I am delighted to be invited to show at Clearview Vineyards by Frank DenDanto for the month of July. I hope you can come by and see the flags on display. On July 10 from 11:30 to 3PM we will be throwing an opening party with wine tastings included so please come by.
Ubuntu is a South African word which according to Wikipedia is often translated as “human kindness”. Within the last few months, I have heard of this word and concept a few times. It appears to me that the idea is gaining a badly needed foothold in our consciousness. Last week I heard a piece of a story on NPR about a South African who grew up on a game preserve and watched the wild animals. Specifically, he was fascinated by a crippled elephant that was assisted by all of the other elephants to survive. More and more we hear stories and see videos of animals helping each other; the monkey that revived an electric shocked monkey friend on an Indian train track, the goat that led a blind horse through a forest to the best pasture, a dog that wrapped its front legs around a companion that was hit by a car and dragged it across five lanes to safety somewhere in South America. It brings tears to my eyes to think that “human kindness” can also be seen in “animal kindness” it is our basic nature born of our core being.
Here is the thing. We have been sold a bill of goods that is not true. Darwinism is not the only and last gasp way of being. “Survival of the fittest” is not the best way to live and survive, we all want to thrive not just survive. The idea that survival is a struggle and that we need to compete with each other to win has spawned a brutal winner takes all mentality. Cooperation is really how we survive and thrive but to truly cooperate we must respect each other in our sameness as does the elephant and in our difference as does the goat and the horse.
I was moved this morning when I saw hundreds of people lined up in the hot Florida sun waiting to give blood after this last terrible mass shooting. Those people live the Ubuntu philosophy. Deep inside, I believe, we all feel a profound need to help, to be useful, to care and to share our love. I know I do. The tools out of our societal dis-ease are in the idea of Ubuntu. I am determined to embrace it.
This is going to be a tough post, I’ll say it right off the starting gate. I know it’s been a long time since I posted. I’ve been focusing on finishing and publishing my first novel, “Gabriel’s Flight”. I love the book, it’s been great fun but when will it be good enough, when will it be done. I keep writing and rewriting, trying to get an agent and rewriting again.
It’s been a rough spiral down when it should only be an upward swing. The book is about flying, ascension and touching the sky. Unfortunately, I indulged in a few weeks with the dark night of the soul. I allowed myself to doubt and that led to an awful sense of failure before I even got anywhere. It’s the bugaboo of my life and possibly why I chose the subject, “Heaven is Here” to blog about. I am so afraid of not being good enough, of failing that I really beat myself up and I end up stymied or crippled. A few weeks ago I was a bloody mess. Thank God for Mastering Alchemy and SYDA yoga; practicing self-awareness gave me the awareness, finally, that I was being very indulgent and I am crawling back out of the mire.
Part of the crawl back is to renew my dedication to practicing what works and keeping good company is so important as I have heard from the master. This space is good company, you are good company. I haven’t looked here for a while and I see there are over 650 followers and people looking at the blog every day. Thank you, I won’t let you down again. I hope that you find upliftment here. I promise you there will be more to come.
On January 6 the holiday season is officially over, time to wrap up all that joy, that harmony, all that good cheer and bless us everyone once and for all: or is it. January is just the beginning of another long year of opportunities to celebrate our humanity together, to be joyful and in harmony at almost any time.
I love all the holidays, all the moments we as humans create to catch a taste of the sacred and make life special. No culture seems to have a lock on that idea and every culture has a variety of ways in which to attempt to capture the true feelings of special connection to that unnamable something holy. After a lifetime of study, I finally get it, that the taste of divine we look for in those outer celebrations is really inside each of us. I have tasted the profundity of it enough times to know this. I also see that very often it is so much easier to taste that divine presence in the company of others, together in community.
So I invite everyone to seek out the opportunity to share a special moment throughout the year. Find a festival or sacred holiday not of your own lineage to participate in. In January, we still have Epiphany, Armenian Christmas, Orthodox New Year, Tu B’Shevat a Jewish holiday celebrating the New Year for trees and a Punjabi holiday called Lohri involving a bonfire. Lighting a fire is common to many winter celebrations when we are most yearning for light.
Even if there is no holiday available on the horizon we can always commune with each other in respect and love and joy. I just heard last week of a study that determined that people traveling on public transportation absorbed in the bubble of their devices are less happy than those who engage in conversation with their companions. The trip goes faster and leaves the participants more satisfied at the end of it. So have a conversation, laugh, joke and enjoy.
Celebrating each other is more important now that it has ever been before. I am talking about celebrating difference, diversity, strangeness and that which is not our way. So much delight can be found in stretching ourselves to embrace something that we don’t quite understand. As an offering in this light, I invite you to watch this 5-minute short video that I directed a dozen years ago. New York City Spirit is a brief celebration of the diverse ways that New Yorkers connect to God during the course of any ordinary day.
Global chaos is what I have heard global warming is called in Europe. It speaks to a greater understanding of what is actually going on here right now in the not so firm firmament of our universe. Tomorrow the largest hurricane ever seen will hit Mexico, warnings are to “get out of the way”. But how do we do that? Everywhere things seem to be coming apart at the seams; war, drought, floods, extinctions, governmental paralysis and even government extinction in many countries are creating mass migrations and distress. People are trying to get out of the way of so much trouble everywhere these days.
This blog is part of the Heaven is Here series and though I have not written a new post for quite some time, I have not forgotten to keep looking around me for the evidence of that statement. Yes, Heaven is Here, this is heaven – as a friend once said, “We live in God’s backyard.” With all that is happening in the world right now, I look out of my window and see a glittering sunny fall day, the trees are glorious in full fall color. This is heaven.
However, how can I ever tell those who have lost everything to war, flood or fire to look on the bright side? Life is so tough for so many and seems to be getting tougher and tougher. I feel a visceral pain in my heart for the children wandering through Eastern Europe now in search of a safe new home.
This turmoil, upheaval, shake up is not just about external events it is internal. It is about recognizing that we have all that we need, that we are all powerful, that we are all equal, that we are all connected and that we share a small fish bowl. What each of us says, does, thinks, promises, curses or prays affects every single one of us. I include all living creatures and plants plus the crystalline heart of this earth and every mineral or liquid within and on her in this statement too. We and everything that we encounter are sacred. When we acknowledge this and begin to cherish each moment and encounter, we may not begin to shift the actual circumstance but we instantly shift our perspective and our experience of the circumstance.
If only a few of us master this the benefits to all will show and will be remarkable.
I am so excited to participate in the 4th annual American Made Summit created and hosted by Martha Stewart in her NYC headquarters in the fabulous Starrett Lehigh building. I have an interesting history with that building because for many years the Costume Collection was there. Too often I had to find my way to that extremely distant edge of Manhattan and into the bowels of that wild outback of a huge, manufacturing building. The view from it was and still is fabulous and often a welcome distraction. I spent many hours browsing through the racks searching for the perfect garment then dragging myself and 17 or more shopping bags back into the civilization of at least 8th avenue before I could find a cab. Now the building is renovated and feels very trendy, upscale and in the center of the hippest part of town, the Highline is right there. It is nice to be back there in the new Starrett Lehigh for such a fabulous event.
I feel like the flags are a perfect match, Martha’s enthusiasm for American made products and her commitment to promote and celebrate them is very timely and needed. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in makers and in local products and that is really the best way to support our own economy, our neighbors, our local government and even artists like me. I hope that the new trend will tip us toward a culture that recognizes and cherishes the value of things and the people that create them more. We have had too many years of throwaway economy. That mind set has plunged us into a world of trouble, so valuing our neighbors and their hard work, their culture, their belief systems and ideas can only enrich our lives and make everything in our own lives more interesting. That is what the flags are about; celebrating the diverse offerings of all the cultures of the world and all the people that come here to offer their hard work and good ideas to the enrichment of life here in the US.
This is the beginning of the pile of flags that will be hanging. I hope you can make it to the American Made Summit.
This is a throwback moment. I was looking around for pictures of the flags and stumbled across this PR letter that I wrote to the old Steven Colbert show. I think you might enjoy it:
Dear Mr. Colbert, Honorable Leader of the Colbert Free Nation; or is it Free Colbert Nation, wait, I think it’s just the Colbert Nation,
In deference to your great sense of patriotism and love of country I feel it my duty to inform you of a radical, “IMMIGRANT” artist, Muriel Stockdale, who is defiling Old Glory.
Muriel’s dangerous artistic representations of the U.S.A. flag, which she claims celebrate the diversity of the people here in this country are made of different fabrics from cultures that invade this country every day. Right now impressionable university students at SUNY Stony Brook are being swayed by her radical ideas that all kinds of people of different cultures can contribute to the glory of this country. The flags are exercising their subtle influence at the Wang Asian Art Center until December 5th.
In addition her African American flag is owned and exhibited by the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut – is she thinking Hip Hop artists should be wearing Talbots chino’s with lobster printed belts? This Tuesday she is even infiltrating the Museum of American Finance with her Ghanaian American flag made out of trade beads. What’s next convincing the Fed to sell gold and buy cowry shells and Christmas beads instead?
Mr. Colbert we need you to take her radical ideas down, she thinks our culture is enriched by diversity; that different expressions of lifestyle add to the quality of life in this country. She also insists that the idea is only to celebrate the contribution of the world’s cultures to those of us living here in the U.S.A. That it is not a project to promote American Imperialism and not meant to imply that everyone around the world should have an American flag. Now wait, what an idea! That’s actually something you might want to promote: American Flags for every country around the world. Maybe she’s onto something. It could be brilliant, Indian American flags out of Indian silk, Russian American flags out of Russian shawls. Could this bring the world together? Could this idea redefine you as – Leader of the Colbert Free World, Free Colbert World, excuse me again; Leader of the Colbert World?
Either way this artist needs to be exposed for her radical thoughts and dangerous tampering with the sacred U.S. flag, but please don’t make her cry.
Thank you for heeding our warning,
Artist: Muriel Stockdale.
Happy New Year to the year of the heart, the year of creation, the year of getting into basics like what makes you tick, what connects you and what sustains you. Times have been interesting and I think will continue to prove to be even more interesting. Think of where we have come from in our lifetimes. So many new things, when I was a baby we got color TV, today’s new babies will see reconstructed body parts, wearable tech and god knows what else. But what is the point of all the magical toys if our inner state cannot match them with a higher state of consciousness. It’s not worth it to create more and more stuff to destroy each other, that is just not satisfying, is it?
So where are the new things that help us lift our consciousness? I’m not suggesting that you go to Colorado today and buy some pot but instead look for tangible tools to free the mind and heart so that 2014 can be that year of freedom, creativity, satisfaction, accomplishment and absolute connection to the ones you love. Here’s how I manage to stay in the light.
First, I continue to practice my Mastering Alchemy lessons. In a lifetime of spiritual yearning, wandering, experimentation and practice I have finally found a path with astonishing tools of enlightenment that steadily drive me toward the success creating my own life that I have always craved. The path starts off by helping with understanding the boundaries between me and the world out there. Next it progresses to discovering the interference of other voices in my head like as Jim Self, the master alchemist, says, “Teacher, Parent, Minister”. Once discovered those voices, that try so hard to drive our lives, are politely invited to depart. From there the course of study begins to include the voices of master principles inviting us to align with our own power. For example Jim Self repeats often “be happy”. He invites us time and again to be confident, capable and kind to ourselves and I finally get it. The course continues to be exciting, inviting, interesting and joyfully challenging. The key here is attitude and crafting the right attitude and sticking with it is the stuff of mastery. I invite you to check out the site www.masteringalchemy.com and see if you find it useful to you too.
Next I continue to watch the world and seek out those bright light ideas that inspire, uplift and ignite respect and love for each other. I try to post them here but it’s been a busy year and I know I’ve missed a lot of good moments that should be shared. Two things that are really critical right now and that speak to the new trend that we will swing together toward are these and they relate to money. I know that the economic downturn was terrifying for so many. That downturn was predicted for ages before it happened and the circumstances that caused it are not mitigated so the chances are we could be back there again any day. But you know me, my goal is to focus on what’s positive. So don’t worry let’s make another crash into a great opportunity. Already behind the scenes there are many people creating radical ways to construct the new economy. Right now I am reading a great book, “Sacred Economics” by Charles Eisenstein which invites us to consider trade and commerce in a far more enlightened way than we do today. For those who were shocked by the fact that so many lost their homes in the bad mortgage fallout how about those crazy Occupy Wall Street folks who are buying up bad debt and then just forgiving it so that people can move on? We are not out of the woods and we need the radical free-thinking ideas of new minds to solve the tremendous problems we’ve created for ourselves. They are out there working on it creating micro finance, new forms of exchange, better worldwide connectivity and safer forms of interaction. The big trees are dead and about to fall but on the forest floor when the light of the sun hits them so many creative shoots will sprout that we will be amazed we had not known that all that preparation was going on.
On a more personal note I want to encourage everyone to create, do what you love, write, draw, sew, sing because that is the new economy. Many of you know that I was an unhappy costume designer for many years, that I then quit my career to make my way into a new career creating uplifting entertainment. That career has been a winding path, with a group formed to support people who want to create spiritual entertainment, a short film that never became the feature I hoped for – yet. There were also a few scripts including a musical that wasn’t produced and TV pitches that almost made it as well as a couple of books still in progress and, of course, the diverse US flags that have had an awesome journey throughout New York and New England and have now settled for a while at least at Charlotte’s Place downtown here in NYC. My husband has been asking me continuously, “What are you doing? You’re all over the place, why can’t you focus?” and because I don’t know what to say, I have to follow my heart so I say, “I not making an appetizer, I’m creating a feast”.
So I’m so thrilled to report that it looks like exciting things are coming to life in 2014. One is a TV show developed by me and my dear friend, Kalina Ivanov, for cable TV in the style of, “The Borgias”. Our show entitled, “The Accidental Empress” is about the remarkable ascension of a Creole girl, Aimee Dubucq de Rivery to Empress of the Ottoman Empire in 1817. What makes this story more interesting is that it’s true and she’s the cousin of Josephine Bonaparte. So watch out for the show, it is currently being shopped around and our fingers are crossed. The second project is now an opera entitled, “Sitayana”. It is the story of Rama’s wife who was rescued by her prince after being kidnapped by the demon king, Ravana. For years this project languished after my dear friend, Philip Baloun, who hired me to write the book for the musical, died. This summer when I did costumes for “Ulysses” i proposed my script to my fabulous director, Crystal Manich and she likes it and graduated it from book to libretto. So we are developing the project. Keep your ears open for news of Sitayana too.
You might wonder how did this happen? I might have wondered too but now I know. For years I worked under the same conditions of under paid, over worked, under supported, not enough time, no respect and etc. I always felt like, “poor me” “why does this keep happening to me” until I had to admit if this dynamic keeps happening it has to be in my own world construction somehow. Two times in my life I saw with absolute clarity how I created situations. The first was at NYU with my thesis production. In my first year I saw the teachers absolutely rip a designer to shreds during her critique. It was not necessary and so cruel and much of what they cited was not her fault, I was shocked and that experience stuck with me. I was terrified it would happen to me too and wouldn’t you know two years later, it did. The other time I created with absolute clarity was when we broke the rudder on our first boat. It was in the shop all summer so we didn’t get the license for it. On the last day of summer they told us we could pick it up. I was fretting about getting a ticket for not having a tag and I went on and on about it. Guess what we got, lucky us.
With that kind of clarity in creating the invitation is there to figure it out. Many years later, a lifetime later, I am delighted to say that with the help of Mastering Alchemy I get it. I am not a master yet but I am so much better at the creative process than I was. This year I will be good enough so that you can watch the Empress on TV and come to Broadway to see Sita get rescued by her prince Ram. That’s my intention. I also intend great things for you too; may there be blessings, connecting with friends and family, satisfaction in accomplishment, recognition and opportunity for you all in 2014.
I was so moved by this amazing film that I must share it with all of you. The Animal Communicator directed by Craig Foster and produced by Vyv Simson asks a very important question: What if you could talk to animals and have them talk back to you?
The film’s description tells it all: “Anna Breytenbach has dedicated her life to what she calls interspecies communication. She sends detailed messages to animals through pictures and thoughts. She then receives messages of remarkable clarity back from the animals.
Anna can feel the scars hidden under a monkey’s fur, she can understand the detailed story that is causing a bird’s trauma, she transforms a deadly snarling leopard into a relaxed content cat – the whole animal kingdom comes alive in a way never seen before – wild birds land on her shoulders, fish gather around her when she swims, and wild unfamiliar baboons lie on her body as if she is one of their own.
This is the first full length documentary film on the art of animal communication.”
This is a gorgeous and moving film that asks us all to look deeply into the eyes of our fellow planet mates and see the love, life and intelligence that lives there just as it does in each of us humans. I personally love animals and every time I look into the eyes of one of them I cannot fathom how it is the we can see them as inferior. It is time to recognize that animals are not some kind of simpleton that we can treat with incredible cruelty and they will not feel it. They also have feelings, memories, loves and hates just as we do.
Now here is a remarkable story of inner fortitude and grace filled attitude. Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs but he has never let that stop him. Watch this video from CBS Sunday Morning you will see that the word invalid is utterly wrong for this young man who makes his life incredibly relevant on all levels.