Friday, March 25, 2011

Gazing Into A Crystal Ball

Visiting the Penn Museum at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology had been on my "must do" list for quite a few years.  Founded in 1887, this museum has one of the most substantial collections of Egyptian architecture on display in the United States.  A 13-ton red granite sphinx, the third largest in the world, even dominates their gallery.  But...that's another blog post for another time!

When I recently read the wonderful reviews of the Secrets of the Silk Road exhibit that is currently at the museum, I decided it was definitely time for a visit.  My son went to college in Philadelphia and had visited the Penn Museum a number of times.  He always loved it.  So, I asked him if he would like to join us.  The first thing he said was, "Oh Mom, you know that the Penn Museum has the second largest crystal ball in the world...  It's really cool, I know you'd just love it"!  No, I didn't know anything about the crystal ball... but after he said that I couldn't wait to see it!

The "crystal sphere" was a treasure of the Imperial Palace in Beijing.  It is said to have been one of the favorite possessions of the infamous Qing dynasty Empress, Cixi (1835 – 1908). Cixi was a concubine who rose to the position of Dowager Empress during the latter part of China’s Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911). The end of the Qing dynasty was a period filled with economic and political distress, and Cixi was not exactly loved or revered because of her lavish tastes and luxurious lifestyle.  As a result, when imperial China crumbled her palace was ransacked and she fled Beijing.  Many of her precious belongings were stolen and dispersed.  Among her possessions was a flawless, crystal sphere – believed to be the crystal sphere now owned by the Museum.

The Penn Museum acquired the crystal sphere in 1927 when Eldridge Reeves Johnson, a benefactor of the Museum, saw the sphere for sale at the John Wanamaker store in Philadelphia. Johnson bought the sphere for $50,000 and donated it to the Museum when he died.  The crystal sphere stayed without incident at the Penn Museum for 61 years until it was stolen in 1988.  How it was stolen and by whom is still debated, but the piece was eventually traced to a private home in New Jersey and returned to the Museum.

The crystal sphere weighs 49 lbs. It is completely flawless and it really is believed to be the second largest crystal ball in the world.  The stand that the sphere sits on replicates the shape of a wave and was created by a Japanese artisan.  The rock crystal originated in Burma and was shaped into a sphere through years of constant rotation in a semi-cylindrical container filled with emery, garnet powder and water.

Viewing the crystal sphere was pretty interesting.  What struck me the most is that every image reflected in it was upside down.
When I went home I decided to research more about the history of the sphere and also find some additional information about crystal balls in general.

The following excerpt comes from a wonderful resource book:
The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World by Theresa Cheung.  If you ever have a chance to obtain this book for your library, I would highly recommend it! 

"A tool used to help diviners go into a psychic trance , the crystal ball is perhaps the classic and best-known method of divination.  Most people assume it is the ball that has the power, but is does not.  The secret is not the ball but the technique of scrying, which involves keeping your eyes open while staring into a shiny, reflective surface to induce a form of meditation or self-hypnosis - the prime state for opening awareness to clairvoyance and psychic insight.

Scrying and crystal gazing practitioners were found in ancient times throughout Mesopotamia, among the Druids and other peoples of Europe and in China.  Modern scryers  most commonly use crystal balls that are usually three to six inches in diameter.  The ideal crystal ball is made of quartz, not glass, because quartz crystal is thought to increase psychic energy".

~ diane fergurson

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You may also enjoy:
The Sun and Moon Tarot Review
Book Review:  The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween
An Introduction to Tarot

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Monday, March 21, 2011

The Role of the Healer

"One of the most fundamental roles a healer can play is to help individuals attune themselves to their own unlimited healing capacities.  Each of us has an inner voice or adviser that helps us regulate our internal responses with quiet and truthful guidance.  (It is also important to) create an environment of support and reflection in which individuals can become receptive to their innate wisdom.

In assisting this process of calling forth our innate wisdom, the healer empowers us to look within for "healing", rather than to external sources for "curing."  The healer and the person being healed can then explore the idea that disease may not be a random event; it may even be a message telling us that we have deviated from our true path.

The realization that we possess these profound healing powers within us enables us not only to heal ourselves, but also to support others in their healing quests."

From the book:
Healers on Healing
edited by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. and Benjamin Shield

"Regarding the Moon - Gazing Crescent Blue Sky Clouds"  by photographer Karen Casey Smith is
available in her shop on Etsy

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Little Bit About Saint Patrick

Since starting the Mind Body Spirit Marketplace my education about different cultural beliefs, religions, historical figures and mythology continues to grow everyday.  So does my collection of reference material!  Today is St. Patrick's Day.  I'm watching the sun peek out this morning (finally), the grass beginning to turn green... (a little, at least there's no snow)... and while putting on my green earrings and Celtic amulet I decided to thumb through "Saints Preserve Us" by Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rodgers to refresh my knowledge about Saint Patrick.  What I found out may surprise you... 
The following reference was taken directly from book (which I would definitely recommend, by the way)

enjoy your day!

~ diane

"Partick- March 17
 Patron of Ireland and Nigeria; Invoked Against the Snakes

Patrick wasn't Irish; he was Welsh-Italian.  His name wasn't Patrick, it was Succat.  He wasn't the first Christian missionary sent to Ireland-that was Saint Palladius.  And there were never any snakes in the country to begin with.  But aside from that, everything you know about Patrick is true.  He was declared by the Sacred Congregation of Rites to be the Patron of Nigeria in April 1961."

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series: Joanne Miller Rafferty

I met Joanne Miller Rafferty about 12 years ago at the New Jersey Center for Visual Arts.  We both had an interest in learning to make handmade paper to incorporate into our mixed media artwork.  At the time I had no idea the extent of Joanne's art career, but I remember my friend who was also taking the class was simply astounded that an artist of Joanne's caliber and experience was working right along with us... up to her elbows in paper slury! As you'll see from my interview, Joanne Miller Rafferty has been creating fine art for most of her life.  She has won just about every award and recognition there is.  Her work is in thousands of private and corporate collections.  Television and movies have incorporated her pieces into their set designs.  Joanne sells her original pieces and edition gilcee prints throughout the US and is represented by a number of galleries.  Since 1990, Joanne has sold over 96,000 prints worldwide.  
                                                                                                                ~ diane fergurson

Memory's Museum #5  by Joanne Miller Rafferty
MBS: You've had a long and distinguished career as an artist. Can you tell us a little about your background? How you got started as an artist?

Joanne:  I truly believe that my "background" always included art in some form. From the earliest time I can remember, I loved to draw and I loved to "make things". When I was in the fifth grade, we had to write a story about our life, and the ending to my story was "I may go to college and study art". And that's exactly what I did. I enjoyed any kind of art project thrown my way in high school and went away to a college known for their art program. After obtaining my Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education, I became an art teacher on the elementary level, grades K to 6th. I did that for six years, and during that time, took 30 hours of graduate courses in art education, began to paint in watercolor and entered the art festival/craft circuit.
My earliest offerings then were small floral watercolors and quotations in calligraphy, that I had perfected in college. My calligraphy professor, Jeanne File, did calligraphy for the Papal offices in Rome and was a perfectionist! My watercolor professor, James Kuo, was internationally recognized and my biggest influence at that time. I won a number of awards in those outdoor shows, and my watercolors began to change into very abstracted forms. There were also landscapes in pen and ink, before beginning to incorporate acrylic into my designs. And my work started to become larger in size. I stopped teaching and started to paint and exhibit full time. I truly loved the outdoor shows and the direct contact I would have with the clients who would actually own my work. The feedback was comparable to nothing else. So different in the gallery business where the gallery owners hear all the accolades! A couple of small businesses saw me at these shows and asked for work on consignment to place in their shops, this is how my first gallery affiliation came about. The owners were always interested in art and were just opening a gallery, so we really started off together. In the next few years , I looked for new opportunities to show my work and entered a very large exhibition at Madison Square Garden. From that show, I was contacted by my first New York Gallery.

MBS: I remember one time hearing you say something about those days of making art on your "dining room table" while also teaching and being a mom. There are "so" many women who can relate to that and struggle with it all the time... especially early in their career. Many quit making art as as a result. Looking back on those days, what insights can you pass on to others who are finding themselves relegated to the "dining room table"?

Joanne:  Luckily, I had finished teaching when my son was born, and then made the transition to painting full time. I think what you are referring to is the story about my painting table (which my husband built for me) that was in the middle of our family room when my children were toddlers. It had two leaves which could be put down on the sides. I had to clear away what I was doing and put the sides down in order to have enough room for the table where we ate our dinner. I think my children grew up thinking that all mothers painted...It was always around them! As far as juggling it all, I was and still am doing what I love. You can always make time for that. I think teaching, painting and having two small children would have been a whole different story, but I was fortunate that my income was adequate enough with the shows at that time that I didn't have to also have an outside job. So my insight would be to not quit, keep doing what you love and you will find a way.

Summer Fall Winter Spring available on Zazzle
MBS: Well that sounds a lot more doable! lol
Your work has really had a such nice progression, from starting in watercolors to incorporating other mediums and elements. Many artists start with one medium and use it their entire career. What has motivated to you keep pushing and exploring?

Joanne:  I think it was just a natural progression. I like to keep in touch with other artists and am always looking to what they are doing, as well as seeing current exhibits of interest. The progression to canvas actually happened as an experiment with watercolors on canvas, just to get the general feel of working with that substrate. That is probably why I use acrylics rather than oils because the washes have a watercolor feel to them. As pieces would sell I was motivated to understand what about that piece was desirable to the viewer. I could look at the photo of the piece and pull out certain aspects of what I liked about it.

MBS: Do you have favorite materials that you like to incorporate into your pieces?

Joanne:  Favorite materials keep changing all the time. I love the look of metal leaf, and have incorporated it into my work for quite some time. That is actually how I started creating my jewelry line. There is so much you can do with variegated colors of gold and silver leaf. After doing a number of workshops in handmade papermaking, I began to add pieces to my work and that has stayed quite constant. Lately I have been adding more textural items: painted fabrics and cording, lace, iridescent particles. 

World of Wonder Poster on Zazzle
MBS:  I've noticed inspirational quotes in many of your pieces.  Is that something new or have you been doing that for awhile?

Joanne:  From the earliest time I started exhibiting my work, I have incorporated meaningful words. The placement of these thoughts evoke different responses and are artistic themselves. When I am creating a work, I have always loved the way the quotation or thought influences me. As far as the paintings themselves, my main theme has always been a horizon. Sometimes extremely abstracted, and other times, highly recognizable, I feel there is a spiritual element to the viewer anticipating what they may envision is beyond the horizon that they see on the canvas. It is a spiritual journey, and every viewer has a different outlook, a different set of values, a different set of experiences with which to imagine the journey beyond the horizon line.  The collage elements many times contain words, and I make sure they are insightful. I have created a number of the new posters on Zazzle with inspirational quotations. Art and inspiration just naturally go together. Incorporating the mind the body and the spirit as one whole is what brings the viewer into a state of understanding what the art means to them. Stated on my homepage of my website:

"The journey of one color vibrating through another and the balancing of light as more and more collage pieces are incorporated into my work makes the concept of the landscape richer, sometimes more complicated, sometimes freer, producing a sense of motion and a place for contemplation. The uncertainty is the adventure; there is a higher vision. Perhaps over the horizon line the vision becomes more clear. Sometimes it only leads to another quest, that not being the final journey. My landscapes challenge traditional boundaries and sometimes give us new ones. Not always referencing specific memories, sometimes incorporating visual shorthand, the collage elements evoke fragments and memories of a universal nature."

MBS: Do you work in a particular format? A specific size...large, small...or does it depend on the project?

Joanne:  The format depends on a number of things. A lot of the time, I like to go with a size that happens to appeal to me at the moment. Of course, if I am doing a commission, I follow the format of what the client is asking.  Usually with a commission, they have seen a number of paintings and are asking for certain colorations or a particular size. I have done a number of commissions incorporating collage pieces sent to me by the client.

Past Lives Series on Zazzle
MBS: When you are painting do you start from general idea or theme for a series, or do you find the commonality between pieces after a group of work is completed? I know artists who work both ways.

Joanne:  I find the commonality of a series usually after the pieces are completed.

MBS: For a number of years you've hosted an annual open house in your studio. From a business perspective can you talk a little bit about that. Why you do still do it? How has it effected your networking and visibility as an artist?

Joanne:  The open house in the studio began when I was doing the art festival circuit. I exhibited in many local shows, so my customers were not too far away. Many of them had called and were looking for a gift at Christmas (this was at the time when I was working in very small formats) so I opened up the studio in early December and had an early Christmas Party, with studio open for sales if desired. When I lived in Maplewood, I was on the Board of the 1978 Art Center and we incorporated an Artist Studio Tour which has been a highlight in the town ever since. People love to see where an artist creates. I have now had my Open House every year since 1973. It is mostly attended by friends and friends of friends. It's a good way to try out new ideas and offer them to those I know. The real business of my art is still handled through the galleries with which I have an affiliation.

MBS: You mentioned your gallery affiliations. Where are you represented and what is it that they carry? Is it primarily paintings or do you sell prints as well?

Joanne:  Some gallery affiliations and representations have changed over the years, but presently those in Richmond (Chasen Galleries), Scottsdale (Rima Fine Art), Lahaina, Maui (Gallerie 505), and New York (Landmark Gallery) are my direct galleries to the public. I am represented by Slaymaker Fine Art in Chicago, that sells my work to other galleries in a number of locations. The galleries only sell my original paintings on canvas and a limited number of giclee prints on canvas, published by Uphouse Fine Art Publishers in Scottsdale.

MBS: I saw that you recently opened up a store on Etsy for your jewelry line and also a shop on Zazzle for your beautiful cards and posters. It seems like you have such great representation and visibility already, what prompted you to sell online too?

Zebra Marble Brooch/Necklace on Etsy
Joanne:  They say that one of the best ways to stay in business in any economy is to diversify your income stream. I have had many posters published by Bruce McGaw in New York and Editions Limited in California in the past.. I designed some posters of my own using images from my completed paintings as well as some designs made from portions of completed paintings. I found the designing to be extremely satisfying and used the Zazzle site for my designs. My jewelry line was created a number of years ago but really limited to show openings and friends. Placing my one of a kind work on Etsy has given me a market for this creativity that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Question 11: What is a typical work day for you? Do you keep "hours" and go to work painting like a 9-5 job? Or are you less scheduled about it?

Joanne:  I definitely do not have a typical work day. No two days are ever the same! If I have a deadline, I probably work the best. Those days I may work all day into the night. Then the next day I may do something totally different. It's nice to also not be working on a deadline, because I can take time to create something totally new.

MBS: Looking back over your career is there any advice you have for those who wish to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?

Joanne:  My only advice would be what I had stated before. You have to be serious about what you are doing and look at every opportunity for others to see your work. With the onset of social networking, there are so many opportunities out there. On Facebook alone, there are artists and galleries and groups to join. You can start a fan page for your work and have friends join that. Linkedin also has artists and artists groups.

Thank you Joanne!

~ ~ ~ ~ 

You find out more about Joanne Miller Rafferty and her work by visiting her website and also her
stores on Zazzle and Etsy.

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From our Artist Series you might also enjoy interviews with:
Laura Milnor Iverson
Emily Balivet

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Going Vegan – Embarking On a New Path for Better Health

In January my husband and I were discussing which diet we should follow. We tended to eat fairly well already, with lots of vegetables and fruits, and whole grains and natural foods, but like many others we got a bit lazy in our choices, especially through the holiday season. We wanted to do what most Americans want to do right after the new year – lose a few pounds, but more importantly, we just wanted to recommit to good health, which for my husband also meant recommitting to keeping his blood sugar numbers in control, as he has type 2 diabetes.

Our bookshelves include many alternative health books – on energy healing, meditation, yoga, reflexology, herbalism, and healthy diets. Those books on healthy diets include South Beach and YOU: On a Diet, as well as macrobiotic and ayurvedic titles, and even French Women Don’t Get Fat. It’s quite a variety, so we had many to choose from! One night after talking about some options, we sat down and turned on the TV – and caught a program on PBS that gave us our answer:  going vegan.

 The program was Taking Control of Diabetes with Dr. Neal Barnard. Being vegetarian wasn’t new to us, nor was giving up dairy – when we were macrobiotic many years ago, neither of us ate meat or dairy of any kind (though back then we didn’t think of it in terms of being vegan). What was new, was the information Barnard was sharing about how following a low fat, plant-based diet could greatly change one’s experience of diabetes, and in some people, actually reverse the condition.

The program’s message was inspiring and we decided we’d give it a try. Many of the foods significant in a plant-based diet were familiar to us already, but the next day we added a few vegan substitutes for common foods – cheese and milk, for example – to our pantry, and my husband, who once cooked for a health food restaurant, set about learning to make a great seitan from scratch.

He went vegan right away. For the first few weeks I greatly reduced dairy in my diet but continued to use milk in my tea, half and half in my coffee, and feta on my salads. It wasn’t long before I decided to entirely cut out dairy as well, so we are both now following a vegan diet. The effects on my husband’s diabetes have been truly remarkable. He has eliminated his need to take insulin, reduced his oral meds by more than half, and the continued hypoglycemic episodes have him regularly adjusting downward.  We are both enjoying the changes, not suffering any unbearable cravings, and feeling better in many ways. We both also love eating this way! Unlike how “diets” typically make one feel, we don’t feel impatient to move to the next phase or to begin to add unpermitted foods back in, and we don’t feel like we are missing out. Making these changes has been a lot easier than we would have thought. Doing it together makes it easier, keeping it delicious and healthy creates momentum, and seeing immediate health benefits gives us motivation.

I’m honestly not sure where this will lead – I can’t say that I will never again eat a salad topped with feta, or enjoy a slice of traditional cheese pizza. Also, we do need to watch numbers and track the progress of specific health issues. This is our first step, and we are just beginning; I want our expectations to be reasonable. That being said, we are both excited about continuing this indefinitely – we look forward to it, not as a “diet,” but simply as a lifestyle choice. I hope to share here my experience going vegan, any adjustments I make along the way, as well as resources, recipes, and research. If you’re interested in a plant-based diet, I’d highly encourage you to look into it and give it a try – it’s easier than you think. Also, if you’ve already adopted a plant-based diet, I’d love to hear about your experience!

~ Nellie Levine

Creamy Canellini Sauce
This sauce (as pictured in the above photo) is something my husband whipped up from scratch. It's great over rice or pasta, with veggies that are steamed, sauteed, or roasted, making it really versatile. It is creamy and full flavored.
1 onion, thinly sliced
3-6 cloves garlic
+/- 1 cup warm water
2 cups cooked or 1 can of canellini beans, warmed
2 tablespoons tamari or Bragg's liquid aminos
2 tablespoons rice wine or white wine
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend
Roast onion and garlic at 450 until browned (stir occasionally).
In food processor, process onion, then slowly add small amount of water, until smooth. Add beans, then slowly add small amount of water, until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, then slowly add water until preferred consistency - sauce will thicken when heated so make it a bit thinner than you would finally prefer. Add salt and more wine to taste. Heat in saucepan or microwave.
Makes approximately 2 1/2 - 3 cups.
* I’d like to recommend two books that my husband and I have recently bought:
Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, by Neal D. Barnard, MD – This book is straightforward and easy to follow. In addition to explaining in further detail the PBS program my husband and I watched, it also details the scientific research that proves diabetes can be greatly benefited by a low fat, plant-based diet. For those with type 2 that might mean reversal, for those with type 1, better control of blood sugar numbers and better prevention of complications.

The Vegan Table, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau – We have plenty of vegetarian cookbooks in our house, but many of them include dairy in their recipes, and we also wanted a little bit of new inspiration. The Vegan Table is a beautiful cookbook that I’d enjoy using even if we weren’t omitting animal products from our diets. The book focuses on entertaining – serving delicious meals to family and friends, but it is a great family cookbook as well.
One more note: if you’re going to go vegan, you do need to make sure you get enough vitamin B12, which we are unable to get through plant sources so a daily multivitamin is a good idea. Otherwise, a solid, well-planned plant-based diet should provide all the nutrients you need (and will provide much more than you would get on the standard American diet). There are many effective plant-based sources of calcium, protein, and iron. Still, it is wise to check with your doctor before making major dietary changes and especially important to do so if you are on any medications for diabetes, heart disease, or blood pressure, or if you have any food sensitivities that would create a difficulty in following a vegan diet.

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You May Also Enjoy:
Baby Carrots- Do You Know What You Are Eating?
Eating with the Tai-Chi Diagram

photo by Nellie Levine

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Rose, Lily and Lotus: A Sacred Trinity of Flowers

The rose, lily and the lotus comprise a sacred trinity of the most important symbols in the world.  Easily recognized, these flower symbols have been used through the ages in artwork, to define mythology and religion, and to symbolize man's spiritual connection both to nature and the divine.
Seulement Tu-Red Rose by Karen Casey Smith
The importance of the rose pervades all cultures and religious beliefs.  It is the most common symbol of love, particularly if the color is red, and of all offerings made in love that are pure.  Love symbolized by the red rose continues to survive in our present culture demonstrated every day through the act of giving roses as a special gift.

Love is not the only the only symbolic meaning of this beautiful flower, however.  It also represents perfection, beauty, renewal and the triumph of spirit over matter as the rose bursts open...out of the muddy earth.  Because of its perfection and beauty roses are also a symbol of purity.

Spiritually, the rose is a natural mandala (circle or wheel).  The petals form a perfectly symmetrical circle around a yellow center, which is evocative of the Sun.  The Rosy Cross of the Rosicrucian Order has a rose at its intersection.  Here the rose symbolizes the heart, life and life's mystery.  Roses have also been long associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Rose windows that adorn cathedrals and churches are her symbol.  In India, the Great Mother was called Holy Rose.

A Dream Within a Dream - Water Lily by Karen Casey Smith
 The lily symbolizes the goddess, in whatever cultural form she may take.  Greek mythology refers to the lily as originating from the milk of Hera's breast (Hera is the wife of Zeus). In Roman mythology, Venus was jealous of the lily's beauty and caused it to sprout a pistil from the center of the flower.

The Babylonian Goddess Lilith, who some say was the first wife of Adam, took her name from the name of the lily or the lilu (lotus).  Weaving its way into our own contemporary film culture, the word lilu seems very similar to the virginal, goddess like female, LeeLoo, played by Milla Jovovitch in The Fifth Element.

The color white is usually associated with the lily, but it's actually the pale color which is synonymous with the flower's symbology.  The phrase "lily white" is used to represent purity, virginity and innocence. Christians dedicate lilies to the Virgin Mary because of its pure connotation. They were also traditionally used to represent the loss of children and martyrdom of the saints.  The lily, particularly the calla lily, is also a symbol of resurrection. That is why the flower is frequently displayed at funerals and sometimes appear on gravestones.

Solitaire- White Lotus Blossom by Karen Casey Smith
The otherworldly appearance and particular hothouse growing circumstances make the Lotus a very unique flower.  Given thousands of years of associations with spiritual practices from many traditions, the lotus is believed to be one of the post powerful flower symbols on earth.  A symbol of resurrection, purity, serenity and peace, this flower is one of the eight auspicious symbols in both Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist iconography.

Historically the lotus has been the symbol used to illustrate the chakra system.  The number of petals depicted relating to the role and function of each of the energy centers that are said to "unfurl like petals" through meditation and energetic exercise.

The lotus also carries with it a descriptive symbology containing all of the four cardinal elements.  The lotus flower has its seed within the earth; it grows in the water; the blossom exists in air which then carries its fragrance out into the world.  The flower itself is awoken by the Sun the element of fire.

The color of the lotus also has great significance.  A red lotus is the ultimate symbol of the Sun and the emblem of India.  The stylized blue depiction of the blue lotus (which is actually a water lily rather then a true lotus) in found in Egyptian friezes.  A sacred lotus can be recognized from any others because it is always rendered in either white or pink.

~ diane fergurson

Thank you to photographer Karen Casey Smith for allowing me to use her stunning photographs to illustrate this post.  All of the prints are available for sale in Karen's Etsy Shop.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shedding our Acquired Life Roles and Medical Qigong

Conversations with Healer and Medical Qigong practitioner Darren Orr always prove to be an enlightening and informative experience.  The following discussion focuses on our acquired "life roles", our ability or inability to shed them, and how Medical Qigong can help in the healing process.
                                                                                                    ~ diane fergurson

MBS:  I've been reading recently about how sometimes people, deep down, don't really want to move completely forward after a death or unhappy life experience.  They resist the healing process because they have, in many cases, taken on a "life role" that they would find hard to give up.  For example, they embrace the role as the "survivor", the "widow", the "sick person". That's how other people identify them. That's what they talk about socially. They build their life and activities around that persona and really don't want to give it up 100% because then they would have to change who they are. Will you speak to that? 
Butterfly in Barely Blue by Nellie Levine

Darren:  Yes, the fear of changing that which they believe they are.  But what are we?  We cling to these identities or life roles so dearly. Why? We defend our positions, create lines in the sand causing strife, separation, division and dissension. We always want to be right and never wrong. Always want to feel pleasure, never pain. Always want to gain and never experience loss, only wanting the highs and never the lows. Never realizing and considering that the Divine flow of life is perpetuated by duality and dichotomy.
On the deepest level though duality merges into unity. We categorize, segregate, name, define, confine, dichotomize everything in our lives in order to try and understand it but in trying to understand it you lose the essence of simply experiencing the unity flow and harmony of each passing moment.

In the Dao de Jing Lao tzu talks about this saying the " the mind is like a knife always chipping away at the Dao trying to render it graspable and manageable, yet that which is formless is ungraspable and unmanageable. Nature is the best example of this and is why the Daoist's revered the harmony of nature as being the best expression of the Dao. The fundamental question of life is Who Am I? With that question comes a spiritual awakening and a rekindling of a fire that has lied dormant since childhood.

Who Am I? Sages from India and China, Christians, mystics, sufi muslims, indigenous religions throughout the world all use this form of self-enquiry to release the acquired mind/ego/false self and in doing so commune with the Source of life.
It is very true that people take on a "life role" that they find hard to give up whether that be survivor, widow, sick person or on a deeper level believing themselves to be the body. Everybody builds their life and activities around a persona whatever that may be, that is called the ego/false self/acquired mind. We all have it, all of us.

That is the essential point of self cultivation and Medical Qigong:
to refine the acquired aspects of your being in order see clearly your true nature. All the acquired negative, habitual habits, behaviors, thought patterns, attitudes and excessive mental/emotional templates that we all have gathered and carry around with us from birth onwards through living on Earth must be purged and purified through a form of self-cultivation before death. That is our real job in life, not what makes us money.

The idea of heaven on earth in the Christian tradition is talking about the same thing that the Chinese, Hindu, Native American and indigenous cultures are all saying: that when this acquired garbage is cleared heaven exists within ourselves.  If we clear out our story lines, identities, diseases, addictions, attachments, aversions, negative habits emotions and behaviors via Medical Qigong purgation exercises you can live from the heavenly bliss and happiness that has always resided within you while living on Earth.

The reason people have a hard time moving forward after death is because they believe themselves and the deceased to be the finite, temporal body/mind trapped in space and time of 3 dimensions. Yes very true, people sometimes don't want to move completely forward after a death or disease and thus resist the healing process because they have taken on a life role. People resist the healing process all the time due to subconscious issues about how we perceive ourselves vs others and the outside world. What we fail to realize is that the outside is a reflection of the inside which affects our perceptions, choices and decisions determining how we look at and feel about our experiences.
Then what often occurs is we judge, label and condemn ourselves for how we think and feel about our experiences. It's a vicious cycle.

It all really comes down to Mind. That is what we work with most in Medical Qigong is the person's Mind. I utilize Qi and Shen to allow the clients mind the ability to see the unlimited possibilities, shifting and moving them out of the stasis of there "life role, sickness or affliction". This then helps them to see the root of the problem, disease or affliction, why certain patterns emerged and then giving them the tools to cut those roots thereby freeing their life-force energy and vitality allowing them to return back to homeostasis, balance and health.

The main message I would like to convey about death is that you do not die. I'll repeat that YOU DO NOT DIE. Your body and brain drop off like a discarded garment but your spirit is eternal. We all are an invisible indivisible eternal spiritual energy.

Like a butterfly breaking through a cocoon. At the moment of death we simply break free of cocoon of the body/mind and return to the spiritual essence and energy that we truly are. We are not our bodies, not our minds, we are not confined to space and time. We are not our thoughts, feelings emotions or information. We are not our name, what we look like or dress like, where we live, life role, social status, fame, wealth or power. Our spirit is limitless, beginingless and endless, a formless harmony of unity and oneness.

Most who walk the Earth live in ignorance of this principle which sustains and maintains them until they are at their deathbed. You can realize and actualize your spirit while still in the physical form full of health and vitality, but you must begin the inner self cultivation necessary to distill the divine elixir that lies within. That is the essence of my job as Medical Qigong therapist, to assist, shift and uplift those who come to me via affinity. Most often its for healing but deeper it is to give them the tools to dig deep inside and find, understand and manifest their destiny-which is always spiritual in nature.

You must delve deep into the depths of your being searching and yearning for the answer to the question Who Am I?  It doesn't really matter what label you place on the life role. Find out who the "I" is you are talking about when you say "I" went, "I" came, "I" did or "I" am such and such.
The idea of ever having security and being able to resist change is only going to exhaust yourself in vain.

Life is change. Buddhists talk about groundlessness, the Daoists about Chaos. Do you ever really have control over your life? You may think you do and it could go on that way for a very long time but sooner or later somewhere, something is going to flip your world upside down and knock you on your ass. The question then becomes are you going to just sit there and stagnate or get up and move? The idea is to not get trapped in stasis, not get bogged down in the negative mind chatter of judging and berating yourself that stems from the ego/acquired mind. Most people when faced with a trauma, death or life-changing event don't know how to deal with it. They don't know how flow with it, most people's first reaction is to resist which eventually leads to stasis.

We as a people need to learn how to let go of our mental/emotional baggage that we all carry behind us like a ball and chain. Medical qigong therapy is unsurpassed at showing us tools to get out of stasis and clear, release and let go of this acquired mental/emotional baggage so we can hear the silent song of our spirit and live it while embodied.

When you ride the tide in the Dao of now you flow effortlessly in harmony with the unity of life.

MBS:  Thank you Darren
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Butterfly in Barely Blue by Nellie Levine is available for purchase on Cargoh 

 Darren Orr is a Reiki master and teacher, a nationally certified massage therapist and a Medical Qigong therapist and teacher.  He specializations are in Oncology, chronic pain, stress management, life-altering illness and palliative care for the terminally ill. Darren recently completed his 2nd year of a 3 year Medical Qigong Program, a Graduate Degree of over 2,000 hours.
You can email him at:
Last year we conducted an amazing 3 part interview with Darren on our blog:
"From Jing to Qi to Shen: An Interview with Healer Darren Orr".
If you missed it, make sure to check it out!

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