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The first time I met Tarot Grandmaster Christiana Gaudet, I believe it may have had something to do with an impromptu seasonal celebration ritual held in a hot tub. Over the years, I’ve grown to love and trust Christiana very much, and we share quite a few things like dedication to spirituality, a penchant for discussions on grammar and usage, naturism, and a serious enthusiasm for music (Robin is to Devo as Christiana is to The Grateful Dead.).
A little over a year ago, Christiana began hosting an online show called Christiana’s Psychic Café, and decided to use my songs “Funky Bhagavate” and “Blessed Be, Namaste” as her intro and outro music. She’s also invited me on the show to chat on quite a few occasions, so turnabout is fair play, as they say. I am so glad Christiana has taken part in The Dream Between‘s 11 Questions interview series. Here are some of her thoughts on science and mysticism, the rewards and business of writing and music, entrepreneurial spirit, and more.
1. Do you think of Tarot as an art? A system? A spiritual tool? I am interested in how you describe it to someone who hasn’t encountered Tarot at all.
Yes, to all of the above. One of things that fascinates me about Tarot is how unique it is in all the world, but how it is a part of so many worlds – art, culture, spirituality, and history.
Tarot is a book of spiritual wisdom in picture form that tells the story of human experience. Tarot is a collection of archetypes and symbols that can help us communicate with each other and with the divine. Tarot is a source of creative inspiration and a tool for magick.
2. How do you balance science and rationality with mysticism and spirituality in your life?
My belief system is grounded in the reality that I observe in my daily life, so there really is no disconnect between what I believe and what is obviously scientifically true. I believe the sun will rise in the morning, and I understand the movements of the planets that make that happen. But I also honor the rising sun as a spiritual force in my life.
Nature is my Higher Power. I am face-to-face with God every day. I don’t need complicated dogma and doctrine to know, feel, and experience spiritual truth. When I observe nature I learn all I need to know about Higher Power. I find spiritual power in the tides and the stars. I see the face of the Goddess in fire as it dances. I see the Four Elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, as spiritual forces operating in my life. The magnificence and improbability of the world around us lead me to conclude that a divine hand is at work. To me, science proves the existence of Spirit. There is so much order to the Universe, it seems a divine order. The more I learn about science the more I see the sacred nature of life.
I have an argument with many religions. If your doctrine doesn’t hold true to the obvious facts around you, it is time to change your doctrine. That’s an interesting concept given I believe that cards drawn at random can have specific bearing in a person’s life. But, truly, divination is as old as recorded history. Divination is something we do quite naturally. The same is true with earth magick. What child has not collected rocks and shells from the beach, or sticks from the woods, knowing, deeply and inherently, that these items hold power?
3. You’ve written and published two books on the Tarot – Fortune Stellar and Tarot Tour Guide. Through those experiences, what are the most important things you’ve learned about the process of writing and publishing?
I learned that writing is an arduous task. If we only write when we feel inspired, we’ll rarely finish anything. If you force yourself to write whether or not you feel like it, the inspiration will come most of the time.
I also learned that writing is sometimes more about style than structure, and that typos are a fact of life.
I learned that publishing is rapidly changing. Whatever you knew about publishing in the past may not be true now. What we used to call “vanity press” is now “self-published” and is a viable avenue. The big publishing houses are crumbling, and self-published authors are actually making money.
I learned that unless you write a New York Times bestseller, the way to make money in writing and publishing is to be prolific. Yes, I am working on books three, four, and five right now.
Finally, I learned that books aren’t like fashion – they don’t have a shelf life. If you write a good book, that book will continue to sell year after year.
4. You and I connect a great deal around music and you’ve often incorporated music segments into your show, Christiana’s Psychic Café. What are you listening to lately?
The recent death of Pete Seeger has me revisiting my favorite folk singers. This week I’ve been listening to The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Holly Near, and Arlo Guthrie.
I listen to a lot of different genres. In terms of newer acts I like OneRepublic. Isn’t that cheesy? And I love Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I think Grace has huge potential.
I’m a Deadhead. I catch as many DSO, 7 Walkers, Phil Lesh and Friends, Ratdog and Furthur shows as I can. We always wondered what would happen when Jerry died. Well, what happened was a lot of smaller bands mushroomed from the one. Fan musicians made it their mission to carry on the music, so there are still plenty of opportunities for us to experience those songs played live.
5. Does music help inspire your writing, preparation for readings, or other aspects of your work?
I can’t have music in the background when I write – I am easily distracted by shiny objects. I love meditative music, and I love chanting. I use music in magick and ritual quite a bit. Dance is an important part of my spiritual practice.
6. As the music business we once knew has changed so much since the Internet Age, many artists are struggling to understand how it will manifest in the future. Any predictions?
The changes in music are similar to the changes in publishing. On one hand, everyone has access. On the other hand, there are so many voices it is hard to be heard. I think one thing that is changing is there are more ways to be heard, and more ways to develop an audience. Often success will go to the diligent.
Where do I see things going in the future? I think there will be even more access to high-speed internet, recording technology, and marketing opportunities. I think the big labels, like the big publishing houses, will start to crumble. There will still be pop stars, but radio – the star maker of yesteryear – really is dying.
Right now, everyone who listens to adult contemporary knows the same songs. When Lorde won a Grammy, everyone knew the song. I see a time in the distant future where that might no longer be true. There might be so much variety available we will all listen to exactly what we like and we won’t all know the same forty songs.
In the meantime, my advice to artists would be three words: diligence, networking, and innovation.
7. Your show seems to have developed very organically and features many artists and practitioners who you know personally. How has this network of people come about for you?
When I agreed to do Christiana’s Psychic Café I knew I didn’t really have the time to take on such a project. I also knew I had a huge network of interesting people who would help me. Networks always grow. You were my very first guest. You, and many others, have introduced me to other people who have been great guests, and are now my friends. You are right about “organic growth.”
I have always been really good at bringing people together. I have organized festivals, huge parties, psychic fairs, and creative communities. It is something I do naturally. I am not as good at constantly nurturing a community. I am better at short-term projects and getting things started rather than tending them over long periods of time. Social media has allowed me to stay in touch with people that I have known over the past forty years. That is a lot of people, and a lot of energy, on which to draw.
8. In your work, you not only maintain a private reading practice, but you create a weekly newsletter, host the online show, and hold periodic worldwide Skype teaching sessions. What are your practical methods of generating many varied ideas and holding it all together?
I am grateful each day that my work allows me variety, creativity, positive human contact, and spiritual fulfillment. I work very long days, but I take frequent breaks. When I feel overwhelmed or under-inspired I picture myself working a regular job. That’s usually enough to get me back on track.
I have a lot of interesting ideas. They often come to me in the shower. My biggest problem is remembering them, since I can’t write them down while I’m washing my hair! So, the practical methods I employ boil down to gratitude for what I can do, fear of not doing it, and being open to inspiration!
9. What is the most gratifying aspect of your work?
Unfair question. That’s like asking a mother which of her kids is her favorite.
When I was really young I knew I didn’t have the ability to tolerate routines, power structures, boredom, and creative limitations. I needed to create a life where I had real passion for my tasks, and control over what those tasks would be. So I did. That my work is my work is my greatest gratification.
10. Do you have any advice or wisdom for anyone in any field who is striking out with your kind of entrepreneurial spirit?
Plenty. You have to want it so badly you can taste it. You have to believe in it when no one else does. You have to be willing to suffer for it. You have to be willing to do what it takes to make it happen, even when your friends are mad that you can’t play with them. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
When I was a theatre major at Baldwin-Wallace College for a semester I had a great teacher who said that success is the product of talent and tenacity. I think that is true for just about any kind of success.
11. What is the best course of action for creative artists in this Imbolc season?
Transform your fears, hurts, and disappointments into art. Let creativity be a source of healing for you, and let the depth of your pain energize your process. Let nothing be “good” or “bad” in terms of what you feel or what you produce. Experience everything as power, wisdom and beauty. Be free to heal, and free to create.
This is apparently a good week for the number eleven! See yesterday’s post.
It’s actually happening. The finishing touches are finally being put on the new chant recording. A very brief post about it yesterday caused a little ripple on Facebook; in a way it served as a first bit of encouragement from outside the project. While working on This., I felt much more in a vacuum than during other recordings; I am not being coy to say the response was an honest wake-up moment about the coming of interaction with others again around the music. Soon I’ll be touring my way down to Florida and back. I’ll be inviting more people than I ever have to take part in helping the music to be heard. Possibly the most exciting and daunting part for me is that I’ll be working on the second half of the follow-up project, .. and everything else.
Back when I became completely immersed in kirtan, I spent almost a year listening to nothing else. Life was a constant meditation on the drone of harmonium or tampura. I absorbed mantras and melodies and the stories of Hindu deities at such a rate that when people asked me where I learned this or that, I truly had no idea. During that time I wasn’t sure I’d ever write another song. It only seemed relevant to talk about the totality of things. Life stuff was happening, but Om was the only relevant response.
Somewhere it became clearer to me that my path continued to be one of staying engaged in the day-to-day and writing down the stories. But by then I’d been through a kind of vortex that made it a strange exercise. I was frustrated over this for a while, but now I am giving myself a break over the times I wasn’t writing. Yes, some of that time away has probably been about avoiding pain or focusing on the minutiae rather than any larger project at hand. I suspect most of us do those things. But even more than that, I’ve been in a relearning pattern. Life feels a little different having been through this particular spiritual vein, and I am ultimately grateful for the shift. While grasping onto stories is still not as easy, they do feel rich and relevant. Lately, I’ve been in a primordial soup of happenings:
My home ashram has been steadily coming into fruition; there was an intense weekend with visiting Tantra teachers (Ran Baron and Monique Darling, with Edie Weinstein on Cuddle Party duties) and more and different events are in the works. Friends have been around sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying the space. Some old friends seem to have left my life unequivocally, while others remain stuck in uncomfortable balance or misunderstanding. Other old friends have been reappearing in wild, wonderful, wacky, sexy ways. There are stories to fill a volume or two in these changes alone. I’m startled at how physical I want daily life to be these days – I can groove on hours of yard work with pruning, hauling branches, mowing, then swimming or running or tennis or hiking – it’s nearly all I really want to do. That is, if it weren’t for booking the upcoming tour, hopefully through D.C., Raleigh, Asheville, Atlanta, Miami, and back again. Meanwhile I have kept an eye out to see if there’s any way in the universe I can get to the UK for Robin Gibb’s memorial service, and I have met online friends who get why this continues to mean so much to me. I was sad to learn that I will be in FL on the day of a plaque dedication, but there may be another time to gather. I’ve been true to my promise to self to not let summer fun pass me by. Rocking out (well, blue grassing out, anyway) with The Mutant Mountain Boys in oppressively hot Southern Ohio on the 4th of July was a blast, as was rediscovering my love for the strangely wise absurdity of the Church of the SubGenius. I have had some joyful days at Gunnison Beach and a good peaceful time at this year’s Northeast Naturist Festival. Oh, and my friend LauraLynn Jansen and I are planning to co-lead a chant and yoga retreat in Nicaragua, January 2013.
At first, I thought it was ironic that the chant CD is on its way as I feel itchy for a full band, wanting so much to step back into the role of rocker chick. Really, it’s just typical artist stuff, I think. Project done and my being is moving onto the next, to be painted in singer/songwriter/rock sounds and maybe some spoken word. I do ultimately trust that when it’s time to be in the midst of any of these expressions, I’ll show up and be present. I hope This… and everything else together will tell more of the story as an exploration of life – or at least as extrapolated from this particular life – in something close to 360o.
One of the things I have been doing over the last few years when not writing, touring someplace, or off on some other adventure is working as a figure model. When I mentioned to a friend that I was looking for an interesting sideline, she made the suggestion and I felt that it fit very well into my life. I always want to spend more time where art is created. I am also a longtime nudist, so there is nothing strange to me about posing for an art class. It seemed like a fun and fairly perfect thing to check out.
Though I am comfortable without clothes, it is more common a situation in my life that everyone is nude – on my favorite beach, camping in clothing-optional space, or at some other naturist event. Being the only one who’s nude in the room did take a little getting used to in the beginning, but is no big deal at all now. Most art class’ protocol is strange and a bit frustrating. Students are generally not to speak to the model. That feels cold to me at times, and can be the least appealing aspect of the job. I’d rather be spoken to like anyone else in the room. When there’s an opportunity, I try to ask someone a question, show some sense of humor, and just keep an easy-going energy flowing as much as possible.
I feel my Zen sensibilities more strongly while holding a pose than in most other circumstances. In sitting or standing still for long periods, I find meditation. 20 minutes of posing divided by short breaks leads me to settle into stillness, to follow the breath. Posing is a time to experience my current reality. It is a profound opportunity to release the habit of hiding. It is like saying “Here is all of me, World, with my bundle of irrational fears, body image issues, joys, aspirations, ideas, boredom, peacefulness…” Whatever is going on that day and in that moment, there I am. Exposing the body combined with time to watch the mind is a powerful exercise.
I often simply notice and release thoughts in meditation mode. Sometimes I follow the seemingly significant ones. Here are some of the random thoughts that float through my brain while modeling:
Oh! Here come some titles for the dual CDs that I am working on this season. Need to write them down on break… The hypothetical book I mentioned in The Steve Forbert Chronicles really does want to be written… and it wants to be fiction. Research road trip? … How will I manifest time to create all that the muse is pouring through me? … Grateful to have the ideas flowing… Hmm, a sexy thought – Wow, if I were a guy that thought might have just become a lot more obvious! … Will I wear the gold sparkly spaghetti strap shirt out dancing on Friday? … Sad memory of an ex – We used to meet after my Philly modeling gigs sometimes… I really want to finish painting the basement… There is only this moment, right now. Sat Nam… Why the heck did I dream about playing pool and going boating with Hall & Oates?! …
I sometimes wish I were learning to draw, too, but listening in on classes has helped me to at least see so much more. I notice the light and the shadow and the planes that make up people’s faces. I am starting to imagine drawing without outlining, but finding the shapes that make up the figure. I get how it is important to see more deeply into how the body works and the structure beneath the skin in order to render something realistic. I take so many things as metaphor anyway, and these are useful additions to ways to find life lessons.
Lately, I’ve been learning quite a bit posing in Moe Brooker’s class @ Moore College of Art and Design. I can’t say that I would enjoy being in his class as a student. He dishes out some intense critique and hardly gives students a moment’s rest. If he wants someone to add the face to the drawing or redo the knees or a make the feet bigger, he means pronto. The door generally gets shut on you if you are a minute late. He doesn’t particularly care whether or not students like him, but he cares deeply that they become better artists. I suspect that even though it’s fairly clear some students can’t stand dealing with his class, they’ll be incredible artists one day and will thank him. I have the easy job in the class; I just get to stand there and observe the varying mix of intensity and comedy.
Moe Brooker often says that there’s no point in being almost anything. If you want to be an artist, be an artist. Don’t be an almost artist. In the past, I have resolved to stop almosting. I am inspired to revisit this, find my inner hard-ass, ferret out the almosts, and achieve.