Sculpting with clay to help meditation and mental health.

I have been improving my mindfulness and meditation now for a while. Exciting news, I am embarking on a Masters in applied Buddism this year for interest and pleasure.

.Link to the Institute

I love to study and have enjoyed all the Buddist reading I have been doing. For those who do not know me, my undergraduate degree is in Theology ( Bachelors of theology. ) I have a graduate diploma in Pastoral/ spiritual care too. I also achieved three Clinical Pastoral Education certificates, ( CPE ) which is Postgraduate, one certificate is advanced. They represent twelve hundred supervised hours of spiritual care in a specialise oncology hospital.

I learnt the importance of self-care during my journey doing CPE and all the change and challenges it brought about in my life and views especially on mortality. So part of my selfcare these days. I have started to mould and sculpt clay. I have never had any formal training or done this before ( self evident 🙂 just bought some clay and tool and off I went.

I am forever fascinated with Australian aboriginals and any indigenous people from around the world. I have been told I have aboriginal in me. However, this is impossible to verify. I chose this elderly fellow, possibly a tribal elder to use as my model for my first clay sculpture. IMG_0582Not easy I know, why didn’t I start with a tree or a cup or some other simple object? Well, my intuition told me he is a great start.  The head was my first effort and it took a couple days to create. I covered it in plastic so it would not dry in between sessions. This was few hours of creativity and having no experience with this medium other than school thirty years ago was challenging. Consequently, school days I can barely recollect and I was no sculpturer, I can assure you.  I was the guy smoking a cigarette behind the bike shed type. Ironically, I have been a non-smoker all my adult life. ( From 24,  I turn 50 in May)

 

When I decided to add the snake/serpent it just popped into my head and I moulded it purely from my imagination. I had no clue why, or how to add this. The idea and the creativity just flowed out and I surprised myself.

  1. It felt great being creative.

2. I was amazed.

3. It seemed too much of a dark idea. ( a snake around ahead what the hell!!)

4. Fascinated with how my imagination works.

4. I was so relaxed and shocked at the therapeutic results I achieved.

I decided to research the snake or serpent and its influence on the indigenous Australians. I knew that many native Australian animals had a deeper meaning to these people. I was very surprised to read this.

The Dreamtime

“In Judaism and Christianity, the snake was the bad guy who tempted Eve in the Garden and Eden and so forever damned humanity. In Aboriginal religions, the snake is the creator who was both revered and feared. The different status of the snake is just one of many differences between the religions of the middle east, and the Dreamtime religions of Australia.

The Dreamtime refers to a time before time or a time outside of time. In a sense, it is also an all-at-once time in which the past, present and future coexist at the same time. In some ways, it shares parallels with the story of Genisis as the Dreamtime was the time of creation. In other ways, it is different as years are not recorded since the time of Genesis. Instead, life follows a cycle in which there is no real beginning and no real end.

The story of the serpent began in the Dreamtime. The Aborigines told of a great snake that emerged from beneath the earth, winding from side to side, making the great rivers flow from its path. From its body sprang the tribes, the animals and the birds of Australia. Sometimes the serpent was depicted as a man. Sometimes as a woman. Sometimes as a man with breasts. It was spoken upon in a hushed voice for it inflicted vengeance upon those who angered it. Stories told of it swallowing people who had not observed taboos. It was said to be responsible for causing natural disasters such as floods and droughts. One story even told of the serpent swallowing an orphan boy, and all his tribe, because the boy wouldn’t stop crying. As the serpent returned to the earth, the boy and his tribe also became part of the land.”

Link to Dream Time story

Therefore my interpretation is the snake represents the protection of the aboriginals mind and his culture. Reflecting on the serpent as God in the rainbow serpent narrative. Then God (snake) is looking after him.

This is only my story, my art and my interpretations of my art and has no connections to any aboriginal communities here in Australia and its views or representation of the wider cultural views. Just my fun and relaxation.

 

Taking the time to listen to complete strangers.

What is it about talking to a complete stranger these days that makes the majority of people feel strange? Why is the stranger so different to us and why do we feel they don’t deserve our full attention and deepest respect?

All of us are broken people in one way or another. Yes, some may externalise it more and often present as irrational or even attention seeking. Is this true? Just because a person seems more broken than me does not mean its true? Frequently in my experience, the people who appear to have more raw emotions or irrational thoughts around things and responses to circumstances end up being able to hold a much more meaningful conversation.

I was riding my old 2005 Suzuki SV1000 the other day. It was a beautiful day and I decided to head down to a small coastal town like the one I live in about twenty kilometres away. It’s much quieter this time of year than the other coastal places including where I live. ( Peak season here now) IMG_0541It has a beautiful grassed section next to the beach and the ocean with some picnic tables. I parked my bike, this is the picture I took and decided to sit on one of picnic tables.

I was sitting there about ten minutes enjoying my sunshine and fresh air. The views and the serenity of it all make the experience sensational. I sit with a meditative mindset. Not zoned out from the world but just letting my mind and thoughts relax. I am not forcing any relaxation methods on myself or having any expectations. I just breathe gently and enjoy the moment. So many meditation methods that are offered these days. I have been reading the “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” I have found the meditation suggestions in here very helpful.

“The Buddha taught, 84,000 ways to tame and pacify the negative emotions, and in Buddism, there are countless methods of meditation. I have found three meditation techniques that are particularly effective in the modern world and anyone can practice and benefit from. They are using an object, reciting a mantra, and “watching” the breath.” p. 69

So a car pulls up near my motorbike and an elderly lady gets out and said, ” Would it bother you if my friend and I join you at the picnic table”? I said, “no problems at all.” In my mind, I was imagining, “I guess I won’t be sitting here long” now because my peaceful meditative mindset has been disrupted. The two elderly ladies proceed to unload the car with all their picnic supplies including a nice tablecloth.

They were eating and drinking and just enjoying the moment when one of them started to talk to me. One was older than the other and both noticeably were very close friends and it was evident they knew each other like sisters. Consequently, as the conversation deepened I realised they had known each other for years with no biological connections or marital associations.

These women jumped quickly into some spiritual inquiries about me and my life to date. One said, ” you are on a spiritual journey. “In my mind, “aren’t we all” however, I knew she was referring to my unusual life and journey in her experiences and perception of life and people. The older of the two discussed her deceased husband who was a medium and both met on a Yoga retreat. She was seventy-six and practice Yoga her whole life and had survived three husbands and left one. She also had children and was on holidays from the UK. The other after sharing her Irish heritage and involvements and thoughts around the Catholic church as a child and her dissatisfaction with all religious institutions. Disclosed an expressed very deep emotions surrounding her son who took his own life a couple years ago.

The ladys were lovely and great conversationist. I could write a whole blog just on the depth and engagement they offered me. I shared and disclose some deeply personal experiences and thoughts about my experience in religious institution and God. I also shared my current experience in my spiritual practices. I felt very comfortable around these women and they also expressed the joy they got from talking with me. I was going to leave at one point because I thought I may have been interrupting the time together. However, the older of the two said, ” where have you got to go to”? I said,”nowhere really.” So we all laughed and the conversation continued for about three hours.

The lady from the UK wanted my phone number and I offered my email which she confessed was of not much use. However, she asked if I would mind if she rang me some time to see what the next chapters in my life would be. I joked about stalking me, she laughed and said, “I am very interested in how your life unfolds.” Both ladies have travelled the world and experience loss and grief like all of us. However, they have a lovely relationship and I felt very privileged to be invited to their picnic and share some life stories.

This highlights the importance of being in the present moment and having a level of flexibility that involves others at times changing your expectations and ideas on how a day might unfold. I was not expecting such a life-giving conversations with two complete strangers. I was planning to just “be” Consequently, on reflection of the day I am so thankful for life’s experiences and the blessing each day can offer. The ladies were a blessing and provided a experience that was memorable and beautiful.

“Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.”

~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj ~