What is the difference between Believing & Knowing?

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openheartopenhands

“Open Heart, Open Hands” – 11″x14″ pastel on velour paper

I’ve been pondering the differences between believing and knowing.  Psycologist Carl Jung was asked whether he believed in God and he answered, “I don’t believe in God, I know.”  What he meant was a logical, inescapable conclusion he had reached.

I consider myself a mystic because I would answer this question the same way but for different reasons.   I have had two experiences in my life where I was filled with a deep, unshakable, merging and “knowing” of Deity.  (I used the words Deity, Universe or Spirit because when I use the word “God” I automatically have an image of the controlling, “old man in the sky” God of my childhood.  This is not what I “know.”)

I could tell you a bit about my spiritual experiences, but  its limited by language and it won’t manage to convey the “knowing,” and probably, like plenty of other mystics before me, it would just sound crazy.  But afterwards, I went seeking through many, many books to find out if others had experiences like this.  I could recognize the truth in the words of the ecstatic St. Teresa,

“The soul neither sees, hears, nor understands anything while this state lasts; but this is usually a very short time, and seems to the soul even shorter than it really is.  God visits the soul in a way that prevents it doubting when it comes to itself that it has been in God and God in it; and so firmly is it convinced of this truth that, though years may pass before this state reoccurs, the soul can never forget it nor doubt its reality.”

I identify with the mystical Sufi poet, Jalaluddin Rumi’s attempts to convey Deity thru his poetry.  I can see excitedly, “Yes!  He gets it!”  When I read:

“Plunge, plunge into the vast ocean of consciousness/ Let the drop of water that is you/ Become a hundred mighty seas/ But do not think that the drop alone/ Becomes the ocean/ The ocean too becomes the drop.”

One of the best descriptions came from an anonymous clergyman, taken from William B. Starbuck’s manuscript collection:

“I remember the night and almost the very spot on the hill-top, where my soul opened, out, as it were, into the Infinite, and there was a rushing together of the two worlds, the inner and the outer.  It was deep calling unto deep – the deep that my own struggle had opened up within, being answered by the unfathomable deep without, reaching beyond the stars.  I stood alone with Him who had made me, and all the beauty of the world, and love, and sorrow, and even temptation.  I did not seek Him, but felt the perfect unison of my spirit with His.  The ordinary sense of things around me faded.  For the moment nothing but an ineffable joy and exultation remained.  It is impossible fully to describe the experience.  It was like the effect of some great orchestra when all the separate notes have metered into one swelling harmony that leaves the listener conscious of nothing save that his soul is being wafted upwards, and almost bursting with its own emotion.”

So I’m left like I was in high school geometry class, where I could see what the answer was and then had to work backwards to understand the proof.  Now I’m still learning and exploring to try to understand Deity/Love/Spirit… how to convey this awesome beauty in my art and writing… learning how the energy of Spirit works in the world.

  • Patricia Robin Woodruff
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The Zen of Creativity

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“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”  – Charles Mingus

A perfect example of that is found in sumi-e brush painting.  It is a style of Oriental art that is very zen.  With a minimum of brush strokes, you capture the essence, the energy, the “chi” of an object.  While many of these ancient paintings are strictly black and white, the concepts can be brought into colorful watercolor painting too.

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Cascades of Blue 11″x14″ watercolor               by Patricia Robin Woodruff

The poetry I like is the same way, with phrases that strikes right to the very heart of the feeling.  Like the mystic poet, Rumi said:

“Roses open laughing.”

He describes the beauty and joy of nature blooming in a way that makes my heart bloom open as well.  That to me is the pure beauty and gracefulness of chi in poetry.

So that leaves me with the question, how do we bring our life in alignment with chi?  Meditation and yoga occur to me.  But where I find myself the most in line with the energy of the Universe is through the creative arts… when I am lost in writing a story or time totally disappears while I am painting.  So as an affirmation for this day:

“I open myself to the energies of the Universe.  It is an unquenchable source for me to draw inspiration from.”

– Patricia Robin Woodruff

Poetry That Inspires The Heart and The Hand

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I find reading poetry can inspire my own creativity.  One of my favorite spiritual poets is Rumi (usually called by his last name, I suspect because no one can figure out his first name… Jalaluddin… Jalal al-Din… Jalalu-ddin…)  He was a thirteenth century poet, mystic, Sufi, whirling dervish… A person who called God, “Friend”.

Rumi’s poetry constantly inspires me.  I get such a feeling of recognition when I read it. I want to shout a great big “Yes!”  Rumi put into words, the feelings that I feel. It’s the same energy that inspires my art and writing. Here’s some wonderful examples: 

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” 

“Close both eyes to see with the other eye.”

“Roses open laughing.”

You can see why Rumi’s words could inspire a whole series of paintings and collages! A few years ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization announced that the year 2007 was the International Year of Rumi, since it had been 800 years since Rumi’s birth.  He is one of the most widely read poets in the United States, so if you haven’t come across his poetry yet read up on him!

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To see more of my artwork inspired by the poetry of Rumi, check out InnerArtSpirit.Etsy.com

Enjoy the magic of Rumi’s words and the growth energy of Spring!

– Patricia Robin Woodruff

Three Tips to Tap into the Spirit of Creativity

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Rumi Series “Spirit” by Patricia Robin Woodruff 11″x14″ mixed media: ink, acrylic, collage

There is a certain “flow” or channeling of the creative energy that happens when a person is deeply immersed in their art (be it painting, writing or even computer programming.)  A sense of time disappears, as well as even a sense of self.  There is nothing but you and your creation.

While this zen state can not be forced, there are ways to make it more likely to happen:

1) Ritual – Creating a certain ritual before embarking on your creative efforts can help.  My friend, Barb Baur is a jeweler.  Before working, she lights her candle and says a prayer to the patron deity of inspiration and metal smithing, Brigid.  The candle is a practical device for her to light her oxy/acetylene torch from, but it also prepares her mentally for being receptive to the creative flow.

2) Engaging the senses – Many people find painting to music helps them create.  I find that the scent of incense is a powerful tool to transform my thinking from the mundane to the receptive artistic state.  It also helps to surround yourself in beauty.  Beauty begets beauty.  Beautiful surroundings makes it more pleasant to enter your writing space, or studio.  When we are happier, it is easier to be in touch with that joyful spirit of creativity.

3) Affirmations – Doubt and worry are like fats that clog the arteries of inspiration.  Changing your thinking patterns to good healthy thoughts will let that creativity flow!  I write down positive things that people have said to me and then I tape them up around my desk.  I also hang inspiring sayings and quotes around my office, as reminders to myself.

Next time you sit down to create, try some of these tips and start with this affirming thought:

“I am open to the energies of the Universe/Spirit/God.  Fill my mind and flow through my hands.”

 

Bringing the Infinite into Finite Form; or more musings on creating

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I was reading some writing advice from Stephen King and some of his words really struck me.  He said,

“The magic is in you.”

I think I’m going to hang this one on my wall above my writing space.  We get distracted with the mundane life and somehow this gets forgotten in the hustle and bustle.  

In the book, “The Mission of Art”, Alex Grey goes on to say that “the artist brings the infinite into finite form…”“An artist’s divine imagination, their soul, links the infinite presence of God with the finite physical world where the artist brings spirit to form.” This understanding of my art merges with my current understanding of my spiritual beliefs. As Inigo Montoya says in the movie, The Princess Bride, “Let me explain…no, there is too much. Let me sum up…” 

Imagine the beginnings of the Universe… Everything condensed into one single point, which exploded outward filling the emptiness with matter. All the matter/energy of the Universe, forming and coalescing into suns and planets. Our tiny planet spinning and transforming. The energy solidifying into matter becoming water and land and living things. Single-celled creatures mutating and transforming into more and more complex forms. Complex living things in the ocean, moving onto land, transforming and changing. Such a wonder of variety… fish, insects, birds, mammals and people. Green things transforming the energy of the sun into itself. Animals eating the plants/sun-energy and transforming it into itself. We are all made of “star stuff.” We are matter. We are energy. Other names that have been used to identify this energy can be Spirit, Magic or God. We have that God-force within us and are continuing the process of creation. We imagine things and then we turn that energy solid; into art, relationships, writing or inventions. 

Science tells us that very element heavier than hydrogen has been forged in the heart of a star. In the television show, Babylon-5, J. Michael Straczynski stated through the wise character of Delenn the perspective that all living beings are created from the same elements that make up the Babylon-5 space station and the stars (ie. nitrogen, iron, hydrogen, etc). Delenn states, “We are star stuff. We are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.”

Different thinkers have come to the same conclusion and have been able to verbalize it in different ways… Ann Kent Rush stated, “Creativity is really the structuring of magic.” Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali mystic stated “ The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day, runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass, and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.” Stephen Nachmanovitch, a musician, author and computer artist said, “The imagination is our true self, and is in fact the living creating God within us.”

That wonderful energy fills me up and flows out of my fingers in my artwork. I feel like the 13th century poet, Rumi, was talking directly to me when he wrote, 

“Hundreds of thousands of impressions from the invisible world are eagerly wanting to come through you. I get dizzy with the abundance.”

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“All of Creation” by Patricia Robin Woodruff 11″x14″ mixed media (ink and watercolor)