Friday, July 26, 2013

The Mystic Poetry of Gavin Harrison

I was fortunate enough to meet Gavin Harrison at the Buddhist Retreat Center in Ixopo, South Africa in 2008, when I was visiting Woza Moya.  My visit to the area from my home in Charlotte, NC coincided with Gavin's visit to Ixopo for the first time in many years from his home in Hawaii.  Great synchronicity was at work.  

Gavin is the author of the book In the Lap of the Buddha, and he says in the introduction to this book "I hope that this book will in some way encourage all readers to touch the fragility and preciousness of life ...".  I believe that through his mystical poetry in Petals and Blood Gavin again encourages us "to touch the fragility and preciousness of life".

Gavin's journey has been an inspiring one, and out of his experience, he has created a book of poetry and stories,  Petals and Blood, that touches the soul.  One of my favorites from this new book, is his poem Your Spiritual Resume, of which the following lines are an extract:

Leave your spiritual resume outside the door,
no matter how illustrious or eloquent it may be.
I am not interested in your itinerary either,
however holy, exalted and rarefied your destinations may have been.
The illuminated travelers you have come upon along the way?
Don't bother.
Shelve your lineage of books, CDs and retreats you have aced.
Tell me what lives within the slipstream of your high adventuring, right now!
What of the Holy places within yourself, to which you have traveled?

This is a poem I will return again and again to, to remind myself of what is really important.

I wanted to share a little about Gavin and his new book in this blog post, and so asked Gavin a couple of questions to understand what made him decide to create this new book.

Catherine: Gavin, tell me a little about your background and how you ended up in Hawaii after being born in South Africa.

Gavin:  If you were to go through the center of the earth from Hawaii you will end up in South Africa. Today I am as far away from my homeland as I can possibly be, and yet Hawaii feels more like Africa than any other place I have lived. I came to the Big Island in 1998 and I never left. The tropics, the ocean, the gentle climate, all seduced me.

Catherine:   I think Africa always stays in your blood, and the vegetation of Hawaii has a lot of similarities to South Africa.   What has most influenced your poetry writing?

Gavin:  The ecstatic Sufi poets, Rumi and Hafiz, turned my world upside down. Their vision of a life lived fully and joyfully, with depth, profoundly impacted me. As I was struggling to put into words the indescribable blessing of awakening to my essential nature and the truth of existence, I felt their hand at my back. That's when the poems began — my best shot at bringing into language, that which in the end can never be held in words. The poems flower from the evolutionary revelation of the ground of love that was always there, awaiting my arrival!

Catherine:  I find that your poetry opens me up to seeing in a new way.  How do you hope that the poems will touch those that read them?

Gavin:  My hope is that the poems will inspire, encourage and fortify the yearning we all share to be in communion with the depths of who we truly are. Perhaps the poems will raise the bar, opening us to the infinite possibilities we share, in living this very precious and fleeting human life— to live with love, kindness and wakefulness within every corridor of our lives. To take seriously the possibility of liberation within this lifetime — no matter what!

Catherine:  I believe that a portion of the proceeds of the sale of each book will go to support Woza Moya and the Group of Hope in South Africa.  Can you tell us a little about this?

Gavin:  It is my life's work to support the orphaned and vulnerable children in South Africa, and I do this by supporting the above organizations. I have an Indiegogo Fundraising Campaign underway, an endeavor to recover some of the costs of production for the book. Once I have recovered the costs I will continue my active support of both of these organizations —  I will send 5% of the proceeds from the sale of Petals and Blood purchased through our website, to the organizations. Some of the fundraising campaign incentives include a gift of many books into the South African prison system, mentored by The Group of Hope. Another incentive will bring the books into the Ofafa Valley where I lived in South Africa and where  Woza Moya is located. After my death all proceeds will go to the organizations.

Catherine:  How can people support this project?

Gavin:  Oh my goodness, there are a number of different ways. In this socially and electronically interconnected world there are many possibilities for us to support one another.  Certainly by supporting the fund-raising campaign. Also by disseminating information about the campaign. The most immediate way to help us, is to share the Indiegogo link with anyone you think may be interested. This will also increase global visibility for us on the Indiegogo website.   Please share our Facebook page, like us, and become a friend.  Visit our blog and let your friends know about it.

Catherine:  Where can we buy the book, and when will it be available?

Gavin:  Buying the book when it's available in October, 2013 from our website is another way of supporting the project.  Purchases directly from our website maximize our return for each book and therefore also makes it possible for me to begin sending proceeds from the sales to the organizations in South Africa, mentioned above.

Catherine:  Gavin, thank you so much for sharing this with us.  I wish you lots of luck with the campaign! And for those of you who'd like to hear a little more of Gavin's story and his visit in 2008 to Woza Moya, watch the video below.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Every Awesome Woman was Once a Little Girl

At the Art and Activism Symposium I attended recently, I met a wonderful musician called Jana Stanfield. Jana creates music that reminds us we can make a difference, and she kindly gave me permission to use her song "Every Awesome Woman" with my photographs of the beautiful young ladies at Woza Moya.  Music really does have a way of touching our hearts.  Enjoy listening and watching.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Living Our Passion

I've returned from attending and teaching at the Women's Voices Symposium at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, and have been processing and integrating everything I experienced in the three days of deep exploration.  I attended workshops with wonderful teachers: Suzi Banks Baum, Jana Stanfield, Heather Summerhayes Cariou, Melissa Harris and June Gould.  I taught two workshops "Images, Insights and Illumination: The Transformative Power of Images" and a Photography and Photo App Exploration art class.  There was amazing music made including performances by Joanne Shenandoah and Kathy Sherman.  Every moment was filled with something inspiring, and I've come home ready to create!

I've been wondering how to put into words everything I experienced, and today this quote by Catherine of Siena found me, and expressed perfectly the feeling I have after these three days of connecting with others who are intent on using their art medium to make a difference in the world.  Thank you to Jan Phillips for making this event happen!  If you want a glimpse into what we experienced, the joy, the fun, the learning, watch this video.