reflections

photography, Psychology, Uncategorized

…instead of a coherent personality that stretches back in an unbroken line to a first memory and looks forward to an indefinite future, we discover a self ridden with gaps and ambiguities.  Who “I am” appears coherent only because of the monologue we keep repeating, editing, censoring, and embellishing in our heads.

windows

100 days…epilogue

photography, Psychology, spirituality, Uncategorized

After receiving great news I often experience a desire to reach out to someone, anyone with whom to share, to celebrate. When life’s sorrows come to my door there is a yearning for someone…something with whom to connect with…to find a shared understanding that eases the confusion that wraps around grief; yet, a bit of courage is needed…to silence anxiety’s voice, “to speak of death is lose the listener you seek.”

My mother, Elberta, passed away on the 19th of April, 2016…6 days after her 89th birthday.  brendakofford_flowersSince her passing, a number of popular culture icons also left this world…and I found myself, in response to the exhausting news coverage, whispering, “my mother died” as if this utterance would bring about a global moment of silence in which to honor both her life and death and to ease the aloneness that dwells within grief’s shadow.

One belief I have that has sustained me for many years is that to honor the lives of those who have gone is to keep them in the heart and be with others in such a way as to honor them. In an odd way…it’s like a unspoken desire to bring about…yes, a small bit of immortality.

I have read that one way (out of many) to walk alongside the grief and memories that come unbidden is found in the perspective that “in the days and weeks that follow a death especially for the first 49 days one can help the deceased’s mind/body by avoiding harming others, generating love and compassion, doing kind actions, making charity and specific centerblossomprayers and practices that their spiritual teachers recommend and dedicating this positive energy to the mind/spirit of the loved one, wishing only peace and happiness for them and rebirth in the presence of their God or Buddha.”

With this way of being with grief and loss in mind, I undertook a 100 day-blog project to honor my mother’s life. She loved photography, poetry, nature, needlepoint, and teaching others sign language.  It is my hope that the images and words within this project reached out and touched the lives of others with a similar sense of awe that she often expressed as she witnessed the beauty and mystery of the world about us.

My work as a psychotherapist taught me about the healing components of art, especially its means of communicating what words alone cannot convey. Also, during a difficult period of time in my life, a co-worker would100dayspoppy send emails that included attached images of “aweness” and beauty. I came to realize that during those moments when I allowed myself to be opened to amazement my emotional self shifted from a negative state of mind to a place of equanimity…as if these images offered a safe harbor sheltering self from an emotional storm.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of 100 days…I hope you were gifted with a moment or two of “aweness”, contemplation, and/or equanimity as you wandered through the gallery of these writings and images.

you left,

I remained…

two springs.

From this day forward, I will be…

may we find peace.

100 days…100th day

art, philosophy, photography, Psychology, spirituality, Uncategorized

…the scent of mothballs signals the opening of a small steamboat trunk entrusted with long-forgotten memorabilia. Carefully placed upon a layer of women’s 1930 era clothing are three stacks of yellow ribbon-tied envelopes. Within each are hand-written letters reminiscent of second grade penmanship inquiring, “Dear Mother, how are you? Fine I hope.” brendamilyOn the left side is a stationery box filled with certificates of marriage, birth, baptism, and death intermingled with a child’s brilliantly colored drawings.

Beneath the box is a small silk sachet holding a solitary diamond engagement ring and an ivory locket. At the bottom of the trunk, children’s books and wooden blocks with carved letters surround a miniature wooden rocking chair and a one-button eyed velvety-patched teddy bear. I become distracted from the remaining contents as black and white photograph images softly held within the folds of a woman’s garnet silk dress glide in the air and scatter on the floor.
The photographic images are a visual memoir of a young family where trust once allowed two young sisters to roam free throughout a field of tall, yellowed grass. “How many dad3-copydays,” my questioning mind wonders, “how many days were left before the decline of my father’s health shifted the lights of a colorful present into the gray-shaded time of waiting?” Within this stillness of waiting, memory tells of a young child seeking solace through repetitive rocking behaviors and of a father’s fragile heart enduring a turbulent wait for a donated aorta.

I hear compassion speak to my heart and I begin to feel how my father intuitively knew of my inner turmoil and of the tranquil stillness within rhythmic repetition. His gift of a rocking chair tells me some fifty years after his death of the multiple emotional and physical sufferings within his suffering, the interconnectedness of the suffering within the family, and of his wish to ease our suffering.

As the fabric of the dress glides between my fingertips, the shadow of grief that holds the memories of my son emerges from a compartment hidden within the trunk. An old fear dustin20awakens as the image of grief’s blackened shadow looms over me with its death-filled abyss of intermingled condemnation, uncertainty, and emptiness. I feel the void that will consume me if I were to release the eternal care of my son to its embrace. I come to know that I hold no trust  that within death is compassionate loving-kindness. Awareness arises to tell me that as I run from grief with the anguish of powerlessness to protect the heart of my soul, like an addict running from her addiction, grief becomes even more insidious. In this undifferentiated chaos of anguish, fear, and mistrust there is hope [larger than a mustard seed] which seeks for the magical garment when donned will transform me into the Great Mother. It is childhood faith that clings to the belief that as God witnesses this transformation, absolution and reconciliation would simultaneously subdue this impenetrable monster and return my son, whole with the spirit of life, to…*

 

*cited:

A Mediative Journey with Saldage

B Catherine Koeford

 

in its own true nature

art, photography, Psychology, quotes, unclassified

A fish cannot drown in water,

A bird does not fall in air.

In the fire of its making,

Gold doesn’t vanish:

The fire brightens.

Each creature God made

Must live in its own true nature;

How could I resist my nature, 

That lives for oneness with God.

                                     ~Mechtild of Magdeburg*

*cited:

Women in Praise of the Sacred

J Hirshfield

A Meditative Journey with Saldage

philosophy, Psychology, quotes, spirituality, Uncategorized

A Meditative Journey with Saldage  BookCover

 

This work interweaves elements of the author’s own history within a fabric composed of Buddhist philosophies of suffering and Christian ideals of forgiveness, as well as traditional elements of psychology and universal threads of myth.  The result is a rich tapestry of value to anyone seeking a personal and compassionate guide towards self-discovery and recovery from the sources and consequences of human suffering. The practical illustrations of overcoming suffering within this experience make this work a valuable tool for individual women and a significant contribution for the therapeutic environment.

Available through:

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million

Better World Books

Trafford.com

Google Books

Author’s Note:

It is my hope that those who journey through A Meditative Journey with Saldage return again and again to the wisdom within the Kalama Sutta. If you find that the words, images, and/or cited quotes trigger any discontent within, please abandon them. If you find that they lead to an easing of discontent, please accept my written thoughts as a gift from me to you.

back way

art, photography, Psychology, quotes, Uncategorized

perception is never purely in the present – it has to draw on experiences of the past; “the remembered present”…detailed memories of how things have previously looked and sounded, and these memories are recalled and mixed with every new perception…every act of perception…is to some degree an act of imagination.*

back way

 

*cited:

Musicophilia

Oliver Sacks

recurrent calling…

art, poetry, Psychology, quotes, spirituality, Uncategorized

Listen, listen:

longing and loss.

In the struck bell’s 

recurrent calling,

no moment in which to forget.

                                   ~Izumi Shikibu*

symmetry

…though it is often stated that animals find symmetry in a mate attractive, humans appear not, in fact, to share such preferences. Even in cases where symmetry is clocked as more healthy, it is still experienced as less attractive.  In fact symmetry in living faces, because it suggests something mechanical and unreal, borders on the uncanny… And, as one might expect, in portraiture of the Enlightenment ‘faces generally are represented more symmetrically than in any other Western style’… ‘That is one of the reasons why this portraiture is as Wilde puts it, “once seen, never remembered.”**

 

sources:

*The Ink Dark Moon

Trans: J. Hirshfield with M. Aratani

**The Master and his Emmissary

Iain McGilchrist

the brain cognizing itself

art, Psychology, quotes, Uncategorized

left-facing

From the earliest, all the Renaissance arts showed a newfound expressiveness, a delicacy of feeling… In the visual arts this was manifest from Giotto onwards in a preoccupation with the expressive powers of the human face in particular… It will be remembered…that during the Renaissance there was a peak in left-facing (right-hemisphere favoring) profiles in portraiture.

Intriguingly, there appears to have been a marked shift, according to James Hall, in the way the left and right sides of the body were viewed at around this time. The traditional view of the left side as, literally, sinister would appear to have softened at the Renaissance, and given way to an intuitive sense of its positive qualities. According to Hall, ‘the superior beauty of the left hand was an important opponent of the courtly love tradition’…As the Renaissance unfolded, the claims of the left side were advanced at the expense of the right; it was seen as the more beautiful side – finer, more gentle, more truthful, more in touch with feeling. The entire left side of the body took on a cast of beauty, truthfulness, and fragility. Given that it was centuries too early for these views to be influenced by knowledge of hemisphere different, it looks like another possible instance of the brain intuitively cognising itself.*

*cited

The Master and his Emissary

Iain McGilchrist