Sunday, May 16, 2010

STRATA OF SELF: Not Good, Not Bad

Judgment? Nonjudgment? Acceptance? What kind of PATH are you JOURNEYING on? Do you allow yourself to BE? Does BEINGNESS occur naturally or is there a PRACTICE required—a way of listening to ourselves gently, taking in what we are thinking, feeling, and doing?

Welcome FELLOW PILGRIMS to MY ARTFUL JOURNEY, one that unwinds for me each day. Having just completed a writing workshop with Natalie Goldberg, in Charleston, South Carolina, I am repeating to myself, “Not good. Not Bad. Just is.”

With this PRACTICER OF ZEN, who wrote the book, “WRITING DOWN THE BONES,” we did numerous 10-minute “digs,” excavating layers of ourselves responding to writing prompts “I remember,” “ I don’t remember,” “I’m thinking of,” “I’m not thinking of.” We stacked each layer of ourselves in our notebooks one after the other. My Chiboogamoo, paleontologist extraordinaire, would have marveled at the STRATA OF SELF we accumulated. 

Then Natalie, WELL TRAVELLED SOJOURNER, asked us to read OUR BONES (writing) out loud to witnesses, who were to “recall” our words non-judgmentally. As we extracted the writer’s bones (words) from our memory and spoke them aloud, all of us were to repeat silently to ourselves, “Not good. Not bad. Just is.”

Done daily, this kind of structured “writing and reading out loud to a nonjudgmental listener”—even if that listener is the individual pilgrim’s self—is what’s called a WRITING PRACTICE.

WRITING DOWN THE BONES, which was published in 1986, shattered the previous writing paradigms. This ZEN PILGRIM emphasizes the PROCESS of writing, not the FINISHED PRODUCT. In an ongoing PROCESS of writing (journey), you listen to the knowledge of your body--that deep knowing each one of us possesses. This knowledge is not good, not bad--it just is.

Take a breath. Write. Breathe. Write. These words are leaving a breadcrumb trail to YOUSELF, PILGRIM. As our breathing ANCHORS us to THE NOW, so does our writing. WRITING is BEING.

Hallelujah inhaled the TEACHINGS of this WELL TRAVELLED SOJOURNER. H A L L E L U J A H ! My daily practice of drawing and painting—NOT GOOD. NOT BAD. JUST IS.

The kangaroos depicted here are from two sources. First, they hold my memories of watching aboriginal dancers become THE KANGAROO from their DREAMTIME in performances in downtown Melbourne, Victoria in 2006 during the Commonwealth Games. Second, they merge with my long observations of the actual marsupial, as I traveled across the vastness of the Australian continent with my Chiboogamoo. Breathe.

My daily practice, my STRATA of SELF yearned to speak of my Australian observations and the hold DREAMTIME has on me. NOT BAD. NOT GOOD. 

Recall for Hallelujah your STRATA of SELF. Breathe…


  1. i like the clarity and composition of these two drawings. well done!

  2. Dear Miss Shipp, THANK YOU for the kindness you show in complimenting my work. However, Hallelujah is DOING her PRACTICE and SEEKING the STRATA of HERSELF. Not good. Not bad.

    Hallelujah is very curious about YOUR PRACTICE and the discoveries you are making in your artwork. Please share with me...let's SOUL BLOG.

  3. Melissa Aberle-GrasseMay 21, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    After enjoying kangaroos and snakes playing on the page, and colors dancing with shells and breasts and eyes wide open, I feel delighted and encouraged to create!
    You imagined strata, writing and meditating with Natalie Goldberg. I hear music: as I write, notes are sounded like rain. It is not arranged or controlled, not good or bad, just is. We may decide later to catch these words up in a rainbarrel and make them into a poem; or direct them into buckets or ponds or lakes, coax them into stories or novels or essays. They begin, though, from our hearts/minds just flowing creating the music of rain.

  4. MELIsssssssssssssssssa! Hallelujah is pleased with the poetry in your response! RAINBARRELS! MUSIC! My heart is singing! Please visit often, stay long and let's SHARE our MEDITATIONS! Hallelujah welcomes you happily and soulfully!