While I was growing up my family created safe houses for women to run to. In time, I discovered that I wanted to create safe spaces for women to turn to in their experience of themselves.
Without that internal sanctuary, would we even survive?
Art, Violence and the Voice of the Soul
Red Thread Letter #864
I used to think that the greatest crisis of our species was violence against women. I could not understand how this pandemic level storyline, which existed in every nation of the world, wasn’t front and center in the voices of leaders and the masses. What was going on? Was it an intentional omission?
While I was growing up my family created safe houses for women to run to. In time I discovered that I wanted to create safe spaces for women to turn to in their experience of themselves. Without that internal sanctuary, would we even survive?
I learned from thousands of women that the violence they were experiencing within themselves was another form of keeping the systemic abuse in place. A riddle began to unfold in front of me as I began to work with women on leaving harmful places in their lives, by first leaving harmful places in their mind. I wondered, could this lack of thinking that you matter, be the root? How we speak to ourselves?
That couldn’t be it…because we are often the ‘target’ of persistent violence no matter what we believe about ourselves or the world. The numbers show that so much of the violence happens in places that are supposed to be safe, by people the women knew, and at one time trusted or chose to be in that person’s life. In those cases, was it a matter of her using her own voice and will to make her life different? And was that another form of victim-blaming, saying it was HER that had to change? I began to wonder what I might be missing in our theory of healing and recovery.
As a blooming art studio and school, we were having some powerful results working with creativity as a way to address first internal violence, then the violence they endured in their lives. But…if their basic needs weren’t met, could they even begin to assert a different narrative at home? Was it actually hunger, before violence that was most pressing?
When I learned that there was enough food on the planet to feed everyone and that it was actually enforced scarcity I had a wake-up. Things began to get even more complex in how we addressed the stories that women were telling themselves and how that created or uncreated their experience of their lives. How women felt about themselves, and about the world around them was informing their lives and they said so. Yet there was also a lot of resignation.
We heard women say – ‘this is just how it is’ as if it had always been this way and would always be this way. Was this a kind of surrendering? What encouragement could we begin to provide? Was inviting women to draw, paint and dance just another elitist remedy that didn’t address what was behind a culture that allows women and their children to be jeopardized over and over and over?
I wondered, don’t people understand that each of us comes from a woman, a mother? How could this mentality of not valuing life even begin and be allowed? How could we glorify death over birth? Are we just a violent people? I learned soon enough that we haven’t always been violent, yet this past 5-8,000 year cycle has brought violence and greed to the level of paradigm.
We can have a hard time imagining another way, like it was before, and could be in the future. My heart wanted to believe it was possible to change this paradigm at the root of every person we could reach. My heart would not give up seeking a solution that worked day after day, that the women and families could choose for themselves right where they were. Not a solution that meant they had to leave their home and family and get to a new apartment with a new job and new clothes. I wanted to work together to find a solution that existed as a choice for us RIGHT in the middle of the pain and violence. It couldn’t be a frame of mind shift, could it? What could it be then?
I had learned enough in advocacy work to know that asking women to leave violence, even with a solution for food and housing, wasn’t going to work for everyone. And in many cases, I had to honor that she wanted to stay in her relationship and try to work it out. What about the abuser? What could we do for that person? The woman had to be ready and often risk her life before she was ready. Could we get women ready to create more safety for themselves right in the middle of a war zone?
Was I dreaming some kind of utopian fantasy about what might be possible? I remember speaking to women about their art who were whispering so their partners would not hear them talking to me. Was I putting them in more danger by inviting them to make art? Truly, so much to consider in the work of serving with ethics, equity and just love in action.
What I learned simply through being present over many years with women in hard lives, and who were hard on themselves even if they were safe, is that making art started to change her relationship to herself. I saw it over and over and over. I remember how women told me that having the paintings of the feminine in their homes began to change their household. At first, it was my paintings, then they began to make their own.
I could not believe my ears, the river of joy moving through me that even just one household was more beautiful and safe. That a new conversation was happening. And that when she was painting, she felt safer, for that cycle. That the break in pattern was what her mind, heart, and body needed to catalyze change. This exploration of impacting internal and external violence and administering healing has been my practice since the time I was 24 years old. My focus on bringing a remedy that works in the moment to catalyze change is a kind of obsession.
In time I stopped doubting the power of creativity as the chosen catalyst in a person’s life. The evidence spoke for itself. So what WAS happening? I began to wonder if what is in MOST need of transformation is how a woman speaks to herself, from within herself. Could we re-establish a relationship with the voice of the soul? If the soul could clearly speak, would a woman be empowered to make different enough choices for herself, her family, her worldview, her future? Was it enough? Was it possible? How?
I had another big wake-up call when I realized that ‘re-establish’ might be an issue. To use the prefix ‘re’ meant that it existed at one time and could be found again. Doing research with our students demonstrated a reality I did not want to hear. Many women did not recall a time when they could hear and feel the voice and vision of their own soul, their essential self and storyline were submerged in monumental sediment through a lifetime of stories enforced upon her, by others, and by herself.
I got to work on the excavation as an archeologist of soul stuff. But not just me, I enrolled the Artist Sue Hoya Sellars who illustrated consciousness and insisted we could inhabit it. I enrolled the Poet Caron McCloud who was certain that identity itself was at the core of the issue. She said that if we didn’t know who we were, we would continue to make choices inconsistent with our truest self. Both women said that the thing which changed everything was creativity.
Since I was their child I saw what they said was true. But something was missing. What was it? They were both talented at their craft, brilliant self-educated women who had overcome adversity to arrive in their fullness. But what about people who were not talented at art, and writing, were not brilliant, and even if they were educated, didn’t have the will to really see what was going on in the dominant paradigm?
Was this ‘creative transformation’ only for the brave and the brilliant? I dug in. With my cowgirl boots in the red dirt, I got to work and I haven’t stopped. I began to study the art of sharing art as a way of being with one’s interior life, then to bring it to the life you live in your day to day. I began to reverse engineer their creative process and develop what Sue called “a way of working” so that I could share this approach with others, having nothing to do with talent. A process took the initial guesswork out and kept fear at bay so that the creative juice could begin to flow.
I was able to reveal a creative technology that anyone could do, anytime, anywhere with any medium. I felt I had struck pure gold. Art is accessible to all and creativity is in all of us. KAZOWWAAAAA!!! This is it! I found what I had been seeking, and really what Caron and Sue were seeking too. Freedom within my own voice and vision and a desire to share it with others. A super cool benefit to finding access through creativity is that you wish for others to have it too, often with a passion that burns bright. I wasn’t alone anymore in my fervor for justice and transformation.
I invited many women to join me in our exploration of HOW creativity could be a CHOSEN catalyst for change. First 25 women, then 100, then 1000, then 10,000, then 100,000, and the rest is herstory until now when we have become the world’s largest art movement rooted in a matriarchal framework.
Over time I learned something VERY important, that creativity had to be available having NOTHING to do with talent, skill, or even a desire to ‘make’. Creativity had to be used as a life-saving measure, a go-to in the time of trouble, it had to become a life choice you could visit over and over and over. And I hoped, choosing creativity with an intent to heal and become illuminated could become a lifestyle!
All of this led to a rather monumental AHA in 2018. I remember the moment. I was working on a class “Dance of the Critic and the Muse” and I saw a vision. From time to time, I do hear the voice and vision of my soul in vivid color. I saw a mind, not just a brain but a whole consciousness space, with a big series of channels, like tubing pathways. I saw the voice of the critic moving very quickly through a few of those channels and being experienced as a toxic cocktail as the rest of the body was ‘fed’ the information, which resulted in a kind of ‘mental posture’ consistent with the poison running through. A chemical bath of violence against self, being experienced in gene expression and firing and wiring consistent with what was being thought of as ‘the self’.
I was scared, to be honest. I was shaking. I was worried, if we are so hard-wired to be cruel to ourselves, how could we ever establish pathways of creativity powerful enough? We had a lifetime of the other way – can new synapses wire fast enough to over-ride the others?
Then I asked a life-changing question: Can those same biological and neurological pathways be re-purposed by CHOICE on COMMAND through CREATIVITY? Could the Muse highjack the super-highway of toxicity? Then I saw it. The toxic puke green neon chemical color began to change before my eyes to magenta, the color of my Muse. My heart was beating softly and powerfully in my chest. Tears came to my eyes. Yes, women could CHOOSE to repurpose the pathways of the critic’s voice, with the voice of their own creativity. I honestly felt like it was the discovery of a lifetime. Then I backed it up by interviewing scientists and doctors. They agreed it could work and was how it worked – yet they insisted something really powerful as a practice would need to be put in place for it to ‘stick’ – most of them suggested meditation.
I knew I had something far more powerful than a sitting/thinking/affirming meditation. We had something active, somatic, and stellar – creativity. Intentional Creativity – we could do the work of re-wiring by choice through drawing and painting the transition from the voice that speaks from harm to the voice that speaks from inspiration. Wow. That I could teach. That I could teach others to teach. This was mine to do. But not just mine, many of us. And so we are.
After what feels like a lifetime, I have landed at my own personal truth around the greatest threat to humanity, bold right? Here it is:
Humans will be more authentic and loving if they are connected to who they are and can hear their own voice. If humans are not connected with who they are and they cannot hear their own voice speaking, they would not be able to make sound choices.
I want to acknowledge a basic assumption here, that given an environment that nourishes the child and the family, we will be essentially good. Once basic needs are met, what could be more nourishing than knowing how you think, feel, and therefore act? We know it is possible to create this connection through Intentional Creativity.
About that re-connect and re-establish language? For the time being, I prefer to not refer to the phenomenon anymore as ‘re-establish the voice of the soul’ because I have no idea how long it may have been since someone felt what that was. Now the invitation is simply – How can we access the voice and vision of the soul through self-expression? From here, we can begin to create the world we dream is possible.
Somewhere inside of us, even if we don’t remember having access to the soul, even if we don’t have an experience of a life without internal and external violence. Somewhere inside of us perhaps there is this deep and sacred sweetness that knows we are more than we appear. Something in us remembers and longs for a life of peace, harmony, inspiration, partnership, and celebration.
I wanted to create a space where we could practice that remembering. Where many muses together could explore both in sovereignty and unity the voice and vision of their own soul. I trusted that soul voice connection, could be an essential healing.
For me, it is truly beyond profound and humbling that this approach is actually working and has been for years and years. That doesn’t mean those of us who practice and teach don’t have problems and crises, it means we know what to do when the challenges arise.
Will you dream into the possible with me?
Dear Heart, no matter where you are or what you are experiencing, I want to assure you that your SOUL is intact and that ACCESS is available. I want to invite you to consider that your creativity is the WAY the soul has access to express their unique colorful story through you. I want to comfort you in knowing that you do not need talent or experience to feel the benefits of your creativity, you just need to choose. We are here with the catalyst of transformation. I invite you to feel the supportive presence here with you as you read these words. Thousands of women together are creating this field of love together for ourselves, and for you.
The wind is howling, the sun is rising, the husband is making coffee, the kitties are meowing and my Red Thread Cafe today is an invitation to explore the connection with the voice of your own soul. To know it is possible. To join us in this community in learning it and guiding others in your life with this work. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for you and this work. It isn’t me, or my gift, I just know about it and have spent my life sharing it, this gift is in all of us. We just need to choose to awaken to the access and begin. Pick up the pen, the brush, the drum and sing a new song together.
As Caron McCloud says “Mattering Matters”.
Together, we got this.
Artist, Storyteller, Maverick, Curator
MUSEA Center for Intentional Creativity Museum and School
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