I love this sculpture, a spiral, the energy of ascending, taking flight, a sense of freedom and movement. I wanted to sculpt that feeling. It was what I was feeling. Having recently left my spiritual community, taking a significant new tact in my life, again at a new beginning. I felt free to fly.
I felt as though I was emerging from the chrysalis of my robes. Butterflies captured my imagination. Ordained as a Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition for 15 years, I had begun to heal many old wounds and I had received an education like I had never imagined. It was an amazing and wonderfully transformative experience. Like the caterpillar, I had had a very limited perspective of the world. As this spiritual journey unfolds, I feel like I have been given wings, now seeing from a very different viewpoint.
Traditional Tibetan Buddhist practices: prayer, study, contemplation, empowerment ceremonies, and meditation combined with traditional and non-traditional Western practices: 12-steps, inner child work, radical self honesty, specially designed retreats and personal instruction, resulted in a breakdown of all that I knew myself to be. Through the generosity and kindness of my beloved teachers, who nurtured the seeds of loving kindness and compassion that lay within me, a more mature, spiritual understanding of myself and the world in which I live began to take shape. I felt poised for flight.
I express myself through my art. I often refer to my art as my voice. I speak to others yet I also speak to myself. As I connect with what I am feeling, as I reflect on what I am inspired to create, whether drawing, painting or sculpting, I learn something about where I am in my life, what I value. The creative process continues to be a spiritual practice, an invitation to explore my inner landscape. Time after time I realize I am speaking to experiences we have in common, experiences we share as human beings. We are really so much more alike than we are different.
I would now sculpt butterflies, representing transformation, joy, flight and freedom. But what would be the foundation, the support from which they would then be taking flight? Would it be the ground, the Earth, her solid reality? Would it be a book, a scroll, a leaf, a sphere, a cube, an amorphous shape? Possibilities were alive in my mind when I came across the story of the Loretto Chapel and it’s miraculous staircase.
I am sure many of you have heard this oft told tale of a small group of nuns and the chapel with the spiral staircase in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One version of the story tells of the nuns moving across the country and settling into a lovely little chapel when they realized that there was no way to access the choir loft. It was 22’ above the main floor and there was no staircase. After calling in contractors to remedy this situation they were told that there was not room for a traditional staircase and that they would have to use a ladder. This was unacceptable to the nuns so they sat down and did what nuns do best, they prayed. They prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth day of prayer, a carpenter arrived with his donkey and his tools, looking for work. He told them he could build a spiral staircase and that it would fit quite nicely in the space. The nuns were delighted and made room in the small chapel for the carpenter to sleep.
He began work right away, after several months the elegant staircase was complete. His workmanship was beautiful. Before they could pay him or even thank him, he disappeared. The nuns were perplexed. They inquired with the local lumberyard but they had never seen this carpenter nor sold him any materials. The nuns ran an ad in the local paper asking if anyone had seen him. Their efforts were to no avail, no one had seen him. The truth dawning in their minds almost simultaneously, they smiled. The carpenter, arriving as they prayed, vanishing upon the projects completion, his appearance had been an answer to their prayers.
To add a further bit of mystery to the story, to this day, designers and architects have marveled at the construction of this staircase. There is no central post customary in this type of construction. This staircase is built with no visible means of support.
When I heard this story, I knew I had found the foundation from which these butterflies would fly. This staircase is a symbol of prayer and faith, profound,fundamental resources in my life. Prayer as an open line of communication to the Divine, faith in our divinity, in our authenticity, in the deepest knowing of our hearts, faith in the power of loving kindness and compassion to guide us to true happiness and an end to suffering for all beings.
As we come to know the truth of our own nature we are free, free to take flight, spread our wings, let our colors shine.
This work is dedicated to the amazing teachers that have shaped my life. I live in unending gratitude for the blessings I have received. I have created a jeweled palace within my heart, a magnificent throne for each of these precious beings.
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” -Marianne Williamson