When I moved to Mexico at the beginning of June, I heard these words in my spirit: “Enjoy flowing in the river on this trip, not climbing a treadmill. Both allow for movement forward.”
I am well accustomed to moving forward, it is one of my strengths. But in American culture, the way we are often taught to move forward is with brute strength, grit, or sometimes with sheer force. I compare forward movement in America to climbing a treadmill. Great exertion is required, and the goals we are trying to reach are always “out there,” just out of reach.
Conversely, flowing in the river is more about alignment. Are we aligning our lives, our energy, our actions with what is already forming and wants to come forth? I’ve observed that Mexican culture supports flowing in the river much better than its neighbor to the north. There is a deep-seated acceptance woven into the fabric of life here that is missing in America. This acceptance supports flowing in the river and trusting its movement.
I’ve often wondered why more people don’t choose the way of the river, myself included. Perhaps because flowing in the river requires surrender. It requires relinquishing control over what direction you travel and how fast you go. Flowing in the river also asks for trust and ushers us into an embrace of mystery. It teaches us to partner with the energy surrounding us and relinquish the role of dictating outcomes.
Synchronicity, flow, alignment, ease – these are all hallmarks of stepping into the river and moving through life with a feminine spiritual lens. Our actions and movements stop being forced and become aligned with a larger energy; our part is simply learning to discern it.
Climbing a treadmill or flowing in the river – the truth is, both allow for movement. But it doesn’t take much convincing to realize the latter is far better for soul, body, and spirit.
I have been spending a lot more time living in Mexico these past few years, and one of my earliest observations was of how extremely helpful the culture is. At every turn, if I need help, I am always responded to warmly and graciously. This is so often not the experience in the U.S., a culture of extreme self-sufficiency, individualism, and pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. Figuring things out on your own is a prized virtue, and there is a fierce independence that tends to diminish the value of the giving and receiving of help on a daily basis.
(As a relevant side note, my Spanish teacher in LA, originally from Mexico, said one of the hardest things for her to get used to living in the U.S. was that people rarely offered help to strangers. She would joke about how irritating it was to her when people would say “just google it” in response to a sincere inquiry.)
So anyway, on a recent trip back to LA from Mexico, as the passengers on our flight were being shuttled to the customs area, you could literally feel a sense of anxiety on the bus. The smell of fear was in the air, and of course, why wouldn’t it be. The current global climate certainly warrants it. As I proceeded through customs, I was ushered over to an extremely short line. And initially I was like, great, as who wants to wait in a super long line. The problem was, I saw another American citizen from my same flight, a Latino man, being sent to a much longer line. Our passports were the same, and as far as I could tell, the only difference between us was our skin color. This was disturbing on many levels, and was made all the worse when after exiting the customs area, I encountered a massive video projection on a huge wall of the Statue of Liberty. As if somehow, it was supposed to symbolize the warm welcoming of people into this country. But of course, nothing about this symbol of liberty rang true with the fear I had just felt from those around me on the flight, as well as the re-direction of fellow citizens into different lines.
As I stood at the arrivals curb waiting to be picked up, an elderly Mexican woman (probably close to 80) asked me hesitantly if I spoke Spanish. I replied “un poco,” and we began a conversation about her attempts to contact her nephew who was supposed to pick her up. She had come from Mexico City to visit his mother who was quite ill. Her cell phone didn’t have international service and she wondered if I could call him on my phone. Several times she tried to pull up his number on her phone to give to me, but couldn’t access it, and her hand was shaking the entire time. Eventually we found his number, I called, and we were able to talk to him and tell him where she was waiting. After speaking to him, she was visibly relieved, stopped shaking, and said how nervous she had been about finding him amongst all the crowds. LAX can be an intense airport at any age when it’s extremely busy, and navigating it not knowing the language or having anyone familiar with you is understandably anxiety-producing. I told her how happy I was to be able to help her, as I had just experienced daily help from people while in Mexico, and to be able to reciprocate even a fraction of all the assistance that had come my way felt so appropriate. Kindness tends to work that way, after all. As it’s given away, it wants to be duplicated.
These separate, but related vignettes are intended to illustrate a little bit of what is needed now more than ever around the globe. Interactions on a personal level between individuals from countries at odds with one another can have tremendous energetic impact and produce important fruit: things like a shared understanding and an affirmation of one another’s common humanity. But most importantly, these interactions work powerfully to mitigate the culture of fear we are currently living in. Any governmental policy, action, or failure to act that is based in fear will never ever produce something positive. But as fear has become the weapon of choice in these divisive times, a determination to come together in whatever way we can grows increasingly vital.
The good news is, we have much more power to move towards unity than we realize. Despite broken governmental systems, we need not be passive bystanders, nor should we ever downplay the significance of what may seem like small actions. Collectively, we can shift darkness towards light. No step towards kindness and understanding is ever, ever wasted. And at the end of the day, it will carry far more potency than fear ever will.
Recognizing abundance in the universe is first and foremost an act of being present. In a future minded society, we are regularly robbed of the flow that is available to us right now, and in fact, is *only* available now. In straining for the future, we relegate ourselves to less because we miss this dive into magical, abundant living that is only offered in the moment.
To dive in literally requires a change in vision, a change in sight. We need new eyes that perceive an energetic field of provision instead of an illusion of deficit. We have a choice as to what we see. Vision is everything.
“The experience of the beautiful…is the invocation of a potentially whole and holy order of things, wherever it may be.” ~ Hans-Georg Gadamer
New things are stirring. I feel my creative compass shifting ever so slowly from the identity of artist to the calling of a writer, and a deep desire to express beauty and truth into the world through the intellect has taken root. Of course one does not cease being an artist, and these stirrings are really a new shoot growing from the same massive tree that has evolved and matured over the past many years.
So to support this movement, this new tendril of life, I thought perhaps it may be a good exercise to begin writing again on this blog. This time, not as much about art, but more about what I encounter as I tend to the growth of this new shoot springing forth.
After almost seven (!) years, the time has finally come to end this blog…I have loved sharing my art and my creative journey here over the past several years, and it has been a really foundational place for me to find my voice as an artist and express it to all of you. If you’ve ever followed me here or interacted with me in some way in this space, thank you!! It has meant a lot to me. Going forward, I will still be sharing my creative projects in a public fashion, and the best places to follow my progress from here on out are either through social media or by signing up for my newsletter, which you can do here. You can find me on twitter and instagram at @karen_e_kinney and can follow me on Facebook.
2017 holds a lot of excitement as I will be building a temporary installation for the airport in Los Angeles, am self-publishing a book on creativity sometime in the late spring or early summer, and will also be painting a mural in Mexico! For all of these projects and others, please do connect with me on social media and stay in touch – I very much hope to connect with you in the rest on my online world!