Contemplative Icons

I'm excited to announce the launching of a new blog project: it's called Contemplative Icons, and it was begun at the suggestion (and with the cooperation) of Lynn Bauman, the gifted scholar and spiritual sage who translated the Gospel of Thomas and created the Thomas study guides which launched my exploration of this subject; not to mention numerous other works.

The blog will offer brief passages from Lynn's translations of Thomas and the Psalms, mixed in with meditative selections from his book, Recitations -- translations of sacred poetry from a variety of wisdom sources, including Rumi, Hafez, and more.  For each passage there will be an icon to invite you into deeper contemplation of the words, so the blog can serve as a daily meditative practice; the image included here was done collaboratively with Lynn to introduce the first logion of the Gospel of Thomas.

So how did this come about?  Serendipity? Coincidence?  Or just a confluence of events?  What happened was this: while on the wisdom retreat last weekend I created a piece in response to a Mary Oliver reading (see my blog post for Friday, June 24th) and showed it to Lynn, who hadn't seen my new work.  He asked to see more (fortunately all the new work is now in a folder on Picasa, so it was easy to show him) and he immediately recognized something iconic in them, and suggested we pair his translations and my images in a more conscious way.  We talked only briefly, decided our course was clear, and created the new blog on the spot.  Amazing, actually...

Lynn states our rationale for setting up this project as follows: "In this age of division and rigid dogma, what we need now are not more belief systems or a better theology, but imaginal fire: that which speaks to and touches the mystery of the heart and the depths of the soul. Truth needs to resound in images, poetry, metaphor and song so that it can resonate through the whole of our being and lift us beyond narrowness of mind into the unity of sacred Spirit."

I confess I am both honored and terrified to begin this -- something I explored a bit in an earlier post this week.  Having worked on it for a few days, I can begin to see that this is stretching me primarily because of the intentionality of the artwork: In the earlier work in this genre, I would just create as the spirit moved me, and then, in the blogs, explore what the art might have to say; it was a very unstructured process, and seemed to come purely from the heart.

But now I am creating in response to specific words -- Lynn even suggests images to work from -- and so the art -- though it still needs to have a component of inspiration -- requires more brain/heart integration.  It's a bit like the difference between being conscious and present during meditation, and being conscious and present in the world: it requires balance, and discipline, and collaboration. 

And in becoming more conscious as an artist,  I immediately bump up against egoic limitations: you know those demons, with their chants of "Who do you think you are?" and "What right do you have to do this" and "You are not a trained artist; who are you trying to fool," "You don't have what it takes to pull this off," "You can't possibly sustain this level of creativity," etc, etc, etc.

I could see them coming before I even left the retreat -- could hear their Greek chorus beginning to resound in my veins -- so I mentioned it to Lynn; alerting him, I suppose, to the possibility of failure.  "What if this source dries up?" I queried, and he smiled and said, "It never does."

The voice of experience, I suspect; he has been endlessly prolific over these last few decades.  And so I have to trust that the work will continue to flow, that the Source is infinite, and infinitely wise; that this work is meant to be, and will eventually become second nature to me; challenging, but not impossible.

Times like this, I'm glad again that I grew up in Ohio, where the state motto still is, "With God, all things are possible!"  I just have to trust, and believe.


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