Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Artist Without a Brush

In early September I began having re-occuring dreams of pregnancy. I had a consistent feeling of being full, filled with so much wisdom and valuable teachings that i have had the blessing to acquire over the years from so many teachers, life experiences and an unwavering commitment to personal growth and spiritual development, yet the bridge to share these with the world could not be located. After a shadowed and forlorn journal entry of this agonizing deprivation, I made an appointment with my shamanic teacher and in trying to relay what was going on with me, the only words i could say was .."I feel like an artist without a brush".

It is now mid-Novemeber. I have returned to part-time work, finished my first year of my shamanic apprenticeship and have been initiated as a MoonCarrier given the moon rites that accompany this responsibility.

In early fall, the abscesses familiar to my diagnosed condition of Hidradenitis Supprativa were in full force, rapidly spreading and causing discomfort in almost all of my extremeties. My body had been calling out for me for a very long time..our relationship is still quite tenuous but we are definately working on coming together and falling in love after a long life of physical self-punishment, characteristic of those who were taught at a young age that their body had no value. For me this came through the childhood trauamas of sexual abuse, overshadowed by the guilt of overt religious indoctrination. I am only coming to realize now, that long after the abuser had gone, i took over his role and each time someone hurt me, or i perceived criticism, i violently punished my body temple, unconciously of course, but none the less made every effort to shut it down. With no answers to the manifested condition of this from western medicine, i began seeing a Chinese medicine doctor which would mean a complete lifestyle overhaul, weekly accupuncture, a pure diet, desceration of my vices (which i havent yet acheived), a stronger awareness of this relationship i maintained with my body and the daily administration of chinese herbs. This journey continues..

In early November I attended my last class of year one of the Celtic Shaman Woman Apprenticeship. Our teacher explained that medicines could be thought of as a balance or equilibrium that is unique to each one of us. That although every individual comes from the same oneness, we each have our own unique medicine born of the unique and individual path we are to walk in this world. A primal or original medicine is our unique essence that we come into this world with, yet as we continue walking through the journey of our life we also weave in skills, knowledge, and learned gifts born of our relationships, our communication with our ancestors in addition to acquiring some of our strongest medicines from our initiations or challenges that we meet along path or through dedication and powerful initiatory rites, such as our vision quests, naming ceremonies, rites of passage or initiations such as the Moon Carrier. She went on to explain that a very important part of understanding our medicine is to understand that the medicine we carry to the world is extremly unique and stressed the need for it to be in the world, no matter how humble we judge it to be. Not dissimilar to my teachings from the Annishnabe on personal gifts being the belonging of the community and expressed through the individual.

Complimentary to the idea of medicine, is the essence of power which she defines as the means we use to direct our medicine in the world, involving the ability to take action derived from experience, skill and knowledge. In recent days i have discovered that it is here where some of my blocks occur, the feeling of fullness being the recognition of the ripeness of these burgeoning medicines i feel within me that comprise my own individual art in the world, yet the brush representing to power of action for some reason undetectable.

Angela explained to us, that although we come into the world with this original/primal medicine is not uncommon to lose our way in the world and find ourself charting away from our original path. The medicine names we were given in the summer post-vision quest served as a map to show us where we fell away and provide direction about how to come back. My medicine name is StarFish, representing the union of the energies of the sky and the sea and telling a tale of severance between my heart and mind, that until i could find a way to unite these two and have them walk together, blocks continued to accessing this power. Her suspicion was that this severance occured when i was married to Ken, that in falling into a marriage of deciet and abuse my mind began to distrust my heart and in doing so looked down at it as a victim, the weak part of myself that could not be trusted. My suspicion today however, is that sever started long before i arrived in this experience and perhaps at that time was finally successful in breaking apart completely.

My mom has shown me in several ways and at several different junctures over the last several months that the spiritual or healing gifts of mine are repetetively kept underwraps. This was not something i was able to see before. More recently in conversations with some of my very good friends i have also witnessed that not only am i quick to devalue these personal essences in the world and instead hide behind grand spiritual philosophies derived by "worthy and credible beings" in the world, i also say very little of this colorful and talented history i have within the performing arts.

For as long as i remember i was rasied around music. My dad was a past choir director and whether he was cooking, shopping, cleaning or otherwise he was always singing. Naturally, i always sang with him and to him, although he regularly pointed out that i was incapable of harnessing the energy from within my diaphragm and instead sang from the fron of my mouth, something that obviously would need to be corrected. I remember dancing with him around the kitchen, standing on his feet as he directed the steps. I went on to become a ballet dancer, where for seven years, i was passionate about the stage and actually quit because there was too much practice and too little stage time. I sang solos at all our family events, performed solos in school competitions, was in 3 school choirs, was student choir director in 8th grade in addtion to being part of a professional children's choir, difficult to get accepted into and travelling with them on performance tours. In my youth i had strong musical peer groups with whom we made music together almost everytime we gathered, i was in musicals and drama and somehow when i got on that stage and opened my mouth, my reality slipped away, i went deep into myself and popped out again at the end of the song realizing that yes, i was in fact on earth and i was in fact in front of people. I sang the duet at my 8th grade graduation and all my endeavours in music supported all of those years in which i was being sexually abused. At the age of 12, i remember looking down at my swollen pregnant belly, that noone knew about in the middle of choir practice and belting out the rythyms that somehow continued to keep me healed. I continued to sing for about a year after the abuse ended, the abortion complete and somewhere for some reason, i developed a severe anxeity disorder and my performing stopped. My love of music was replaced by a burying, drugs, premiscuous sex, survival. My musical friend groups slowly dissappeared and the closest i got to it was my singing in the house, ferociously in the car, never to perform publically again.

For years on this spiritual journey, knowing full well that the path of the spirit belongs to the artist, that the creative spaces within us are the same spaces from which we feel and unite with the Goddess, our ancestries and the great song of creation, i have searched tirelessly for my medium, coming up time and time again feeling empty. I felt the artist within deeply, longfully and mournfully, but somehow her brush had gone missing. In it's abscence this strong therapist that has been born of the time of my traumas until this part of my life continues to rip me apart and look for the cause of my malady, correct the dysnfunction and take away the numbness that repetetively visits.

Following the last class, I asked a friend from our group to conduct a journey on what exactly was happening with the dis-ease withim my body. She came back with a valuable vault of knowledge about the detoxification, purging and cleansing my physical body was going through and also shedding light on one significant peice of information from the haling grandmother "she hasn't yet put her feet down". It sounded strangely familiar to my previous teacher, ThunderBear's observation and curiosity about why i "don't just jump off the cliff". And also to the request to do hands on healing for 3 members of the community at the request of one who i gave a short "underground" treatment to, which i quickly subverted letting him know that part of me is not public and also to the request of the local social work faculty for me to come and talk about the Indigenous worldview and my work within it, which i also shut down, once i realized my casual conversation had erupted in an invitation that bring too much exposure. This friend of mine said.."is it possible that you have performance anxiety?"

Immediately i was faced with a series of flashes of different moments in my life, the womens group i spent a year creating and designing and when just at the time for registration i shut it down. The private practice i set up, working through all the the agaonizing legalities, paperwork, buisness advertisements and fees and just as i received my first two clients, escaped it and moved out of province. The recognition of all of these trainings and teachings i have acquired that upon completion and filled with an overbearing state of unpreparedness search for the next teacher to inform my quiet learnings, the only time feeling confident to come forward through the use of academic writings and analysis of these concepts i hold dear, because they can be written in secrecy and process and by the time they make it out to the world, a faceless person resides beind the penmanship.

I told these stories to my friend who journeyed, she recognized our similarities and called me a long lost little sister. She explained that our teacher helped her lessen this anxiety by reframing her shamanic work as the work of an artist, which brought comfort to her as a musician and vocalist in the world. That's when i told her, my performance history and the lightbulb went off in my head. Performance Anxiety. Not only had this controlled my work in the world, it also spoke of my long lost history...i had stopped performing because of my social anxiety...all of this was wrapped into one large block. It was no wonder the artist had lost her brush.

Two days later I had a dream about a very dear friend in my history i met as an adult that i still struggle with the abondonment of. The most significant part of our connection was our dear love for music. In the dream he had come to visit and as he went off to visit with Madison, I went outside to bask in the sunlight and enjoy the serenity of this point in time in the world when a stern old woman approached me and placed a withdrawn and subdued baby swaddled in white knits into my arms. Hesitantly, confused and scared, as she began to walk away i asked her who this baby was and why she was leaving it with me. She abruptly walked back looked sternly in my eyes in a powerful way that left me speechless and shaken "this is my grandchild, his parents can not raise him, he is your responsibility to raise". With that she walked off poignantly and confidently. I looked down at this strangely withdrawn child, in his carefully put together white knits and searched my surroundings anxiously. I didn't want this child, where would i put him, had people seen this?, would i be accused of stealing this child? was this legal? I frantically went back into the house and asked my friend to call the police, apparently they were closed, i went into the very back room, took madisons doll out of it's basinette, layed the child within it and tucked it away in the back of the room and left back outside trying to find a direction of what to do. A group of cheerful and laidback youth in a cafe next to my house had seen what happened, she knew this woman of the village and the parents of this child, they joyously and freely told me that if i decided to return this child or made any attempt to call authorities or childrens aid or locate the parents, this old womans wrath would fall upon me. I was anxious and unsettled the bind had grown even more unsettling, i went back into the house and into the back room and found the child had rolled out of the basinette and landed face down on the floor. It did make a sound or a movement in its subduement, but i was horrified that i had put it there and left it without any such care or regard. I picked it up again and awoke.

As i was recording this dream, the symbolic significance began to speak to me. Was this old woman a representative of Calleaich, the baba yaga, stern and sharp returning this new part of me that was also indeed connected to the old? Did this baby that was subdued and withdrawn represent these performing artistic capacities that i had "shoved into the back room" and remained afraid of "people becoming suspicious" and did it connect with my body whom i am unravelling this great disdain and uncare for? Specifically, the hiding of this baby in the backroom reminded me of the journey i had conducted last class centered on medicine gathering, which when i had gotten to music, the helping spirits showed me that it was shut down at 16 and they showed these gifts being placed within a box and buried deep within my unconcious body.

Further, how did these recognitions relate to my medicine name of Starfish? When i realized these things I do not talk about despite my outgoing and openly expressive adult self my mom and I had a conversation about what happened in the early years of counseling post my sexual abuse. She said the counselor i had was moving on and was talking about a referral to one of her colleagues. They decided this was not a good move, with the counselor having cited that i talked endlessly about life at school and issues at home, but refused to say anything at all about my sexual abuse. The counselor said to my mom that perhaps i had shut that down and buried it if only to survive and that pushing me into talking about it would be dangerous, instead she best leave it until a natural opening happened when this information came to pass. I think i was well into very late adolescence before i even began to acknowledge or talk about how these experiences impacted my life. If my singing and performing which came from my heart was what nurtured my survival through this time, is it possible that when i decided to shut down the reality of the trauama and how they affected me, is it then also possible that i shut down my heart too pained to feel and being so connected to my music, shut that down too?

1 comment:

  1. wow erica. wow. so much here. what a beautiful glimpse into your intricately beautiful, powerful, traumatized and insightful soul! what an amazing dream with so much insight to your spiritual "location" right now. i'm proud of you for seeing and understanding so much and have faith that your wisdom and fullness will find it's way out into the world. it has already entered my heart and psyche and is inspiring me to explore some depths of my own. i also have a major internal split. i have disassociation from the soul in regards to sex. i've been working on how to integrate my sexuality and spirituality, to develop a subjective sense of myself rather than the objective sense that dominates my self concept...but have been frustrated. i feel very inspired by your confrontation, discovery and acknowledgment of these inner workings. You are so incredibly rich with life force and wisdom and I feel lucky to be able to read about your unfolding. I love you!