City of the Dead, Ceremonial Healing

Ancient Tribal Traditions Survive in Modern Festivities
shot

For eons we humans have called on our ancestors in times of trouble, and that need still exists today. Making peace with the past is essential for making peace in the present and the future. The expression of grief is often considered one of the highest forms of prayer, because the act of grieving acknowledges our deep love and gratitude for the blessing of life itself.

It is commonly believed that violence and anger are the result of unexpressed sorrow and grief. Celebrating life in a ceremonial way creates a safe place for the whole community to grieve together. Each one of us has been touched and shaped by others who are no longer here. October is a time for ghouls, ghosts, trick-or-treaters and candy, but there is something much spiritually deeper and ancient than what we see on the surface of these modern festivities.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 8.37.48 AM

It is our responsibility to keep the memory and wisdom of our ancestors alive in our own lives, to forgive the past while embracing the present moment. In a society that focuses on accomplishments and being busy all of the time, the courage to embrace each other in the vulnerable realm of our emotions and feelings is priceless. We will pass from this life some day, and taking time to remember that can inspire us to live with love and compassion for all who share this life with us.

Imagine more than 50,000 people of all ages including children, parents and grandparents pulling floats honoring their ancestors wearing La Catrina whiteface alongside drummers, stilt walkers, and samba dancers parading through the city streets. It happens every year in Tucson, Arizona. This year marks The 28th Annual All Souls Procession and there is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world.

A giant urn is wheeled through the crowd collecting the prayers, wishes, and dreams of each participant as it passes. At the end of the procession the urn is hoisted high above the crowd in preparation of a grand finale filled with fire and spectacle. It is ceremony in an ancient but contemporary form, a creative expression of community that is so important yet often missing in our modern world.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 8.41.02 AM

The giant burning urn may conjure thoughts of the popular Burning Man Festival, but there is a profound difference. The All Souls Procession is a free, cross-generational, sober event that is integrated into an urban center with cultural roots that go back for millennia. Incorporating elements of contemporary Day of The Dead like sugar skulls, marigolds, and elaborate shrines lit by candles, the weekend is filled with meaningful events, performances, and an invitation for all to participate.

Precolonial Mesoamericans were deeply rooted in a cultural heritage dating over 3,000 years. One ritualistic observance was ancestor reverence which included both honoring and making offerings or sacrifices to one’s ancestors. It was believed that during this time, the dead visited their still-living relatives and that communication was possible between the living and deceased. According to Mesoamerican tradition, the realm of the dead was not frightening, but serene. The deceased rested peacefully until it was time to visit the living. Precolonial civilizations described death and life as continuous interwoven aspects of the human experience. Instead of feared, death and the dead were welcomed and celebrated. Upon arriving in present day central Mexico over 500 years ago, Catholic Spanish conquistadors desired not only territory and resources, but also spiritual control of the people they conquered. Spanish conquistadors labeled native rituals as sacrilegious and led violent attempts to indoctrinate early indigenous civilizations into Catholicism. -Wikipedia

Tucson is an ancient place surrounded by the majesty of the Sonoran Desert and many diverse communities. Arizona is filled with vibrant Native American culture from The Apache to Hopi, Navajo, Yaqui, Tohono O’odham and many others. Tucson sits at the cross-roads between north and south with a rich history of Spanish Missions, outlaws, and cowboys. These natural and historical elements are blended together under the direction of Nadia Hagen, Paul Weir, through the non-profit organization, Many Mouths One Stomach and powered by an army of local volunteers who are all dedicated to making sure that each year is better than the previous.

All Souls workshops span the whole month of October and culminate on November 4, and 5. Saturday at Armory Park is The Procession of Little Angels, where kids paint their own angel wings and sugar skulls while watching performances from Stories That Soar and Tucson Circus Arts followed by a sunset Lantern Procession around the park.  Sunday is the All Souls Procession and Finale with floats, bands and big crews assembling at 4 p.m. for the procession. This year also brings the premiere of Many Bones One Heart, a documentary film about the procession by Leslie Ann Epperson.

The Grand Finale is hosted by Flam Chen, one of the nation’s oldest fire circus theatrical groups. Watch silk aerialists dangle from a crane above the urn which is lifted onto a scaffold while fire spinners, folklorico dancers, hauntingly beautiful music, and acrobatic stilt walkers fill the stage under the desert sky with city skyscrapers just a few blocks away. The urn, made of geometrical patterns, now filled with mementos collected during the procession is set ablaze. It lights up like a lantern warming the faces of onlookers setting their dreams and prayers free with a roar of cheers (and tears) from the crowd.

Local artist and photographer Stu Jenks has compiled some of the best photos of previous All Souls Processions into an Ibook called, It’s a Mystery, and all proceeds from the purchase of this visual odyssey go directly to supporting this free community event. Two other Ibooks were also created recently to help families bring depth and meaning to this season. The first book, Procession of Little Angels, is a scrap-book with photos and illustrations for children, the second is The All Souls Loteria, both by Nadia Hagen. Visit their donation page here and look for their Facebook page to see photos posted shortly after the event.

Wherever you may be in the days following Halloween this year, please take a moment to remember all those who have come before you and reflect on what it means to be alive.

ARTICLE PHOTOS BY EMILY ANN JONES

FEATURED IMAGE BY ADDIE MANNAN

 

Summer of Love Turns 50 With a Global Call to Action

Martin Luther King stated that “hatred can not drive out hatred, only love can do that”, but what does that love look like when it is put into action? The Summer of Love in 1967 gave us a template for a great awakening of consciousness, love, and social action. 50 years later we see a global movement that is not content to overindulge nostalgic sentimentality, yet we must remember the roots to this dream of peace, love, and understanding. Something new is blossoming from the seeds that were planted in those turbulent times. Today we address the challenges of this time with a renewed sense of purpose, and urgency using creativity, technology, and a fearless love for the immense blessing of life.
First Global Broadcast June 25, 1967 on the BBC’s Our World with the Beatles’ All You Need is Love

Media Can Bring Division or Unity, a Matter of Priorities

Bringing division has become a trend lately which can be seen by anyone sifting through their Facebook Feed, or turning on the television (Fox for the right, MSNBC for the left in America). However, things didn’t start out this way and the pendulum is starting to shift as we begin to recognize how futile the mud-slinging and division is for our well-being and for the planet. Bob Dylan’s wisdom was as true then as it is today, the times they are a changing!
The very first ever global broadcast happened on this day in 1967. It was a BBC program called Our World. The Beatles were commissioned to write and perform a piece of music that 400 million people would be simultaneously watching around the world. What was the song and the message? All You Need is Love…
Photo Credit: JOSHUA BROTT, OBSCURA DIGITAL Summer of Love 50th Anniversary Kicks off at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park with a light-show, June 21

The Evolution of a Movement

The generation following the Baby Boomers saw the rise of global networks and explosion of independent media via the internet. Using the same inspiration of the very first television broadcast and message of love, Unify was born. Organizing globally synchronized, meditations, ceremonies, actions, and events via their popular Facebook Page, the group now boasts a network of close to 10,000 local organizers across the planet, a weekly social media reach ranging from 5-15 million, an email list of almost a half million, and a Facebook following of 1.6 million. Unify specializes in collaborating with other popular Facebook Pages like Collective Evolution, UPLIFT, Phenomenalisms, the Mind Unleashed, Cooperatist Movement, and Sustainable Human along with many more organizations and nonprofits. This grass-roots participatory movement is infusing the planet with hope, solutions, practical actions, and a shared vision of one unified, healthy, thriving planet. This summer promises to be their most impactful season yet!
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream you share together is reality.” -John Lennon & Yoko Ono
UNIFY.org
The 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love kicked off on June 21 with synchronized events for World Yoga Day; an interactive map honoring sacred sites in conjunction with Chief Arvol Looking Horse’s vision for World Peace and Prayer Day; and a live-feed from the Points of Light Conference in Seattle. San Francisco. Conservatory of Flowers in collaboration with Obscura Digital, Illuminate, and Golden Gate Park commemorated the launch with a beautiful light show and installation that will run until October 21. The summer will be filled with coordinated events across the planet that culminate on the International Day of Peace as recognized by the United Nations on September 21. This Summer of Love isn’t only in San Francisco, it has gone global. How will your city or community get involved?
World Peace and Prayer Day map of sacred sites. Honoring sacred sites and restoring our sacred connection with the land and each other is central to creating peace and a healthy planet for future generations.

Boundless Solutions

Focusing on climate issues has become fear-inducing and can leave us wondering if there’s anything we can do to bring solutions. Few people recognize that many leading experts believe firmly that we can reverse this trend. Restoring balance to our climate is possible if citizens are prepared to take action together in a unified expression of love for our planet. Sustainability has become a buzzword that is often used to set a divide between left and right political ideologies but it will not get us where we need to go. We now need to look at regenerative solutions that create a healthy climate for our future. Why sustain unhealthy systems? We are not here to merely survive, we are here to thrive and together we will do just that when we decide to cast our fear to the wind and work towards solutions.
When government policies fail it is local leaders who step up and individuals who initiate to become the change we wish to see in the world. There are technologies in the works to take CO2 out of the atmosphere but more research-funding is needed. How do we accomplish this?
Since this has become a political hot-potato religious and spiritual leaders are stepping up along with concerned citizens to remind us that this is a moral obligation for future generations. Public support and awareness can help elevate the idea to get research endorsements for climate restoration efforts from the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and possibly even a Congressional Resolution. Once research is funded and we have conclusions to present, the gates will open up for business leaders, investors, and academics to come together and create magic. The current atmosphere of political division is bankrupt and that’s why the Summer of Love will provide an inspired lead-up to the UN Climate Summit, COP23 in Bonn this coming November.
“Let us not talk falsely now the hour is getting late…” -Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower

Simple Actions, Profound Results

Love is more than a feeling, it can be an action. Environmental issues are not the only hurdle we face, we are currently looking at wars and humanitarian crises across the planet. Since human beings are social creatures that need successful models to emulate. In partnership with the Great Silence and the Light House Foundation, and other exceptional partners including the United Religions Initiative, Unify is presenting the Rise for Syria Campaign.
By staying out of the political divisiveness surrounding the Syrian conflict, this campaign is focusing on real human beings caught in the cross-fire and simple ways that we can reduce suffering. Support for infants and mothers in refugee camps, building underground hospitals to assist the wounded, and live broadcasts from refugee camps each month will humanize what is happening on the ground while empowering people to make a positive change. If this model becomes successful, then it can be applied to humanitarian issues around the world.
“It’s not just the television, it’s not just the radio, it’s not just the billboards, it’s not just the multi-national corporations… It’s STILL the people’s story.” –A Box of Secrets, Welcome to the Age of Living Folklore

Then and Now

50 years later we are faced with a simple choice between choosing love, compassion and unity, or fear, division and war. Our media and technology has provided a perfect reflection and science has shown beyond a doubt why the Beatles were right. Simply stated, during times of stress and fear our brains do not function at their highest potential because the circuitry shuts off access to higher thinking centers in the neocortex condemning us to the lower animalistic responses of fight or flight.
We live in terrifying times but being terrified will not help us through it, love, compassion, and creativity will. Evolutionary biologist, Bruce Lipton speaks to this in a short web-film produced by UPLIFT while visiting the Maharishi Ashram in Rishikesh, India where the Beatles spent much time writing and sharing their spiritual message of love through music. Watch All You Need is Love here.

This is a Global Invitation for Universal Participation!

They say that when the people lead, the leaders will follow. We saw this during the Summer of Love in 1967, and we are prepared to make this true again in 2017 and beyond. We are calling forth all digital warriors, light-workers, artists, musicians, community leaders, entrepreneurs, youth, and elders to make this dream a reality.
Compassion Games is coordinating with Unify, International Day of Peace and the ongoing Summer of Love events
Upcoming events include Ringo Stars Birthday Party on July 7, that will be hosting a global moment to blast thoughts for peace and love over the world inviting people to chime in at 12 noon in their/your local timezone. This will create a wave of joy around the planet and you can look for local events (or create your own) at Ringo’s Page, or the Beatles Facebook Page. There will also be a synchronized moment on August 21 at 10:19 am for the eclipse which will coincide with a massive gathering in Oregon produced by Symbiosis during that weekend. September 9-24 are the Compassion Games which challenges individuals and communities to participate in coordinated acts of compassion.  There will be a globally synchronized meditation and prayer for peace on September 21 for the International Day of Peace, and you can add your local event to the event map here.
I will continue to blog about these and other related events throughout the summer on various platforms. The best way to stay connected is through my Facebook Author Page for blogs, and at Unify for social media campaigns, related articles, and memes. Also look for #summeroflove hashtag on Instagram, and Twitter to see what others are posting. This summer promises to deliver an antidote to the divisiveness and fear that has crippled our global community and you are empowered to become part of the solution . A better world is possible and together we will make it happen. Let LOVE lead!

Creating Culture: A Village Way of Life

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

― R. Buckminster Fuller ―

1

Spring is here, and with it comes plans for summer adventures that are truly transformational! The alternative festival scene often attracts those who resonate with counterculture ways of thinking and being. Yet it is this subversive hotbed that takes the status quo, transmutes it underground, and sets the new trends for its re-emergence in mainstream popular culture. Isis Indriya and Eve Bradford have been vanguards of this movement for over ten years. Both have been guided by personal and community spiritual practice for many years and in every sense these two live what they teach. Their brainchild Living Village Culture aims to influence society through bringing culture back into the heart of community. This project is experimental in nature through seeing what emerges when we create a village way of life in modern, western contexts such as festivals and symposiums.

Their next offering is The Village Symposium, which will be held over five days (April 20th-24th) in Nevada City, California. A journey into community building, education, ritual and social change, this will be a conference exploring the place where science and mysticism meet. It will explore how we as humans can reinstate ourselves back into a harmonious and symbiotic relationship with the web of life. The Village Symposium is a taster of what can be expected from The Village at Lightning in a Bottle festival later this spring (May 25th – 29th).

2

 

Community Creates Culture – The New University

Our generation is one in which individuals have been separated from their lineages and from a community-based way of living. Our interconnectedness with one other and the planet has been denied through linear time systems, hierarchical social structures, centralized politics, capitalistic economies and the false separation of mind, body and spirit. Western education and its institutions propagate these systems, leaving a stark gap between what we are taught and reality.

Conscious gatherings such as festivals are increasingly putting energy and resources into bridging this gap through formalizing the ‘school of life’. No longer just places to listen to music and party, gatherings have become a place where we can learn from each other and professionals at the top of their game through workshops, talks, film screenings, ceremony, symposiums, debates and exhibitions.

Combined with the advance of technology that facilitates mass communication, this new culture has helped forge ‘communities in the sky’ that go beyond borders and do not need permission from any institution to exist – the ultimate E-democracy. We now have the power not just to envision a new world, but to co-create and actually realise it coming into being. This is not about predicting the future, this is about inventing it.

3

 

The Living Village Culture family sits at the core of these changes, through actively seeking to provide an authentic community experience at festivals and gatherings. The curation of their event narratives is based on cultivating skills and practices focused on earth-based wisdom and mystical traditions. Spaces are created that bring the sacred into a contemporary context through an honouring of our ancestors and the spirits of the land in ceremony. This experience fosters collaboration and creativity and makes space for the coming into being of a new culture where knowledge is crowd sourced.

It is through experiences such as these that we can collectively remember who we really are.

4

 

Mother Earth as Divine Lover

We usually think of her as mother, indeed she has granted us life and is well-deserving of the term. As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, let’s explore other metaphors for our relationship with nature through the multi-faceted lens of the feminine. Thinking of her as a lover, a romantic partner, a friend, your sister, or even a child each cause us to relate to her in different ways. It is fun, refreshing, and valuable to reconsider the way we relate to our home planet.

I have mused about this idea for years and written about it from different perspective. In Collaborating with Gaia I explore the concept of co-evolution with our biosphere. From this perspective we find ourselves right in the middle of an improvisational jam-session between all life forms. Isn’t that a bit more exhilarating than considering that everything is inanimate and soulless? In Ending the Conquest of Nature we delve into the historical roots of belief systems that have pitted us against nature. Nature is often seen as our oppressor who will punish us or a slave to exploit and conquer.

If we see her as a passionate lover who wants to co-create with us, it will certainly change the way we interact with each other and our environment. I know… nobody wants to see their “mom” (Mother Earth) in a sexually erotic embrace naked before the night-time sky with her lover. However, there is no harm in us changing the way we look at her. She is an all-powerful goddess and definitely able to shape-shift with a little help from our imagination!

lisette
Artist, Lisete Alcalde takes a selfie next to her painting “Mother Earth and Space”

Like all relationships, our relationship with the planet is complex and can be multi-dimensional and fluid, changing over time. We all love to think of our planet as “Mother” but that may contribute to some of our problems. Humans often act like immature little children not cleaning up our messes, fighting over toys, acting disrespectful of our mother while hoping to not be reprimanded. Perhaps we can grow up a little and get past the rebellious teenager phase of our evolution?

New ways to look at old stories.

What if we saw the earth as someone we had a crush on and needed to catch her eye or win her respect in courtship? How about a romantic companion that we grow and journey through life with as equal partners in discovery? I also like to wonder what if we treated her like she was our child, one that we needed to protect from predators and those who would harm her? By changing the way we look at her, we change the way we relate to her. It also changes our role in this world and redefines who we are.

Though humans have struggled through history to survive, there is something about love and passion that makes friction less oppressive. She could be a hot-tempered and erotic partner like the Goddess Pele who fell in love with Kamapua’a. Pele is named after a volcano, she is full of fire with red hair of molten lava. Kamapua’a has the power to bring rains that cool Pele’s lava and turn it into soil which grows the crops. This turbulent love affair created the abundant lushness called Hawaii.

henson
Above: The Artwork of Mark Henson

Visual art has the ability to shift our consciousness and change the way we perceive the world. Mark Henson is another artist who allows his audience to see the elements of nature as lovers intermingling. These images help us to undo the divisive and false stories like Social Darwinism (survival of the fittest) that still wreak havoc in our lives today. Indeed cooperation of species has played a much larger role in our evolution than competition, yet we are fed the competition narrative because it is central to the capitalist ideology.

Cooperation of species may well be the missing story to resolving much of our planets problems, and art might be the most powerful way to convey this idea. Humanity’s capacity for destruction and discord is equally matched by it’s ability to create beautiful inspiration. Sex, or better yet, making love is not limited to naked bodies but includes the concept of procreation with a paintbrush, a musical instrument, a dance, or the exchange of mutual respect within the larger community of life. Sex & Nature, the Evocative Artwork of Mark Henson

Poets and musicians sing praises to nature which is so necessary, yet no lover wants to be put on a pedestal. In addition with love and adoration, reciprocity and mutual respect are essential for any healthy relationship. We all know that feeling when the breeze gives us a gentle kiss on our skin. We have looked at the night sky and seen the darkness cuddle our planet with love. We have had the morning sunlight brush our forehead sweetly from across the universe and invite us to wake up in the morning. The ways that the earth loves us are indeed endless, yet we are only at the very beginning of learning how to love her back. Let’s ravish her with passion and beauty!

As we evolve the way that we look at our world, we change the way we look at ourselves and each other. This sets a stage for beautiful collaborations. Let’s reconsider our relationship with the planet and the feminine in all of it’s forms.

Call her a creative partner, and she might just invite you to join her in the creative process. In some ways she will always be our mother, but she is so much more than that. Grandmother, daughter, sister, mother, friend, lover, partner, nurturer, we have much to be grateful for on International Women’s Day!

FEATURED IMAGE, PAINTING BY PENNIE AUSTIN

Street Art that Changes the way we see the World

From cave drawings to urban graffiti, images and words shape the way we perceive the world. It is adequately established that our environment effects us in fundamental ways, and that visual art literally changes our consciousness when we look at it. If you wander through any city street, or drive on the highway you will see advertising everywhere. Billboards and posters cluttering our visual landscape with messages to buy this or that.

What if public space was used to convey a shared idea from within the community instead of a brand that is privately owned by people living outside of the community? People everywhere are reclaiming public space to change dominant corporate, consumer narratives using beautiful and thought-provoking art.

If an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside. – Jim Kwik

Using Art to Shift the Global Narrative

The current global narrative is one steeped in the wounds and trauma of history. Many humans see themselves in an endless struggle to pay bills, pitted against each other in a competition for scarce resources. The resources, which come from the earth, are extracted without reverence or respect for the natural systems of life that they support. This is rooted in an outdated belief system that is described in more detail here, which has humans at war with their own environment instead of collaborating with it harmoniously. A powerful way to shift these beliefs is through images that model a different story

Melting Point Mural by Mural Mice, Arizona
Melting Point Mural by Mural Mice, Arizona

What if advertising was used to inspire thought and connection instead of encourage mindless consumption and competition?

Creatively Breaking the Rules

We see it online, with individuals creating their own memes (images partnered with inspiring quotes) and sharing them through social networks. This ground-swell of creativity has now started to spill onto the streets of everyday life and it is taking many forms. Public murals, mosaics, sculptures are socially accepted yet graffiti, wheat-pasting and others are more activism-oriented while making a statement by breaking rules.

Sidewalk Chalk Art
Sidewalk Chalk Art

Creative Activism on the Streets of Paris

During the recent Paris Climate Talks, activists replaced over 600 banner advertisements around the city with messages about our shared responsibility to take care of the environment. This included over 80 artists from 19 different countries who made artworks to challenge the corporate takeover of COP21. This stunt helped to reveal the connections between advertising, the promotion of consumerism and climate change.

With large corporations sponsoring the climate talks they are able to appear that they are part of the solution while actually being part of the problem. This term is commonly called “green-washing”, and cultural creatives have found a humorous way to make a parody of the kind of influence these corporations have over our public policy.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 3.35.32 PM

We start from the democratic conviction that the street is a site of communication, which belongs to the citizens and communities who live there.  Our interventions are a rebellion against the visual assault of media giants and advertising moguls who have a stranglehold over messages and meaning in our public spaces, through which they force-feed us with images and messages to keep us insecure, unhappy, and shopping. – Brandalism Website

Many of the artists who participated in Paris are inspired by the famed street-art outlaw, Banksy. “Exit Through The Gift Shop“, is a film that chronicles the lifestyle and attitudes of street artists. Street Art News is a great place to learn about this growing movement. Yet you don’t always have to break the rules to make a statement.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 3.35.47 PM

Street Art that Inspires Community and Kindness

Jeff Daverman, of Root Concepts has found a way to influence peoples ideas spiritually and politically through sticker lines like Non-Violent Revolutionaries that depict heroes of peace. Muralists like the Mural Mice, gather input from the local community to inform their giant public installments and then invite everyone to help them paint it on a wall.

Individual artists like Xavi and Chris Dyer have placed their visionary art in prominent public places giving an expression of transcendence to an otherwise mundane locale. Essencia Art Collective works with youth using powerful themes like the importance of water to create urban masterpieces.

Jeannette Maré lost her 3-year old son, Bert to croup and created a public art campaign around inspiring kindness as a vehicle to heal her grief. Berts Bells in Tucson, Arizona creates colorful bells and places them around the city in trees with a note saying “take one and pass it along with kindness”. They also invite the community to make porcelain tiles that are used for creating mosaics on walls and park benches to convey messages of kindness.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 3.30.20 PM

What stories do you want to see flourishing in the world around you?

Though each of us may have different talents, we all have a gift to be creative. We may practice developing our creative gifts, or let them atrophy but they are there regardless. We each also have a desire to see a better world, not just for ourselves but for our relatives, and future generations.

It is not enough anymore to hope and expect that anyone else will create this for us, we must step up and add our piece to the puzzle. This may require you to collaborate with friends who have talents that you don’t possess but collectively we have the capacity for great change.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 3.28.12 PM

Free Yourself and Inspire the World Around You

In Chip Richards’ recent article Moving from Stress to Creative Power he shares a powerful story of how we can transmute “stuck” energies through creativity and action in the world. In the process of freeing ourselves, we can provide inspiration for others.

Art is therapeutic to create and to observe, by empowering ourselves to participate in creating the visual landscape that surrounds us we can literally change the world for the better. The possibilities are endless!

Article originally appeared at UPLIFT

This Sublime Dance, a Journey Between the Covers

Good coffee table books are like presents that you unwrap layer by layer each time you open them. In our age of social media, we often forget the joy of flipping through glossy pages and sinking into luscious imagery in a real book. It is a timeless experience that evokes senses which are missing from the immediate, on-the-go, fleeting nature of digital devices. Visionary Artist, Michael Divine recently lured me into this magical realm with his new release, This Sublime Dance.

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 3.13.27 PM

Michael Divine’s paintings make me reach for words that don’t exist in an effort to translate the feelings my eyes swallow as they glance at the colorful pages. Somehow these still images capture the morphing shapes that clouds make when they glide across the sky. There are stories in his work that are delicately unfinished, leaving just enough room for my dreaming mind to complete them. Beautiful combinations of geometry and perspective overlaid with whimsical dancing curves and silhouettes of invisible landscapes.

“It is crucial for the Visionary Artists of today to transmit their highest glimpses of mystical experience, to plant seeds of liberation in the mind-streams of viewers, and to validate the psychonaut’s sacramental gaze. Michael Divine is a champion brother in this quest.” -Alex Grey

Divine’s academic studies in comparative religion are apparent with each brush stroke as he  intertwines East, West, past, and future. Recognizing that academia only gives an objective discussion of the writings and experiences of others, Divine set out to create snapshots of his own journey visually. This playful, free-spirited, joyous celebration of color and form functions as a doorway into my own inner world causing me to reflect upon the journey I have made in this life. This is a true accomplishment for any artist, or art-lover!

mdivine

He shares parts of his own subjective journey and evolution through travel, meditation, and art as vehicles for personal liberation. There are fold-out pages that allow you to explore the detail that might otherwise be overlooked. I also enjoy seeing the preliminary sketches of some of the larger compositions so that I feel brought into the secret dimension of the artists process.

In the foreword, the editors mention that Visionary Art is and has always been a “people’s movement”. This accessibility to everyone and the willingness for the artists in this genre to celebrate each other rather than silently compete is also quite inspiring. Featuring the art of his contemporaries like Amanda Sage, Android Jones, Randal Roberts is also a testament to the mutual respect in this emerging creative community.

“With his imagery, Michael Divine creates access points to the “Divine” and holds the gates of “Heaven” open and ready for our arrival – a passage well worth taking.” – Martina Hoffman

Michael wanted to be an architect in his younger years but realized that art allowed him more freedom. Now he builds palaces of impossible visions, hallways of thought, and temples of imagination that are visible through keyholes engraved with Celtic Knots. One feels as if they have fallen into a kaleidoscope as they flip through the pages. I felt like I was soaring through arches and domes of stained-glass within a house of mirrors inhabited by whirling dervishes ascending and angels descending.

“I saw that all the stuff of life- all the wonder and beauty and darkness and disharmony, all the words and all the songs, the people and the places and the things, the emotions and opinions – it it was all this one ineffable thing. Feeling it, knowing it, didn’t require religion or spirituality – this thing-within-all-things simply was, and is. It was so sublimely beautiful, so supremely blissful, that I couldn’t help but call it Love.”  -Michael Divine

I am grateful to have taken the time to sit with a coffee table book. I miss it already like a vacation I took to a place that I long to visit again. I am  eager to journey into many others like it to give myself a much-needed break from hours at my glowing screen. If you haven’t done so in a while, give yourself some time to cuddle up to an art book. This Sublime Dance is a great place to start.

Peer to Peer Diplomacy, Open-Sourcing Peace

Across the globe it is becoming clear that nations are failing at creating peaceful solutions to international challenges. More bombing does not create more peace and understanding, but communication does. We are at a cross-roads in history where it has become apparent that the “old” ways of doing things are no longer working in our modern world. The internet allows us to communicate peer-to-peer rather than the traditional top-down model which allows for cooperation in ways that we have never experienced before. This emerging, collectively-driven model is imperative for a peaceful, sustainable future and every one of us has a part to play in this process.

peer

In January 2015, CODEPINK protesters spoke out during Senate Armed Services Committee attempting a citizens arrest of Henry Kissenger. The publicity stunt drew a lot of international press and attention to a need for change in the way that America (an imperial super powers) conduct foreign policy. CODEPINK National Coordinator Alli McCracken (26 years old) stated:

We need to stop rehashing these tired old war criminals and come up with a new foreign policy based on diplomacy and compassion –– two things Kissinger knows nothing about.

In stark contrast, before the same Senate Armed Services Committee Former Secretary of State George Shultz stated that people, not solely leaders need to be talking to each other. He highlighted the need for non-military solutions and praised the United Religions Initiative in testimony before the United States Congress. You can see the video and learn more at this link.

Responding to Shultz’s testimony United Religions Initiative Founder and President, Bishop Swing stated:

In the space between one religion and another religion, there is often a hard history of grievances, memories of coerced conversions, and competing claims of ultimate truth. So the space between religions is often toxic. This toxicity drags neighborhoods and regions into religious strife that stymies daily life, sometimes leading to intimidation and, in the worst cases, horrific spectacles like beheadings.
URI’s purpose is to fill the space between religions with interfaith bridges so that the grassroots people of all faith traditions, indigenous communities and humanistic groups can cross over, and discover other believers, and take positive actions together. URI is not a religion, nor a United Nations of Religions. URI is grassroots and singularly tries to fill the void between religions with something that the world needs desperately: bridges between cultural, religious and spiritual differences.
Religions are about salvation. URI is about civilization. People around the world have responded to this mission of URI; in a few years, URI has expanded to more than 665 Cooperation Circles in 85 countries, touching the lives of over three million people daily.

There are a number of grassroots efforts that are using social media to undermine the dominant military paradigm by addressing international issues in a de-centralized way. One of them is the Peace Factory, who is building a bridge of communication between the people of the Middle East. Ronny Edry, a graphic designer who started this project by making a simple but profound picture of himself with his young daughter that says, “Iranians we will never bomb your country, we ❤️ you” and posting it on Facebook. The results went viral and people began sharing similar messages across social networks from countries around the world!

If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. ~Moshe Dayan


It is as simple as changing the story, creating new images, breaking down stereotypes, and sharing inspiration. Dialogue can happen with an image, a hashtag, a blog, it comes with a willingness to listen, to see the humanity in each other and stop buying in to the continued demonization that is spread through mainstream media. We can no longer wait for leaders to act towards peace, the power is in the hands of the people.

Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

The top-down diplomacy of nations has failed at bringing peace, it is up to the people to build these bridges. Ronny’s story is only one story, what will you do to create peer-to-peer open-sourced peace? Whatever ideas you have for this must allow for others to contribute with their voice. Combining your efforts with media and distributing these ideas via social media is becoming a viable model for social change.

This is the moment to let love and compassion transcend national, cultural, and religious boundaries to create the peace we all desire. Corporate media and top-down “nation building” is being exposed for the narrow interests that it represents. Individuals now have the capacity to represent themselves, peer-to-peer and change the narrative that is manufactured to benefit the few at the expense of many. What do you want to contribute to this unfolding and how will you present it?

Article first appeared at UPLIFT

(VIDEO) Finding Peace in Nature; Real Life Mermaids

adset

It is easy to get overwhelmed from the stresses of daily life, not to mention the larger environmental, political and social problems of our world today. It is no wonder that people experience anxiety, depression and feelings of helplessness. I can’t help but wonder why so many people think that finding personal peace is not enough to change the rest of the world. Many spiritual leaders and humanitarians alike have concluded that the only way to achieve world peace is through finding personal peace first. There are many suggestions out there on how to reduce stress and find personal peace, but the truth is you have to find what works for you. For me, I go outside. There is a solace and a sense of wonder to be found in nature and it automatically calms me. I started facilitating transformational photo shoots for women in nature and realized I could help other people reconnect to this beautiful world around us. In doing so, I have found a whole new level of peace within myself.

_MG_6228

My name is Emily Jones and I am the founder of the traveling portrait company, Sonoran Muses out of Tucson, AZ. Unlike many professional photographers out there today, I am also the makeup artist, body painter, hair stylist and costume designer for each client that I work with. What makes my work truly unique is that I create elaborate headdresses from locally harvested plants and flowers from the region I am working in (throughout the US and Mexico) and adorn women from all walks of life. (Read about the Start of Sonoran Muses here.) I am constantly inspired by every new location that I work in and the various growth cycles of each season. While harvesting flowers (or other items) for each headdress that I create, I deepen my sacred connection to the natural world. Nature is always my main design inspiration and my “Las Sirenas” Photoshoot Retreat is no exception. Through my creative vision I am able to help women who come on the retreat to feel beautiful, empowered, and reconnected to their sacred femininity.

4I2B2440

Here is a behind the scenes video that recaps this photoshoot experience!

When I first visited San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico on vacation I was blown away by the Sonoran Desert meeting the ocean and fell in love with the colorful shells I found on the beaches. I immediately had a desire to honor this beautiful place. With my love of reading about female archetypes, goddesses and ethereal creatures in folklore, legends and myths, choosing the “mermaid” theme for a photo shoot came quite naturally. These creatures have always intrigued me. I love the obvious dichotomy present in the very definition of a mermaid’s character. Some stories depicted mermaids as malevolent creatures associated with floods, storms, shipwrecks, and drowning. In other folklore (or sometimes within the same folk tradition) they can be benevolent, bestowing blessings and in some cases, even falling in love with humans. I enjoy this polarity and the idea of attempting to create my own real-life mermaids sounded like an interesting challenge.

4I2B1869

So, in the spring of 2013, I created the “Las Sirenas Photo Shoot Retreat” in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. True to the Sonoran Muses styling, I wanted to recreate my version of a realistic looking mermaid by designing crowns adorned with shells, bones, stones and sea glass collected from the beaches of that region. Although these crowns are created in my studio, once on location in Mexico I always take a few people from our group to go out and harvest additional living plants. The various flowers, leaves, seed pods or branches found are then woven into each model’s hair to complete the headdress styling. Doing the fishy makeup is one of my favorite parts of the whole styling process and in my opinion, the one that truly transforms each woman. I like to play with different textures and makeup color combinations to create the scale patterns. I am always looking ahead to see how I can incorporate new makeup techniques and costume effects for the future and hope to one day have use of full silicone mermaid tails!

sancarlossaguaros

Untitled-2

For this most recent retreat, instead of creating the shell crowns myself like I usually do, I decided to do an artistic collaboration with Organic Armor, a husband and wife costume design company out of North Carolina. They custom-designed four sea-inspired headdresses and two armbands just for this retreat. I was in awe of how each headdress was created and how light the foam-covered latex headdresses were, despite the fact that they look like heavy metal. There is something so fulfilling about being able to join forces with another artist and come up with a completely different take on what I normally do. I love doing collaborations with all varieties of artists ranging from hair stylists to costume designers and I look forward to featuring more artists in the future! In addition to these collaborations, I also like for each client that I work with to be a part of the styling and design process too!

organicarmor4I2B2155

A week before every retreat I host a mermaid costume-making party in Tucson where each woman creates their own shell bra! This is such a great time for the group to get to know each other before the retreat and gives each woman time out from her busy schedule to get creative! Of course, I am always around if someone is not especially crafty and needs my help! Every party is a fun night filled with jokes, delicious home cooked food and a table entirely covered with shells, ribbon, glitter, coins, netting, fabric, beads, bras and beers. There is something I love about the chaos of the creative process and this is always the champion of messes.

20140411_212827

The house that I found to rent for this retreat was a dream. It was appropriately named the “shell castle” and was one of the most interesting houses I have ever stayed in. Not only was the entire building constructed from rocks harvested from a nearby canyon, but also thousands upon thousands of shells had been glued in intricate patterns all over the bathroom walls, mirrors and support columns in the house. There was a large fountain in the center of the living room and a spiral staircase that led up to the rooftop cabana. Showing the house to the women on the retreat for the first time is always so exciting and the house lends itself to having great shared experiences.

ksdjhfg

I want each person who works with me to take away something meaningful from this retreat. Getting your portrait captured can be a very vulnerable experience, so I facilitate activities that help women voice what is on their mind to help them feel more comfortable during their photo shoot. The very first night of the retreat, I gift each model a Chinese flying lantern.  I then suggest that each person writes what they would like to let go of, or what they would like to change about themselves onto the thin white paper of each lantern. I ask them to think about what they would like this photo shoot experience to do for them. Once everyone is done writing, we take the lanterns up to the rooftop cabana and light them. Once the lanterns fill up with warm air, we carefully release them into the night sky in a sort of cathartic celebration, sometimes accompanied by fire spinning.

Untitled-1

These retreats are always such a fun, communal experience. Not only do we all caravan down to San Carlos together, but we shop for food together and take turns cooking amazing meals. We eat like kings shopping from the fresh fish markets! There are always plenty of opportunities to branch off from the group to have some one-on-one time with someone else too! There are a ton of activities to do in and around San Carlos including hiking, fishing, snorkeling and rock hounding or beach combing. Each time I go down there I am amazed at the new places I discover! I always strive to show people something they have never seen before and perhaps provide them with an opportunity to do something they have never done before. It is exciting and refreshing for me to see the relaxation and joy on people’s faces when jumping into the ocean for the first time when we arrive. However, these photo shoots are not all fun and games.

lassirenas

sirenas_samantha

Modeling outdoors like this is a lot of work and it can often be uncomfortable. There are also critters in the ocean like sting rays, jelly fish and sea urchins that need to be avoided. But with a bit of precaution and awareness these guys can be easily detected and are actually pretty fun to observe. When people look at my photographs they are often convinced that I hire professional models. They are usually surprised to learn that these images feature everyday women who have hired me. Although it’s nice to work with professional models, it doesn’t feed my soul the same way. Many people have also asked why I don’t photograph in the city. The truth is, I have a distaste for man-made objects. You will never see a building, a road, or even a trail in any of my image backgrounds for Sonoran Muses. I want to transport people to a time and place that seem foreign to human development… just unbridled landscapes with no trace of man, other than the beautiful women featured as the subject. I have always felt it was strange that we refer to nature as something outside of us, something separate and foreign. However, it is my understanding that WE ARE NATURE and it is my desire and goal to portray this in my images.

4I2B1985

I have had the honor of meeting so many amazing women during each mermaid retreat and I feel blessed to be able to do these portraits for a living. Every time I hear a new story about why a client has chosen to work with me and what it does for them I am blown away. Through facilitating this retreat, I realized that I not only offer women a chance to see themselves in a new light, but I am also gifting them time to relax and recharge from their busy lives. We all need this. We all need to decompress. Setting time aside for ourselves where we can go on an adventure, honor nature and hopefully discover what it means to develop a sense of self-love, is a lovely start to finding inner peace. To be able to share this experience with others gives me boundless amounts of joy and peace in my life, because I have found a sense of purpose in helping others regain their self confidence. Each one of us has our own unique way to create peace and share inspiration, what is yours? How do you find inner peace with yourself and what are some things you do frequently in your daily routine to help keep you grounded in this chaotic world?

mermaids

For more information please visit Sonoran Muses on facebook and Instagram, along with Emily’s website, eajonesphoto.com for her complete portfolio of work.

-Written by Emily Jones

What we can Learn from Forgotten History

During the early days of slavery in the American Southeast, native Seminole, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Creek Indians were known to raid plantations and free captive slaves. Despite their cultural differences, they recognized their common struggle against oppression at the hands of colonial rule. In an attempt to keep these original African and American people divided, colonial authorities granted slaves to some native tribes.

The tribes recognized the slaves as equals, married them into their families and culture while continuing to raid plantations and free other slaves.

This has a lot to teach us today as all of us from diverse backgrounds around the globe face common threats. It is also a testament to not “buying into” or believing narratives that allow for oppression of others.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 8.43.45 AM

If you believe people have no history worth mentioning, it’s easy to believe they have no humanity worth defending.
 William Loren Katz

Colonialists assumed that the narrative about wealth, owning slaves, and power was universal. They wrongly assumed that natives would also live by this belief when they granted them slaves. Changing power structures is most effective when the stories that support them lose credibility. As we have seen throughout history, and what is now backed by science is the power of our beliefs to shape our reality. To learn more about the Biology of Belief, you may want to explore the work of Dr. Bruce Lipton. What are contemporary stories that keep us divided?

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. – John F. Kennedy

 

Successful political and social movements succeed by building coalitions and alliances between diverse groups that share a common interest. Movements are easily diffused when division and mistrust is seeded. Today humans everywhere face common threats of exploitation, contaminated water, air, and more. What are some other common threats that people everywhere can agree on?

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 8.36.25 AM
Beautiful Hand-Beaded Carnival Suits

Antiquated colonial belief systems have been incorporated into modern corporate structures and woven into policies and laws that continue to haunt us. The core belief that justifies the exploiting of another people is the same as the notion of exploiting natural resources, exploiting children, or exploiting women. The beliefs of scarcity, fear, superiority, competition, and entitlement are central justifications. Like the early colonialists, many of us assume that these stories and beliefs are universally true but they are not. Are we willing to examine our own assumptions and rewrite these stories together?

We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.
 Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

We have seen environmental groups compete against each other for grants while their shared cause suffers. We have seen social movements scream louder, insisting that their cause is the most important and nobody’s voice is heard. Meanwhile we continue to see the global elite, and corporations write oppressive trade laws like Trans Pacific Partnership, FIPA, and TTIP – that weaken democracy, threaten the environment, and open the gates to exploit workers. These antiquated policies keep us all pitted against each other while instilling division, oppression, and exploitation into the fabric of our economic system, and justice system.

The same cooperation shown between slaves and Native Americans that eroded oppression in their time can be used today to make a more equal, safe, sustainable future for all of us. We can listen to the voices of others who are feeling oppressed and find our common cause. We can embrace environmental causes that recognize the importance of a healthy ecosystem as integral to a healthy society. We can stop listening to the narratives that keep us separated, turn-off our television, and start sharing stories that bring us together for a common cause. Our connectedness has grown exponentially through social networks, it is time for our connectedness to included the realm of the heart and compassion into an integrated community of people who genuinely care.
Divided, our global issues are overwhelming. United,our collective strength is unstoppable!

PHOTO CREDITS: CHRISTOPHER PORCHE WEST

Inspired Contemporary Art by Women

Laura Borealisis

Historically, too few Women Artists were able to attain any level of mastery because lack of access to learn, cultural disapproval during their time period, or the challenge of balancing obligations as mothers and various other gender roles. While some of this still echoes from the past, it is indeed the past! With the internet and social media, our opportunities for connection & sharing are expanded exponentially and we are able to cultivate and change these old patterns that once prevailed.

The soul force and nourishment of the feminine expression is needed in our world so I have compiled a preliminary list of Women Artists for Culture Collective. By no means is this list complete… in fact, we think it will always be a work in progress. This collection does not include some of the often-overlooked old masters, such as Artemisia Gentileschi, nor even more staple names such as Georgia O’keefe or Frida Kahlo. While I actually really love the idea of such a collection, this gallery consists primarily of artists living and creating, Now.

The women are not divided up by professional status here, although in future features there may be more focus on those areas. All that was required was a consistent body of work, easy accessibility to the work, and proper photographs (no weird light, not blurry, and cropped properly when necessary).

With such volume, it was a bit wonky to curate all the imagery, and I’m sure it is ripe for scrutiny. However, it has been cultivated in a spirit of Sisterhood, where women in all different phases of their artistic journey, as well as different styles, have been included. It was crafted in a manner of finding what makes us relate. So, you may see that work is grouped or coupled with similar works in similar styles, mediums, or color schemes.

My hope is that these Artists will find connection with each other, community, mutual growth, and also expansion beyond where we are each currently at in our processes. May the opportunity to see more art from women help the youth find new inspiration and role models for crafting their own creative voice, as well as find the courage to share their unique creative identity alongside their male comrades. And of course, may any artist find beauty and inspiration here, regardless of gender.

My other hope is that this collection will inspire a deeper interest and desire to cultivate knowledge in the culture around Art; to expand our awareness of Art, Artists, and the various ideas, impulses, and belief-systems being put forth through Art. May we know more artists and their works, and may gender no longer be an inhibitor for engagement with Art. I implore you to develop a broader, yet more acute taste and vocabulary with which to engage art and creativity; to see deeper, to feel deeper, to find ourselves more fully resonant  & articulate with that which is known as Art.

Please enjoy this gallery. Contact the artists via social media or personal websites – Most of them provided their art via facebook, so I suggest that specific network for contacting them should you desire to do so. I could not link everyone’s info here, so another wonderfully convenient option is to consult the mighty Oracle of Google ~ And, of course, take some time to see, feel, think about, and enjoy these works from the feminine side of the spectrum.

Many Blessings,

Ashely

Featured Image (top)  Laura Borealisis – “Frida”

[foogallery id=”2496″]