“So She had Outdanced Thought”…Go with the Flow

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I was listening on National Public Radio this past week to a discussion about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk theme of “Flow” (http://www.npr.org/2015/04/17/399806632/what-makes-a-life-worth-living).  The neuropsychologist explains that the brain can process no more than something like 120 bits of information at a time. The more closely we focus on some activity, the less we are aware of many surrounding conditions or facts that might otherwise vie for our attention. When we are working with great concentration on something we dearly love—like a work of art, giving a performance onstage, writing, or competing at a sports event, we enter “the Flow,” effectively transcending space and time altogether while absorbed in this all-consuming activity in the Now.

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The NPR journalist associated this transcendent experience of “flow” with Abraham Maslow’s notion of a “peak experience.”  I know this concept quite well both as a writer and from when I was a competitive Fencer. I recall quite well one fencing tournament in Tucson, Arizona. I was so focused on being centered and fencing from that Center at that particular tournament that when I fenced, I won every bout 4-0 (and the tournament) and yet I hardly even knew what had just occurred when I stepped off from the fencing strip. The actions themselves had become almost “automatic”: advance/ retreat, attack / parry-riposte, etcetera were not consciously engaged but happened spontaneously from that Center. …”What a rush!” one might say, when this happens!

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Poetry is a medium that brings out my own artistic nature or my ARTIST Archetype Ally, that part of Self that I gratefully share consciousness with to better appreciate form, color, balance, and Nature.  One of my favorite poems from my favorite poet, W. B.Yeats, expresses poignantly the transcendent Flow of the Artist; in this case, in his dream of three Figures: “A Buddha, hands at rest / Hand lifted up that blessed; A Sphinx, head erect, in triumph of intellect… ; and “right between these two a girl that danced”.  Here are the relevant verses from part II of “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes” (from http://www.yeatsvision.com/Doublevision.html ) :

II
On the grey rock of Cashel I suddenly saw
A Sphinx with woman breast and lion paw,
A Buddha, hand at rest,
Hand lifted up that blest;And right between these two a girl at play
That, it may be, had danced her life away,
For now being dead it seemed
That she of dancing dreamed.Although I saw it all in the mind’s eye
There can be nothing solider till I die;
I saw it by the moon’s light
Now at its fifteenth night.One lashed her tail; her eyes lit by the moon
Gazed upon all things known, all things unknown,
In triumph of intellect
With motionless head erect.

That other’s moonlit eyeballs never moved,
Being fixed on all things loved, all things unloved,
Yet little peace he had,
For all that love are sad.

O little did they care who danced between,
And little she by whom her dance was seen
So she had outdanced thought.
Body perfection brought,

For what but eye and ear silence the mind
With the minute particulars of mankind?
Mind moved yet seemed to stop
As ’twere a spinning-top.

In contemplation had those three so wrought
Upon a moment, and so stretched it out
That they, time overthrown,
Were dead yet flesh and bone.

III

I knew that I had seen, had seen at last
That girl my unremembering nights hold fast
Or else my dreams that fly
If I should rub an eye,

And yet in flying fling into my meat
A crazy juice that makes the pulses beat
As though I had been undone
By Homer’s Paragon

So what about you? When are you most in the Flow? How can you use this experience to channel your inner Artist and to accomplish your deepest ambitions?

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images from pixabay.com

ART to the RESCUE: A Popular Better Ending Theme

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One of my favorite all-time movies is the original “An Affair to Remember” with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant. Of course it is a highly romantic tale of star-crossed lovers who find each other on an ocean cruise while both are otherwise engaged with the ‘wrong’ people back on land.  What interests me this month as we are exploring the ARTIST archetype is how in “An Affair to Remember,” it is the ARTIST to the rescue, to save the day and make sure not only that these two destined lovers marry, but more importantly, that each is able to manifest their fullest potentials.(Click to see scenes at  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050105/ )

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Nikkie Ferrante, global playboy about to marry for money to perpetuate his high living lifestyle, is in reality a frustrated Dreamer, an Artist.  Meeting Terry McKay, who teaches voice in New York City to children, brings Nikkie face to face and heart to heart with his true inner calling, not just to marry Miss McKay but to return to his Art at any cost in order to support a family on his own. When these two promise to meet after six months at the top of the Empire State building to forego their prior engagements and declare their love for each other so they may marry, Nikkie gives up his aim to ‘marry into money’ and live off his wife’s inheritance and he vows instead to be an ARTIST, destitute if need be, even alone if that must be what occurs after the six month hiatus.

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It is also quite literally Art to the rescue in the pivotal scene at the end, when Nikkie visits Terry to bring a gift of a shawl from his deceased Aunt after he and Terry have become estranged. He had been there at the Empire State building and believed that Terry was not, although the audience is quite aware Terry was hit by a car and crippled on her way to their meeting place:

“I was looking up; it was the nearest thing to Heaven. You were there!”

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Terry visits Nikkie at her apartment where she remains seated on her couch; it is only when Nikkie enters her bedroom and sees his own painting of Terry wearing his Aunt’s shawl (which he was told had been purchaesd by a lady in a wheelchair), that he understands. Terry also wanted her independence and to be true to herself; she needed to be able to walk before she would have sought out Nikkie on her own.

The song Terry coaches children to sing in the movie is about listening to one’s “conscience;” again, to be true to one’s innermost callings rather than taking the easy, obvious pathway in life.  Many people defray or submerge their own ARTIST’s WAY; that is, they may not listen to what their unconscious, archetypal ARTIST part of Self is trying to express, either to the world or to their own conscious sensibilities.

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images are from pixabay.com

Express your own Inner ARTIST’s Nature! What would it have you do today? In an important situation? Heed the Call!

I welcome your Comments and Stories!

Your Artistic Vein

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May is associated with the Archetype of the ARTIST. We each have artistic tendencies, whether or not we have developed these talents for our profession or as hobbies.

Your Inner Artist brings a sensitivity to form, color, texture, vibrancy, and style.  S/he helps you to appreciate symmetry, balance, and holistic design.

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Certain sorts of life experience may evoke or stimulate your ARTIST Archetype Ally. For me, spending time at an art museum or strolling through an art show allows my ARTIST to surface, center stage.

I love the sense of heightened appreciation of light, beauty, and form that infuses my senses when I step out from a museum after having absorbed myself in the artworks inside.

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When I was first in college in Buffalo, New York, the Albright-Knox art museum was just across the street from the campus.  For most of the time I was there, the museum hosted an Impressionists Hall that included one particular original painting by Vincent Van Gogh called “The Old Mill.” I had read Vincent, by Joost Poldermans, and I was (still am) fascinated by Van Gogh’s brilliant art. I became mesmerized by this one painting every time I visited the exhibit. There was a bench opposite from the painting, and I would sit literally for hours in front of this dynamic, folksy tableau of color, texture, and human passion. I would journal about the painting or about life. I would watch the museum patrons as they approached, viewed, and left or stood to discuss Vincent’s work.

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images from pixabay.com

(Notice in this one how the clouds are reaching forward like a hand over the landscape!)

I felt that the color of the rivulet flowing across the scene in “The Old Mill” painting mirrored Vincent’s own eyes of blue, placing his presence as centrally positioned, eternally embedded in the Southern French landscape portrayed.

This week, I invite you to give yourself an Artist’s Date, such as Julia Cameron describes in her excellent book, The Artist’s Way. This is  a time out, a chance for you to do something differently and pay attention to your environment. Maybe it is taking a walk along a lake, or a different road home. Or, simply engage in art in some form for its own sake. In fact, I encourage you to read and engage with the exercises in The Artist’s Way all this month.

I welcome your Comments and invite your Stories about your relationship with your own ARTIST Ally.

Across the Great Divide

This week we will explore the connection between the ARTIST archetype and the life metaphor of Crossing the Threshold to Embark on your Greatest Adventure.  One connection that comes to mind for me is Nanci Griffith’s beautifully artistic rendition of the song by Kate Wolf, “Across the Great Divide.”  Here are the lyrics and the song itself (click here to hear it):

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Across the Great Divide

(by Kate Wolf), performed by Nanci Griffith

I’ve been walkin’ in my sleep
Countin’ troubles ‘stead of countin’ sheep
Where the years went I can’t say
I just turned around and they’ve gone away

I’ve been siftin’ through the layers
Of dusty books and faded papers
They tell a story I used to know
And it was one that happened so long ago

Chorus
It’s gone away in yesterday
Now I find myself on the mountainside
Where the rivers change direction
Across the Great Divide

Now, I heard the owl a-callin’
Softly as the night was fallin’
With a question and I replied
But he’s gone across the borderline

Chorus

The finest hour that I have seen
Is the one that comes between
The edge of night and the break of day
It’s when the darkness rolls away

Chorus Twice

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The divide between “the edge of night and the break of day” certainly evokes the potential for a major Threshold Crossing, one ripe with possibility but also with uncertainty.

Last night I watched the film Still Alice with Julianne Moore. The brilliant woman she portrayed, struggling with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, must straddle “where the rivers change direction” and come to terms with the value of the quality of life as contrasted with healthful longevity. Her loved ones, who cannot accompany their mother and wife directly on her journey into the oblivion of memory loss, provide her with that quality of loving companionship and compassion that allows her to have the best possible transition she can.

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The ARTIST helps us to forge and to accomplish our greatest life transitions. In Still Alice, the main character, a linguistics professor at Columbia University, relies on her skills at the art of communication to maintain her grip on life and to nurture her relations and herself for as long as she is able. She practices memory tasks with words; she spends several days slowly but surely crafting one final address, to sponsor a benefit for Alzheimers.  She demonstrates GRACE and forebearance and so she exits gradually but in the highest spirit she can muster. Seeing her fortitude, those around her provide their loving support, acknowledging her gifts to the end.

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How might you call upon your inner ARTIST Ally to help you to identify and Cross the Great Divide?

What is it for you?

The Art of Illuminating

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n historical practice I have always been endeared to is the contemplative art of Illuminating. Monks, perhaps sworn to vows of silence, charity and celibacy, would spend long, prayerful days, months and years embellishing a sacred text. Every letter, especially opening ones, and every phrase was lovingly enhanced and colored by the artist’s brush. The Artist-Monk himself gained deep insight about the text he was illuminating in the process of heightening the meaning and value of the work for other readers. Many of the finished products would be housed in special Church libraries or archives, well guarded there to withstand the onslaught of human histories; preserved as pristine artefacts of a more pure, illuminated time.

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This art of Illuminating appears to have been mainly lost to today’s fast paced publishing world and our Western consumer culture. Now we dash off an email, hardly even taking the time or giving the thought to write and send a personal letter. We consume electronic text as though it were of no value except for the information relayed. After all, everything now is disposable; we prize the Delete key above all others.  Are too many emails potentially threatening our computer’s memory capacity? “Delete; Delete them All!” we can command, and it is done. (Later we will purge the Deleted file itself to finally rid our minds of the accumulated textual debris.)

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How might we revitalize the Art of Illuminating in our everyday lives today?

It starts with where we place our attention and with what attitude we attend to the objects of our perception. Remember to appreciate Beauty, every day. Rise for the sunrise, pull off the road to appreciate a mountain scape, walk your dog just before sunset then maybe go to a park or canyon to witness the panorama of color that the sunset bestows. Take in the beauty of our natural environment with every breath and you will find that the pace of life will slow down and become more calm, as will your interactions with others.

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Let Beauty be your Muse, as the ancients knew.

If we are to address the issues of global climate change and technological explosion from a humane standpoint and with a balanced point of view, I believe we must return to the art of Illuminating every precious moment, every vital resource and every life form.

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I always welcome your Comments and Stories.

Avril, My Inner ARTIST

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I highly recommend “archetype dialogue” as a fun, dynamic mode of active imagination and/or journaling. It can help you to meet &  greet your own usually unconscious ensemble cast of archetypal personas that are very important facets of your own Self! Just as an example of how freeform yet deep-reaching and energizing an informal practice of archetypal tuning in and dialogue can be, allow me to model the approach by engaging in conversation with my own ARTIST Ally.

The process is simple. Relax and invite your archetypal cast of characters or one of them in specific to engage in dialogue. Allow yourself to shift between consciousness states naturally. It may help to consider how dominant archetypes are associated with role personas you occupy. Shift attention to a situational mode in which you normally ‘channel’—as it were; or, enact—the archetypal viewpoint you wish to engage with (e.g., if you are a teacher, the Teacher archetype, or as a Parent, the Nourisher or the Elder Leader archetype). In this dialogue your core conscious persona—“you” as your normal subjective self, or Soul—will usually remain the interviewing or initiating narrator.

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So, to begin:

L:            What may I call you?

A:           I am April; you know: lw/avril !

L:            Oh, well that is lovely then. It makes sense!

A:           Tell the story for your blog post; I’ll help…

L:            Well, okay. When I was in college in Buffalo I had an amazing mentor who was a Philosophy professor, Toni (Antoinette) Mann Paterson. She became a good friend. While she was first getting to know me as a student, through a Creative Studies program she was helping facilitate one semester, Toni asked me one day:

“What is your name?”

“Linda,” I answered, bemused because she already knew that.

“No, it’s not! I mean, what is your REAL name?”

“(Long pause)… … April?”

“Yes, That’s it! You don’t feel to me like a Linda, at all. Now April, that name suits you.”

L:            Okay, so the name April for me actually goes back to when I was around 7 or 8. My older brother told me I was an orphan. He used the fact that my Mom had lost my birth certificate to convince me I had been adopted. Since I was smaller than my siblings and always felt somewhat an awkward child, it was not hard for me to believe my brother’s ruse. I came up then with the alternate name of April from a little girl down the street who often played on a trampoline in her yard. Having the name of a month appealed to my sense of difference; especially “April”.

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A:           It was me who was the author of the artistic aspects of your journaling then, when you signed lw/avril !

L:            So you were!

A:           I wrote poetry, and invented your “Foto” scapes practice of describing scenes with words as you would use a “Camera Obscura”…

L:            The name of one of our journals!  I—or we, then—journalled constantly back then—filling some 20 journals in the first four years of college. Thanks for that! I have always thought of my journal as a Friend; I guess that is, in part, you!

A:           And our Inner Guide, too, the Mahanta.

L:            Absolutely.

A:           So then, what has been the value to you of our journaling?

L:            It has never ended; this very conversation and this blog are extensions of our never-ending alliance!

A:           C’est bon! Oui, Oui, mon Amie!

lw / Avril

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I invite and welcome YOUR insights and stories!