we commit ourselves to complete truth and authenticity in all of our interactions. That you find the courage and commitment to be and do YOU in every aspect of your life – no matter what the circumstances. No facades, no compromises to get along, no hiding how you really feel or think to fit in, no holding back your truth for another’s sake…etc. I’m talking about having the courage and determination to be who you are in every way you can, under any and all circumstances.
 
Each of us has the right and the responsibility, to be who we are and do what we want as long as we are honest and forthright in our intentions, and do not hurt or harm others in the process. This kind of freedom can only be achieved by operating from a level of truth and authenticity that most of us are not willing to live from.  In my opinion, this is the kind of commitment to truth and authenticity which lies at the core of 5th chakra symbolism.  
The 5th chakra’s core principle is truth. It is the first chakra to move us beyond the boundaries of our physicality and connect us to the higher realms of consciousness by acting as a conduit for the expression of vibration, sound, and speech. Thus it is associated with the throat, neck thyroid, shoulders, arms, and hands. When we deny the truth within ourselves, or continually speak or act in ways which lack integrity or truth this chakra can easily become clogged or choked thereby weakening its’ vibration. When fully opened, this chakra gives one the courage and commitment to express one’s self in truth and authenticity.  
This has been the focus of my struggle. To not only know, “Who I am” but to strive to authentically “be me” in all situations and circumstances. To stop worrying about, “how others view me or my art?” If speaking my truth will cost me friends or prestige? Will people not like me if I show them who I really am or what I’m about? To be true to self is the simplest yet most difficult of endeavors. This year I am determined to open and clear this chakra. To let the real me shine forth and open up like as a flower opens to the receive the rays of the morning sun! To open to my truth, and express that authenticity in all my interactions. This is the Flowering of Truth.

flowering-of-truth-72-5

SYMBOLISM

The symbolism within this work is focused on truth. The large lotus symbol floating above the figure is a reinterpretation of the 5th chakra symbol. The deep cerulean blue is one of the colors associated with the chakra. The symbol found within the inner flower is the Bija symbol (or seed sound) “Ham”. When repeated, this sound is the key used to activate the chakra and unlock its power. The symbol eye-like piece above symbol is my own additive that which is reminiscent of omniscient divine presence. The white outline used to outline the flower is symbolic of the full moon which is also part of the chakra’s symbolism. T

The flower upon which the figure sits is also a lotus. I purposely used the varying shades of blue for this composition since the primary colors associated with the chakra are cerulean blue and turquoise. This flowering lotus is opening because the figure seated upon it is chanting the seed sound “Ham” as a mantra as she meditates upon the qualities associated with the 5th chakra. 

Since the seated figure is meditating upon the 5th chakra and chanting its’ seed sound, I chose the lift her head and expose her neck – the primary body part associated with the 5th chakra. I intentionally placed the tale end of the seed symbol in the lotus above her head near the figure’s throat in order to further accentuate her neckline and the connection between sound/mantra, the symbol, and the chakra’s connection to the throat. 

My intention was to strike a balance between the areas that were more highly rendered (the opening lotus and the figure’s flesh) and the more graphic areas (the lotus above the figure and the figure’s clothing in order to create a visually energetic push-and-pull between the various portions of the composition. This tension helps to create a downward movement which draws the eye from the face down through the opening lotus. I chose to keep the background soft and muted so that it would not distract from the main focal point of the composition – the meditating figure.

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The Awakening

INSPIRATION

If you recall, last month I spoke about my creative rut and accompanying blues. The 1 piece I did manage to create during the darkest portion of that period “Moonlight Blues” played an integral role in the creation of the piece featured this month.  It’s a shame that even the most spiritually in tune of us often miss the significance of certain events or decisions when we are caught up in the midst of them.  
For each of us there are ingatherings. Periods in our lives when we are struck by pain, hurt, loss, rapid change…and it affects us so deeply that we are forced to withdraw,  step back from life and the world, and just be alone (ingathering). During these times we are forced to grow, transform, stretch our inner being beyond the limits we had convinced ourselves we could not reach. During these periods of ingathering, we are often able to undergo rapid growth and experience profound shifts in spiritual awareness through which we are literally elevated and transformed. 
Just as the caterpillar cannot transform into the beautiful butterfly unless it withdraws from life and enters into its cocoon – a kind of ingathering. It must first go within. While in the cocoon, every cell in its body literally dissolves back into primal goo and is then recombined into an entirely new being.   It is literally transformed. From the prefix trans – to move beyond or through, and form – the physical manifestation of our material world.  We too must transform.
For me, the place of wrath and tears that created Moonlight Blues, was actually a time of ingathering. It was literally the cocoon of my transformation. From within that shell, I received an awakening. I was able to literally receive a divine transmission which elevated my outlook and frequency. My intuition has been awakened and strengthened, I have begun to connect intimately with my higher self and guides, and I have also been able to allow my spirit to fuse more fully with my physical being thereby uprooting many deeply held negative energies. There has been an awakening – a quickening that has pushed me to a new way a being with a new higher vibratory baseline. This Awakening is the inspiration for the similarly entitled work shown here.  
awakening-72-5
 

SYMBOLISM

“The Awakening” is the next phase of the process of ascension and descension I had been depicting in the ascension series (Ascension I, II and Breaking the Veil). The ingathering experience has given me deeper insights into the process and some of its more subtle nuances. The image depicts a single figure seated in deep meditation. If you know anything about meditation you understand that the act itself is a form of ingathering as one becomes still, goes within, begins to decompress from the body/mind’s constant barrage of sensory stimuli so that one can be renewed. As she receives divine transformation her head lifts up towards the heavens and in a gesture of receptivity and thanksgiving for the spiritual energies she is receiving. There is an opening, an infusion, a download if you will that will energize and awakens parts of her being (both physically and spiritually) which had previously lain dormant. The ability to literally float upon the air and phase in and out of  physical reality was a common feat documented on the life stories of many spiritual masters. 

As the figure floats upon the air bolts of lightning spread out beneath her. These thunderbolts represent not only spiritual power but the subsequent ability to affect the physical realm of nature – an ability that is also shared by those who have ascended and is usually narrated in the form of healings, walking on water, stilling storms, speaking with animals…etc.  Those who reach this level of mastery have power flowing through them that has a spontaneous effect upon others around them. This phenomena was responsible for the veneration of relics and other sacred items that belonged to holy figures. For example, the bible speaks of people being healed by the touching the discarded garments of the apostle Paul and other noted saints. 

Her hair rises up as it is filled with the sacred energies that are being received and course through her entire being. These energies are both spiritual and physical. Her hands form a mudra symbolizing power and transformation, while her eyes open up toward the heavens above. All the while she is supported by the divine hand of god which serves as a support, source of uplift, and grounding protection from any lower energies.

The burning fire bursting forth from the figure’s heart symbolizes healing, regeneration, and the development of a richer sense of intuition and connection to spiritual realities. There is so much discussion in circles about the third eye and its power to open one to spiritual insights, that we often forgot the true seat of all knowing is not from the mind or upper chakras, but from and within the heart. The same spiritual fire depicted within the figure’s chest is also mirrored above her in each of the smaller orbs that comprise the outer portion of the heavenly circle above. This divine connection is maintained within the awakened heart.

The other symbols within the piece are all loosely based upon numerological theories. The large circle above her is an adaptation of the Fibonacci scaling system which is directly connected to Phi and the golden rule of divine proportion found throughout nature, art, music, the human body, and symbology. The circular scaling sequence and the spiraling energies within the circle are all part of this system. The floating circular shapes are healing glyphs fashioned of copper that have been purported to heal those who come into contact with them, while the 9 pointed triangular shapes within the glyphs are indicative of the 9 personality types found within the Enneagram.  The number 4 is associated with the earthly plane so the four glyphs are earthly symbols which help to keep the figure grounded as the heavenly energies descend and fuse with her physical nature.  As in many of my other images, the figure is encircled within a biomorphically shaped ring of power which is indicative of both spiritual power and the auric energies.

This image will be the cover for my next major project. I have begun the process of developing 2 books for next year. This image will serve as the cover of project number 2. A large format coffee table book entitled: When We Pray: Seven Monographs on the Aesthetics of Prayer and the Spiritual Life. Look for further details by the end of March 2017! 

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Damon’s Originals

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God of the Oppressed

God of the Oppressed bw300

INSPIRATION

Although this image has flowered recently, the nights of reflection and debate that planted the seeds for its creation go back almost 20 years. Seeds that were planted during my second semester at seminary where I received my initial exposure to the writings of Dr. James Cone, the parent of Black Theology. That seed was then watered by the writings of Gustavo Gutierrez, the parent of Latin American Liberation Theology, and fertilized in the fruitful soil of ongoing theological debate and reflection.

I find both ironic and appropriate that I have given birth to an image of Jesus so close to the season in which his birth is celebrated throughout the world. For some this birth means nothing – and for others everything. The most practical and pertinent questions have nothing to do with whether or not Jesus ever existed as an actual person, is he the son of god…and everything to do with his contemporary relevance in a world where his presence (real or otherwise) has made a lasting impression. There are so many differing voices and factions claiming  possession of Jesus that it’s extremely difficult to discuss his relevance to the current state of affairs, until we ascertain “whose” Jesus we should be talking about? God of the Oppressed is a visual response to this question.

SYMBOLISM

Imagery

The nature of representational imagery necessitates the use of smaller, individual images (image begets image). The smaller individual images within the overall composition were carefully selected to support the overarching theme, “God of the Oppressed”.  In the process of supporting this theme, I have placed the images together in ways that detail or elaborate upon certain aspects of the theme while simultaneously reinforcing or supporting the other images around it. In this way, their interdependence mirrors our own interdependence.

The Asian male with his hand raised in defiance counter-balances the outstretched arm of Hitler behind him. The handcuffed figure in the prison garb is directly connected to the silhouetted figure behind bars – yet both are directly linked to the police officer firing his gun as he holds the dangling head of yet another victim…we go on and on this way as we circle our way around the entire composition.  My point with this effect was to remind us that despite all our futile attempts to deny our interdependence, each of us is connected to one another in myriad ways. The injustices we exercise upon another have an effect upon us, them, and the whole of humanity.

The Scriptural Texts

The figures carrying signs in the image’s lower left corner are central to its interpretation. Each of the figures holds a sign containing excerpts from key biblical texts. The young man in front stands before a sign which contains an excerpt from Luke 4.16-21 that reads: When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  

The gentleman walking behind the young man carries a sign with excerpts from Exodus 3.7-10 which states: Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

The final text is carried by a woman wearing a hat who marches just behind the two gentlemen. Her message is excerpted from the famous “Magnificant” contained in Luke 1.46-55: And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

The central theme within each of these texts is the emphasis upon liberation from oppression, suffering and injustice. Not only liberation from, but more importantly solidarity with those whose lives are being affected by injustice. Solidarity from a divine intelligence that feels what they feel, hears their cries and provides comfort in the midst of unjust and often hostile circumstances. A divinity that not only identifies with us in our brokenness but also promises to take concrete action toward justice on our behalf. These actions are not solely focused upon comfort for the soul but are grounded in concrete historical reality. There is no “pie in the sky” or promise of future glory in the hereafter. These are the actions of a being who walks with us and works on our behalf within the context of our present reality. Freedom and justice are to be struggled for “now” because they are pertinent to our physical experience.

These texts present us with a divinity that is filled with compassion and actively concerned with justice. A god who not only takes sides but exercises a preferential option for those who are oppressed. This is a divinity who cannot be contained or co-opted by the establishment. A creator who loves us all, but is willing to not only take sides and become proactively involved with our efforts to balance the scales of justice. That is why these texts lie at the core of my personal theology and are intimately connected to every other aspect of this image.

Jesus

The image of Jesus serves as the central figure within this illustration. He is surrounded by a mandorla like shape which is also representative of the fish symbol that the early church appropriated to depict their faith and mission. I intentionally made sure that the figure not only breaks through the mandorla to touch the other figures but the tail portions of the mandorla also connect with the outer figures as well. This helps unify the composition and create a direct physical connection between the Jesus and the figures that surround him. I also opted to make use of the traditional halo surrounding Jesus’ head. Both symbols indicate spiritual light and power that is being symbolically transmitted to the other figures as it connects them to Jesus. The silhouette upon the cross at Jesus’ feet is not only his cross but the cross of all those who are suffering from oppression – yet continue to engage in the struggle for justice and equality.

From my perspective, the real question is not about Jesus, but “whose Jesus?”  The Jesus of the oppressor never was and never can be the Jesus of the oppressed. The establishment has its own Jesus. He is not a person of color. He is not a Jew. He is not concerned with justice or equality and would never condone any kind of rebellion or insurrection. He is a wimp. His only interests are sentimental love and helping to maintain the status quo. Whose Jesus are you walking with?

My emphasis here is upon the person of Jesus as opposed to the risen Christ of faith. A Jesus who was born as a person of color into a minority community that was experiencing multiple forms of oppression. A Jesus who was: poor, stood up to a corrupt religious establishment, established his ministry by serving those who were considered the least within his community, was trapped by his enemies, abandoned by his inner circle, brutalized by the authorities, and ultimately tried and murdered by an oppressive government. This is the Jesus who has stood by my side, labored with me in my struggles and knows me in every aspect of my humanness.  This is the Jesus with whom I identify. This is the God of the Oppressed!

To Purchase a Print click on the image above, or use the link below:

Damon Powell – Artist & Theologian

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Leap of Faith

LEAP OF FAITH

INSPIRATION

There are times in life when we are compelled to take a “Leap of Faith.” Times when we must step out into the unknown with no possible idea what the outcome may be. Times when it has become just too painful to stay where you are. You may not know where or how to move, but deep in your gut you instinctively know that something must change. Oftentimes, we begin to examine our lives and the ever fearful voice of the rational mind says, “No, don’t do that you had better play it safe.” In those moments of decision we can either: let fear win and once again settle for less than what Spirit had intended for us; or we can listen to that still small voice, and take the leap of faith.

Every moment of life is an opportunity to step back into safety, remain where we are out of anxiety and fear, or leap forward in faith. We will never know what we are truly capable of until we begin to release our doubts, disbeliefs, and fears in order to replace them with optimism, hope, and faith. Last month in Winds of Hope I quoted the famous biblical verse from Hebrews 11.1 “Now faith is the substance of things we yet hope for, and the evidence of the things we do not yet see.” I also defined hope as, “The belief that the things we desire are capable of becoming reality”. As such I posited that hope is an essential component of faith. If hope is the precious cargo that each of us holds deep within, faith the is the ship which will carry it safely through life’s storms.

Faith is a convictional stance that embodies hope within a framework of trust. It offers the heart assurance that the hope one bears can be realized despite life’s apparent contradictions.  Many would have us believe that faith lies in opposition to or contradicts reason, but in reality faith it transforms.  This transformation is brought forth by bringing the objective (rational mind) and the subjective (inner heart) together in balance and focus. A healthy faith creates balance and focus by helping us to validate the self as an agent in achieving our hopes while simultaneously acknowledging that there is a greater source of truth that is available to aid and guide us. This transformation allows us to focus our thoughts and actions upon that which we hope for despite any lack of physical evidence to support our decisions because we trust that doing so is the only way that anything actually will change. Thus we see that faith requires that we take a vital and dynamic stance toward life. A stance which requires will, commitment, persistence, and trust that a source of wisdom far greater than self is ready and willing to provide us with assistance if we are prepared to accept it.

This is one of the reasons why faith is always exercised in the present. Faith forces us to live and be present in the “now” because that is the only time it can be actively expressed. We choose to trust now, act now, plan now, commit now, persist now…and this choice to focus our thoughts and actions upon the thing which we hope for prepares us to eventually receive it. Just as an idea or inspiration is lost without execution, so too “faith without works is dead.” Being conscious and present is always about expansion. To shrink back or stay put is about contraction and fear. Ultimately, fear is not about the obstacle you face, it’s about the level of faith and trust you are willing to act upon in that particular moment. Being in the now requires expansion, and as we expand for the leap out into what appears to be unknown; god, the universe, source, spirit expands to meet us. Faith prepares us to face the unknown but without action we are unable to receive it.

John Calvin defined faith as, “A steady and certain knowledge of divine benevolence toward us that is revealed in our minds and confirmed in our hearts” by Spirit. I truly believe that there is something beyond us. A center around which all other facets of being revolve. And that center is benevolent, kind, just…and willing to work in and through me to the degree that I am willing and prepared to accept it. For me, “Leap of Faith” serves as a symbolic reminder to move forward, take the leap out into a loving universe that is waiting meet me at the point of expectation. “According to your faith it shall be done for you.”

LEAP OF FAITH

LEAP OF FAITH

SYMBOLISM

I knew that something more than a single figure painted upon the paper was needed to create any kind of relevant composition. But the leaping figure was so visually powerful that I didn’t want to overburden the rest of the composition with too many additional details. The problem was incorporating an image or symbol which resonated with my inspiration but did not compete with the central image for the viewer’s attention. I needed something that was consistent with my vision but subtle enough for me to maintain control of the leaping figure as the image’s primary focal point.

The Japanese symbol Mitsudomoe provided exactly what was needed. The Mitsudomoe is found throughout Japan in many of the country’s Shinto temples. The three comma-like shapes within the circle are called “tomoe” and are reminiscent of the same tomoe found in the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol. In Shintoism the mitsudomoe represents the three realms of existence: humanity, earth, and sky. These three exist in a tripartite relationship of mutuality and interdependence. This conception correlates with my previous discussion of faith if we see humanity as the subjective aspect of the faith equation because our individual hope is always personal and subjective. Sky symbolizes the divine as the objective aspect of the being and its’ eagerness to work with us in the process of bringing our unique vision into materiality. The earth corresponds to the realm of action where humanity and sky come together in the project of materialization. A mature active faith requires all three and recognizes their interdependence.

The three swirling tomoe imply movement and action while simultaneously embodying the three aspects of faith.  In “Leap of Faith”, the leaping figure represents a healthy humanity expanding itself in a forward leap. The figure is both purple and lavender. Purple is a color often associated with spirit or spiritual strength/power while  lavender is reminiscent of the colors found in the higher chakras. The pink and blues in the composition are symbolic of both sky or heavens (blue) and the higher chakras or spiritual realms (pink). The brown represents the earthly realm where the demonstration of faith will ultimately be manifested.

In this case, the leaping figure takes the action by leaping out into the unknown, but this is not possible without divine aid to guide, protect, and provide all that will be needed. Simultaneously, the results and context in which all of this activity takes place is the earthly realm. Both the leap and the evidence of divine support must both be played out within the context of earthly life. Thus, the three realms work in mutual interdependence. For me, this relationship is symbolized within the mitsudomoe.

To Purchase a Print click on the image above, or use the link below:

Damon Powell – Artist & Theologian

To purchase an original work please contact me directly at:

info@damonpowell.com

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