Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SharedBliss: Interview with Graciel Evenstar, Compassion Artist

A fellow Lake Erie girl, Graciel Evenstar

Listening to: Something for Graciel.

Bliss: Though we can't plant yet, we can plan garden beds on paper, see them growing in our mind's eye. These gardens that felt so far away even a month ago, now are possibility itself -- promises made by daffodils and crocus.

Last summer, I headed toward Buffalo for a day trip with a friend. We ended up eating an amazing lunch after walking through the Botanical Gardens, but the real reason we'd gone was Our Lady of Victory, a church consecrated to Mary and filled with thousands (and thousands) of angels.

It did not disappoint and only awakened more fully my new found devotion to this feminine image of divinity working so perfectly through humanity.

Shortly after this trip, I happened upon Graciel Evenstar's blog. Her banner caught me immediately. At the time, it was created from one of her collage images and contained a Mary figure along with other symbols and archetypes.

Eventually, she and I ended up emailing. We had much in common, besides both being proud Lake Erie girls and having a devotion to Mary.

So it seems auspicious to me that her interview should, quite unintentionally, land on the Annunciation. The day that marks the moment when Mary said "yes" to a most powerful creative endeavor, "yes" to life, "yes" to all the joy and all the sorrow.

How many of us could have spoken that big of a "yes?"

Like her collages, which contain bits and pieces from many sources, Graciel's wisdom is not confined by strict religious or tradition boundaries. She makes her own way.

Her art (her esty store is here), her life, her words all reflect her honesty and courage, her struggles and her epiphanies.

A bit of Graciel.

When I asked Graciel to do this interview, she said "yes," but then she hit a wall. She was filled with doubt. From an email to me after the interview was completed:

Little did you know how greatly this exercise would challenge me. Thank you for the offer to help me grow. I spent some time reading your other interviews and promptly shut down. I could not see what I had to offer to the mix. I could not see what I had accomplished in comparison to all the other movers and shakers. And once again, comparison turned into my bane. Another of many lessons in how comparison is the cause of all unhappiness.

The process of answering the interview questions was another lesson in extending compassion towards myself.

See? Always learning. Always looking for more ways to open up.

Describe the PrimaryBliss of your life. How did you come to know that this was your PrimaryBliss?

My primary bliss is compassion and its expression. I have spent long years learning what that word means and how to apply it to myself. I came to understand if I cannot express compassion towards myself, I have no hope of expressing it to any one else.

Compassion, for me, involves releasing judgment, taking responsibility for myself and my actions, eliminating any thoughts of blame for anything, being open to possibilities that lie outside my comfort zone, recognizing and honoring my instincts, talking to myself in a more supportive, positive manner and letting love be the ruling force in my life.

My quest for compassion led to the desire to share what I have learned and continue to learn. So I stepped to the edge and started to write a blog. 3 years ago, Evenstar Art~ the art of the positive, loving and spiritual life was launched. My life has never been the same. I found, through the act of writing, my voice. I found a deep well of information waiting patiently for a way to be exposed to the light. I found a new way to activate compassion towards myself by giving myself the time and space to write, to express my ideas and honor a talent I did not know I had.

My writing centers itself around giving hope and love and encouragement to any and all who stumble upon my pages. We all need more positive messages in our lives to offset the plague of disparity inflicted on us daily by the mass media. We all need more love and belief in ourselves. My muse has enlisted me to offer up a regular dose of hope. For if we find and activate more daily compassion for ourselves, all will then be right with the world.

What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?

Simply put, to craft a bliss-filled life through compassion, I have had to sacrifice my attachment to my past. I have had to stop reacting and living from old, worn-out ideas that serve only to keep me small. I have had to sacrifice the idea and practice that my value is less than others. That I don't deserve to be supported. That my only safety lies in staying hidden from the world. It has been a long and difficult process of giving up my smaller, fearful self and allowing a larger and largely unknown self to emerge. Years and baby steps have been required. More is still required.

How does your PrimaryBliss radiate out into the rest of your life?

Compassion is a way of life. It has begun to infuse every decision and choice I make. It is a lens I do my level best with which to view my world. I know I am living in compassion when others reflect this state of being back to me. And when some one comments or tells me in person how much the words on my blog have meant to them or changed the way they treat themselves, my state of bliss soars off the charts. Helping others, service to others, is key to living a purposeful life.

What are some other activities that also give you this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track of time?

Walking in the woods. Watching birds. Splashing through a stream. Swooning over flowers. Sitting in silence, listening to the wise murmurs of the Universe. Sipping rose petal tea. Fashioning art and stories through the lens of my digital camera. Holding hands under the stars.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

Every morning I ask to be blessed. I ask that everyone I meet be the face of God come to help me, love me, support me, and prosper me. I choose a card from one of my many oracle decks to understand the need and focus of my day. I thank God for just about everything I can think of, including my hot shower. I ask my league of Angels to help me understand, through very clear signs, what is and is not for my highest and best good. I sit in silence often. When schedules concur, I share home cooked meals and meditation with my spiritually oriented friends. When weather cooperates, I go to church in the woods.

What music is your bliss?

I am not one to have music playing all the time. But when I do, it can be classical, Gregorian chant, Renaissance era, bagpipes, Celtic, the Allman Brothers, CSNY, David Grey, Nickelback and my uber-favorite, the Grateful Dead. My favorite tune of all time? Beethoven's Symphony No.9. It rearranges the cells in your body for the better.

Name books or authors/poets or people who are your bliss, who influenced your bliss.

Many years ago, 3 books became my road map towards love and compassion for myself. Marianne Williamson's A Return To Love, Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life, and James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy. More recently the books that have greatly impacted me have been, Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, and Greg Mortenson's Three Cups Of Tea.

Three poets have made me swoon like few others can: Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver and the gifted Sufi wise man, Rumi.

Two historical figures have greatly influenced my bliss: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary, as in the Queen of Angels.

What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimaryBliss?

A stressed and worried heart cannot find its bliss. Over extending the self on behalf of others will not facilitate the discovery of bliss. The first order of business to crafting a bliss-filled life is to love yourself. Intensely. To love yourself intensely, you must become aware of where you have been denying yourself some very basic things. Plenty of rest, plenty of hydrating water, time alone, nourishing food, saying no more often to draining requests for your help, to name a few areas. When your body and soul understand and experience your commitment to putting yourself first (thereby being better able to serve others), they will reward you with clear ideas and inspirations on where your true bliss lies. Take exquisite care of yourself and miracles will follow.

Do you have a favorite quote you would like to share?

"God speaks to each of us
as He makes us,
then walks with us silently
out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond
your recall.
Go the limits of
your longing.
Embody me."

Rainer Maria Rilke

Go the limits of your longing...That is so beautiful. That could easily be a new mantra for most of us, don't you think?

Add to that Graciel's amazingly worded advice to "take exquisite care of yourself," and we have all we need -- a map to follow to the YES awaiting our courage.


Rowena said...

Beautiful interview. Thank you, Graciel.

Nerdy Renegade said...

How fabulous to pull up your site and see dear Graciel interviewed today! This brought a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.

Such treasured wisdom from the words of my new blog friends and kindred spirits. A balm to my weary soul on this day.

Thank you!

Grace said...

"Another of many lessons in how comparison is the cause of all unhappiness."

Oh how I know that to be true!

Emma said...

I love this interview in so many ways!

Thank you both! :)

Graciel @ Evenstar Art said...

My Dear Christine,

You honor me in so many ways. I can't thank you enough for the care and beauty with which you put this interview together. Today, for sure, YOU are my bliss!
Namaste, Lake Erie Sister~

Kate I said...

Graciel's words of love and wisdom have been speaking to my heart for almost two years now. This is a lovely interview Christine! Thanks to both of you for sharing.

aliceinparis said...

Graciel is a gentle and compassionate soul. I enjoy her words of wisdom.