Perseverance

Perseverance seems like a dowdy old Victorian word and concept, without much flash or appeal.  To be sure, the idea of just keeping on isn’t as glamorous as the idea of “Joy” or some other kind of delight.

But perseverance is the steady helpmate of anyone who has ever achieved anything in life.  Sometimes just carrying on is the best task we can muster.  But the reward is that we do get to point “B” at some time.  The ability to carry on even when we would really rather not but we know if we do we will get where we want to go is a quality well worth developing.          

I grew up in a mountainous region, so climbing a mountain holds the symbolism of effort towards accomplishment for me.  Many people dream of climbing mountains so perhaps the mountain is a universal symbol of rising above something and finding the higher ground in a situation. 

Sometimes perseverance just means to do something even if you don’t know what to do.  It keeps the energy moving and allows change to come.

During this time of social isolation to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it is easy to become weary of the hassle of wearing a mask and refraining from social life, but we must persevere!

Prosperity

We often think that the word “prosperity” means wealth, but actually it means to look forward, or to hope for something in the future. When we look forward we make choices in the present that will benefit us in the future, and we prosper by doing that.  To be a farmer relies on this forward thinking.

In ancient hunter/gatherer societies people lived more in tune with the timing of the hunt, or of nomadic patterns and what one could gather as one moved.  There are times when being willing to act in the moment and pull up stakes immediately is what our situation calls for.  Other times, we need the patience and foresight of agriculture, we need to plan ahead and carefully plot out what we want in order to open a new set of possibilities.

In this image, the land has been carefully tended and plotted; things are planted, are growing, and reaching fruition.  There is great wealth available from so many myriad sources and when we align ourselves with the process of planning what we want, we can be amazed by our great success.

I wrote that about a year ago. Now, in the coronavirus pandemic, we are seeing how important these farming skills are. We are seeing how much more healthy and reliable it is for us to either grow more of our own food or to have local sources that practice sustainable methods. We are being told that unless we go back to the corporate system of supply, even by sacrificing lives to do so, that our economy will be defeated. But, we can also use this time to create another way and cultivate a healthier system that is local and respectful of the earth and all people on it, not just those who are profiting at the expense of others.

Community

I wrote the following paragraphs about “Community” a year or more ago. It is ironic now in the time of social distancing that the coronavirus has caused us to practice that by staying apart we are helping each other to be healthy. We are really getting some good lessons about community by having it turned inside out like this. I personally am so grateful for the healthy and loving energy of the community in which I live. The worst has brought out the best in many, still I desperately miss the simple daily interactions with others that are gone for now. I’m glad to live around so many caring people who are helping each other in so many ways and I hope that we can all work to overcome the huge imbalances in our national and global communities that this pandemic has revealed in such stark detail. Let us use this opportunity to build healthier communities on all levels.

To live in peaceful community with others brings health and joy to all.  When we share with those around us, we partake of so much more than when we live in solitude.  In community we find comfort, pleasure, and stimulation.  So many things such as gardening, raising children, and tending animals are much easier and more efficient done in harmony with others.

In the image there is a cluster of houses around a central tree.  The individual houses signify the respect of individual boundaries while the proximity of them to each other clustered around the tree represents the unity in this place.  All are enriched by their presence with each other.

Peace

In seeking to live a good life for ourselves, we inevitably come to the place where our own good is inextricably tied to the good of all others.  No matter how well our own lives are, if there is war and strife on the planet, we are not really living a good life.

Therefore, in our quest for self realization we must work also to envision and create a place of peace for all.  Life needs peace to continue, and the good of all depends upon global peace.  In the same way that our individual thoughts have the power to lead us into certain conditions and draw forth material results, we have the power collectively to create peace by changing our consciousness about it.  We can all put our passion into imagining peace, envisioning peace, and then work together to create it.

I wrote that about a year ago. Now, for earth day, 2020, I am thinking of world peace with renewed urgency and with climate science as well as the pandemic in mind. Strangely, the current situation with the virus has created a kind of pause that is like peace (although very painfully gained) for our planet. Let’s work to establish a new world of peace that lasts well beyond this crisis and forever.

Dignity

With dignity, one never forgets ones own value.  Remembering that, one remembers also the value of all others.

This little cat taught me a great deal about dignity.  When I found her living on a city street and eating from a dumpster, she still nonetheless spotlessly cleaned herself.  Once she let me bring her inside and we tamed each other, she taught me the fine skill cats have for always finding the greatest comfort in every situation.  To know that one deserves to have the best of everything and then to allow oneself to relax completely into the comfort of this knowledge is to own up to ones own dignity.  Every cat knows how to bask in the sunlight and you can learn this, too.

Today this image of dignity reminds me of us wearing masks in this era of Covid-19. This kitty looks like she’s wearing a mask, and her sense of her own value shows in that she washes her paws often! Let us be the same through this time of germs, and show each other that we see each and every creature as being valuable and worthy of our reverence and protection.

Plenty

This is a simple image of food.  The bowl is full with colorful, sensuous fruit and vegetables.  Herbs hang above and nuts sit beside the bowl.  The tile and the checkered table are kitchen decor, and hint at the concept of comfort, a hearth to gather at, and a place to cook.    

In dream symbolism kitchens and cooking indicate psychological transformation.  It is by growing food, preparing it, and eating that we are nourished, grow, and thrive.  Our actual bodies consist of what we eat. While this is simple and basic, it is also rife with meaning.  How we relate to our rituals about home and food are wonderful opportunities to heal and nurture ourselves.  Allowing ourselves to have just the right amount of all that is good and pleasing to us is the place where we feel secure in our plenitude, yet not overwhelmed by too much or too little.

In these times of Coronavirus many are experiencing food scarcity. At the same time, people are returning to the simple way of growing more of their own food and working in community with others to produce and share food at a communal level. It is also a time to re-evaluate our relationships to the earth, to animals, and to our place in the eco-system. May we all have plenty to nourish us on every level.

Openness

Happy Easter, Passover, or Spring, whatever you celebrate today, or not. Today the idea of “Openness” seems appropriate. We are in lock-down at home because of the Coronavirus but it is still spring and a holiday to many. To be open has a double meaning: it can mean empty as the image above implies, or so full that something pushes open, as an egg or a flower bud. Opening is the life process of turning inside out.

In many ways we are all going through a kind of opening with this pandemic. We are being forced to feel the emptiness of death and despair and this is shattering. Yet, in the shattering and the emptiness, there is a pause that allows us the space for something new. To me that’s what Easter is about, and the ancient wisdom of death and rebirth that is present in just about all human stories of rebirth that predate the Easter one.

This is what I wrote about this image a year ago:

Good can only come to one who is open to it. Most of us clutter up our minds with a lot of worry and stressful thinking that is totally unnecessary and stands in our way of experiencing the good all around us. Even if all we know or feel is something awful or painful, if we can make a little opening in our misery, something new can enter in, and we make room for other stories and with different endings and beginnings.

The image of a bowl such as this is something I have painted over and over.  It is one of my prime symbols.  It is an archetype for the container that is so important to our life: the womb, the nest, the boat, the home, the vessel that contains the self.  The bowl is the shell that allows us to form.  Here it is filled with the light of consciousness.  The light both fills the vessel and allows it to remain empty.

Simplicity

This image of “Simplicity” is my favorite of this whole “Illumination” series. Over the years, I have had to add a daughter, a dog, a horse, other versions of cats but the basic sense of being home with loved ones, or alone, or with pets, or occasional friends or whatever has remained constant. This image is about the joy of a place on the earth where one can find shelter, sink roots, let life be safe and stable. How important and yet how fragile and tenuous for so many people on the earth.

During this time of sheltering in place I am sending out my plea for us all to become more conscious of how basic a right housing is, and how fundamental a need and a cause for widespread availability of such for all. Whether a tiny house, a community state-of-the-art co-housing operation, housing is for us all, not just the wealthy who will no doubt try to use this pandemic as an opportunity to grab more wealth in housing, further disenfranchising more people.

Okay, that’s my current rant. Here is what I wrote about this image in the original version, pre-pandemic:

Simplicity is the quality of being uncomplicated, of taking things to their most basic and pure way of being.  In this image, the house provides a container for the self, a safe place where the self can unfold.  The simple structure of a house with four walls and a pointed roof is like a basic foundation or building block that occurs over and over in nature; it is solid and stable.  Here the house is flanked by two trees, the sun and moon, flowers, animals, and all the elements of a peaceful summer day.

In this space, there is no stress or strain; all is content.  The self is at home, secure and free. Without complexity there is no sense of the burdens of great responsibility inherent in the world beyond the safe boundaries of “home”.  The self is unfettered and relaxed. The red door signifies the natural warmth of the dwelling.  Here is a home where the heart can dwell. The cats are natural symbols of domesticity, or soft power. Here they are in the garden, a space that is carved away from the wilderness beyond, and is ordered and comfortable.

Gratitude

The word “gratitude” is related to “grace” and to “gratis” which means free.  To feel gratitude is to become conscious of all the abundant grace that freely comes to us and to feel thankful in that recognition.  Our hearts are full to overflowing, and are opened by this feeling of thanksgiving.

In this image, the heart is at the center pouring forth its loving warmth.  All around it, in a circle, are emblems of some of the many things to be thankful for, including angelic animals, birds and bees, music, language, the elements of air, earth, fire, water, home, hands, tools for hands to use, and vessels to hold what is dear to us.

The posture of gratitude, along with love, is what fuels the creative process.  When our hearts are full with gratitude we make room to experience what we feel to be good, and we acknowledge all the blessings we enjoy right here and now, letting go of our constant yearnings for more, or at least letting them be abated for a time while we savor the moment of satiation and joyful reward.

In these strange times of Coronavirus, I am grateful for so many things despite the loss of so many others. I am grateful for people’s help and care for each other, and for the birds singing, the geese who have returned, and the promise of spring that the earth still holds for us.

Reverence

Reverence means deep respect, awe, love, and high esteem.  It means to see the innate or natural perfection in something and to humbly acknowledge this great presence in all that is.

This image depicts a childlike view of all creation, filled with myriad creatures, flora and fauna in rich profusion, as well as the elements of earth, air, water, and the sun’s fire.  All these components are filled with divine energy and are deserving of the highest reverence.  Also, the natural patterns that exist in the relationships between each entity in the universe are complex and important; we don’t have the ability to know how everything is connected so we must show respect for the natural balances that are beyond our control.

Holding the universe in reverence puts us in harmony with all others and creates a balance of health and beauty. The great thinker, Pascal, argued in the mid-17th century about “the disproportion of man,” how our humble place in the universe, lodged between the infinitely grand scale of the cosmos and the infinitely minute scale of life and living things, means that we can never know anything with complete certitude, nor control nature. Thinking well is what Pascal believes to be our moral fortitude which involves having the humility to know our place in the scheme of things. To me, this is reverence.

In our former paradigm which we see crumbling around us, men believed they could know everything and thereby control everything. But we see daily the destruction and harm that this attitude has for our planet. By changing our paradigm to one of reverence for the wisdom and perfection that exists in nature and in all living things, and the earth, we can humbly be stewards of creation rather than destroyers of it. We can change our attitude of privilege, the patriarchal one that asserts that man is above other creatures and life and is therefore entitled to pillage and wrack the natural world and weaker life forms for his own ends. Instead, we can humbly revere life and be willing to participate in harmonious relations with all of creation.