Hidden in the Trees/ Detail from a recent painting/ Elaine Clayton copyright 2015
At Paideia School years ago, I remember smiling with a colleague while watching young children at play in the classroom. When they did something they should not, they had the idea that they were invisible, unobserved and could get away with what they were doing. It was kind of cute to see that innocent children did not know any better and we knew they would be learning to become conscious of what they were doing, sometimes through hard lessons, gradually as they grew.
It’s not so cute when adults hide, sneak, lie and live in deception, come what may and no matter who it damages along the way. Nothing is really a secret for long, someone always knows and in the end the truth always comes out. And hopefully adults who deceive and betray others will learn (probably the hard way) not to think of themselves as invisible, like a naughty child. It takes strength of character not to exploit others through deceit: ultimately it is a betrayal of self to the self. If our choices and actions dishonor others, we grossly dishonor ourselves.
Detail of a recent painting, “Eve’s Dream of a Deadly Vine” / Elaine Clayton copyright 2015
In what ways have you ever entrapped yourself? There is a Native American saying I love: “Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth.” It’s that simple, or at least following that simple sounding wisdom makes room for integrity, clarity and a feeling of lightness that is impossible to feel when burdened or ensnared by self deception. In this series, a visual midrash, “Eve’s Dreams”, I am exploring ways in which we pine for Paradise, and can ensnare ourselves in illusion and misery very easily. It is a painful place to put ourselves, most of us know what it feels like. And it is much more difficult to disentangle than it is to never become entangled in the first place. We seem to do it until we learn not to .
detail of a recent painting/ Elaine Clayton copyright 2015
Abraham Joshua Heschel, in his book, The Sabbath, writes, “What is the Sabbath? Spirit in the form of time.”
I have been thinking that time is what every interaction and relationship is founded on–we think we have lots of time with each other, with those we love, with certain situations—but we don’t. On earth, everything passes. Time has a preciousness to it when we realize that. But I have found that I did not always realize this. We are ruled by time, we rush here and there and let our sense of time run our lives through our schedules. But what do we do to sanctify or make holy our sense of “time”? In dreams, and in Near Death Experiences, there is often a remarkable feeling that there is no time–it is more that there is a presence of being, a feeling of “now” as in all-encompassing now.
I remember during a very hard time decades ago, I read about the Shechinah, the Eternal Bride who is welcomed at Sabbath. I knew inwardly that inside each of us, there is an eternal bride waiting to be greeted, celebrated and loved. A new beginning every moment, an everlasting essence within.
What do you do to bring yourself to a place of sacred time? Where do you go, or how do you find the peace that says not all time is about schedules and rules and goals and whatever else we’ve made it to be?
Are we captives of time and space, and our perception of ourselves in relation to time and space, as Abraham Joshua Heschel asserts: “The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments.”
Stream drawing is drawing with such a feeling of freedom that you begin to be in a dream-like state, you begin to tap into your unconscious while awake. I urge clients and friends to not only stream draw every day (we do a type of stream drawing most commonly referred to by a non-word “doodling”–often while on the phone for example) and to consider keeping a dream journal. What begins to happen is the information, wisdom and insights you can receive in a multitude of ways from your dreams (and if you don’t remember your dreams, you can train yourself to remember them) begin to be on your mind in a very powerful way during the day. And you become more aware, more insightful, more intuitively intelligent–things start to feel whole and aligned. This is a great feeling. The same is true with stream drawing, once you start doing it as a practice, you literally slip into that zone where everything good is possible, and your entire day unfolds with more love for others, more appreciation and alertness to your environment in ways that guide and support.
Detail of one of my recent paintings Elaine Clayton copyright 2015
Snow changes the acoustics, making a sanctuary of the surroundings. There is a hushed, majestic quality. As I stand on the snow, there is something present within it, spiritually intrinsic and obvious to me–it is an extraordinary something– might be that each flash of light from each crystal snowflake (though we cannot see that beauty without a microscope) reaches the psyche, the heart in winter. After snow has been on the ground for many weeks or months, there is a formidable sense of endurance that comes with each step taken across the cool whiteness. Wanting the bitter cold to subside, the shadows across snowy mounds that have known us for a while whisper that Spring is not too far away.
“Eve in a Shift Dress”, from my new series, Painting Midrash: Eve’s Dreams
This weekend at Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, CT, we are having an art show. Tomorrow we have a reception and conversation with the artists, if you’re local, please come by around 4:30! Tonight is a Shabbat dinner with special guest, Bella Meyer, the granddaughter of Marc Chagall, one of my absolute favorite artists. I am thrilled about it.
I have been working on a series, Painting Midrash: Eve’s Dreams. Dreams and intuitive sensing are such major themes in my life, and I have been learning to chant Jacob’s Ladder in Hebrew. It got me wondering what about the dreams of women, and are there any in Torah? I imagined the first woman, Eve, and thought about what her dreams would be. I had a sudden realization that her dreams are the same as ours: longing for Paradise. We long for something we cannot quite capture, or we do in glimpses, but there is always “trouble in Paradise” in one way or another. We live in a world of shadows and light, it is not perfect, it can be very painful. These paintings in this series represent that longing for harmony, self fulfillment, love and bliss in general, or even just basic safety and comfort.