ravenari: (art - fire trees)
I've often talked about how snail is a part of my life, a trusted guide, a wonderful helper, and so on. So much so, that some of my friends call me 'snaily P.' I have always loved snails, of all kinds; but especially your bog-standard european garden snail, which is a bit of a pest here in Australia. Snail reminds me that for the sake of my health, my wellbeing, my sanity, my ability to execute skilled artwork, I have to slow down and appreciate the small things in life.

I have a cheetah energy in my life, I'm not sure if it is cheetah, but that's what I call her. Cheetah is fast and powerful. When she's resting she's impatient and hungry for success and triumph. She wants to be running and catching the things she desires. She tells me to do it ALL. That if I do it all fast enough, I can attain everything I want. She walks off in a huff when I remind her that cheetahs burn a lot of energy when they sprint, which is why they need clear focus. Ultimately she tells me to be an opportunist, to sprint when I need to sprint. But her energy in the back of my head gets me feeling agitated, stressed, and not appreciating the journey. Going too fast, and working too hard, for my own comfort.

The cheetah and the snail have opposing energies, at least right now. I have gotten sick, more times than I can remember, by listening to cheetah's agitation and impatience. By trying to do it all. I have worked consecutive 10 hour days. I have forgotten to sleep. I have told myself that if I just bury my energy into this one goal (no matter what it is), I'll triumph and then I can rest. The problem is, no one goal is good enough, and I never end up resting.

On the other hand, listening to snail has had me quitting the jobs that helped to make me sick. Has me sitting and looking at the small things in life. And sometimes taking things so slowly that I miss out on opportunities to learn and grow. By looking at the details, I sometimes miss the big picture. Snail can see the leaf in front of it, but it may not see the gardener behind it waiting to throw him over the fence. Cheetah sees the big plains, has to in order to survive. But Cheetah doesn't see any wisdom in knowing the leaves on a tree. The individual flowers on a flowering branch.

One area of my life that I seek to balance, almost constantly, is cheetah's 'let's do it quickly and with high energy,' with snail's 'let's do it slowly and with little energy.' It's 'big picture' vs. 'small picture.' I've been skewed more towards the cheetah almost all my life, and suffered dire consequences. And now the pendulum is swinging back towards snail and eventually, the pendulum will settle and I will know a thing that I bemusedly call 'intermittent balance.' Because the pendulum is never truly still, and because sometimes it's good to shake things up a bit to reveal further wisdoms that lie hidden like pebbles beneath the still lake.

I do need to go through a 'snail phase.' It is always with snail that I do the most of my internal healing. And it is always with cheetah that I achieve the most of my external triumphs and successes; even if I do struggle to recognise them for what they are. Finding balance, so far, has not been an easy thing for me. But it is something I know I'll get from applying a diligent, opportunistic work ethic; with a stable and solid grounding in knowing when to rest.

And see? In my last sentence of that last paragraph, right there is my paradox. For when I apply the principles of attaining balance in this area of my life - through knowing when to seize the achievements and then being able to slow down enough to appreciate them for what they are - I will have already attained it.

Do you have opposing energies in your life? What are they? What directions do they pull you and what sort of 'middle ground' are you looking for? Have you ever experienced totem animals that just didn't get along with each other, or seem to have energies that were in any way compatible? How did you deal with it?
ravenari: (general - iPaint)
I've been doing totem artwork for a long time. As long as I have actually been doing art. Back in highschool, the totems I drew were less stylistic and more realistic, and I tended to focus on the skeletal systems of animals. I wanted their bones and that's what I drew. Consequently my art folio from way back then, has a lot of ram and cattle skulls in it.

When I was Wiccan, I continued drawing animal totems, though at this stage I didn't invite the actual totem animal energy to hang around me, or even come into my body. And back then, over 9 years ago, I drew most of the stereotypical favourites; frog, white buffalo, bear, wolf and so on. The process of drawing the animal totems made me feel amazing, and very connected. But the animals themselves didn't feel quite right.

I started drawing animal totems more seriously a few years ago. I developed a process that worked for me. Back then, it was a lengthy process. Firstly, I would see what animal energies wanted to be drawn. I'd do this by going for walks and holding my intent to draw an animal energy in my mind, and seeing what I saw, or opening animal encyclopedias up to random pages, using internet searches and databases and what have you. Over and over again, I was drawn to drawing Australian animal energies, or those of rare animals or animals under-represented as totems.

Then, I would try to commune or connect with the animal through meditation or even a more encompasisng form of trance-work / journeying. If I could connect with the animal, I would ask them if they would honour me by staying with me while I drew them, to add more 'authenticity' to the piece. So that, in essence, anyone who held a picture of an animal I drew could hopefully access the animal energy through that picture. The first animal that ever went from 'hanging around' me, to actually jumping into me was red kangaroo. Boy, that was a weird experience. I ended up rushing through my very first totem illustration of red kangaroo, because it was just too weird.

But after that, animal after animal after animal wanted to drop in. I could only really handle one at a time, at first. And certain animals had kinds of energies which made me want to, or actually rest afterwards for a few days at a time. And then something clicked into place and I could tap into many animal energies (with a few exceptions, some just don't want me to draw them), until finally I had drawn hundreds of animal totems, and given away, or sold many of those illustrations to those who wanted a deeper connection to the animals they cared about.

So these days, a significant part of my shamanic practice, is actually through my artwork. With almost all the animal artwork I do, particularly my 'as totems' series, there is significant time spent with an animal energy both during conception, the execution, and often for a few days afterwards. It is how I generally develop new relationships with animals, and nowadays I know I'm getting a good 'connection' to an animal's energy when I get four or five compositions and clear colour palettes dropping into my head.

Using my creative practices as a vector for my spirituality is a really fantastic way of 'living' the shamanism outside of soul retrieval and healing, and more ritualised practices. It's also a great way to give homage to animal totems, because with each finished product, I have a living piece of artwork that is both a signature of where an animal has taken me, and how I have processed that energy.

So for those of you who create, art, write, dance, drum, craft and so on, do you feel there's anything spiritual about it? Conscious or otherwise? Do you seek something 'more' than just the sum of the parts?

May 2010

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