Wednesday, April 29, 2009
SharedBliss: The Original Flying Girl, Rowena Murillo
I'm quite sure that, for many of my readers, Rowena hardly needs an introduction.
Her artwork and its themes so clearly capture much of what is going on in the hearts and minds of so many women in the circle of bloggers in which I read and participate. She paints of the struggle to be our truest selves -- and she paints of the beauty that is inherent in that struggle.
There is an honesty and directness to her visual art that shines through in her blog and in the responses to this interview.
You can also find her writing here; her shop is here; she is on twitter; and you could be her fan or her friend on Facebook. Phew...
Also, right now, she is doing a fabulous "inspire me" giveaway to celebrate her 500th post! Go here to participate.
Without further ado...
Describe the Primary Bliss in your life. How did you come to know that this was your bliss?
I’ve decided that I am calling this primary bliss “The Transformative Power of Art.” I’ve only stumbled upon this title recently, but it is what I am talking about.
I come from a not so easy life, but art, writing, reading, poetry and creativity have always been my salvation. It’s not just an escape from a difficult situation, it is also about healing and becoming whole.
I’ve always been an artist, and I have wanted to be a novelist since I was 15, but I was about 16 or 17 when I started to understand the power the written word had to transform the pain of living into light. I wrote in my journals, I cried over novels, I scribbled poem after bleeding poem to channel my fears and hurts and hopes.
I was in my mid twenties when I made the connection that the same thing could be done with art… in a powerful way. I’d always loved to paint and loved beauty and art of all stripes, but somewhere in there, I began to use art to transform experience. And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be all about pain. I think that was my adolescent need. The whole range of human experience can be made richer through creativity. It can release things we’ve been holding on to and help us step into our more powerful selves.
That really became clear to me when I was a teacher in a small inner city High School and I used art and writing in my classrooms. I was watching my students blossom and grow right in front of me. Other aspects of their lives opened up. Behavior calmed. Hope filled their eyes. Understanding.
It wasn’t always the same activity or genre. Different things filled the needs of different kids. Sometimes a lesson in drawing could serve as a springboard for academic success. And you’ve never seen Shakespeare until you’ve seen a breakdancing battle between Othello and Iago. It wasn’t that I taught art in my classes, it was that I allowed them their own interpretations. Allowed them to use their voices. Helped them find their voices. Gave them a feeling of accomplishment. Helped them believe that they could do that. Validated their experiences, feelings, and understanding. Gave them a release. Said YES. Let THEM say yes.
You don’t have to be a teenager to have art help you come to wholeness. I saw many of the same things in a women’s workshop I ran. Grown women confronting old losses and creating new dreams. Believing in themselves. Seeing futures and understanding themselves.
Creativity is about creating the universe you live in. The trees may already exist without you, but your understanding of them, the way you live in and with and around them, that is up to you.
What do you want your life to be in this world? The pen and the brush can help you make it real.
What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?
Oh, I’m still crafting it.
I’ve given up financial security, that’s for sure. I’ve given up having a busy social life, at least for now. I’ve given up New York City… it was just too expensive. I’ve given up teaching in the schools. Mostly, I’ve given up free time. I don’t do much vegging anymore. Even my tv time is double duty. It’s when I paint. Sometimes when I also eat or drink or be semi-sociable. Oh, I’ve given up alone time. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to be an artist. It’s not like it was before I was a mom, but in order to have both dreams… there’s no more wandering the streets of Greenwich Village with my sketchbook and journal. There’s no more sitting in café gardens writing or bars flirting. No more weekly excursions to matinees. No more hanging out in parks, drinking white wine and staring at the clouds scooting across the sky. Those are the things I did while following my bliss as a single gal. I miss them sometimes. A lot. But I’m looking for the bliss in this life, right here.
How does your Primary Bliss radiate out into the rest of your life?
It’s made me calmer and a better mom, I think. There are moments there when I can get really tense and anxious and depressed. Keeping creativity in sight has allowed me to begin to unpack all that weight. Allowing the experimentation that comes with creating helps me to let go of what I think things should look like. Lessons I’ve learned about the creative process have popped up in daily living. Refocusing on a more Zen way of existing, of living in the moment is also something that has helped greatly. These things have allowed me to understand the larger pattern of highs and lows in life. If I can see the motion of this wave, I don’t get so fearful of being pulled under by the tsunami.
And I am really trying to create the vision I have for my life… one that is about this primary bliss of creativity and wholeness. It’s an awful slow path, but I am beginning to see how far I have come and the smaller steps I need to take in order to continue on. I only opened my etsy shop last week, and yet, I can see by the response that I have hit on something that people are open to. Ready for, maybe.
What are some of the activities that also give your self this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track o time?
Reading. Singing. Dancing. Magazines. Watching good shows on TV or good movies. Going for walks just to see and to be. Alone time.
What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?
Wha huh? Raising two kids under four has kind of taken away any of my spiritual practices (except for my insistence on being creative every day).
Just getting through the day and remembering to breathe and remembering to feel the sun on my face and remembering the good things is my spiritual practice right now. Breathing has become awful important.
For a while I was writing a list of at least 3 happy things that happened to me every day, and that was really important in helping me rediscover my bliss when I lost it. Lately, I am trying to take fifteen minutes here or there to learn to play the guitar. I’m not good at all, but I’ve always wanted to. And somehow it helps me, now that my other creative outlets seem to have become work, where they used to be my rejuvenation.
But it is true that I need to write and/or paint in order to let my brain out of its confines. In order to understand the world and breathe really deeply. I really need that introspection. Sometimes I don’t have the words, and paint will do. Sometimes I really need the words. But art, writing and creativity in general is definitely my spiritual practice.
Perhaps I should get back into yoga or do an oracle reading once a week or something like that. Those are things that I have done in the past but have given up because I am spending so much time and energy on the things I am focusing on.
What music is your Bliss?
I have gone so long without music, that I’m afraid I am missing a big part of just living. For some reason, it’s just slipped by the wayside in my daily living. I am woefully ignorant on contemporary music, but I love Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Nina Simone so much. And I love many female singer song writers. Ani Di Franco, Sarah McLachlan, Joni Mitchell is one of my all time favorites. Oh, and the Beatles.
Name books or authors/poets or people who are or influenced your bliss.
This is hard. There are too many. There have been so many over the course of my life, each serving their purpose. Reading in general is one of my blisses, so sometimes it’s a whole genre of novels. Fantasy and Science Fiction got me through adolescence and the ghetto. Then I discovered Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, John Irving, Tom Robbins, Alice Hoffman, Orson Scott Card, Robin Hobb, and on and on. I can’t even remember all of them and I feel like I’m neglecting authors. Poets, too, have given me bliss. Sharon Olds, William Carlos Williams, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Marge Piercy. And again others. I may not be a poet like them some day, but poetry has informed both my fiction writing and my painting, and made me better at both.
What advice do you give someone who has not found their primary bliss?
I think that in part my primary bliss is helping others find their primary bliss. When I taught High School, I even had a project that was called “Follow Your Bliss.” No, I lie. It was called Passion Quest. It was a research project and I really just wanted my student to find something they loved and delve into that, whether it was baseball or poetry or entrepreneurship.
My advice now to someone who has not found their primary bliss is to follow the things that fill you with passion, the things that give you that funny feeling in your stomach, the things that make you wonder and want to know more. Follow your curiosity. That’s your road sign. If there is something that you always wanted to try, then give it a shot. If it turns out that thing doesn’t float your boat, consider what was going on. When you discovered playing the guitar bored you, think about if it was really playing the guitar that you wanted? Maybe it was listening to music. Or writing songs. Or singing in a band. Or being a band manager? Or playing the piano.
The one concern with that is that sometimes you need to put some time into something before it really starts to make sense. If you still want to play guitar but your fingers hurt and you can’t quite get those chords to sound right and your back hurts and you think you’ll never become Eric Clapton, you have to let go of the fantasy that it’s easy, and the fear that you can’t do it, and keep at it. Let your little bliss grow and lead you to the bigger bliss. Sometimes we need to nurture our bliss.
Do you have a favorite quote to share?
Right now, I’m choosing this one, because my book opened to it and it gives me shivers.
Ring the bell that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Yep. I have nothing, absolutely nothing, to add to that, except to say, thank you to Rowena, and to let her know that much of her story matches my own. It's nice to find another girl flying after we've had such a hard time even getting off the ground.