I Wanted To Be A Nun As A Kid. But Became An Intuitive Painting Facilitator Instead.
When I was 8 years old and in the third grade we were given the assignment to write our autobiography.
I don’t remember much about what I wrote. In my memory, I don’t see words, only the thin, lined composition notebook with the black and white speckled cover and my large, looping childs script nestled comfortably within the light blue lines of the notebook paper.
At the end of the notebook we were instructed to write a paragraph about what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Again, I don’t remember much about what I actually wrote. But what I CAN see so incredibly vividly in great detail is an image that I cut out of a book or magazine and then pasted on that page. And the image was that of a nun. The image I chose was a drawing, not a photograph, and it portrayed a young woman wearing a long, black habit with a white wimple framing her peaceful, smiling face and a black veil falling down her back.
What I remember saying about the picture was that I wanted to be a school teacher. And since I was raised Catholic and all of my teachers were nuns, it made sense that I would choose this drawing of a nun to portray my desire to teach.
But given what I know about how the unconscious works, and the fact that this image has stayed with me so powerfully for close to 60 years, I suspect that the nun illustration symbolized a desire much deeper and more complex than teaching kids their ABC’s.
I think even at that early age I had a pretty strong connection to spirit. Although I would never have articulated it that way. I just knew that I was drawn to something magical that just happened to be the ways that spiritual energy was expressed in the culture I grew up in.
One place that this spiritual energy was powerfully expressed was inside the walls of The Immaculate Heart Of Mary Church, which was the heart and soul of the Polish Catholic community and neighborhood that I grew up in. I loved that church and its unwavering devotion to the Holy Mother. I also loved all the ceremonial pomp and dazzling grandeur that were part of the Catholic liturgical experience.
And make no mistake. NOBODY does ritual like the Catholics.
There’s the over the top, highly dramatic organ music, celestial choir singing, multi layered, lavishly embroidered priests robes, splendidly ornate altars and the sometimes eye watering clouds of aromatic incense. Everything is dripping with symbolism and intense feeling and I regularly found myself having altered state experiences during Mass when the whole production was going at a full tilt fever pitch of sound and light and scent and color and emotion.
Again, I didn’t name what I felt as spiritual at that young age… I just knew that I felt things very powerfully during many of these ritualized experiences. Looking back on it I think I was periodically going into a kind of ecstatic trance state. And of course, it was totally legal because it was happening in church. So I think I associated being a nun with some of those heightened, direct experiences of the divine.
I was also really drawn to the devotional and service aspects of being a nun. I wanted to surrender myself to something larger than me… to be of service to some vision of greater goodness. I wanted to be close to the sacred and being a nun looked like a great way to get there.
When I discovered the creative process, I was totally surprised to find another way back into that ecstatic experience. Which is what kept bringing me back to making art, over and over again. I was never really all that interested in creating paintings or other art forms as something I would keep, or display or sell.
What totally compelled me was that the experience of creating allowed me entrance into the holy of holies of divine energy flooding my body, heart and spirit with joy and bliss and aliveness and a sense of transcendent expansion into something much greater than myself.
And that was worth so much more to me than even the most beautiful finished product.
Creating spaces where I could guide others into that same heightened state of reverent devotion fulfilled that need to be of service. It was like creating my own church every time I built an art studio. Each studio became a portal and an altar into this potent experience of communing with the cosmic energies of creation. And I have devoted myself wholeheartedly to the predictable miracle of the creative process as my religion for most of my adult life.
So in that way you could say that I’ve been initiated into the Order Of Liberated Creative Expression and have fulfilled my dream of becoming both a nun and a teacher. Each circle I facilitate is a gathering of creative souls and each painting is a prayer. I even burn incense before my workshops.
And even though I have great respect for nuns, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a wimple. It would interfere too much with my need to adorn myself with my turquoise jewelry collection.
But I can never get too much of that experience of communing with the divine during the numinous act of putting color, shape and image on paper. And leading other folks through that mystic portal to regain connection with their own sacred creative source.
Which is one of my main motivations for creating my 6 week online video class Painting With Fire.
So if you are ready to reclaim your mystical artist self and feed your creative soul, this class just might be for you.
Painting With Fire begins Monday, February 13th!! For more info, click on the image below.