Last year at this time, I was standing at a journey’s beginning, taking deep breath after deep breath, and contending with doubts, “Can I do this? Can I uphold the integrity of the oracle so beautifully brought to life by the authors? I can think of several other mama artists who could do this better. Is it even possible in just 4 months while being a mama?” I knew I wanted to. I had been asking the universe for a project that would inspire me in a deeper way. I’d also been calling out for guidance and support on my path of mothering. But fears can be kinda loud.
I was staring at 52 blank rectangles, an empty map of what would be The Mother’s Wisdom Deck. I paged through drafts of Niki and Elizabeth’s card passages and came to Turtle – Grounding. The passage concludes with Turtle advising: “a time-honored way of coming back to earth: lie facedown with arms extended above your head. Make sure your forehead, knees, and hands are touching the ground. This is a full bow, a prostration to the powers above. In this supplication, you lower yourself before infinite Mystery and, in turn, come closer to your basic nature.”
Almost exactly ten years ago, after driving all night, I stepped outside of my car into a frigid, New Mexico mountain landscape, just five minutes walk from our home now. The sun was still on its ascent on the other side of the Sangres. Patrick led me down a snow-covered road lined with vertical blue, white, red, green and golden prayer flags. At the end was a white, wedding cake shaped shrine. Yes, it was my first visit to a Buddhist Stupa — what my daughter lovingly now calls, “Buddha’s house”. Two golden dear sat still and awake on either side of a peaceful Buddha. Goosebumps rose up on my already freezing body — the kind of chill when you are so overtaken with beauty and a sense of “wow”. I watched Patrick kneel on the freshly shoveled flagstone and a ghost-like breath rise out of his mouth. He lay on his stomach, facedown with his hands in prayer, reaching over his head. Aside from photographs in distant lands, I had never seen anyone do this before. My response surprised me. Feeling so much gratitude for that place I was right then and there, and the friend I was with, I dipped into my first full body prostration. I really wanted to throw myself down to the ground, but I am timid. I remember at first wondering, is this ok? I’m not Buddhist. And I distinctly remember the calm and grace I felt lying on the frozen stone before “infinite Mystery”. I didn’t want to get up. I went empty and prayed, and the sun spilled over the mountains.
Remembering that winter morning, I knew the only way I could trust that I could paint these cards –and begin this journey– was to get out of my head, out of my ego, and into my heart. To focus on “why” this project is so important to us: honoring motherhood as a spiritual practice. I lay in my studio in full prostration on a child-like rug of yellow and pink flowers. I felt anchored and prayed for intuition, endurance, clarity, and wisdom. Or maybe I pleaded. :) Either way, I feel like guidance presented herself.
**To clarify, I positioned the woman on the turtle to form the five points of the mandala within the turtle’s shell (vs. full prostration when you lie face down in a straight line — legs together and arms together over your head in prayer/Namaste position.
I realize until now, I haven’t shared much of this pilgrimage here. It was a test of endurance. I learned to hone my intuition, reach out to my community, and surrender. When I was painting, Tulsi often reminded me of what was most important asking, “Mama, first tea party, then you paint, ok?” and “Please Mama, you hold me like Haumea holds her baby?”
Mothering is the most amazing dance I’ve ever danced, and I pray these images convey that spirit, beauty and love. I did my best to “get out of the way” and let the images come through me. Of course, this I am still learning. :)
A little background on the deck…The idea first came to Niki Dewart in 2009 while she was out on a rare solo walk in the woods. She envisioned an oracle deck that would speak directly to mothers, an oracle bearing and bonding, nursing and nudging, surrendering and serendipity. She then invited Elizabeth Marglin to create with her, and soon after that, they invited me to offer visual interpretations. And although the deck doesn’t make its official debut until May 1st (for Mother’s Day), I just received my first sample and had to share! :)
You can pre-order it through your local bookstore or here. **If you live near Boulder or Taos, stay tuned for May Launch events where you can purchase the deck and support your local bookstore and midwives!**
I am so grateful for this experience, and now, for the daily meditations. Today, I pulled the card, Intention/Mother Meng. You will learn her story when you have the deck and accompanying book. I loved this quote Niki and Elizabeth chose to include:
Each decision we make, each action we take, is born out of an intention. — Sharon Salzberg
AND, last week, our website+blog, Mothering with Soul, inspired from the deck, came to life. We envision it as a place for mothers around the world to come together, to be real, to support and inspire each other. I know you will love Niki and Elizabeth and appreciate their honesty and spirit. Each week we will pull a card from the deck and use that as our theme. We’ll share whatever thoughts, stories, photos, drawings, and quotes that come into our lives that week as they add meaning to the attribute. We hope you will share your thoughts there, too. Will you join us?