Farruquito – Moving in the Fullness of the Moment

Just the fact that I was able to attend this workshop was a small course in miracles. Well, not that small. Fear almost stopped me from going right up until the last minute. Thankfully I got over it.

Ronnie McKee was a brand new person in my life, a Flamenco student who had just been studying intensely in Spain for five years. A strong woman, she can readily take command of a situation and it was no surprise to learn of her previous elite business associations. I was both intrigued and daunted by her presence in my class considering she had studied with some very astute Flamencos.

She was best friends with the late great La Faraona, Farruquito’s beloved aunt and thus is friendly with the family. When she told me she was going to attend a four day workshop in San Francisco with Farruquito, I sighed my customary mental sigh of longing as it was so far out of my financial reach I could not even take her urging me to go seriously. But then she made me an outstanding offer I could not refuse – she offered to pay my way in exchange for private lessons. I will always be grateful for the gift of this opportunity, which to my view was nothing short of miraculous.

As one would expect, the material Juan had to share was juicy. We worked in the Tangos, Bulerias and Solea palos. His approach to Bulerias stuck in my mind – think in sixes, and know that a remáte can happen at any point in the compás. He was not keen on numbers and urged us to fall out of the habit of thinking choreographically in those terms, as numbers are for accounting. As artists, we want to use a different aspect of our being, apart from the reality of our day to day structure.

At the same time, he spoke often of finding the dance expression as it naturally comes through you. He urged us to learn the various parts of the choreography with our whole bodies rather than isolating the upper body work from the feet.

At one point he watched as we struggled with something and turned up his attention on our struggle. What he saw was a group of students fall into nervous embarrassment and he stopped, taking the opportunity to deliver a very important impression. Respect and an open state of receptivity are appropriate and useful to learning, even essential – but never shame or embarrassment. Never be ashamed of the body as it learns. He emphasized that he does not put his attention upon students to illicit shame or embarrassment, but to see how the body can better facilitate the movement.

He went on to say that though he has been performing throughout his life he still can get nervous prior to going onstage – such as at a recent big show in Spain where out in the packed audience were top notch Flamencos. However when he gets on stage his mind is as it must be, not on himself and his nervousness, but expanded to include all the elements contributing to the present moment on stage. He moves in present moment. We all were quite moved by his speech.

Flamenco is not just about the dance and music, it is about presence in one’s life. Everything present in the performance space will affect the dance. If his hair is down it is one thing, when worn pulled back it will be another kind of dance. He demonstrated with his shirt how he would use it if unbuttoned as opposed to buttoned. He obviously is a person with a lot of attention that has been developed through his craft. That attention combined with his years of experience infused the space in such a way that it felt as though these impressions were being burned in deep.

I imagine it was much like this when his grandfather taught him as a young child. Juan would refer to his grandfather as el Maestro and his respect and love were clearly evident. He spoke of how el Maestro was capable of performing fast and fancy footwork, but he noticed that it would be that single perfectly placed full forced gorpé (striking the floor with the flat foot), done with presence, that would receive the olé.

Something happened during those four days of study with him that continues to unfold. While other choreographic concerns have had to be prioritized over practice and study of what was given during the workshop, nevertheless his influence remains present in my work. He gave me the gift of potential – I walked away from his classes more alive in my potential. This surprised me. I danced those three hours nightly with a hairline fractured big toe, on four or less hours of sleep. I was among young experienced dancers with capabilities that were way beyond my own, and there were other factors present that I found daunting. But through this the power of my potential remained. According to Juan if you can feel, as he pinched his own arm to demonstrate, you can dance. It seems he created a magnificent space for this to be realized.

This experience is now conjured up in memory when life feels like one big demolition derby which is often, I must say. It helps me to feel grateful. I am grateful for the dance. I am grateful for gratitude. Gracias, Juan.

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Ranting Vs. Wonder

The one thing we all bear in common is our own uniqueness. Al Pacino said that, though his authorized biographer told me he never heard him say it. The media told me he said it. It left a lasting impression – I read this in a magazine at 14 and didn’t understand it but knew it meant something special. Still holds meaning for me, perhaps more than ever. To get to our own deep means to get to our collective whole where we meet.

Conditions supporting our individuality would necessarily promote freedom and trust in the unique expression of the whole that the individual is. Those conditions would include granting someone the being-ness to change. If one is going to transact with another in time and space granting that person the freshness of a new moment would be natural if it were your habit to be in a new moment.

More and more I appreciate the state of wonder. In that state new reality constructs are made possible to explore. When this state is present so am I. The body is soft and fluid. As I write, I am in the state of wonder about what is going to be written next even as it is being written.

When I am ranting I can’t be in wonder. I am shouting out my story. That’s just me. It might be different for others. I only have my own sense of what is real and true to go on. And based on that sense, when someone is ranting, I am being told a story in which I am not interested. Especially those same old stories about the same old stories.

We seem to be at endgame. I’ve had dreams of this time in my life, I now realize, going back many years. I wish to use the fact of my embodiment differently than what I’ve been told to use it by men throughout my entire life. Yes, men. I love them. But think about it – is this not and has this not been mostly a patriarchal dominant world for centuries upon centuries? Words and impressions coming to me about my embodiment in relationship to spirituality have come to me through male conduits or women living under the dominance of men. Yes, when it comes to spirit, ain’t no big gender thang, but just as soon as you start putting it into language to teach gender comes to play to shape things a bit. The Tao te Ching is perhaps one of the most feminine of the doctrines. “Return is the movement of the Tao. Yielding is the way of the Tao.” Translated from the Chinese, there is no gender distinction, and nicely, in Stephen Mitchell’s translation one will find passages evenly distributed with he and she.

Words don’t count from one perspective, and yet they do. Look at how long the words of Al Pacino have stuck with me. The many words and activity I’ve engaged in around those words relative to my development as a being have been influenced by yet more men. And that’s cool. I will admit at this moment even this communication bears that stamp. I am stammering – let me just say it.

I have to move with the change within. People are ranting about that.

Rants are ineffective with me. Old methods don’t resonate truthfully for me. I honor the place they have served in my life with gratitude. And with others they are effective, no doubt. But I have to admit where I’ve been sitting for some time now. I have family, and I feel there is something I am a part of that goes beyond family. Whatever that something is, it is not bound to one form. Some are trying to tell me, it seems, that it is bound to one form.

If you want to use an audience and media for ranting that’s your business. It makes me feel badly to see someone rant – badly for them. Interpreting my thoughts or activity in terms of your well established boxes is also your business. But I’m not going with it just because you have put me there.

Even under extreme circumstances as a child my move was toward community. Toward others. The grit of humanity. I hate some of the smells people can produce – that part sucks. Lots of stuff sucks about humankind. But I can’t dance with anyone else’s story anymore about how I’m supposed to interact with my body on this planet to live an enlightened life. All I’ve ever heard has come from the mouth of a man. Unless you are in a woman’s body right here right now you won’t know what it is to have heard only the voices of men telling you what to do with body/mind/spirit. I can’t help but wonder, if a man had the ability to bear a child, would they have chosen the words and methods chosen that have so cut us off from the wisdom of these bodies?

I don’t know, but I really don’t think so.

I do know my heart is deeply active in the movement that is going on and I  trust its intelligence.

There is a lot I don’t know, I know. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life. Yet no one else knows what is right for me but I. A conundrum, one that I can no longer attempt to solve in the way I have been trying.

My daughter once told someone at three that I just didn’t know what to do with all my love. Thank God I didn’t shove that experience into a box that disabled me from seeing it in wonder. There is so much of what I can only describe as love that blasts through my chest sometimes I can hardly breathe. It may start as a point of light, but it expands out to include all. I’m going with this. I have to. It has to move where it’s going – that simple. If you need to hate me or call me names, okay. That’s not what’s happening here – in fact if you wanted to know what was happening here, all you would need to do is ask. Shouting out your story about me, I will figure you are too busy to bother listening.

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Lost Keys Found

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I found my car keys. Yesterday I was getting ready to go teach a small beginning flamenco dance class when I discovered that I could not find my keys. They were not in the usual places and I thought I’d searched everywhere. The day had been another of little food or rest, smoke in the air from fires and a lot of stress. I had been blending lots of essential oils for the Celtic Festival coming up – a commitment I made months ago – and well, I was pretty strung out. I watched myself from within the dim as the body went into panic and in this state approached one of the people I live with asking if she would be going into town. She happily let me borrow her new car. When I got to the studio I found that two of the three students did not show up. I was grateful to be able to dance.

Once home I remembered that there had been one quiet moment while searching for my keys where I wondered if this wasn’t the universe telling me not to go into town – an ordeal given our long windy potholed dirt road. It has happened that way before, where an obstacle presents itself that takes up time and in that time something comes about to show me my plans must change.

A bit calmer after dance, I started to look for my keys again, but quickly got into an anxious state. I had the presence to get into my feet, into my hips and lower body away from the head and in this way walked to the car once again. I had looked inside the car before, on the floor, the seats. But I just sat down in the driver’s seat and within a breath, saw the key chain dangling from the ignition.

It hadn’t occurred to me to look there. Never did that before. I smiled a deep inner smile upon realizing how my assumptions had created my misery. Further, how beautifully the universe had been responding to my needs as they came up. Had I sat in the car like that in my original search, I’d have made the class. Had I not made it, it would have been just fine. When I thought I needed a car it appeared. My biggest assumption was that things weren’t working in my universe – that something was wrong with me.

I realized that I had been out of body, essentially. Residing in my smaller brain in my head. Right action is a holistic thing. And to be more specific, my state was a reaction to critical voices coming from without. But deep down I know it’s my movie. I can only truly act holistically when this knowledge is alive.

I trust my life just a wee bit more now. I have a good record of landing on my feet dancing. Just have to listen to my own music. There is such cacophony around me sometimes. Caca-phony – ha! Actually, it is not around me but within me. I am breaking habits of self-compromise and doubt. It produces dissonance that takes the shape of words and exchanges – pictures at an exhibition really. Everyone is entitled to paint their own picture. My job is to remember which picture I am painting so that I can give others the freedom to paint away at theirs.

When in doubt, need to get close and quiet enough to hear my own pulse. Dancing does not fail to lift me deep to where I can hear. Dancing is a big key for me. As I sat there in my body in the car smiling it also occurred to me how no one really knows the mystery by saying things about it. Questions and answers are great to a point, but really, the thing is to breathe with the mystery of my own astonishing life. Cheers to all. Happy picture painting.

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Confidence, Attention, Love and Creative Alchemy

047The problems I encounter in my art making exist in all areas of my life. Working with multiple disciplines has helped me to see this. I have seen how my attention has fallen off the intended track while journaling, again as I worked with learning a new Flamenco move, and yet again in the way that I did not complete a brush stroke with the same intention I started it. With this information, and some useful tools, I have been able to apply myself to mending the gap in my attention, which connects to all aspects of my activity.

I feel fortunate to have been well entrained to watch my attention and to have the corresponding wish to develop it. Sometimes I see the relationship between the points of distraction and habits of feeling and movement – postures I hold wrapped around core beliefs. These are being shaken with renewed vigor.

Lately I have been brought to an examination of my confidence, or lack thereof. This is made especially evident in my work with Flamenco dance, which is very much about a confidence that is essential and uniquely expressed by each individual artist. I feel fortunate to have been given opportunity to see and learn in this high arena.

Often confidence is confused with self-esteem, but they are separate creatures. Confidence is a voluntary act of faith. One infuses activity with a committed faith in one’s own presence which includes the skill level, the whole shebang. There is an ongoing experience that ultimately all is well. If you have ever seen the Don Adams version of the Maxwell Smart character in the TV series Get Smart, you have a good example of what I mean by confidence. This guy’s confidence never quits even in the midst of utter disaster at his own hands.

The tentative brushstroke, done before the move was ready, before seeing the whites of their eyes- marks my lack of confidence. To move before ready, to strike the canvas before seeing or being shouts out my lack of confidence. In the Tao te Ching Lao Tzu asks – “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?”

Confidence helps one take up the necessary space and time. It allows us to take the reins and change course as needed. True confidence springs forth from pure being and is a conscious act of affirmation. It allows me to look at weaknesses and see the possibility of changing them.

One of the beauties of creative alchemy is how one sees the inner work to be done from multiple vantage points in a more objective light, with enough Impartiality to facilitate action. Gaining skill in any discipline teaches that the body/mind can learn. The impatient and lustful toward results will miss this learning. To learn how to learn enables one to learn anything. Practice of an art form, done in the correct spirit, can both diagnose and help to heal our issues.

My attention, well honed, placed upon my creative activity, reveals love. If you do something with love often enough, it will reveal its secrets. We reveal our loving by how and where we place our attention. The soft lights of loving dedication and humility, the extraordinary brilliance of love the force in the moment’s inspiration. If I am learning to love well, I learn that all is love. May today’s work reflect if not reveal love as Love.

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So I Can Love the Work Anyway

 

update4Shown here is an earlier stage of the most challenging painting of my life. Sounds dramatic, but is actually quite industrial. Thing is, the industry has to do with a specialized kind of seeing. I can’t paint until I can “see”. I cannot “see” when I am not clear. To clarify means going deep. Go deep enough and I see that it really is all done with mirrors.

I have been given the mission and commission of making a painting that reflects a particular quality of suffering and its alleviation. There is so much I can’t even say about this essence task. Had a dream about doing this nearly thirty years ago. It is an act of love to make myself available to the subject of this painting. It is not easy. I don’t know how I’m going to eat this week – all I know is that I have to finish this painting. That’s the truth of it.

Years ago EJ Gold, my favorite art teacher, called me about some business. Somehow we got into a conversation about my relationships with people. At the time I felt hated as I had been falsely accused of things I did not do.

He told me that people do not hate me, they are afraid. I fell silent, and he quietly said, “They are afraid of your work.” At the time my arrogance took the form of puffed up humility, which thankfully burst in the oven. Work toward authenticity sure can get messy. Eventually I saw a deeper lesson in the exchange.

I remember this now for good reason. This work is hard and tends to be isolating. Fear and ignorance like to speculate hurtfully – I’m feeling my Shrek here answering the psychic torches at the studio door. We all have our critics. Showing this early version of the painting will not educate – and this is not my purpose. This is a different experiment. I am beginning to see that maybe I am given resistance so that I can love the work anyway. Love trumps everything.

 

 

 

 

 

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Patience and Faith Are Close Friends

Patience and Faith Are Close Friends

I remind myself, when I remember, of how I wanted what I have. I recall saying conditions I longed for that I live in now. Even as I look to the sky with longing for yet another set of conditions.
Many years ago I remember being asked what it was I truly wanted. It was a heated moment and I used the heat to fuel my way deep in to retrieve the answer – I wanted all my acts to be of creation. Essentially, I wanted to be an endless creator. It was a wildly true response.
Long ago in my ongoing conversation with the great artist of the sky I said, let me live as an artist. I want to live a dedicated life. I want to know myself deeply, to wake up, and evolve. Let me live a life of good alchemy. Help me to love freedom. Help me to know how to best serve. Much demolition in my quest for creation. I’ve found stepping stones amidst the rubble and marvel at the changes known.
Sometimes it is so hard to know how to speak through the changes. A large painting I am working on presently is the most challenging of my life, and seeing my way through it is dependent upon the clearing process indicated in these changes. That doesn’t say it – nothing will ever say my life. I think being an endless creator, one must accept the quality of aloneness that the great artist of the sky must know. Nothing will ever say what happens in my studio, or in my heart. Nothing will ever say the mystery, and longing is at its core.
When I look up to the sky, I remind myself that I have received many conditions asked for and gratitude pokes through. It is all in the midst of happening even as I write words that won’t say it, this illumination I catch wisps of. The blurry forms I reach toward now mustn’t take shape until ready. Patience and faith are close friends of each other, and I court their alliance.

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When the Beloved Whispers

When the Beloved Whispers

Sometimes a painting is taken only so far and left incomplete. I have learned to move on to a new project when the flow has stopped on a piece. The demands of my studio are such that often I can’t return to it for a long time. I have reservations about showing unfinished works, and most of my art remains unseen by others until complete. From time to time I feel pulled to share a work in progress. “When the Beloved Whispers” became one such piece just recently.
My art studio is multi –functional, serving also as a perfumery lab, with a floor I can practice flamenco on. I sometimes have visitors who work with me. Recently my friend was over, saw “When the Beloved Whispers” and really liked it. That current of energy was inspiration to put me back on its trail, despite the focus of work on my large commissioned piece. My eyes can see now in a way they couldn’t see before. My sense is it is actually a part of the flow of the commissioned piece.
I have always had questions about the nature of my reality and how energy flows in it. The questions help me have enough objectivity to experiment, sometimes with disastrous results. There was once when my experiment of showing a piece to someone prior to its completion resulted in it never being completed – it was destroyed accidentally. I ignored my intuition, and did not protect my work space in a healthy way. The person made a remark that ostensibly was light hearted but disparaging. Something about that moment, my open state, the concatenation of events, killed the spark for that art work. This was a valuable lesson.
Recently a friend posted a video with images that gave me exactly what was needed for the creative flow of my large panel, which is destined for a space of sanctuary. That is what feels best being created, works for spaces of sanctuary. As an artist especially of this kind of work, I have to be open and yielding over to creative force, at the same time mindful of the need for boundaries in maintaining the integrity of the flow. There is no set of rules to follow here outside of what right action might be at any given moment. Intuition is the peeling of the right action fruit. There’s a still life for you.
So many visions, so little time.

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