Detail from Dreaming of Shin and Shekinah /Elaine Clayton copyright 2014
There is a moment in the Friday night Shabbat service when everyone turns to face the open doors, to welcome the Sabbath Bride. She is Shekinah, the Holy Spirit, feminine aspect of God. I was late getting to the temple a few weeks ago, and saw that everyone had already started as I walked down the corridor to the sanctuary. Just as I walked through the doors, it just so happened that this was the moment everyone turned to greet the Sabbath Bride. It was funny, and I laughed and so did a few others. But actually, it felt really cool to get to walk in with Shekinah that night! I am painting this (see above, a detail) meditation of the Hebrew letter shin and of the spirit of Shekinah, a presence unseen but felt.
The Presence acrylic on canvas 8″x10″ Elaine Clayton copyright 2014
Do you see angels? They’re sometimes powerfully brilliant sparks and colors (blissful to behold!) and other times orbs of luminescent light, gliding softly, shimmering of love and calm (or are those orbs something other than angels, such as new souls or ?). I have seen some that move en masse (small) the way great flocks of birds do, in that mesmerizing swoosh, creating a changing shape as they fly together. I like to close my eyes and meditate, seeing what I see in the dark of my 3rd eye vision, until something happens. I’ll say out loud, “I’d like to see my guardian angel now.” Often a most glorious purple light comes into view, cloud-like and bright as ever. The reason I say they are angels is because there is a distinctive feeling of utter majesty and true bliss when seeing them. It’s the feeling that comes with the vision that counts. And the feeling is of deep love.
Life is sacred, when we engage with it as sacred. Every leaf, every speck is full of vibrance–the Spirit of Life is everywhere. I painted this thinking of my brother Ken and his richly poetic way of weaving words and images and stories into visions of humorous and life-enhacing awareness. He has inspired me and many to recognize the living spirit in my surroundings.
Mary and Martha/ painted sketch/ Elaine Clayton copyright 2013
I am studying Torah and taking Hebrew and LOVE IT. I recently had an exchange with the very brilliant Jewish scholar and author of several books, including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Amy-Jill Levine. Her work helps bridge a gap of misunderstanding between two traditions that spring from the same source, Judaism and Christianity. Her concentration and love of this study has improved how we see and read the New Testament and I am so grateful that she dedicated herself to it for everyone’s benefit. I was recently called a “Bridge Person” myself by a rabbi and I think I am that, actually having had a meditation recently where I am on a bridge that connects the two religions. When I asked Ms. Levine what she liked most in the NT, one was the story of Mary and Martha. I admit that I have to actually study it myself to see what I think of it, but I enjoyed painting Mary as she is on her way to see Jesus while her sister Martha remains behind preparing food. I would probably relate more to Mary as I’m not always enthralled with preparing food, but am getting better as time goes by.
We were created into being as creators in our own right. When I’m commissioned to do a Spirit Painting, I feel this. My intention is to create whatever would best serve the one it is being created for. It is a form of prayer, a meditation on behalf of that individual. Most are done for people I have never seen or met, so I have no idea what they like or what their internal aspirations are or anything. But I ask for imagery to flow through according to what would best serve that person.
I have always experienced a certain feeling while creating, and it is that of the thrill of enchantment, depth of emotion and excitement. There is an adventurous quality to creative work because the creative process is one that puts you in the moment without knowing where it will all go. In Genesis, when God created the world, there was the breath of life and the spoken word, to “be” and breathe and to state intention. In other words, I have to be in control enough to paint, but spontaneous enough to feel truly alive, so the artwork also, hopefully, feels truly alive. I believe being creative is to be open to the indwelling Spirit that breathes life into all of us. A painting needs to do the same, to not just reflect that spirit but to breathe life into the viewer. And only the viewer knows when this happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. But I won’t let a painting leave my studio if this has not happened, in fact I cannot paint unless I feel the stirring of the excitement and emotion, of breathing life into something while I work.
The point of change, the moment of mercy comes when I finally ask, “What is it I’m supposed to learn here?” Some situations, goals or thoughts are held hostage by the ego to the point where no shift seems possible. I had a client recently who said she’d been having a terrible streak spanning many years, and felt cursed. We all relate to that feeling, but what is it that shifts us out of that? I don’t believe we’re cursed, even in bad times because I believe every moment holds the Light in it, but there can be very difficult times in our lives. I told this client that I’d found in my own suffering times that there is no shift out of misery until I surrender and ask, “What is it I’m supposed to learn in this situation?” It’s like looking up at the sky and surrendering, waving a white flag as big as the Milky Way, and the ego can’t stand it! This “breaking point” does not come easily, the ego refuses to be put in a position to have to “learn”–it thinks it already knows everything, and it asserts itself as to what it wants with great authority. “I know what is best for you,” ego seems to say. But when things are sorrowful, painful, forced or simply dysfunctional, it is a good moment when that ego has to surrender and the humble question of what should be learned arises from within. Tears may follow, but the good kind.
Akashi Records/ mono print and drawing/ ink, watercolor and acrylic on paper Elaine Clayton copyright 2013
As I created this mono print, half the fun of it was not knowing what would happen. Art is most enjoyable when I am surprised by it as it progresses. What emerged into my consciousness via an image on paper was a sense of purpose (symbolized by the appearance of the whale–known as the “Keeper of the Akashic Records”). What seemed to whisper to me during the drawing phase of this mono print was the spirit of life purpose (after the print was made, I went about finding the meanings and the imagery anew). The discovery, through experiences, of my purpose in life, and how each of us finds what that means to us as individuals kept coming to mind and heart. For me, the purpose is to realize that all these constructs I’ve found myself in (life roles–that of daughter, teenager, wife, mother, artist, teacher, etc.) are there to show me who I am. I can easily see all the ways in which I need to grow more loving, more patient, more internally loving. The roles I’m in only show me the reflections of ways in which I need to grow, and sometimes ways in which I have over time.
To create a Spirit Painting, I paint as a meditation for the person the painting is intended for. I thoroughly enjoy this form of visual meditation and have created many Spirit Paintings over the years. Each one is unique. To request a list of sizes and commission prices, just contact me here. Please note: I do not charge my regular art fees to create Spirit Paintings because I want them to be available to anyone who may want one, not just for some who can afford art. I do not charge for materials, or time in these works. Each one is for personal use only, in personal places (the wall of your home), not for use in web design or other commercial/editorial or other uses (I retain copyrights to all Spirit Paintings).
I dreamed that a woman took two sweet young girls around to people at a gathering and the girls asked everyone, “What is heaven to you?” When they came around to me, and asked me that question, I looked them in the eyes and felt so much love, innocence and promise, that I responded, “Heaven to me is YOUR EYES.” In this dream I was filled with that feeling of love, life, light and all things good and I felt the message was that it really is true: the light within us, that life force energy, The Source of Life that is heaven is within each of us, and the light in our eyes is proof of that.