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Love Activism for Tender Artists—10+ Ways to Heal, Nurture, and Make a Difference Through Art

by Hillary Rain

Art moves us. Art inspires, evokes, and speaks with an influence that can’t be ignored. As artists, we have a powerful opportunity to help shift collective consciousness. We have the alchemy to make someone see, feel, understand, and be haunted by something which can elicit lasting change.

Consider this: if we were having a conversation, I might tell you, “So the other day, there was this woman who stood in the street as cops came at her with guns.” 

Or I could simply say, “Look at this.” 

Which makes you feel more? Which stirs your senses? Which wraps flesh and blood around a moment you’ll never forget?

Creating the life you long for includes the world you live in right now. A world aching for peace. There are many powerful and gifted people on the front lines organizing events, making a difference through activism, speaking up and out. But when we are soft-spoken, sensitive, introverted, quiet and tender introspective artists…how? What does our brand of love activism look like? Whether our community is in pain over a tragic event, or the oppression of fellow humans is out of control, or our best friend is grieving a loss, as artists we want to make a difference. 

Artists, we need you. We need each other. 

As an artist, you are blessed with magic because you are brimming with all kinds of creative gifts: your ability to move someone. The way you can use your words, your camera, your paintbrush to leave a lasting impression. The way you can share a message that cannot be ignored. The way you can both disarm and provoke through art. You can be an effective and powerful love activist who uses your creative gifts + authentic truth to heal, evoke and inspire.

Writer? Write.

If you are gifted with the written word, you are in an incredible position to make a difference. 

Fiction1984 and The Fountainhead are just two powerful classics that still impact our world today. The art of telling stories is a way to move, evoke, inspire, and challenge someone to examine what they think, how they live, or what they believe. Stories help disarm us, help to put us in someone else’s shoes. Write a novel and share your truth. Make us feel something. Make us remember something. Make us want to change something. 

Non-fiction—Write your own story. Write your memoir or start a blog sharing your life. What experiences have shaped you? What brought you to where you are today? What do you want others to know? Why are you passionate about change? What do you believe? What have you learned? If you had a microphone, what would you say? (Quietly, in a book, of course.) Write the stories of others. Interview those who have dwelt in the shadow of oppression all their lives. Give them a voice. 

Other non-fiction—We live in the age of social media. It’s true that just sharing relevant hashtags doesn’t do much by itself, but if you’re on social media anyway, lending your voice and spreading awareness can go a long way in the collective conversation. Share your story. You can also share your beliefs in posts, tweets, comments, re-shares and more. Or write articles for journalistic publications. Start a new website for your cause. 

Bonus: What is your favorite inspirational book? Share in the comments below!

Photographer? Help others see.

If you have a camera, you are equipped with a powerful way to create change through visual evocation. What do you want others to see? What is your creative mission? Beauty? Truth? The stories and experiences of others? Living conditions around your city? The faces of those in need so others can see themselves reflected in haunted, hungry eyes and be challenged to do something? 

You don’t need expensive equipment or a sleek website. Start an Instagram account sharing what you see so others can see it, too. For inspiration, check out Humans of New York on Insta. 

Use your photography to document injustice. How will history unfold through your lens? Help us remember. We need to remember. 

Artist, you must create. Dare to make art. Your defiance and determination are energy which fuels the collective consciousness. Share your work wherever you can. Let others see you living a beauty rebellion where you are so hungry for what is beautiful that your art itself becomes a revolt.
— Hillary Rain

Painter? Art journaler? Multi-media artist? Dancer? Move us with something provocative.

Your gifts of noticing beauty, of movement, of grace, and your talent with the pen, the brush, the light leaks and the layers are all sacred ways to nurture and heal. Offering something beautiful to look at, to feel, to see, and to experience is necessary for the world to become a softer, more compassionate place. You provide relief. Hope. Ways to transcend the ache or grief. To remind us there is more, there is better, there is another way. 

Artist, your medicine is soul medicine. Be a beauty activist. This is the sort of rebellion that makes flowers burst through cracks in the sidewalk or lays gold in the lines of a shattered vase to repair it. Beauty is a healer because it moves us to another way of seeing, feeling, thinking, or being. By making beauty you are silently showing the world a better way.

So you must create. Dare to make art. Your defiance and determination are energy which fuels the collective consciousness. Share your work wherever you can. Let others see you living a beauty rebellion where you are so hungry for what is beautiful that your art itself becomes a revolt.

Bonus: One of my favorite creative beauty activists: Jade Beall. Who are yours?

Make your own Guerilla Art

Use your talents to spread a message of love, hope and ways others can facilitate change. Here is how:

  • First, choose the size you want to create (a credit card makes a good template, or choose a 4x4 square) and create a foundation. 
  • By hand—Paint, draw, or splash coffee on card-stock for a creative background. Digital—Use a photo or layer textures and colors.
  • Next, brainstorm simple sentences, phrases or words that inspire and evoke. Write or type them onto your background. Let them be your love notes to the world, your wake-up call, your plea.
  • Finish with any printing, cutting, or shaping of your art. Carry them with you and secure them on community bulletin boards or other creative places.

Bonus: what would your Guerilla Art say? Share below!

Listen well

The art of listening is one of the kindest gifts you can give someone in pain. Especially when it’s the kind of pain you’ve never felt and may not understand. Hold space with compassion. Don’t rush to respond. Don’t interrupt. And especially don’t jump in with your own story. Let your loved one cry, vent, and repeat their account. And be the one who believes them. People in pain or who are processing injustice may be used to having their experiences or emotions dismissed and invalidated by others. Be the one who looks them in the eyes with earnest acceptance. You might not understand exactly what they are going through, but you can believe them. This is a powerful way to help someone else find words and process their experience. “Telling and listening to stories is the way we make sense of our lives.”—Dr. Thomas K. Houston (Source)

Recommended resource: Listening as Healing

Connect

You’ve probably heard this. Maybe you’ve even said it: “When my mom died I found out who my real friends were.” Or, “When I went through my divorce, he was there for me.” Be that one. Whether the pain is personal or communal, show up. Maybe you can’t fix what happened but you can be there. Don’t run away. When someone is grieving, angry at injustice, or heartbroken, stay with them as they process their emotions and express their truths. You can be a soft place to land. Reach out in person if you can—wash their dishes, rub their feet, call. Or write letters. Bake a loaf of fresh bread, chop vegetables for healing soup, and show up at their door. Send flowers. Ask how they are—really. Be a shoulder to lean on. Offer to babysit. Take them to dinner or pay for a healing massage. Let them know they are not alone. Sometimes this is the most healing of all.

Start an artist collective

If you’ve ever felt powerless, alone, or uncertain how to make a change, you can be sure others have felt the same. What skills, passions, and resources are available in your niche? How can your collective utilize communal strength to emphasize what you are for? Many cities have gathering space in local coffeeshops, public parks, used bookstores and more. Put out a call on Craigslist, through Meet-Up, or design flyers to post around town. (Be safe! Always meet in public and don’t go alone.)

Here are some ideas for your collective… 

Organize a peaceful protest + art revolution. • Make an area of your city beautiful. • Hold a free art camp for kids. • Plan an auction for art / services and give the proceeds to a cause you’re passionate about. • Host an art-journaling + awareness workshop. • Plan a community picnic at a public park and share love, food, music, peace and flowers. • Have shirts made and wear them as you hand out flowers + cards or handmade ‘Zines directing people to your website. • Arrange a local meet-up and use the time to write letters to local and national leaders asking what they are doing to change an oppressive system. • Start a local meal service to organize home-cooked food at births or bereavements, protests, rallies, or other events within the framework of your cause. • Work with your local library to start an after-school art program teaching kids the power and potential of creativity. • Do random acts of beauty. • Write love letters to your city. Post them publicly. • Hand out water bottles or cups of cold water during protests. • Offer cool washcloths for hot, sweaty faces during events. Bonus: have refreshing, chilled aromatherapy mists available, too. • Make energy cookies and hand those out. • To invest in the longevity of your work, stay updated on local laws + regulations. • Hold a creativity + awareness workshop for adults who don’t know where to begin learning how to make art.

Be a safe place

Grief is vulnerable. When someone is pressed close to tragedy, injustice, abuse, heartache, or any other pain, it’s hard to know who to trust. Grief slices open the sacred interior of things and leaves us hanging out, exposed, our gaping wounds bleeding and weeping in the sudden rush of light. Be a safe place. Be the one giving your friend unspoken permission to fall apart, knowing you will protect their dignity. That you’ll be there to catch them. That you will support, protect, and stay. That you won’t betray them on social media or to others. As an artist, an empath, a healer, you are especially equipped to hold and behold the undulant layers of grief. It takes your intuition, your wisdom, your infinite ability to observe, listen, and feel.

Dear artist, you doing you is sacred work.

Remember, we need all kinds of people. Activists on the front lines, creating change. Artists, creating the world they long for. Healers, mending the wounds. You are needed. You, with your unique gifts, insights, and way of being in the world, are invaluable. Don’t let others shame you for not being like someone else. Don’t buy into the shame of “You’re not doing enough.” 

Be guided by being authentically YOU and bring yourself to the ache of the world. Maybe you stumble over the spoken word but can write a killer, unforgettable essay. Maybe you have panic attacks in crowds, but are a breath of fresh air after, cleaning and healing the space. Maybe you know how to cook for an army and can support the energy and stamina of those who organize events by preparing delicious, nourishing food. There is a perfect place for you, whoever you are, with your own personality and gifts. Be willing. Be creative. Love actively. Show up. 


Hillary Rain is a writer, artist + gentle guide who works with women to create the lives they long for. Connect at HillaryRain.com.

The Wild Language of a Woman's Truth

by Hillary Rain

It is that holy poetry and singing we are after. We want powerful words and songs that can be heard underwater and over land. It is the wild singing we are after, our chance to use the wild language we are learning by heart under the sea. When a woman speaks her truth, fires up her intention and feeling, staying tight with the instinctive nature, she is singing, she is living in the wild breath-stream of the soul. To live this way is a cycle in itself, one meant to go on, go on, go on. —Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes. —Unknown

Lean in close, love. I've got an oracle to speak, a siren song to sing, a whole-holy stream of words. They are words-made-flesh, dangerous, on fire, uncontainable. I need you close enough to touch. Close enough so that when I look into the ebony orb of your eyes I see the gleam of a warm honey sun.

::

Listen, lovelight. Take a lavish breath, taste it, let it fill you. Draw your breath in deep, watering the dark, lush gardens of you. There is such strength in breath. Strength you need because darling, hear me when I whisper, hot and urgent in your ear: it's time. It. is. time. I don't know what your life looks like right now. I don't know what deadlines you face or the pressures you crumble from or what makes hot tears salt your pillow at night. I don't know what fear forces your breath to come ragged and your skin to ice. But I do know this. You matter and you have something to say. Your voice was made to be heard. You were made to embody your magical life, every ravishing moment of it. You have stories, secrets, desires, heartaches, vast worlds tucked away inside and your bones are cracking from the weight of them, the weight of all your worlds. 

Be free. Be free. You have mattering to see to.

Tell your truth, and if your voice shakes?

Let it shake the earth.

If your knees tremble, let the ground also tremble as you rise. When your heart pounds below your skin let the rushing river of your bloodsong be your primal rhythm, the wild anthem your soul cries out when she bursts into light. 

::

When a woman speaks her truth, she sets her soul free.
When a woman speaks her truth, she sets others free.
When a woman speaks her truth, she heals herself.
When a woman speaks her truth, she heals the world.
When a woman speaks her truth she invites, creates, heals, births, and awakens.

I need you. The world needs you. You need you. Tell me, love. What is your wild language? What song surges in your blood? What does it mean for you to live in the wild breath-stream of your soul? Grab your journal, a cup of coffee, and a quiet corner. Or write it out on your blog and share the link with me? I want to see you and your ravishing wild soul. I want to hear you. What soulstory shimmers in your bones? What secrets ache to be told? If you could blurt anything in the world, what would it be?


Love, Hillary Rain

I wrote these words almost one year ago, exactly. This was my very first article for this glorious Bohemian Collective. I will be slowing down for a season in order to concentrate on some dear projects that are needing my undivided attention. You can find my heart propped up with syllables on HillaryRain.com.

MAKING IT THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS WHEN YOU'D RATHER STAY IN BED

Twinkle lights

Christmas is this week.

I take a deep breath and confess:

I'm not feelin' it.

This is the first one in years that I haven't sent my cards out early (and by early I mean at all), stacked package after package by the door waiting to be hauled to the post office for delivery, or lavished those I love with as much delight as I could cram into one shimmery, fragrant box.

I have zero plans for Thursday.

Perhaps it's because I did not grow up in a home that honored Christmas or because I don't have children of my own or a close-knit community for sparkly parties, but it always feels like I'm dancing at arm's length with it. It's a little awkward for me, honestly, and this season I don't have it in me to go through the motions. It's the first time in years that I'm not working an insane holiday week at or near a mall and lounging in bed sounds like a great way to commemorate right now! At the risk of sounding like Mrs. Scrooge, I've wondered, do I just pretend it's another day? Do I give a discreet little nod at tradition by adding a lil somethin' to my evening coffee? Or send Merry Christmas texts all day while doing something mundane, like some long-overdue vacuuming?

What would a mystic do? How does one properly respect something that holds such meaning to almost everyone but feels absolutely foreign to me right now? How can I make it my own?

What I love about winter traditions and the intention of Christmas in particular is the sense of cozy togetherness with those you love. I love ritual. I adore the reverent hush that falls across most people—even small children, if only for a fraction of a moment when they creep up to a sparkly-lit, gift-adorned Christmas tree. It taps our culturally-waning sense of wonder. It is an awareness of something more. For a brief time, struggles and fears are forgotten. Usually there is laughter and, for a moment, everything feels like it will all be okay.

At least, this is what it is supposed to be. In reality, how many of us dread the “So what are you doing these days?” conversations or “When are you two going to have a baby?” Or we spend our energy staying on opposite sides of the house from those who hurt us when we were vulnerable and young.

I don't know what I'll do yet, exactly, but there is one thing I will give myself. I must. And I want you to have, too, along with a heartfelt, sincere-I-promise Merry Christmas from me:

It is PERMISSION.

  • Permission to make this holiday season what you need.
  • Permission to rest.
  • Permission to not go.
  • Permission to go.
  • Permission to not pretend anymore.
  • Permission to work through all of the feelings.
  • Permission to create your own traditions.
  • Permission to respectfully decline.
  • Permission to slip away as needed.
  • Permission to excuse yourself from an uncomfortable conversation.
  • Permission to share your love all year and take it easy on the 25th.
  • Permission to not have an answer.
  • Permission to do it differently than you have before.
  • Permission to set limits and hold boundaries.
  • Permission to not rush around last minute but to let what already is be enough.
  • Permission to not be perfect.
  • Permission to be surprised in a good way!
  • Permission to be gentle on yourself.
  • Permission to not be as extravagant this year.
  • Permission to be super extravagant!
  • Permission to try new things.
  • Permission to make it an adventure.
  • Permission to be alone.
  • Permission to __________.

However you choose to celebrate or not, may you be drawn ever deeper into abundant love, luminous truth, and healing rest.


Wearing some Roots and Feathers earrings!

Love, Hillary

How will you be spending the rest of your holiday season?

What are your favorite rituals and traditions?

What do you love about the holidays?

Are they hard for you? If so, how do you make it through?

I recently turned 35 and have decided to do everything differently from here on out. If you're curious, you can follow my journey on SpiritSoulEarth.com.

THE HIDDEN ALCHEMY OF GRIEF

The Hidden Alchemy of Grief by Hillary Rain via bohocollective.com

BY HILLARY RAIN

All of the best lives, I think, have a little sorrow in them.

Grief has a way of sculpting you. Of clawing your insides, tearing you to shreds, hollowing you out. It transforms you—thins you, bares you down, grinds, pounds, and pulverizes; makes you both transparent and obscure, reshapes every holographic cell of you. Your eyes become shadowed and your bones themselves weep, even if you grieve without the comforting relief of tears.

In her novel The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich writes,

“Whenever you leave cleared land, or a path, or a road, when you step from someplace carved out, plowed, or traced by a human and pass into the woods, you must leave something of yourself behind. It is that sudden loss, I think, even more than the difficulty of walking through undergrowth that keeps people firmly fixed to paths. In the woods, there is no right way to go, of course, no trail to follow but the law of growth. You must leave behind the notion that things are right. Just look around you. Here is the way things are. Twisted, fallen, split at the root. What grows best does so at the expense of what's beneath.”

What grows best, she says. No trail to follow but the law of growth. That is LIFE. Twisted, fallen, split at the root, but alive. Sometimes loss presses us into it. The thinning work of grief slips us under whatever barrier we've built to hold the pain of life at bay, and we are thrust into the heart of it.

Like being reborn.

What do you desire?

I have a feeling Erdrich would understand these words by Alberto Villodo:

“When the first chakra is disconnected from the feminine Earth, we can feel orphaned and motherless. The masculine principle predominates, and we look for security from material things. Individuality prevails over relationship, and selfish drives triumph over family, social and global responsibility. The more separated we become from the Earth, the more hostile we become to the feminine. We disown our passion, our creativity, and our sexuality. Eventually the Earth itself becomes a baneful place. I remember being told by a medicine woman in the Amazon, “Do you know why they are really cutting down the rain forest? Because it is wet and dark and tangled and feminine.”

Wet.
Dark.
Tangled.
Feminine.

This is the whole sacred and beautiful mess of life—dark and voluptuous, fires raging, her passion, hunger, grief, wanting, fear, creativity, freedom, and desire all begging to live with one terrifying demand:

FEEL.
YOU MUST FEEL EVERYTHING.

“I formed a question of my own in my mind and without ceasing my direct stare I spoke to the wolf, asking my own question: “Wolf,” I said, “your people are hunted from the air and poisoned from the earth and killed on sight and you are outbred and stuffed in cages and almost wiped out. How is it that you go on living with such sorrow? How do you go on without turning around and destroying yourselves, as so many of us Anishinaabeg have done under similar circumstances?”
And the wolf answered, not in words, but with a continuation of that stare. “We live because we live.” He did not ask questions. He did not give reasons. And I understood him then. The wolves accept the life they are given. They do not look around them and wish for a different life, or shorten their lives resenting the humans, or even fear them any more than is appropriate, They are efficient. They deal with what they encounter and then go on. Minute by minute. One day to the next.” —Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

If you want to live, do not fear the way grief pulses hard up against you, giant waves of it pounding against your chest until you can barely breathe. Sorrow knows what she must do the way your body knows how to heal. Grief stirs your primal waters. Deep calls to deep, and all the primordial waters of you become a raging torrent, unstoppable and unbearably strong.

You must rise brave. Rest brave. Breathe, walk, crawl, stumble, and quake with bravery. Wanting something so much it hurts will kill you, first, then make you come alive. It is your sorrow and your salvation. It is the way.

For the hidden alchemy of grief? It hollows you, then hallows you. Grief makes a womb out of emptiness. Sorrow clears you out like fire, to ravage and burn (w)hole.

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” —Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

All life begins in the dark.
And all dark and hollow chambers hold a song.


Hillary Rain is a natural-light photographer, digital artist, and writer. As a spiritual mystic and mentor to women, she uses holistic creativity as a healing pathway for rebirth and the holy-hush fleshing out of soulskin. Her eCourse and workbook Body Stories is due to release in 2015. She is the Creative Director at AnnapurnaLiving.com and is blessed to be co-creator of Roots Alchemy, Soulsigh, + The Wild Mystics. You can read her writings about spirituality + sensuality on her own incense-and-light-soaked walls at SpiritSoulEarth.com.

HOW WOULD YOU LIVE?

by Hillary Rain

“What is your biggest dream? Creatively,” she asked me. “Honestly. Dream big.”

I've been pondering this for days. So many things rush to the surface because I've always wanted so much—and yet I also know the power of speaking with intention while grounded in truth. What do I want? If I knew that my art would support my life, how would I live?

At the moment, I'm holding myself with a kind of easy and messy grace that allows for transition, re-evaluation, and reinvention. Do I still like what I like? Have my values shifted? What is important? What keeps me awake at night? Do I still want the same things I've always wanted? It's an uncomfortable sort of soul-work yet I allow it. I must allow it.

I'd love to know about you. What is your biggest dream? How would you live if you knew that you would be supported, nourished, and sustained doing what you love?


Hello, love.

In this transitory season I'm waiting for words to find me while I listen to the languages of stillness.

Visit me online at SpiritSoulEarth.com.

THE ART OF RELEASE

Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.
— Anne Sexton
I love the way light falls across your face. Hillary Rain

It's been a month of little sleep and a magical to do list. I say magical because, strangely, it grows longer and more abundant each time I cross something off. When my hand shook so hard from fatigue last week that I couldn't send a text in my phone, that's when the low, steady urging of my soul voice at last broke through. 

“You can't do everything,” she reminded me for the hundredth time.

“I know, but. I committed. I said yes.” A long list of yeses lay scrawled before me, some with notes trailing uphill on the side, others with asterisks! and stars! and underlines for emphasis!

“Unsay it. Uncommit. Let go.”

“It's not that simple.”

“Let's look at the facts, Rain.” She and one or two loved ones still call me Rain. “Your eyes are burning. You're trying to stay awake at ten in the morning and you can't even finish a text because your fingers are shaking and weak. You dropped your phone just now. Your stomach is growling. When was the last time you ate an actual meal? You put the coffee pot on top of the coffee maker, not on the burner. You put the cheese in the cabinet, not the fridge. If you don't let some things go, you won't be able to do any of it.”

It's just the season, I kept telling myself. But when my eyes glazed over and I found myself staring at my keyboard trying to remember what I was writing—an email? HTML? A Pinterest caption? An article?—I surrendered and said yes to my soul. I sent apologetic messages and texts. I put what my dear friend Laura calls “a sacred pause” on my soul-doula sessions and the magazine I've been dreaming about for years. I backed out of commitments with a sincere “I'm sorry, but I need to do this.” Release, release, release. It's hard and achey and exciting, all at once. Yet the very warm-in-my-skin part of me flinches knowing that letting things go lets others down. Even though a clear no makes space for hearty Yeses, there's still a twinge of shame because I gave my word; I already said yes. People made space for me. Reached out. Drew me in with expectations that I agreed to. And here I am, disappointing.

I must allow it ... the eyes squeezed shut, the deep deep inhale, the blustery exhale, the unsteady rising, the resolute step, the internal committal, the all-out run. Release release release.

I released many necessary things one day last week, and as I checked my little Deluxe Moon app I couldn't help smiling to realize that I did so on the Full Beaver Moon—traditionally the time when Native American tribes set beaver traps before the swamps froze to ensure warmth for winter. It was an act of self-care, of survival, of looking ahead and planning strategically for an intense, upcoming season.

That's exactly what I'm doing right now.

This means getting away for a few hours this week to allow my inner wild wanderess child to breathe in the sounds and tastes and stories that will adorn the inner walls of her soul so that she will stay nourished in lean seasons. This means giving myself a moment to notice the way light streams through the scarf on my window and the pattern of gypsy flags dancing behind it. Or wrapping my cold-haunted fingers around the steamy warmth of an earthy mug of tea. Or the way my heart thumps to receive a sweet, unexpected text from a beloved, and feel my whole body just burst with love.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.
— Annie Dillard

My sincere hope is that those who were on the receiving end of my can'ts and Nos will find someone even more suitable to meet their needs. And I'm overjoyed to gather my energy back to me, clean it up, and make it shinier and stronger than before.

Moving forward, may my Nos be kind and deliberate so that my Yeses are exultant. It's a clumsy process, but as I sculpt away at my learning curves to reveal a me that is wiser and truer with time, I hope this pathway leads to a new sort of list—strange, magical, and abundant, a syllabus of grace.


Hillary Rain is a writer and mystic contemplating the incredible strength behind softness and surrender. She is Editor + Creative Director of Annapurna Living. When words find her she paints them across the dark and holy subway walls and tenement halls of SpiritSoulEarth.com.