Tenderness, Power and Grace
This is the third post in a series of three: Tenderness, Power and Grace. All three posts are deeply intertwined. They’ve been born from the deepest, most raw feelings I experienced as I let the images of Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani (and the intense feelings of hatred and violence towards women and girls that seem to be so evident in our global community) wash over me.
I sometimes paint with Chris Zydel. It’s process painting, where the process – what happens during the process of painting – is the focus rather than the finished painting itself. On a Thursday, just after learning about Sakineh, I painted this painting, titled Grace is Everywhere. That was three weeks ago. Since then, I have been writing about what I experienced through the process of painting that day: tenderness, power and grace.
For whatever reason (maybe no reason at all), I waited until this last post to include the painting process. In this last post, I’m going back to the beginning. I’m taking us back full circle.
I’ve written about this type of painting before. What I want to share, here, is what happened this particular time.
I had been filled with these intense emotions after reading and writing about Ashtiani. At that time, I wrote a post about the power we women have to create change…how the power of our coming together can change things. And, even though I know there’s power in circles and that we can effect change, I also felt powerless to do something myself, something to free this woman from the hands of tyrannical forces that hold such misogynistic views of women, and on a deeper level, powerless to change the way women are disrespected, oppressed and hated, the way children are of such seemingly insignificant worth in a society that seems to value greed, consumption and violence. Power and powerlessness.
The more I sat with these feelings, the more anger, frustration, and futility I felt at a world that seems to not be able to see, really see just how much unresolved distrust and fear there is simmering under the surface between the genders.
And so, when I arrived to paint, the process took over as I selected colors for my palette…or, rather the colors picked me: blood red, black, yellow, purple, and gold.
As I began to paint, the feelings spread out onto the paper: grief, anger and rage, powerlessness and power, hope and futility. They flooded the page through the paint.
Big, wide brushstrokes of blood red: stoning, death, power over the powerless.
Bright brushstrokes of yellow: the brightness of hope.
Swaths of black, deep dark black, so heavy they flooded the bottom of the picture: mourning and grief that could only be expressed with a black that was void of all light.
As I painted, I stayed with the feelings that appeared.
Tenderness that is Grace
Then, something else showed up. I felt a tenderness come through, a tenderness that wanted to be expressed differently – through my fingers rather than the brush. Quivering tenderness.
I put the brush down and submerged my fingers in the paint. The black paint along with this beautiful gold paint, a gold that flowed directly from the tenderness quivering in my fingertips. Black for grief and mourning in the immediate presence of the gold of tenderness.
As I painted, I could feel the word grace come forth as the gold began to make itself known on the paper alongside the black. Grace in the middle of death and grief. Then my fingers chose red and gold – grace appearing with power and powerlessness. As my fingers scooped up the yellow of hope, grace came along, too.
Grace appeared with everything I was feeling. It had a distinct ‘feel’ and color to it, as did all the other feelings; but the thing that stood out so starkly to me, was the deep wisdom that arose about the absolute necessity of feeling everything with conscious awareness, without pushing away any difficult emotions or aspects of the experience. Grace was not there in place of the dark emotions, it was there with them, alongside them, intermingling with them.
Grace made itself known through the direct and conscious willingness to feel the entirety of everything, and the depth of it all; this willingness was cradled by the process of painting itself.
Visceral and Palpable
The grace was visceral and palpable, and made me keenly aware of the possibility of knowing such grace in the middle of the darkest of our experiences. Even when things seem most without hope, grace is always present, falling like rain. Grace’s presence is not a question – it is always here; rather, it’s our willingness to be vulnerable in the most raw and uncomfortable places, a vulnerability that opens us like a flower, so that we can receive grace’s shower.
This willingness to see things just as they are, to feel the immensity of feelings associated with all that is happening to our planet, to the human race, to all living creatures can open us to receive the tenderness and wisdom of transformation. This grace brings the sweetest tenderness, palpable in the body and heart, a tenderness that is much more powerful than the tyranny we see today, because it is kissed with the rain of grace.
This willingness to see things just as they are opens us to see ourselves with tenderness, to see the creativity and love that resides deep in the folds of our divine robes of feminine flesh, and to know we are sacred beings with a sacred creativity to be shared. This is the soft power that we are here to bring forth at this time on the planet.
Just as the painting process held this process of revealing, so can any process of expression provide a container with which to know something greater than ourselves. Whether it’s painting, dancing, writing or any of the myriad ways we can express what’s within, whatever we choose can be the container that helps us welcome out what is wanting to unfold. It is being with all that arises, feeling it deep in the body, and allowing its wisdom to teach us a new way.
It helps me to know that grace is with me when I open to seeing what is happening here on our earth, in these places that feel too painful to look. When I know that grace is here, too, even in these places of darkness, I know I am not alone. And, I know the power of transformation grace offers. What if this life force, that is held in these darkest places could transform into light? into the light of awareness and awakeness? In this time of global shift, it is exactly this awareness we must learn to bring to even the hardest things to be with.
And, what about Ashtiani? What about grace for her, for others who are in imminent danger, others who are oppressed and victimized? I do know that if we’re willing to see directly into these horrors happening right now, if we don’t turn away, we can act in some way that can help change things. If they can’t act, we must. They may have no power, but we do, and our power lies in circles of people coming together.
Perhaps, grace is telling us that things can be different, but it will take us coming our of our own complacency to help change things for Ashtiani and others. Perhaps, this is the message within that quivering tenderness, that our power is in coming together to help support us all, as a global village to change things through a revolution fo tenderness.
This is simply my experience with grace and the dark emotions.
I’d love to know how you’ve experienced these dark emotions, and their power and vast potential to transform.
How do you experience Grace? What wisdom does it bring?
This is the last post in a series of three on tenderness, power and grace. All three posts are part of the Summer of Love Invitational, where the lovely Mahala Mazerov has invited bloggers to write about loving kindness.