Freedom: The Practice of Expanding the Spirit

I find that exploring majestic places can produce strong feelings of freedom and provide a fertile environment for the growth of my spirit. —Mark Kotz

I find that exploring majestic places can produce strong feelings of freedom and provide a fertile environment for the growth of my spirit. —Mark Kotz

sys-dividerFreedom, states Greek philosopher Epictetus, can only be achieved by aspiring to be my best self. I have the freedom/responsibility to be who I am and who I am called to be, but who is that? How do I untangle myself from the knots of outside influences continually tightening around me, like the strangle weed I carefully unloop from around the plants in my gardens? How do I distinguish the strand of ‘me’ in the dense fabric of relationships within which I am woven? My newest practice is designed to help me find my heart, my core. Each day I am to say only what I mean, do what I say I will do, and say what is so as soon as I know it to be so. When reviewing the integrity of a previous day’s words, actions, and sharing I find surprises: moments out of alignment with who I think myself to be. I see conflicts that arise, especially within myself. I carefully unwind the strangle weed, strand by strand, day by day, and move forward with courage, hope, humor and trust. With each act of integrity I find a bit more solidity and a bit more lightness of being.

—Laurie Kigner
sys-dividerSeeing the Cosmos in a Morning Glory, loving clouds of Milkweed pods, singing a song, reading a poem – these moments expand the Spirit within me. —Gail Diez

Morning Glory


Morning Glory

Milkweed


Milkweed

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The Freedom Found in Constraints

Many compelling works of art are created within constrained spaces. The artist chooses a certain canvas to paint on, the form of short story rather than a novel to arc a narrative, haiku rather than an epic poem to call forth the moment of beauty of a cherry blossom in the snow. The constraints are part of the creative process and help define the piece, even when the artist decides to step briefly out of the boundaries of that constraint.

When I was diagnosed with MS in 2004, I grieved that I had lost my trust in my neurological system. I had an infrequent interrupted ability to move my leg to walk. Nerves in my leg went into involuntary spasms. I was also very concerned about potential vision loss, which can happen with MS.

After a year, I realized that if I could not walk I could still pray. I realized that if I became blind I could still see. My spiritual director names me a Unitarian Universalist mystic.

The constraints of affliction expanded my paradigm for growing my soul.

—Charlotte Preston
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Swans of Monticello

These graceful Trumpeter Swans represent the freedom to temporarily break the bonds of earth and soar through the skies. I take joy in capturing them in flight. —Ken Stewartsys-divider

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From Which All Things Rise

Freedom requires grounding, an awareness of self, an understanding of relationship with others and with the earth. With that as a base, the spirit expands. —Laurie Kigner

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Cypress Sentinels

I painted this during a writing retreat in Italy. The experience was a dream and a significant stretch, constantly unveiling pieces of me to me. —Laurie Kigner

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Hey, Over Here

These years knowing you
pulse, swoosh, side step.
Intermittent forward travel,
given my truculent ways, to a rest stop.
One full measure,
my tempo holding pace
but temporary.
And deftly, I
sweep emotion into a box
of acrobatic darkness.

It May Seem Simple

When journey’s travel is far too long,
rest here beside me, your tender parts,
leave your burnished eye, ache forgot.
Drop artifice, drop armor.
Comfort shall keep you.
Survey my landscape, study deep.
Lean downward, sword and broken tongue,
battles here are none.
Only soft embrace.
In here is me looking for you,
blizzard of arm glances
a hungry ghost moaning for words, more words.
A rust latch oiled, shining in cave light.
My interior is visible today, worn rose flannel
selvedge edges sprawled and tri-folded.
Plump hot with starry blue rings of flame
asking rock me gentle.

—Helen Duritsa

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Freedom is to live as I wish, making the decisions that affect me. I didn’t understand how much that autonomy mattered until it was threatened. Loving threatened.

This is the photo I chose to enter in the State Fair. I also choose it to represent freedom when that feeling is shadowed, with dark and light playing off still bright strips of paint. —Karen Dahl

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Under that name, I am caged and cramped, lying through my teeth about who I am and who others think they’ve come to know. Under that name, I am false. The name itself is a mask which I never consented to wear. It’s a mask bound to me by every “miss”, “ma’am”, and “lady” tossed around by strangers as if the words are not the heavy blows I know them to be. Each “she”, every “her”, clips the wings of my soul and I know – I know! – my mask has become so familiar to others that they’ve never noticed my feathers falling.
I can run away.
There are new people without masks, who’ve never known me to wear mine. They call my name – my real name – and those long neglected wings stretch toward the sky, joyous in the touch of the almost forgotten sun.
I cannot run forever.
There will be a day when my soul can glide freely in the space between earth and the heavens, buoyed upward by the simple beauty of my real name; the name my soul has always been meant to answer to.
I can be free in who I am.

—Nico Van Ostrand

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With the doors of perception open, everything appears as it is:
Infinite.
—Anne Dahlstrom

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Freedom: Macro, Micro The Practice of Expanding the Spirit

It’s been my good fortune over many years as a self-employed business person to travel on average 8 or so weeks out of the year for work and at least once or twice for vacation. Two years ago, we were in Ireland. Last year we did a road trip to the East coast and visited sites associated with Eleanor Roosevelt and other influential leaders. These trips expanded my spirit with broadening macro view of the world, with realities where I had previously only known what I’d read, and with a deep sense of history.

Things changed with a terminal cancer diagnosis.

My spirit continues to welcome expansion, but my travel now is constrained by appointments, need to be near a hospital, and such. This life segment lived closed to home has truly expanded my spirit by teaching me how well loved we are and with gratitude that so many have prepared meals for our home or served us in theirs. We have been invited to live performances of plays in St. Paul and Minneapolis, to concerts, to music for listening to at home, from folk art of classic composers, offers of cabins, art given by the artist, boating outings, and the singers who join me on Tuesday. It is time of the micro, and my spirit soars.

—Charlotte Preston

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I chose these photos thinking that freedom might be still, might take flight or might push through obstacles. —Ellen Lowery

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My work, especially these two pieces, express the desire for freedom as much freedom itself. Freedom from oppression and fear. Waiting for Peace of the spirit and for all ones loved ones to be safe as well. I think Art is a participatory sport and do not like to get too far into language explanations for fear that it will limit what the viewer sees or their freedom of interpretation! —Kate Christopher

Look and You Will Find It


Look and You Will Find It

The Mothers Wait


The Mothers Wait