My quick study of the moment the Magician swan enters, stirring the tranquility of the sleeping swans
Elaine Clayton copyright 2015
My favorite part of Swan Lake is the dramatically dangerous moment the Magician enters, his dark and powerful wings triumphantly fan out in his menacing approach, fluttering the delicate feathers of the innocent.
Swan Lake is so archetypal, it reminds us and speaks to us of what we know to be true in life: It ain’t Paradise. We live in this world of shadow and light, positive and negative, where sweet guileless trust meets cunning and cruel manipulation.
Swans get ready. Don’t relinquish peace and grace because of evil deeds and intentions. Be a swan in your placid environment, and know that in the end, the magician gets caught in his own brokenness, his wing crushed and his flight permanently damaged ( Swan Lake Part 2: Broken winged Magician is sent to a nature preserve where 3rd graders get to pet him and this rehab softens his sickness and propensity for harming others before he dies a less bitter agent of ruin).
How did such a happy, vibrant color end up being the way people describe sadness, as in, “I’m feeling so blue”? For me, blue is peace, calm, cool, heaven, sky, ocean. Blue makes green possible (with the help of yellow). Blue is mystical, a little mysterious, dynamic and makes purple possible (yes, with the help of red). I can never stop loving every subtle shade of blue from cobalt to “Robin’s Egg”–I even love the names of the shades of blue people have given over time. Blue gives me synesthesia sensations, such as, for me the number 5 is blue. It is the color blue in my mind. It triggers the masculine animus within–bold, confident, intelligent yet it triggers the feminine, too–receptive, creative, imaginative. Another synesthesia experience I have though is when I see written, or say the word, “azure” I see the color red in many shades–the word “azure” itself is red to me for some reason, even though it represents a dashing and stunning shade of blue). Blue and getting the blues—maybe ideally blue connects us to a point of spiritual arrival within, and when we feel “blue” we are saying we long for that return to completion, to feeling whole and as though we are where we need to be.
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 a recent painting series Midrash Painting: Eve’s Dreams
Often, memories of the past surface; small or quick scenes of all kinds of past events or experiences flash into the mind’s eye (accompanied with a lot of emotion, too, if we notice). A fun thing to do is to try to flash on future events–it is a mind game in a way, of course, because the future has not happened yet and therefore we have no knowledge of it stored in the subconscious. But what if it were possible to see the future in flickers of awareness just as it is possible to experience the past? It too, is no more–only an illusion. All we have is “now”, but if you feel like seeing yourself in new ways, if you have wishes or dreams you’d like to realize, why not picture them into being? There are all kinds of dreams: dreams we have when we sleep, where we process all we have unconsciously absorbed and dreams that are day dreams, where we imagine what might be.
“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.
A recent Spirit Painting/ copyright Elaine Clayton 2014
I started a new dream journal so I can use the scenes, symbols and signs that come through in dreams to help guide me toward deeper consciousness this New Year. Conscious awareness will help me make choices that will truly be good for me, and will show me what I am doing to hold myself back. I think dreams do give us clues and, like intuitive stream drawing, dreams allow us to be on the river of our flowing unconscious knowledge. Some of the knowledge is mysteriously present (a small thing recently is that I dreamed a good friend from college days loves the candy known as Pop Rocks, and when I sent him a message about the dream, he told me in fact he does love Pop Rock candy–this may seem trivial, but why would I even dream that detail, and why was the information correct?). Some of the content is obvious, and I think we live somewhere in-between the mysterious and spiritual and the physical, psychological obviousness. With both aspects, we create our future and respond to events as they unfold.
It may be cliche, but it is still true. Butterflies symbolize transformation and remind me of our own necessary transformations through the many stages of life. Even the phases of life we do not wish to change, and the times we cry out for change that will not come. All things do evolve, alter or transform in our material world in time. Change is inevitable, we may as well try to get through it and/or create it the way we would like it to be, as best we can.
A friend of mine recently witnessed several butterflies coming out of the chrysalis they inhabited, there were several all around the area where she lives. That is something I have not yet seen in nature, the butterfly emerging, letting it’s wings dry and then fluttering away. They seem so delicate, yet manage to travel great distances (at least the Monarch does). Like us, I suppose. Maybe someone is watching us transform with the same kind of mesmerized joy, rooting us on as we emerge, anew!
Wishing you the best transformations for 2015!
A recent Spirit Painting Elaine Clayton copyright 2014
It is such a privilege to create these paintings for individuals, because going into meditation and painting for an another person (most of whom I have never met or spoken with) with their wellbeing and soul purpose held in my heart, makes me feel connected to something eternal. I feel sort of pulled in a certain direction as images arrive, kind of like going on an excursion without a map but sensing and feeling my way. No two are the same, of course, as each one of us are unique. Somehow, someway, the paintings and the images they depict connect to the individual’s life or hold meaning for them, it is uncanny. I can’t explain it, I just thoroughly enjoy it. There is something great going on here with life, we’re connected in mysterious ways. No matter how hard life can be, there is a stream within each of us that gives us a knowing and a feeling for others, all we have to do is be willing to “go with the flow” as they say, and we find ourselves in anyone we encounter. We find life, longing, loving, joys and sorrows. These paintings remind me to celebrate others and to remember we are One in that we are made in God’s image as powerful creators.
Pomegranates Picking/ ink and watercolor Elaine Clayton copyright 2014
I remember the era of life when I realized that I was not happy and did not have abundance and it was time to choose to change that. Every moment is one to see the love or see the shadows, see the light or get lost in the dark. I don’t always see the love, I am not always bringing love through myself, but for the most part, I learned the hard way to bask in joy instead of cynicism, anger or negative thoughts. I regret negative words I’ve said in my life, and I still work on this, I think being conscious of it has helped me grow.
Sometimes the world we’re in is so polarized, it seems hell-bent toward destruction. How do I keep positive with so much hatred and extremism? I am not sure, but it really is the only choice I have, I’m not going back to choosing (unconsciously or consciously) shadows and darkness. Maimonides taught that the joys we pass up on in life, the good things we could have received but said no to, those are all instances we will have to apologize for in the after-life. Imagine standing in the presence of God, watching a movie of your life, seeing all the negative words, choices and the good things that flowed to us that we rejected. I know I’ll be having to witness some of those, and probably some great stuff that was coming my way that my negative attitude or actions may have kept from coming fully to me–these are all my responsibility. So, I hope I get to see a life-movie that shows some absolutely glorious days of taking this earth time I’ve got, moment by moment, and being filled with LIGHT, in celebration of the good in life, even in these strange, often painful days.
I recently immersed in the mikvah, holy and blessed water, mayyim hayyim. I did this because I love healing rituals and because I think there is something sacred about renewing the body and spirit symbolically–I needed to do that. You can do this in the ocean, I have done it before (just stating the prayer intention to heal, to be renewed as I swam). In Judaism, it is one of the commandments, or mitzvot, to honor God’s wishes by immersing in water. (Not everyone likes some of the sexist-feeling aspects of women having to immerse after their menstruation, for example, because it implies we are “unclean”, but some of that is, I think, due to the fact that commandments were developed centuries ago when that was probably arguably good hygienic advice. Now we know menstruation is not a health threat to anyone, won’t make anyone ill or hurt anyone. And yet, Orthodox Jews still go by the ancient ways and there have been many who say it is a spiritually fulfilling practice.)
I immersed as a way to acknowledge a willingness to heal, to be blessed by God, to surrender to the will of God while consciously choosing life, choosing vitality and empowerment. For me, the mikvah is a symbolic ritual inviting me to see the opportunity to thrive in a way that aligns me with God. I personally can’t feel I am thriving without that alignment. And I need to step out of the ordinary daily routines to make that spiritual connection.
If you are Jewish and have any experience with going to the mikvah, or strong opinions about it, I’d love to hear them. If you are Christian, you will remember in Isaiah the Pool of Siloam, and in the Christian bible, that Jesus healed people and sent them to Siloam, the Jewish mikvah. And some Jewish scholars refer to John the Baptist as “John the Mikvah Man” since he was immersing people in water to renew their spirit and connection with God.