Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’


January 23, 2017



Art for the People

May 27, 2010

I had such fun last Sunday visiting the newly reopened and expanded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). Being in that magnificent space, experiencing excitingly new art and sacred ancient works, I understood the Museum’s ad campaign “It’s Your Art” and I was moved. It is indeed a people’s museum. 
It was such a different crowd and vibe – down-to-earth while also elegant – from what I’ve felt in some of our country’s more well-heeled museums. There were young people, old people, and families. There were children everywhere looking closely at art, talking about art, and laughing innocently about the pieces that made them uncomfortable. Best of all – there was no shushing going on!
Peeking into the third-floor restaurant, I was welcomed in by the maître d’, who informed me, “It’s your art” despite my shorts and t-shirt. Some people were in their Sunday finest; most were casually dressed like me, as if coming to the Museum were as common as going for a walk. And such a nice walk it is! The redesigned grounds are gorgeous and welcoming. Granted, I live just 3 blocks away, so I’m particularly fond of this beautiful new building in my neighborhood. Or rather, I am in her neighborhood, as she is definitely the Grand Dame sitting effortlessly and elegantly among row houses and magnolia trees.
Admission to the VMFA is free – always. I believe this is the very reason it feels like a museum for all of us. I was so proud of the Commonwealth of Virginia for investing in a museum for her citizens.
Years ago, I worked for the National Endowment for the Arts when we, the United States, were supporting visual artists, choreographers, theaters, dance companies, museums, arts education, and grassroots art in communities all across the country (at a mere 35 cents per taxpayer, per year.) It was an exciting, thriving agency at that time, with passionate, dedicated employees and volunteers. I worked in the dance program where I witnessed ballet and modern dance legends consider grants for new commissions, and I sat in on vibrant discussions on folk art, painting, American musical theater, and more.
Then the simmering culture wars heated to a fury. Controversy over works by Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano led to the forced resignation of then-NEA Chairman John Frohnmayer. I’ll never forget his gathering the agency staff for an emergency meeting, at which he sang “Simple Gifts” as his farewell. In the years following, our nation’s support for the arts was severely reduced. I’m grateful that the NEA’s budget allocation is on its way up again. I believe in private citizens supporting our national culture, but I also believe it is critical for our country’s heart and psyche that our government does so as well.
I’d like to say thank you to the corporate and citizen donors who made the VMFA’s fabulous new building and campus renovation possible. Thank you to those who have contributed collections and dollars for the Museum to acquire treasures for all of us to appreciate. You’ve inspired me to do the same. And thank you most of all to the Commonwealth of Virginia for believing culture is valuable and essential for her people.

Wow, what a sight!

February 15, 2010

This weekend I had the immense pleasure of participating in WomanKind, an interfaith exploration of women’s spirituality hosted by the visionary St. James’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. It would not do the experience justice to recount all of the nuances here (such as the gorgeous Botticelli-inspired décor). However, I will share the most memorable moment for me.
It happened at the beginning of Saturday afternoon’s healing service. As I watched a parade of women, old and young, black and white, clergy and attendants make their way up the center aisle to the front of an estrogen-filled church; my eyes grew big as did my smile. Soon, the altar filled with women ministers and priests. I swallowed hard in disbelief and tears filled my eyes at the sight. There it was – ancient wisdom in feminine form. 
After years of wondering if I would find a resonant place in a tradition about a man, a doctrine historically dictated by men and churches led predominantly by male clergy, the altar scene yesterday was startling and life-changing. I have been greatly inspired by masculine messengers and interpreters of God, including a recent embrace of the Ultimate Messenger. Nothing, however, has ever moved me more than this scene of my own kind – woman kind – delivering spiritual guidance in Christ’s name.
I know it sounds predictable coming from me to want to see women clergy. I wonder what it was like for the other 399 or so women in attendance – many of whom seemed to be followers of the Christian tradition. I believe that few would deny the lack of feminine spiritual role models held up for us to learn from, respect, and revere. The dearth of women spoken about in the Christian church was a major stumbling block for me in surrendering to this path, until I realized that Christ himself is the embodiment of what I consider most gorgeously feminine: care, love, compassion, service and community. 
It isn’t that I don’t value what men bring to relationship, leadership and spiritual practice – I do, very much. Yet to surrender my heart, body and will to God is such a personal, vulnerable experience. If I am to do it within a particular tradition, I need to trust that I and all women are considered as valuable and valid as men in the eyes of the church. I’ve no doubt that we are equal in the heart and mind of Jesus, yet much of what has been built in His name has called into question the institution’s reverence for women.
Nothing can adequately convey the heart-opening power of seeing wise, white-haired female ministers with their warm smiles and distinguished voices sitting amongst an interracial mix of intellectually fabulous, young priestesses. Garbed in white robes with beautiful stoles, these women shared delivery of the Gospel and God’s spiritual food.   The first prayer began, “O God, Mother of endless generations” – that alone would have sold me. The service went on to speak of “God in the midst of her” in Psalm 46 and to analyze the unconditional, deeply intuitive understanding of Christ’s power by a very poor, very sick woman as written in Mark 5:25-34. (Thanks to the flawlessly crafted and moving sermon of Dr. Linda Powell Pruitt.)
I had the intimate joy of witnessing this with my mother, an early 70’s feminist, who raised my four sisters and me to believe that something different from what she had lived as a young woman of the 50’s was possible for us. We both wondered how much more welcoming church might have felt to her as a girl and to independent young women today were this service their first experience of Christianity.
Even when the Christian church develops more balance of spiritual leadership, I will never forget my first time – yesterday at WomanKind – realizing what is possible and being sure that I belong.

Who Speaks to You?

November 24, 2009

Yesterday, I was introduced to Rob Bell by way of his Open video. I then proceeded to watch Flame, Whirlwind and She. (see NOOMA for downloadable full length versions.) I may be the last person in America to have heard about this hip and controversial Christian thinker. Let me say, it was instant wow and deep regard. Perhaps even infatuation (I admit I have a weakness for big thinking, cool-glasses-wearing, idealistic guys.)
He’s the evangelical pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and… a graduate of Wheaton College (note: they don’t dance there.) Hoo boy! Bible church, no dancing, and evangelical… that trifecta is more like “lions, tigers and bears” for liberal, pole dancing, multi-faith me! 
Yet I took it as a good sign that conservative bloggers blast him. In a Boston Globe interview he says the word “evangelical” has been “hijacked” by the political right. He offers instead, “I embrace the term evangelical, if by that we mean a belief that we together can actually work for change in the world, caring for the environment, extending to the poor generosity and kindness.”
He’s written a book called Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality; he honors the feminine qualities in God (that alone makes me want to move to Michigan) and he likens God’s care to that of a mother’s fierce, lay-down-her-life love for her children. He speaks with palpable commitment, yearning and gentleness. And most importantly for doubters like me, he struggles with having no answers to unanswerable questions.
I’m not writing about him so you too will think he’s great. I bring him up simply to say that this unexpected “evangelical” voice went straight to the heart of someone who feels closer to God on a yoga mat than dressed up in a pew.  
Who does that for you? Whose integrity inspires you? Whose passion speaks to the deepest questions in your heart? Whose values make you feel ah, yes, there is hope?
As you can tell, I love people who speak up about what they believe. People who say, “This is what I stand for. This is what I suffer. This is how I yearn to love and live.” By letting you know exactly who they are, they give you permission to take or leave them.
Richmond yoga teacher Aimee Yowell is another one who really goes for it. She is pure embodiment of what she teaches. With the spirit she exudes and the devotion to something greater that she brings to her teaching, each 1 hour and 15 minute class feels like a 3-hour journey to the core of it all. She is unabashed in moving as if the life of her soul depended on it. It’s infectious and it is an invitation to discover what frees my own soul. I love her willingness to put out there exactly who she is and the gift she offers.
Tell me, who turns you on to life? Who inspires you to rise up and participate with all you have in this magical, mystical ride? Tell me. Tell them. Tell others.

Finding wisdom wherever I can

September 28, 2009

I admit that I have a love/hate relationship with autumn. I’m in awe of the soon-to-be, jaw-droppingly gorgeous trees on my street, yet I hate the shoes. By mid-October, I’ll be mourning sandals. You see, I’ve got rather long feet (“Jackie O wore size 11,” my Mom always reminds me). It is really hard to find cute, feminine-looking fall shoes in my size, that are flat.

I’m also 5’11” and much to the consternation of my more fashionable and diminutive friends, I don’t wear heels because when I’m up that high, I can’t hear what anyone is saying down below! (I’ll have to consult with shoe expert Miss Meghan.)

However, one thing I do love about this changing weather is that I get to start drinking Yogi Tea again. I don’t particularly care for hot tea (apologies to the Brits on this email), but I live for the little bits of nightly wisdom that hang from the side of my mug. I think Kundalini Master Yogi Bhajan has it going on.

Here are some of my favorite sayings of his that I’ve now placed strategically around my apartment. Though more powerful when opened and contemplated one at a time, I offer them to you in abundance:

“Your head must bow to your heart.”

“Where there is love, there is no question.”

“Truth is everlasting.”

“It’s not life that matters; it’s the courage we bring to it.”

A friend asked me this week how I come up with something to offer to you each Sunday and I was reminded of one of my Mom’s expressions, “I take my happiness where I can.” Me, I take my inspiration and wisdom where I can… in a Yogi Tea box, in a friend’s loving perspective over California huevos at Kuba Kuba, in those sweet, guerilla goodness chalk drawings on my neighborhood sidewalk, or in the final words of a loved one without having known that they were indeed the final words.

I’m sure you have your own treasured sources.

The fun part, I think, is in believing the message was meant to reach me in that very form at that very moment and allowing myself to be permeated and transformed by it.

I’ll be curious to know what finds you this week! In the words of Yogi Bhajan, “Let things come to you.

Playing for Change

June 18, 2009

I love the Playing For Change projects – creating peace through music. Listening to one of these instantly opens my heart, brings tears to my eyes, and brightens my day. I hope you enjoy…