in progress intuitive painting
I remember when my dad took my sister and I to our first Sundance,
where he was serving as Firekeeper.
I may have been 18 or nineteen, I’m not sure-
– a white step-child amongst a community of (mostly) Native Americans
who were coming together to offer up their prayers in sacrifice and reverence
in a ceremony of their ancestors.
I was timid and unsure and totally awkward about how to act, to say the least.
I was in awe of the whole ritual, shocked at times, and deeply pulled in.
But I didn’t know how to Be.
I grew up with a strong sense of spirituality in our house,
and a well informed notion of many religions and practices
(my dad studied religion religiously, you might say),
but not a real connectionwith any regular ritual,
ceremony or daily practice as an expression of my own faith.
I always ached for something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Something palpable within, a way I could interact with my own sense of the divine.
Looking back,
I was well-primed for the heartful essence and experience of the ceremony,
Though I didn’t really know that at the time.
I remember sitting on the ground in the arbor built of willow and poplar,
with other women around me, of all ages,
and men across the way, 
listening to the drum and the eagle whistles, the singing,
looking up at the rainbow-colored prayer ties around the tree in the middle
and then back down at the dirt beneath me. 
 
I kept trying to sing the words,
to state prayers inside myself that were just drowned out over and over again
by the myriad of strange distractions around me (and in my mind),
and I felt so irritated and annoyed and out of place.
I remember thinking to myself, in my angsty way,
that either everyone was faking this collective community prayer crap,
or that I was just somehow disconnected from the Great Spirit
as if something was dysfunctional or missing in me in that way.
I didn’t ‘get’ what all this fuss and effort was about.
What is it that kept people coming back to this? Or anything like this?
Let alone, to commit to dance with no food or water for three days and four nights for four years (in the case of the dancers themselves)….
But my dad was Firekeeper for the full three days and four nights,
so I had nothing but time to sit with this and keep observing
myself and the ceremony.
Arbor Reach. Original Mandala.
Eventually, I just closed my eyes
and focused on the beat of the mallets,
the feel of the feather in my hand and the sun’s heat on my face…
I stopped trying to make sense of the songs and pronunciation…
I gave up trying to find the connection I thought I ought to feel…
and just zoned out… 
letting the layers of it all fall away… 
until no longer was my mind busy analyzing the situation and my own emotions,
and my hand had stopped tapping the rhythm…
and instead,
it was as if my own heartbeat had seemed to join it, in sync…
As if that beat and my blood knew each other
way before I ever had a mind to think about it all with.
And that woke me up. 
My awareness moved into something totally different and new to me…
or forgotten, perhaps.
Something had shifted in my experience of what was happening around me
and my own space within it.
I felt a tingle in my cells, a sweet stillness within the shell of my body,
as if the separation between me and the song,
between me and the sun’s rays even, just did not exist.
Nothing had changed in the scenario around me.
Everyone was still drumming, dancing, singing, crying, resting, sitting,
and otherwise focused in their own journeys of the day.
But something big had changed in me.
I no longer felt worry or anxiety or awkwardness,
or even thought of where I was at all,
except with momentary waves of awe on the tastebuds of my spirit. 
 
I was just present to my own ease.
Present to the emotions of others all around me.
Present to the well of compassion and mystery
that sits in the pool at the center of each of us,
waiting for our arrival.
Empty and full all at once.
Sinking and floating… with such relief.
I remember a smile took over my face as I sat on the earth,
just as a voice inside said, “This is Prayer.”
(((yes)))
There was a strong knowing
that I would no longer wonder what prayer was supposed to feel like.
That I had, indeed, felt it before, many times over,
in glimpses and stolen kisses with nature and art, in the privacy of my heart,
and with those I loved & trusted.
I had felt it before, but without my own recognition.
And never before within the context of deliberate practice,
intentionally or accidentally.
That day, I began to learn the power of ritual and moving through resistance.
And that surrendering to the process will carry you
and diffuse your spirit right into the river
of compassionate connection and creative understanding
until you find you are right where you are supposed to be
participating.
This memory,
in both the natural world around us and in acts of creative expression,
feeds my current process for Prayer Painting.
As I collect a list of some of my own methods to share with you,
there is one more memory that keeps coming up,
that seems to hold pivotal impact on my journey to this place
of holding space for a collection of prayers
and painting from my own well of intuition and faith…
I’ll share that one next.
to be continued… 
  
~~~
As I am sharing a deeper sense of the development of this process for the first time,
and doing so through the sharing of some of my own story,
I have decided to split it into parts so that I can allow it to flow forth naturally and unforced over the course of a few days.

I will finish this mini-series with a look into how I Prayer Paint as of now,
along with some ideas to help you get started on your own Prayer Art journey.
You can submit your own heartfelt prayer to be laid alongside the prayers of others for my next prayer painting by clicking HERE.

If a question about creating prayer art comes to mind while you read the series, please leave a comment and I will try to address it in the final post.
If you intend to try making Prayer Art for yourself, be sure to join the flickr group 
Art of Prayer to share, or stay tuned for ways to share via the LilyWheelSlide facebook page and here at LWS when I post my next completed collective prayer painting.
in love and light,
~ hali

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