Journaling to deepen your spiritual practice

I will be teaching a class at the Stone Church Arts Center in Bellows Falls, VT on Sunday March 25 9:30 a.m.-12:30 in

Currier Hall

Journaling through the Seasons

Mar 11, 2018 – Mar 25, 2018

This class will explore journaling using nature and weather to prompt us into writing and image making. The process of Journaling can begin to connect you to your inner thoughts and ideas. Contemplation on the natural world can create a link between us and your surroundings and lead to an awareness of our inner processes. Participants will also learn how to begin drawing a basic mandala as part of a meditative process for journaling. We will go outside to gather ideas if weather permits.

 

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REFLECTION

imageREFLECTION
This week I had a dream in which I encountered several mirrors. This led me to contemplate the meaning of Reflection…and what that word may encompass? When we reflect, we pause to understand the reasons, cause, effect or results of something…we examine or “turn things over” in our mind at length, until we understand it. But we are also a source of reflection. Every day, knowingly or unknowingly, we reflect the status of our inner life and attitude to others and ourselves. A mirror is both static and changing because it is a tool of reflection. What we see in it is often the result of our inner voice and opinions as much as it is of what is actually there in front of us. We sometimes decry our abilities, our looks, our value and our accomplishments (at times even our very significance) when we gaze into a mirror, flinching at its imperfect image. Yet it is likely not the image but our opinion of ourselves that causes us to see beyond it to more negative thoughts. We participate in the acknowledgement of our accomplishments and beauty to the degree that we are able to stay open to a non-judgmental self view, refraining from unnecessary negativity. Often our thoughts reflect back inner fears that have nothing to do with reality. If so, it becomes time to step away from the critical, debasing self-reflection, and find instead a more tolerant gaze through to ourselves.
   The Latin word for “mirror” is “speculum,” which originally meant scanning the sky. When we speculate, we scan the future for hints of what will come. We speculate about our prospects of getting a new job, on the results of a relationship, or on the outcome of a presidency. That state of reflection upon certain sets of circumstances is fed by our own fears and motivations. Even if we want the job, or the relationship, we can find ways to undermine or spoil its prospects if we keep focusing on the negative, instead of actively participating in building something stable through small efforts.
We have to want to succeed, want to receive, want to find happiness… but when we anticipate too much—either good or bad, are we perhaps failing to allow things to simply unfold? Just as our thoughts can and do reflect back at us our interior nature … likewise our reactions to events and people give us clues to the state of our being. Are we angry, disappointed, or resentful when things don’t go our way? Or can we not be as attached to our need for a particular outcome?
    The word “consideration” is derived from sidus, a Latin word for star or constellation. So to use con-sider-ation is to view the stars as a whole unit. When we pause to consider the sum total of our life as a whole unit, we can look back at our accomplishments and apparent failures, seeing the path of learning that we have been traveling on thus far. Such contemplation, the looking back as if through a mirror, at all the things we did or didn’t do, at all the times we passed or failed our own life “tests,” (and what we may have learned in the process) enables us to step back in time as if through Alice’s looking glass, to pass through to the other side momentarily where we can see and learn from the past, and adjust our sails for the present and future journey, based on the power of those revelations.
    Mirrors intrinsically reflect things at their most essential nature. They have appeared in myths and fairytales, as a way of revealing something hidden or disguised. Narcissus peering into a mirror-like surface perhaps symbolically represented the potential seeking or discovery of the universal or subconscious self.
Jungians such as ML von Franz see the mirror as a threshold between the conscious and the unconscious. The depths of water are not visible and so are symbolic of the depths of our unconscious. It seems our dreams shimmer on the surface of those depths, reflecting through the earth’s pools and bodies of water
human consciousness itself.
  The magic nature of the mirror reflects all things in and of the universe, as in the story of Indra’s net—the Indian myth of innumerable mirrors at all the junctures of a fishing net—holding together, reflecting back and bonding each and every thing. This quality of reflection works not only individually but culturally as well. We can reflect on historical errors and past missteps, such as genocide or all unjust wars. Such great evil reflects back our darker side. (I have been watching many movies on the subject of the Holocaust and see new tendencies toward its roots of hatred, rising up through our current needy and difficult times.)  We all carry with us the potential for both good and evil action, the light and the dark of the mirror. Ask yourself: what is holier, the holiness of the saint or the holiness of the common within us all? Essentially it all comes down to what we invite in, and what we reflect back.
   What is the nature of our self—what do our hearts and conscience see when it is reflected in the mirror of our lives and time on earth? Our reflection, that image we see as if gazing in a mirror…showing our actions, our life history, our thoughts, reflects back both the good and bad sides of ourselves. The value of reflection, as we pause to really look at our actions and inhabit them is in finding ways to seize on, or even just simply to become aware of and notice, the more positive things we do, thus strengthening our more positive potential. We may thus fend off letting our dark or shadow side take over our reflection and with it our self. If we seek to open rather than close down, if we have embraced kindness rather than meanness, if we have sought participation in expansive, caring practices or only sought self fulfillment at all costs…these inner reflections have worth insofar as we are changed by them even in small ways, for in reflection small positive things can expand the heart, and with it the universe.
JuliaFerrari
After having a dream of mirrors
originally published in Vermont Views Magazine
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OUR EXPECTATIONS

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OUR EXPECTATIONS

 

The towers of San Gimignano, visible across a half dozen miles of Tuscan landscape were an intriguing sight. We were in Certaldo for an unhurried daytrip from Florence. I remember experiencing a moment when a voice in my head said “why can’t we go there and have that experience,” and I had to wake myself and bring myself back to where I was, knowing that that would have to be saved for another time (which could be a long way off or never). I was on a three week journey in Italy, with visits to the cities of Florence, Genoa, and Venice among others, and as in all travel, one is limited to where one can spend time on any particular trip. The following day, thinking about that moment I again experienced a slight anxiety, as I imagined other travelers arriving in San Gimignano for the afternoon, having planned the perfect trip, from storybook situation to storybook situation. Dreaming of ideal (or perfect) vacations can prevent us from fully living in the world we inhabit.

 

Before traveling  I’d read about going to places such as the exclusive restaurant in Florence that one enthusiastic American blogger had written about, where one dined on a rooftop at night overlooking the Arno, stating that it was the place to treat oneself to the best and don’t we all deserve the best while on vacation… More thoughts came into my head from my pre-trip research, where I had read an advertisement about a tour to Venice on which vacationers would arrive at their luxury hotel “for a champagne evening, and be whisked away by private boat the next day to Murano” to buy glass… After reading those blogs and ads, I imagined recreating some of the described events on my own small budget…but what we actually had time for was another thing. What really mattered is that the things we stumbled upon had come to us unexpectedly, and were beyond my imagination. Real life is like that, in contrast to what we create in our heads. In fact my imagination could have gotten in the way of enjoying what was actually happening and consequently made me miss the moment.

 

That day, as that amorphous anxiety descended upon me briefly, contrasting where I was with what I was missing out on or what others were doing, it suddenly gave me the unsettled feeling of not having it as good as others, or that maybe there was this greener place somewhere else…But then just as suddenly as I had these thoughts, a different thought took hold, and it gave way to a feeling of clarity and acceptance, as I realized that this experience at this moment was just as wonderful as some other imagined “better” moment or situation… that resting here and not running after something else was just as satisfactory as some “perfect” other, as yet to be found, moment.

 

The habitual questioning of our lives and the need to compete with an imagined better reality is such a common experience… “is this the vacation experience I had dreamed of” …”yes, but is it the best view?” That moment of doubt and envy, of comparing the place or experience (or even person) that we imagine we could possess, that we create within our mind, which is never quite like what really happens to us, robs us of our present happiness. Just walking in a city street and noticing architectural details or in the woods and seeing the simple yet magnificent beauty of the  fragile yellow leaves, or a hilltop panorama of a sky full of linear moving clouds, or even time spent with a loved one is an experience as impressive as any, if we are able to see it. In fact every moment contains that potential.

 

I remember thinking that this comparison of our expectations to our reality happens to each one of us, even to those perfect travelers, who found the perfect place, on the perfect afternoon, in an Italian hill town. That they were very likely having the same experience as I was, of wondering what some other experience just out of reach could have been like. Luckily my unsettled feelings dissolved, as I realized that there is no perfect place, or situation, and that this is true for everyone, even those on the exclusive tours or in expensive surroundings. Real life is full of bumps and bruises, good and bad times, full of imperfect, normal moments, and it is in those imperfect normal moments that we can really feel alive to our life, knowing that it is part of the tactile fabric of all things.

 

I think that we can also go to this place of expectations regarding our emotional lives. I find myself wishing that I had a more open heart at times. Yet wishing to be emotionally perfect may be the same thing as wishing for other circumstances. Therefore when we find ourselves either berating ourselves for not doing something well, or not responding the way we would have wished, perhaps we should remind ourselves that we may be looking at some far distant illusion, and that the reality of this present moment is good, good enough for now, good enough to be considered progress, so that we can feel at home where we are and in what we are doing, and not expect ourselves to be somewhere else.

(Originally published in Vermont Views Magazine)

 

 

LOST IN THE WAVES

 

I know that place

Of being lost in the waves

Where time and purpose

Luff away.

 

It is blue/green there

Surrounded by walls of my own making

Fringed with wisps

Of salted ocean lace

Keeping the world at bay.

 

Whole days I can escape there

As if it were a place

Where I could hide

Where only the warm sun could find me,

Could cradle me, from the world

 

Where nothing changed

But the beat of my heart.

 

juliaferrari 2017

 

(Photo of back streets of Certaldo, Italy)

 

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Aldus Manutius and printing in Venice

 

Julia Ferrari near Building which housed Aldus Manutius's print shop

Julia Ferrari near Building which housed Aldus Manutius’s print shop

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Casting machines

Elias Sideras visits Golgonooza

Elias Sideras visits Golgonooza

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Visiting Emily Dickinson’s house

Lawrence Klepp and Julia Ferrari

Lawrence Klepp and Julia Ferrari at the Dickinson homestead

The film “A Quiet Passion” directed by Terence Davies and starring Cynthia Nixon as Emily Dickinson, showed in Amherst, MA and since we were going, I thought why not go see the homestead too, since it was just down the road. The movie was full of her poetry, her struggles, and showed so accurately the presence and departure of something we all will face, death. It touched me deeply, reminding me of my own forays beside that terrain. Luckily it also portrayed life and how important it is to live it deeply with the ones you love.

Lawrence Klepp & Julia Ferrari

Lawrence Klepp & Julia Ferrari

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Inside Looking Out

Julia Ferrari's Golgonooza

Golgonooza Letter Foundry inside looking out. student Intern photography work

Photographic collage by intern, Meghan Graham, of interior or Golgonooza.

 

 

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Visioning and looking in two directions, past & future

Julia Ferrari

Julia Ferrari, 18 yrs old, Boston

 

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Grey Sky, Winter landscape, thru Hearts

Grey sky, winter landscape through hearts

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Facing Fear

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FEAR                                       (*Article previously published in Vermont Views)

Recently I’ve been reminded of the power of fear—our collective and our individual fears: of moving forward, of the unknown, of change. Trauma in life hits us with such unexpected force, catching us unaware or unprepared and sometimes leaving us seemingly incapable of dealing with the after effects: the path ahead, the new normal. Are there ways we can steer ourselves ahead within a state of uncertainty, and still manage to steady ourselves (and others) without putting the brakes on and abandoning our reality? Can we take small steps forward and even watch our potent reactions and aversions to our circumstances?

Life keeps changing, nothing we relied on in the past can absolutely be relied on in the future, because everything in the universe moves, spins, unfurls, closes, disappears, reappears—without our control. Beloved trees are cut down, sources dry up, hopeful candidates lose, and people die, but just as importantly, new seedlings survive and grow, new sources of inspiration or substance appear, and new people or opportunities enrich our lives.

Life hits us, life hurts. … it can’t be avoided. Sometimes our physical selves just want to stop us from moving on. Armies within us who want to protect us cry out, we panic, we cry, we can’t breathe, we face what seems like the end of the world … we step on the brakes…

Even so, after repeated harsh blows in life we can choose to automatically put up walls to protect ourselves from pain, thus avoiding any chance of undergoing such discomfort again or stretch to step into the unknown without letting the fear stop us. It is our nature to protect ourselves from pain, yet by putting up walls in protection, do we not distance ourselves from who we truly are…sentient beings capable of feeling? When we allow something to get through, allow our deeper selves to be touched by circumstances (as we see in the innocence of children) we allow ourselves to experience the freshness and aliveness of our choice—to react or not, to become overwhelmed or not, to have compassion or not.

THE DUST

Facing the worry
Facing the wall
I pace back and forth
Back and forth
Worrying about the dust, the goddamned dust
Covering the unused places
That once grew life

It’s all in me
The reticence
The bewilderment
The procrastinating
The deeper fears
And I can’t quite see the reason for it

This body, my physical body
Has dug in its heels
Has said “enough”
“This is what I cannot do.”

Then lifting my head to the west I see the clouds over the river
Beginning to move over the land toward the light
Their colors like jewels in a hair clasp
All silver and topaz and gold,
Lifting, curling,
Telling me that it’s all on its way
Moving as it should
A part of the process
And my heart lifts with the light
Saying “enough,”
“This is what I cannot do
But maybe, just maybe,
this is what I can.”

poem copyright  J. Ferrari, 2016

*for more articles by Julia Ferrari, see:
http://www.vermontviews.org/vermontviews.org/in_between.html

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