Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Order and Magic - Siofra McSherry

Order and Magic
by Siofra McSherry

I think a lot about what it means to live a well-ordered life. How can I organize things—simple, weighty, material things—so they will support me in what I want to do, and not take my energy? How do I surround myself with items that don’t waste space or bring down my mood, because they remind me of everything I haven’t gotten around to yet?

We all know people who are so deeply engaged in their work or practice that they neglect the mundane matters of life. Their beds are unmade, their fridge is empty, and their desks are cluttered. Their distraction is often elevated as a symbol of their absorption in higher things, more worthy than mundane concerns like doing the dishes.

For many years I lived in this kind of suspended chaos of unpaid bills and misplaced passports and torn skirts I never got round to mending. I told myself it was because I was busy writing and doing my spiritual work, all much more important than clearing piles of stuff from college. If you recognize yourself in this, you may also recognize the truth that I wasn’t really finding time to write, nor meditate either.

Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that doing the dishes can be as mindful as meditating in a Tibetan monastery if it is carried out with attention. Any mindful activity can connect us to the moment. In my own magical practice this idea goes deeper. Getting the dishes done is a prerequisite for practice. Cleaning and clearing are part of ritual, and prepare a space for sacred work. It can become an everyday practice, too.

Imagine the flow of energy in a cluttered room. You aren’t even sure what’s in the room, where it came from or what energy it holds. I once suffered from repeated nightmares over several months, waking feeling like I was trapped underwater and short of breath. I discovered boxes beneath my bed full of old photographs and CDs from a negative friendship I thought I was done with. Clean out your nooks and crannies. Don’t hide darkness away; you will create a talisman that draws the darkness to itself and holds it.

Instead, make the things you own into talismans of joy, focus, and clarity. Touch and clean them. Mend and sew. Polish and rub and clean. Wipe them down. Feel the heft of the brush and polish on leather boots. That shine is like a smile. Lift and place. Arrange.

I try to possess only what I can clean and maintain by myself. The ritual of cleaning my home and clothes means I caress every item, even just to lift and dust it. Over weeks and months a patina of clear and joyful energy builds up on all these things. In magic, what’s without is within. I think my stuff is a good place to start.

(Image by Daniel Colvin with permission)

Siofra is a writer and researcher. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. She has published her poetry widely and works as an art critic for

Monday, 24 June 2013

Quote of the Week - Coelho

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

To me, this is why love, and the cultivation of it, is so important.  Not just romantic love - all love.  It is what invests us in life without territorialism, nationalism, greed, and fear.  It is what allows us to roam our best ideas and put them into action.

Yes to this.

(And thanks to the amazing Theresa Davis for this one. Found image - don't know where from!)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Quote of the Week - Phillips

“The obstacle is a way of not letting something else happen.”

Oh yeah.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Suport Women (Artists) Harder!

I've been having an ongoing discussion with a new friend about women.  Women in art, women on stage, promoting women. She noticed the lack of women on poetry stages. As someone who both goes on stage and gives artists stages, I have been engaged with this issue for a long time.  My goal as a promoter is always to achieve 50/50 in my events.  If I do an all-women's event one month, then I generally do an all men's the next.

Women (artists) need our support more.  

Creating equity in my own shows doesn't actually help.  Many promoters ignore female acts all together.  Some put up one female in a line-up of 4-5 male acts and think they should get a special commendation.  My friends who are promoters hear it from me when they program like this consistently.  Female promoters do tend to program shows more equally, but again, we are not making up for the overall lack of opportunity for women at best we're getting a 75%/25% ratio.

Some female promoter friends and I have realized that this lack of opportunity actually creates a gap between the capabilities of men and women artists.  Women perform less, so they practice less, so they slowly become not as good as the male counterparts they started out with (the same is true for filmmaking, plastic arts - fewer deadlines and goals to meet means less actual time spent working toward presentation - skills do not get finely honed and women start to fall back).  This is not every woman.  Some women hustle and get gigs and practice and get there.  But in general, we have to do better in supporting women artists - as women, as promoters, as audience members and as fellow artists.

Women (artists) need our money more.

Forget the confidence issues when you keep putting yourself out there and no one seems to be picking anything up.  There is the real life issue of how to support yourself and your art.  When no one is waiting for your art, or paying for it, the time/money equation can become almost debilitating.

Asking for money is anathema to many women artists.  They might be able to do it on a personal level, but almost none of them are willing to negotiate decent deals for themselves, ask for payment for gigs, or get investment capital for a project.  Even when they go the extra length to crowdfund, they tend to be polite and quiet about it.  (Sure, there's a handful who err in the other direction, but that, too, is just an example of having no idea how to ask for what you need.)

Our money is more than just money.

Even if you are going to pledge a dollar or a pound, it isn't just the money!  Women, artists, women artists need financial support, but there is something else that comes into this process.  A boost of confidence, a spur onward when you feel like giving up, a feeling that your community wants you to succeed, an accountability to the people who are supporting you.  No amount is too little.  Every person who donates is sending a big YES to the project and the artists they are supporting!

Here are some projects I personally support by women whose work I support.  Most of them have given tirelessly to other artists and the community - as promoters, presenters, youth workers, facilitators.  In one case, the fundraising is not for a project, but for medical costs.  Lara's case brings it home to me more than any of them.  The fact is, we will exhaust ourselves for others, to the point of illness, and the point of a complete lack of personal safety and protection.  If you have a minute, please check out the campaigns below and give if you can, share and support if you're interested in the projects!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Quote of the Week - Malcolm

"The phenomenon of transference – how we all invent each other according to early blueprints – was Freud’s most original and radical discovery. The idea of infant sexuality and of the Oedipus complex can be accepted with a good deal more equanimity than the idea that the most precious and inviolate of entities – personal relations – is actually a messy jangle of misapprehensions, at best an uneasy truce between powerful solitary fantasy systems. Even (or especially) romantic love is fundamentally solitary, and has at its core a profound impersonality. The concept of transference at once destroys faith in personal relations and explains why they are tragic: we cannot know each other."

- Janet Malcolm

Yeah, this is speaking to me at the moment.  Part of my questioning on situational identity.  Are wedifferent people in different places with different stimuli.  The idea of identity shifting so much feels uncomfortable, but maybe it is actually how things work.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Quote of the Week - James

"When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice." 
- William James

It's true - no choice is a choice.

But you don't want to let choice pass you by.  Sometimes that's a very dangerous plan.