Shine the Divine:

Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice

When we see through our hearts, we recognize that every single one of us is infused with creativity. Divine Sparks are embedded in everyone and everything. It's up to us to be courageous, to look and listen deeply, to find the sparks, gather and release them back into the universe, transformed into something new. Join me as we wake up to the sacred-ordinary blessings waiting to greet us each and every day.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Silk Saris and Stories

Many of you have written to me about the blessing of story telling this past week in your compassionate comments. You have shared how my emes, my truth, my story helps you to find your own. And this is true for me as I read your reflections on your blogs, as I listen to your stories on the phone, or in person… I find my own face staring back at me through your words. It is a process of continuously rediscoverng the Divine sparks shining through all of us. I will refrain from whining today, which you have all assured me is NOT whining…but in my mind sounds as though it is (perhaps whining is a specific form of story telling?) assured, as an honest blogger I will resume a whinier tone on another post if need be, as this is clearly a safe space for unburdening my heart. Thank you all for that.

Instead today I offer this: On Thursday a parcel arrived in the mail. My teacher Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg sent me a copy of her hot-off-the-presses book, Surprisingly Happy…An Atypical Religious Memoir. Between medical appointments, a teary-eyed daughter in pain Thursday afternoon, a Tysabri infusion, visits from friends, a joyful-dressed-to-the-nines daughter going to a Valentine’s Dance, and exhaustion settling into my bones Friday evening, I devoured the book, underlining passages, marking pages with sticky tags. I will share more about this slim, spirit-infused, courageous book soon, (a MUST read btw)…for now let me entice you with these wise words from my beloved teacher. I think you will find them in complete alignment with your comments to me this past week and the vignette of my own that follows.

“[Stories]…invite me to ask myself where is the truth, light, healing, joy, compassion, the energy, the connection in this story, in my reaction to this story. Where is the aversion, the fear, anger, hatred, sadness, separation, judgment, confusion in this story? Where is God hiding in these stories, in daily life, in resistance, struggles, relationships, twists and turns of choice and chance? Where is the light hidden---the light that was hidden in all matter after creation, the sparks of the divine? I ask these questions to create space to wait and listen. I do not need to do anything with these stories. The stories will reveal me to myself. The stories will reveal everything." ~Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg

On Friday morning, Barbara drove me to Derry for my infusion but could not stay long this time. Viv and Eve met us there. They sat with me, kept me company through the three attempts to get that tiny catheter into an uncooperative rolling, Kevlar veins (wait am I whining? Don’t answer that). This daughter and mother who feel like family shared stories, massaged my hands, offered a guided relaxation, ate cookies and pudding from the gentleman in the chair next to me (he was diabetic-the nurses offered all the patients a boxed lunch with a roast beef sandwich, I said “no thank you, I’m a vegetarian” the nurse suggested turkey…Eve, Viv and I looked at each other bemused…I replied “that’s ok, no thanks”) we three intergenerational friends exchanged love… for three and a half hours they hung out and it was wonderful. My friends are so dear, even after all these months of illness, still volunteering to give me rides and Gordon time to focus on work from home without distraction (and to be with Belin if she needed anything as her nerve pain has been flaring again keeping her home from school all week-another story…).

Kindness does not surprise me, but the abundance of generosity somehow always does. After a longer infusion then normal, they drove me home, in the complete opposite direction from their own house. They live a good hour-twenty minutes + north of us. We sat some more, my energy waning but joyfully buoyed by their presence, this time gathered around my kitchen table snacking and continuing the uninterrupted thread of our now four hour conversation, waiting for Rosie to come home so Eve could say goodbye (as she’s off to Chile for a semester abroad and won’t be here for Rosie’s Bat Mitzvah…she wanted especially to give Rosewillow a hug and a gift). My heart widened with delight as Rosie brought in the mail and I saw it. Another package I had been waiting for. I could tell from the soft lumps exactly what was inside. I had guests and daughters to attend to and a soft bed waiting for my tired body. The parcel would have to wait.

Several hours later, tucked into bed. I opened the white package of re-purposed possibilities wrapped in neat skeins waiting for my hands, my imagination, to play, design create something new. I had no plans, exactly, but loved the idea of the bright colors, of these recycled silk saris connecting me to women I will likely never meet and their stories from high up in the mountains of Nepal; one skein sliced into ribbons the other spun into yarn. I removed the hank of silk ribbon and released it from its protective plastic sheath, leaving the spun yarn for another time. I was too excited, too eager to…what? To touch it, to see where one ribbon tied to the next…to see the shift of color, of pattern…to understand what I held in a more intimate way, I suppose. In my passion for color I returned to a familiar habit of jumping in too quickly. (So much for the grand lesson of slowing down my f-ed up immune system keeps trying to teach me) I pulled from the wrong end of the skein. The more I tugged, the more tangled, complex, the knots became.

Women in village coops in Nepal cut these jewel colored ribbons from old saris; each quarter inch strip of cloth is tied end to end beginning to beginning. Smooth and flat in the center with randomly fringed edges of fine silk threads. These individual strands, not quite free, but extending from the body of cloth, have no choice but to become entwined into a web, much like the stories I hear in my mind. Stories remembered. Stories embellished. Stories invented. A single story that is never separate, never alone. A ribbon of my history interlaced with a ribbon of my parents’ histories
my husbands’
my daughters’
my brother’s
my sisters’
nieces’, nephews’
teachers’, students’
my friends’ humanity’s.
They all clump together in a jumbled, lovely mass of color and texture, a work of art, life telling itself into being. But sometimes this disorderly mess feels heavy in my heart, fiercely complicated, frustrating, confusing, overwhelming. At these moments I feel compelled to discern what is true. What is true for me? What is true for them? But this just serves to knot me up more. Observing this, I wonder: is it necessary, important, possible to separate this web of silk sari ribbon stories? Perhaps it is best to see them as they truly are: enmeshed. A story.
I have gently begun the process of teasing the sari ribbon apart again, because I do want it to be useful, even though it’s destiny has yet to reveal itself to me. The kitchen table philosopher in me says, “The ribbons have already been useful, served their purpose in unearthing these thoughts, in the writing of this blog post, in the beauty of these photos, in their own brilliant splendor. This is enough, leave it just so.” But the practical (yes there is a part of me that is occasionally practical) demurs, “Don’t be ridiculous there is more life in this ribbon than that. Besides, you can’t just leave it in a mishmash on the bed for the cats to tear up nor can you of good conscience leave them stuffed in the bottom of a plastic bag.” Curiosity and common sense won out. So with meditative deliberation, (this time) I shall slowly, consciously, carefully, continue the untangling process of the silk ribbon, leaving the stories in my heart and yours to grow, flow and inspire on their own.


  1. Introducing the world's newest vegetable -- turkey! Silly nurse, I guess she just wasn't thinking! Love the sari ribbons! Happy Valentine's Day to you!

  2. It's the old "YOU don't eat no MEAT?!!!" from My Big Fat Greek Wedding scenario. For many people fish is also a vegetable (NOT). Oh well. I guess if you asked a Vegan, I'm not really a vegetarian either as I do eat dairy and who am I to comment on what is and isn't vegetarian fare.

    I'm looking forward to playing with those ribbons...I finally have it sorted into two balls...YAY!

  3. just giggling over your comment and I just watched that video in the studio the other day... and her response is.. "is ok, I make lamb" I love your sari threads and I am sure you will have a wonderful inspiration about what to do with them! xo

  4. Hi Cat,
    Yeah, lamb or veal would also be an appealing lunch choice for the typical vegetarian...we just don't eat grown-up animals...but baby animals are perfectly fine.

    They are wonderful ribbons, aren't they? I just ordered some paper's so I'm feeling a mixed media collage coming on...we'll see.

  5. Hi Laura,

    That is funny about the turkey. I always wonder how is that people think turkey or chicken is vegetarian???? :)

    I love the pictures of the silk ribbons and how they came from saris. Your comment about how each one is a story is so true.

    We are each a ribbon in the tapestry that makes up this beautiful world.

    Thank you for being you!

    Love and hugs,
    Nadia - Happy Lotus

  6. What fabulous gifts you received. And how generous of you to share their beauty with us.

    The colors of the sari ribbons are spectacular! They do resemble stories, don't they. Entangled, like people talking over one another, each story having it's own colors and textures, some more fragile than others. But each worthy and important.

    You and your stories always give me so much to ponder! Thank you.

    I hope you are feeling well today.


  7. Wishing you a lovely day and a Happy Valentines day.

    ♥ beaux

  8. Dear Laura,

    I just read over the chain of comments and when I saw that your ordered some paper, I like to recommend something we spoke of. The idea is not mine and comes from Neva, but it can be adopted to our own symbolism without feeling we are copying someone else's work.

    I just had posted the story on finding a stone in the shape of a heart and wrapping it . There are links to Neva and Donna's site on wrapping stones.

    As for the paper, I see you writing your story and then folding the paper in a Japanese style and attaching it to the stone and maybe some other special elements to personalize and infuse the art with symbolism that is important to you and the story.

    I hop this gives you some ideas.

    Warmest regards,

  9. the problem with those turkey vegetables is they make too much noise and it stops all the other vegetables getting enough sleep in their beds!?!

    ROFLOL - I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian and people always think I will eat seafood (which I hate because of the smell, if had to choose between the two, I would eat white meat before seafood anyday)

    how nice to get so many packages in the mail (would make a lovely change from bills)

    loving those bright colourful ribbons, and the possiblities they offer

  10. Hi Laura,
    Ah, "entangled beauty" in your very hands - holds so much doesn't it? cosmic tea leaves. Looks like the the entangled beauty is like a spiritual mentor, prompting you in the different forms it takes; and becoming a touchstone for your soul's remembrance. A gitt indeed. Thank you for your presence in my life. Sending you, your daughter and family Loving Light.

    Happy Valentine's day to you, dear freind. here's a big hug (0), love, Cheryl

  11. This is a beautiful post, Laura. My first thought was that I can't tell my daughter about the sari ribbons because she will want some and her cats would have a hey-day. The ribbons are beautiful and I have no doubt they will be put to special use in your artist's hands.

    My second thought, and something I was putting into words just tonight, was that stories do blend and blur as I move on. The details matter less as the lessons lay the groundwork for what comes next.

  12. delightful and uplifting, that is you.... them ribbons are beautiful...

  13. Laura,
    Is it possible that this is my favorite post yet? Each time you surprise and delight me. I, too, have a special affinity to saris. For some reason I adore them, their feel, and how they robe women in color. A former directee of mine brought one back from India to me. She wrapped me in it and I felt like a queen! Today I use it as altar drape when I do my women's workshops.

    The idea of the stories running through the fabric is marvelous. And I understand about the tangling, but what struck me was how entangled we all really are. Karma, some would call it. Thich Nhat Hanh would say inter-beingness. One little DOES impact another ribbon (person). All that we do affects others. Just a thought...

    I understand the frustration and heaviness this mass could cause you and I do hope that the untangling goes well. As you say, gentle steps...xo

  14. again I so appreciate everyone's comments YOU ARE ALL just the most amazing kind humans...I am very tired and have a long week of appointments ahead, in between I will try to visit your blogs...hopefully next week will be calmer and I will have more energy. For now I just want to say I appreciate all of your comments, read them all even though I have not had the energy to reply to you all individually!

    gentle steps my friends,

  15. There are so many metaphors here. Colorful stories, confusing stories, standing alone, tangled with others. Our lives are so simple, so complicated, and I have no doubt that your contemplation will be deeper with patience and each passing day.

    The vibrance of each piece must hold some mystical healing, some personal meaning.

    You will uncover it.


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