Saturday, September 27, 2008

Is Life but a Chess Game?

"After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box".

This is a great old Italian proverb that I have heard many times in different ways. Years ago a college professor I worked for at the University of Rochester School of Medicine whom I respected for his brilliance and always called him "Dr. Berg..." one day came to me and said: "Ilona, please call me by my first name, George, because you know....we all put our shoes and pants on the same way". I was surprised, but also realized he was giving me a gift of respect by saying he was not better because he had a Ph.D. and I did not. My contribution to the world was just as worthy of respect as his. It was a valuable gift that I hope I passed down to my children.

I hope it stuck with them as it did with me. I had been raised to respect authority figures and people who have distinguished themselves with higher education and positions of authority--out of respect. I respected my parents and grandparents too, but did not always agree with them. I was also taught to respect people for what they do and not what they say or what position of power they are in. That goes for friends, teachers, doctors, religious people, people of the law and especially politicians. I'm glad I learned that young because over the years I worked for professors, doctors, lawyers, scientists, and politicians. I respected them all, and treated them with respect deserving of their positions, no more and no less.

When I left the "business" world and entered the world of alternative healing, I thought that the people in this profession to be another breed unto themselves. Initially wondering if I even belonged there, I soon realized I was with like minded souls very quickly. Most of us were people searching for a new life...breaking away from the corporate world of "rules" we were all forging ahead into the unknown. Coming from every conceivable background, everyone was excited to be doing something that was healing to us most of all, and that when we went into the world of work, we would be offering ourselves for a profession greater than ourselves. The first few years were a real financial challenge but after many years of travel and learning, I fell into a comfortable place where I felt secure knowing I had a space to work in that afforded me five full days of work with a schedule almost fully booked every week, even into six weeks out at certain times of the year. The other two days were devoted to my sculpting--which was just budding then. I also gave myself a day a week devoted just for my business chores.

My years in the business world helped me to relate with my clients as "real people" with "real health issues" and not Mr. or Mrs. this or that title. In my office people left their titles outside and I, as well. Ego's have no place in the healing world on either side. My clients felt comfortable with me because I related to them with friendliness and compassion and my focus was for their healing in their own time, not mine. I firmly believed that anything is possible, and healing does not distinguish between a person's education, background or professional title. It is the purest form of energy exchange when two people can work together for the same goal but one is the receiver and the other the transmitter of healing energy in honesty, compassion and the highest good of all.

If the entire world worked like this we would have no wars, because everyone would have the best interest of all in mind, not only what is "in it" for them; we would have no greed because the heart has no desire for more than it needs; we would not have wanton killing of helpless animals who have no desire to harm anyone; we would not have a financial crisis because a few people are here to prosper for their own good only, and we would have no need for any government intervention because people would just "do the right thing" by their own conscience and not need anyone standing over them with a bat forcing them to "do it my way". Acceptance of other points of view would allow men and women to succeed at their own pace and not feel they have to "measure up to someone else's standard of excellence" but all would strive to a standard of excelllence naturally that does not take away from someone else but gives back what it takes from the world.

I know this is all idealistic phoo phoo...and a lot of you probably think I'm some kind of spiritual airhead and not very realistic, but I don't get why our world seems to be in such horrific disarray these days. IF it all has to do with the fact that we are in a hot political year, I can understand it because all of the political and media world seems to be so ego oriented that it sets the stage for all kinds of negativity and mind games. But the whole of our world is off course. Maybe I'm feeling it more than most folks but maybe not. I have not even been able to post on my site lately, out of fear of sounding too negative, and indeed I know there is plenty of beauty in the world to be grateful for, so I will try to forego the philosophy 101 lesson today.

What I have done this week is to create an altar for prosperity, thanks to a good internet friend of mine from the
website"Angels in the Whirlwind" and I am expecting very positive results from that. I started a walking regime two weeks ago and when my legs start to recover from the beating that one mile a day is giving them, I will tell you if that is helping or not. And yesterday I finally took some well deserved R&R time and went to Quail Botanical Gardens about five miles from me and spent about two hours walking through the beautiful gardens, looking at the gardens, the water features and 22 beautiful outdoor sculptures that are on display there. (See photo of Lion at the top of the page).

Some of the sights in the Garden": This white flower is a very rare type of tropical plant that is like a shooting star....very beautiful and is in the tropical forest part of the gardens.

All throughout the gardens are colors and fragrances
of flowers blooming everywhere. Many have already passed and many are in full colors.

Color abounds in the variety of sculptures, ponds, water features and places to sit and just enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Since it was Tuesday, the garden was nearly void of visitors, the parking lot nearly empty, so I had the gardens virtually to myself. It was heavenly; just what I needed to connect back to nature.

I hope you enjoy some of the sights and sounds too!

No tropical garden is complete without the lily pond.

"Nature, in its own perfection seeks nothing extra...

Air, Sunshine, Earth and Water...all exist to complete Mother Nature's perfect creations, the plants and flowers.

They, in turn, exist to give back to nature, to the soil, to the air, to us...both in oxygen so we may breathe, and in beauty to restore our soul.

A sight to behold.....

and sounds of natures perfection....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Way?

A human being is part of the whole, called by us "the Universe." Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty............ Albert Einstein

In my studies and reading on "The TAO" I came across this by Huang Po:

Question: What is the Way and how must it be followed?
Answer: What sort of thing do you supposed the Way to be, that you should
to follow it?

Many people ask about "The TAO of Stone"...what do I mean by the TAO? The TAO is not a thing - it is a Way...a way of being, not something to follow, as the answer above explains. It is not a religion or a particular philosophy but I believe perhaps the word philosophy describes it best as describing what the Way IS but in and of itself it is UN-describable. One Taoist master said that if you can describe the TAO, then it is not the TAO. It is a sense of being in spirit with all that is. Deep compassion for "the ten thousand things" or in other words, all of nature and life and being "in tune" "receptive", or at a state of total acceptance, or non resistance to what IS.

Think of a rock...or a stone lying in a quarry in Tuscany, Italy. It is there for perhaps hundreds of years, undisturbed until one day someone comes along and removes it. This person then packs it on a pallet, and it is shipped over the ocean to New York, and subsequently later shipped on to California and ends up in a stone supply warehouse in Escondido, California. There it sits at the bottom of the pile until--along comes me.

Now I am what is considered a "direct" stone carver, one who carves by feeling and touch, rather than forcing an
object out of just any old stone. So when I search for a stone, the stone has to speak to me. Not literally, but something in the stone does grab me, or attracts me to it. When you have found a special piece you just know. The subject of the stone sculpture is already there in its "essence" and you see it with your heart. That is what I mean by following "the TAO" of the stone. It is the only way I can sculpt, or create a new piece. I must be in touch with the material.

The latest piece I created, which I have been talking about for the past few weeks, "Another Side of My Self" was an interesting piece because I did not know I was going to create it until very recently. Unlike many of my sculptures or mosaics especially, I think about them for months in advance and often have the entire concept already completed in my head. This time was different. I was recently selected to show three other works of art that I currently have finished, in a show at Bistango Restaurant in Irvine, California from October through January. The owner asked if I could create another mosaic to go with the piece entitled Mirrored Image which they had selected as one of the pieces for the show: Being that I really wanted to do the show, I said yes, but knowing also that I only had six weeks to complete the piece gave me a little bit of a challenge. Normally I take three months at least to complete a large mosaic because I don't work on them full time. I work a few hours a day or up to six hours max. It may look like you are just cutting glass and gluing the pieces on randomly but there IS a pattern and a method to create the right effect. I try to pace myself to avoid becoming burned out. Stay focused but also keep my mind open and fresh and above all, have fun with it. Nothing ruins a piece of art more than monotony or pressure to complete.

The challenge was in developing the concept from the beginning. No artist works totally without a design even if it is just in their head. I work with a conceptual idea or what I want to convey with my work, and basic and very simple sketches initially. I then determine my general color scheme and what materials I will use. With a mosaic, which needs to be built out of a variety of materials to create the basic structure, the glass is the last thing to go on, but also the most effective and essential for the right effect. You have to know what the piece will look like finished in order to put the mosaic together correctly, as it is not something you can change once the grout is done. That is the final product.

Unlike stone, where you don't have any idea what the finished product will look like when you start, you work totally
by intuition, feel and touch. The concept begins to develop as you work and sketch as you go along. Once the basic
structure is developed then it is much easier to finish but it all takes time and just a lot of trust. The final product in stone is a much more time consuming and tedious project and it is very doubtful that I could finish a stone sculpture in five weeks, but not impossible, providing the stone cooperates.

And last of all, being in the "now" or present moment, also helps when you are working with art. If your mind is wandering all over the place that doesn't work. It is very important to stay grounded and if you are not really grounded, try working with stone. Nothing connects your energy field to Mother Earth like Stone! Glass is close, but not the same. When I work in glass I feel the energy of Fire, more than Earth, which is why it helps to have a fountain nearby to help calm you, and I also play music while I am working , usually either classical or Native American Flute music. For me it is the best way for me to lose track of time and just be in the flow of my work.

So today I finished putting all of the last pieces of glass on my sculpture, and grouted it completely.
All in all it was about six hours of work-just for today. Grouting takes a long time and there is much tedious cleanup and polishing required to make it perfect. It is not something you can do in a hurry or you risk ruining all your hard work. Remember we are working with tiny pieces of glass that are as small as 1/4 of and inch in some cases. The grout fills out the piece, softens the colors and smooths the form so that your work finally comes to life. This sculpture has a story, and
in my next post I will talk about the mosaic series on "the Self"...

She is truly "Another Side of My Self"....more later.

Peace be to all....Love and Light

Sunday, September 7, 2008

On Passing Time

This photo of San Diego taken at dusk from the opposite side of the harbor called Shelter Island, is a snapshot in time. Nothing seems to be moving, but if you look at a photo taken just minutes after, you would see that something did change, the sky looks different and there are boats in the scene that weren't there in this photo. Everyone knows time doesn't change, it just IS. But we wonder often, "where does it go?" there "never seems to be enough time"; "time flies when you're having fun"...and on and on we go with comments about "time".

When I looked at my last blog post, I realized I had not written for two weeks, and I wondered to myself, "what have I been doing for two weeks that I didn't take the time to write one word in my blog?" Well I will tell you, I have been cutting hundreds of mini pieces of stained glass and gluing them to my sculpture "Another Side of My Self"...and I am still not done. It is a labor of love and one in which once started one must persevere until the completion. Kind of like baking bread. Now the mosaic is not all that I am working on, in between that I am, like everyone else, multi-tasking and trying to keep my life in balance, although the latter seems to be a little on the far left of center at the moment. I am always working on the balance issue, whatever that may be.

Lately my thoughts have wandered into the area of passing time, and how "what I do with my time" is either helping or hindering my progress for self-improvement and success. Yes I still think about being "successful" even at my age! Successful at what is the issue. Often, when I become interested in some new idea or project, I never feel as though I have completely achieved success at it unless I have mastered all the parts. I am one of those people who have many interests and when I become interested in something, must learn everything about it I possibly can, short of going back to college. But reading books, talking to people who are knowledgeable about the subject, and studying everything I can to know as much as I can, to not only feel comfortable about trying something new, but in judging what is good and/or bad about it and deciding if I even want to spend my time developing this new idea or project. I am definitly not a
just "jump in and tackle it" kind of gal. No, I'm the analytical type.

Although I have have done that on occasion, like when back about 20 years ago while living in South Florida, one of my best friends and I decided on a whim to become SCUBA certified. This was a total off the chart kind of thing that, on retrospect, I think I must have been slightly out of my mind to do. My reasoning was that I had always been afraid of the water since at the age of five so this would help me overcome my fear; I almost drowned in the Atlantic ocean in New Jersey, saved only by the quick action of my father, who jumped into the water, clothes and all, to save me. Now don't get me wrong, I love the ocean and have always been drawn to it, but it was a love/hate kind of thing. As a high school student, my coach threatened to fail me if I didn't pass swimming, and it was just by sheer luck that I made it across the pool without drowning.

Anyway, back to the SCUBA story. My friend and I decided this would be a great way for me to overcome my fear by doing something so ridiculously difficult for a non swimmer to achieve that surely I would never fear the water again and it was slighly akin to people who jump off of bridges attached only by heavy rubber bands at their ankles; it would give me a higher sense of inner confidence and personal power. Now that sounded great. So in we went and signed up. The class was actually a six week course and entailed all kinds of physical endurance type things, swimming being one of them, but the focus was not on swimming. Staying afloat for fifteen solid minutes while treading water in the pool, fully dressed in all the SCUBA gear was one of the trials. How I passed again was probably due to my strong legs and ability to tread water, rather than swimming skills, and my ability to stay calm. There were others too, and a lengthy and detailed instruction course which gave us many of the important skills to understand in order to survive out there in the ocean if something goes wrong. The most important one being: never dive alone, and never panic!

The second to last test was the compass dive where we had to dive into a 15 ft. deep lake, with visibility no more than 3 feet, (I imagined it filled with alligators) and swim out to a pre determined point, and back, not losing our way and navigating only by our compass, then at the end, remove our masks underwater, and put the masks back on, clear them and ascend to the surface. All in less than 30 minutes. I was amazed when I actually did it! It was an accomplishment that better swimmers than I were not able to do, and as a result it gave me the sense of pride that doing something physically and emotionally challenging as "overcoming your fear and trusting in yourself" can do. It was not about physical ability or being a better swimmer, it was a test of the mind.

The final dive was a deep ocean dive, five miles off shore and 35 feet deep. I still remember how my body ached from dragging the heavy equipment to the boat. The ride out in the early morning dawn, calm waters of the ocean and the sheer exhilaration of falling over backwards into the ocean, and descending down to another world, in a cascade of bubbles. Once landing on the sandy bottom the first thing I saw was a huge parrotfish staring me in the face. What a shock. I quickly joined my group and we spent 20 or so glorious minutes exploring the ocean bottom and the abundance of fish. It truly felt at the time like an out of body experience but a total visceral experience as well. You know you are in your body but time seems to stop, or slow down. The events are so foreign to you, that you remember each moment like it was still happening to you over and over. Even though it has been over 20 years since that dive, I still can recall the tactile experience of the tide, the sounds, and the feeling of bouyancy and lightness in the ocean and what I believe is what attracts so many people to the experience, the sheer beauty of the ocean bottom. I can also recall the feeling of mounting "panic: as we ascended to the surface and I encountered choppy waves. Struggling to get to the boat and avoiding panicking, was probably the worst part of the dive. Once aboard, I could breath again and felt a sense of relief and awe. I knew that I had been through a life altering experience, but just not sure at the time in what way it would alter my life.

I did go on to do many more dives, in the keys especially, but after leaving Florida I have only been diving one time and probably will not go back into the ocean again, unless it is in a boat or as a snorkeler. I am happy to say it is something I've "been there done that and survived it" kind of thing. I will leave it to the younger explorers on their journey through life.

What it does give me however is, on reflection, things I have done in my past and things I still choose to experience, each and every life experience however we choose to explore it, changes us, hopefully for the better. We don't always get to know the outcome of any one thing we do until after the fact, and sometimes not ever, but we CAN choose the intention and integrity with which we program into our activities. I believe the power of our intentions is what makes an experience either positive or negative. We only get one life at a time, and when we get past the middle of it, we begin to feel like time is running downhill for us. I know, personally, I try to do too much and don't want to miss out on anything, but perhaps it is out of a sense of "panic" that I feel like time is running out, I need to do this and do that. "Don't waste so much 'time'....on things that don't matter"....but everything matters. Even those things that we may never master. Just learning about them and trying them IS important. We may pick up a new hobby thinking that this is really fun, and discover a new passion in life that may even become a new career!

Well here is the progress SO FAR...on my latest mosaic.
Remember this is bare bones and still not grouted. What you can see however is how the change in colors dramatically change the effect of the piece. My hope is by next week it will be completed and I will include detailed photos of the effects.

Until next time!