Monday, October 24, 2016

Closing the Book of the Battle Maiden

Today I will be closing this blog, the Book of the Battle Maiden, so as to focus on other projects.  Thank you to each of you who have subscribed and supported this work. 

If you would like to continue to follow my work, visit my art and iconography blog, Incarnate Beauty, and follow me on Instagram.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Artistic Practice Over the Break

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

Over the Christmas break from teaching at Mount Angel Seminary, I have spent a lot of time preparing for teaching a new elective on the theology of art, as well as pondering my own artistic practice.  Part of that time has been spent reading The Icarus Deception (public library) by Seth Godin.

In his book, he gives a short list:

Six Daily Habits of Artists
Sit alone; sit quietly.
Learn something new without any apparent practical benefit.
Ask individuals for bold feedback; ignore what you hear from the crowd.
Spend time encouraging other artists.
Teach, with the intent of making change.
Ship something that you created (83).

Sit alone; sit quietly:
In my time and place of the monastery, this is the time to understand myself and those around me in the light of God and His revelation.

Learn something new:
When I was an undergraduate I took one drawing class without really knowing why; I just wanted to and I had the time in my schedule.  When I learned about iconography, I finally knew why because that class gave me a head start on preparing the drawing for an icon.

Ask individuals; ignore the crowd:
I am slowly refining to whom I listen the most carefully when it comes to my artistic practice, whether it be writing, the icon, or other endeavors.  Many may have something to say, but I discern the place of what they have to say.

Spend time encouraging other artists:
One of the best artistic experiences I had over the break was the icon work day during which nine students of the Iconographic Arts Institute shared prayer and support in our vocations as iconographers.

Teach, with the intent of making change:
While I have incorporated iconography into various classes at the seminary thus far, the new theology of art elective will take that to another level.  I hope the class will help the students learn more visually and kinetically, as well as deepen their understanding of God as experienced through the visual arts.

This happens in ways big and small, including posting my work and work-in-progress on Instagram, which has already brought me connections and surprises.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Opening Up Physical and Creative Space

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

Thanks to the work of Katy Bowman, removing the desk, desk chair, and easy chair from my room has not only allowed me to move more and in more diverse ways.  It has also opened up more wall space to post various exercises that are part of my iconography practice:

More on the icon exercises and my current iconography projects are on Instagram.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stand Up and Paint!

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

In a previous post, I discussed rearranging my room to facilitate less sitting and more movement.  I learned that once I took the easy chair out of my room, I had a new standing work space, a lovely wide windowsill.  I'm using the space to work on watercolor exercises that go toward my iconography practice:

I have started posting my icon work on Instagram; the posts include work in progress as well as drawing and painting exercises.  Pax!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Natural Squats, Pebbles, and Calf Stretches

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

Since reading Katy Bowman's books Move Your DNA (public library) and Don't Just Sit There (DJST package from Mark Sisson) and listening to her podcast, I have seen each of the places I use the most, my room, my office at Mount Angel Seminary, and my iconography studio at Queen of Angels Monastery, in a new light.  I've learned from Katy that if I want more natural movement and to enjoy the improved health that such movement can encourage, I need to change how I use my environment.

In my room, I started with moving my laptop from my desk to the top of my dresser so I could stand and work rather than sit in the desk chair:

On the floor in front of the chest of drawers I scattered some of the pebbles one of our sisters uses in vases and other table decorations.  I stand on these to get some movement in for all the little bones and muscles in my bare or stocking feet.  The rock, which I picked up outside our back gate next to the railroad tracks, is for calf stretches while I am working; those stretches assist with lengthening the calf muscles that have been shorted by wearing heeled shoes.

 For the next step, I removed my nightstand and put the items I kept on top of it, including my Bible and Rule of Saint Benedict, my journal, and a mug of bookmarks and pens, on the floor.  I can do a squat each time I reach for these items:

Next I took out my desk and desk chair.  Now, one of my lamps sits on top of a stack of books, and I can do a squat each time I turn the lamp on or off as well.  I also scattered more pebbles in this area, which as a little bonus, happen to match my laptop case:

This is an ordinary room, similar to those many others occupy in many kinds of buildings, but over time these small changes can influence for the better how those spaces shape my strength and alignment.  Katy has also offered a tour of her own home that illustrates how to adapt an ordinary house an environment that allows for and encourages many different joint positions.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Attachment to Nature

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

Last week I took my journalism students outside for one of our classes.  We perched ourselves on the low brick wall outside of Annunciation, one of the main buildings of Mount Angel Seminary.  While it was a beautiful and clear fall day, I also suggested to the students that we do this because I had recently finished reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (public library) by Richard Louv.

I learned about this book from Katy Bowman's podcast on the nature school her two small children attend, which is clearly based on Louv's principles.  He explains that children have been divorced from the natural world, creating wounds that must be healed for the sake of their bodies, their intellects, and their spirits.

In chapter twelve, "Where Will the Future Stewards of Nature Come From?" he compares a child's sense of distance from nature to attachment deficit.  He writes:
In my own experience, the rate of development in my part of the country is so fast that attachment to place is difficult; to many of us who came here decades ago (in my case from Kansas), Southern California captures the body, but not the heart.  In the world of child development, attachment theory posits that the creation of a deep bond between a child and parent is a complex psychological, biological, and spiritual process, and that without this attachment a child is lost, vulnerable to all manner of later pathologies.  I believe a similar process can bind adults to a place and given them a sense of belonging and meaning.  Without a deep attachment to place, an adult can also feel lost (156).
Louv's book also includes some of the best use of epigraphs that I have seen in a nonfiction book in some time.  This quotation from Thomas Huxley begins chapter eleven, "Don't Know Much About Natural History: Education as a Barrier to Nature":
To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall.
 The page opening Part IV, "The Nature and Child Reunion," includes this passage from Thoreau:
Each new year is a surprise to us.  We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence . . . the voice of nature is always encouraging.

In the last part of the book, Louv's discusses how a spiritual relationship with nature may be a far more powerful argument for the protection of the natural world than presentations on the dangers of global warming, smog, and polluted water.  A living connection with nature and the sense of transcendence that accompanies it gives a child an intrinsic reason to protect and preserve, not out of sense of fear but out of love and joy.

For many years now I have kept the window to my room in the monastery open nearly year round.  I would much rather put on an extra layer or pull up another blanket than to be cut off from the rain on the roof, the birds in the linden trees, and even the dogs that howl whenever an emergency vehicle sets off its siren.  Louv encourages me to continuing seeking even these small connections to the outside world, for myself, my community, and my students.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Life Right Now

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

I was not familiar with Tara Brach until I heard her interview with Tim Ferriss on his podcast.  I've followed up the interview with her book Radical Acceptance (public library).

As a psychologist and as a teacher of Buddhist meditation, she brings together our mental and spiritual lives so as to help us experience deep compassion for ourselves and one another.

In both the interview and Radical Acceptance, Brach discusses "the trance of unworthiness," the belief that we are never, ever good enough.  In a Christian context, I think her description of radical acceptance points toward understanding that we are truly and fully redeemed by Christ.  She concludes the chapter "Unconditional Friendliness: The Spirit of Radical Acceptance" with the following:
There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life.  With even a glimmer of that possibility, joy rushes in . . . When mistrust and skepticism creep in, we might be tempted to back down from embracing our life unconditionally.  It takes practice, learning to bounce back each time we're dragged down by what seems to be wrong.  But . . . when we stop comparing ourselves to some assumed standard of perfection . . . this very life we are living right now, can be tasted and explored, honored and appreciated fully.  When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is (86).