|We must shift our allegiances from fear to curiosity, from attachment to letting go, from control to trust, and from entitlement to humility. --Angeles Arrien|
Anne Veh: The Art of Making the Mundane Magical--by Awakin Calls, Aug 18, 2016
From left to right Anne Veh, with her Kindergarden teacher, Betty Peck, and ServiceSpace volunteer, Audrey Lin
Audrey: There are so many stories of Anne. She has anchored kindness circles in different schools where a group of volunteers will go into a school and spend the day engaging on the theme of kindness and then doing acts of kindness. Last month she was at a middle school, and at the end of the day Anne gave this gift to the principal and it was a pomegranate; it was a very weathered pomegranate that she had saved. It was special because it was given to her by a dear friend, Mark DuBois, a past Awakin Call guest and quite an environmental legend. So Anne said to herself "Oh this is such a special pomegranate, I'm going to give it to Theresa.” And she found a poem about pomegranates, a very sweet poem that she typed up, printed out and put a little ribbon on it. She made it so beautiful and full of love and at the end of this day at this school she gives it to the principal along with the story behind it. The principal is blown away and says " I interviewed Mark twenty years ago when I was a journalist and I'm such a fan of his! Wow!"
The next week the principal emails us, saying the pomegranate is on her desk. She sends us a picture of the kids all looking at the pomegranate together. And it's so funny, it's just this simple little pomegranate but Anne has this way of really treasuring the stories behind things and drawing them to light and making them so beautiful and wrapping them in love so many times over. It's hard to really not feel this magic.
Just to share a bit about Anne. One of the things many of us can attest to are her smiling eyes. The first thing you notice when you meet her is that she has these incredible bright shining eyes. And she's this incredible force of love. For that kindness day at the middle school she brought 200 handmade gratitude cards, she spent the whole week before, cutting each one, stamping it, tying a ribbon around it and doing all this beautiful stuff. And that's kind of the way she is, that sense of wanting to offer herself; wanting to give of herself above and beyond in so many ways. She's an artist, she's an art curator, she's a wife, and the mother of two beautiful children, and she's also a speaker. She interviews beautiful souls for works & conversations magazine and also for these Awakin calls. She bakes amazing brownies and banana bread in bulk. She puts it on a beautiful plate -- always arranges things so perfectly. You can really tell she has that artistic spirit. In some ways you could describe her as an eternal optimist but not the kind of optimist that's just light on the surface. She's an internal optimist in the sense that she's stays real and stays raw during challenging moments. Whether it's the passing of a family member or whether she's lighting a candle and sending love to people going through difficulties or just showing up for friends whose ages range from their teenage years to their nineties. She shows up for the people in her lives. That's just the spirit that she carries. Anne we're so excited that you finally agreed to be on this call. We're so glad that the day has finally come to get to hear a bit more of your journey!
Anne: Thank you Audrey it's such a joy and a gift for me to be on this call. I can feel all the noble friends all around the world. Each of these calls is such a gift because we get to be in a circle together. It's such a sacred space. On the beautiful story of the pomegranate, I wanted to share that Mark blessed me that morning with an unexpected visit. He brought these beautiful oranges from an orange tree that he had planted 30 years ago and a beautiful lemon from a tree that had grown next to the orange tree. The amount of love and the amount of care that arrived at home that morning to bring me these gifts was just so extraordinary and actually after he brought the oranges and lemons, I shared with him that I was preparing to go to this beautiful kindness day at a middle school. He said, "Oh wait." He runs back to his truck and comes back with the pomegranate and says that he'd like to offer this for the kindness day. That beautiful pomegranate had this beautiful smile in it as it was kind of cracking open, like a gorgeous smile. So I really was just an instrument to bring his beautiful energy and love into that day. All the invisible beauty that’s around us always, we just get to tap into it.
Audrey: You're an instrument of many things, Anne. The first question that I'll start with is around your shining eyes, everyone wants to know the secret to them. I thought maybe let's start with your childhood. I know you grew up in California and then moved to the east coast in your teens. So I'm curious where did your sense of art and your ability to see and create beauty out of such small ordinary things come from? And I know you might not even consider it a quality that you carry but where did you start to see the magic in everyday life? Was it influenced by your family or your teachers or mentors?
Anne: I go right back to our childhood home in Los Gatos where we lived for 13 years. My mom had this beautiful garden and the garden actually became a refuge -- I didn't realize how important the garden was to me until I was in elementary years. I was so blessed -- my first teacher in school was Betty Peck and she, as you know, is 94 and just a source of love and still living in the same home with the same garden that she was in when I was in her class as a 6 year old. I remember her so vividly going to school in the morning. She would always be dressed in this beautiful long skirt and her hair would be up and she wore this beautiful white blouse. She just had this welcoming air -- you come in and her arms would be open and there was this welcoming. She always played the zither and everything was just magical. Even though it was a public school, and there wasn't much greenery around, she found the beauty in everything. She would take us out into the weeds and teach us about wheat and the importance of making bread, and how to make bread. She just found beauty in everything. As I reflect back on my childhood I feel so grateful that she planted those seeds in me because when I look back "I think, wow, my refuge has really been in the garden and in nature." And in 5th grade I had a very difficult year. Many things happened, and they kind of happened all at once. My mother was diagnosed with cancer. And at that point the doctors diagnosed her with terminal cancer. And my beloved 5th grade teacher had passed away unexpectedly one morning and it was just devastating to me. I felt like I had lost a group of friends I was with. All these different events happened and it was the first time I felt really alone in the world. It was a really difficult time but what I realized is there was something inside me that realized I was going to be okay, that everything was going to be okay. I found an inner resilience that was -- I realize now it was a gift even though it's hard to live through difficult periods. There was also this knowing that somehow I was protected. The garden was a place where I would go and I would spend hours. My chore at home was to water the garden. So I delighted spending hours in our garden. And we didn't have big gardens. There were boxes of different beautiful flowers, my mom had a vegetable garden. We had an old, old, old apricot tree from which we'd make apricot jam. It was maybe a quarter of an acre but it felt like it went on forever and ever.
You know you say I have smiling eyes and I remember you shared with me, Audrey, that Lynn had shared in a circle what was behind my smiling eyes and my answer was "pain." It's so interesting when life brings challenges to you, I don't know if I realized when I was young, but I realized as I've gotten older that there are beautiful opportunities. Another teacher I look to that I never met is Peace Pilgrim. I love her writing, I really feel moved by her. Her inner knowing to take that -- to be able to walk for peace, and to know that it was just something that she had to listen to and surrender to. Through our lives we learn to surrender in different ways and different challenges will invite that surrender. I kind of look at challenges as "Okay, what am I going to learn -- okay this is a learning, this is a teaching -- [laughter] Even though it's uncomfortable, okay bring it on here I am.” [laughter]
Audrey: I've learned a lot just witnessing the way you notice things in nature. You've developed a special relationship with hawks in your neighborhood, and just the way you notice the redwoods, is unique too. Can you share just a little bit about that?
Anne: Yeah, another beautiful teacher of mine has been Steve Karlin who is the founder of this beautiful Wild Life sanctuary in Half Moon Bay. The first time I met Steve was at a Service Space gathering that John Malloy and Pavi and Viral had put together to introduce us to the beautiful work that he was doing. I remember arriving on the land of the sanctuary and just feeling "Oh my gosh this feeling is so familiar, I feel like I'm home." Yet I'd never been there before but there was this “what is this, why do I feel this way?” Steve told us how the land used to belong to the Native Americans -- it was a ceremonial place where he found many, many sacred objects, he has them in his home there for everyone to see. He also brings animals that have been injured in the wild that can no longer survive in the wild. When he brings them to the sanctuary he goes through this beautiful ritual of saying I'm so sorry that you can no longer survive in the wild, but while you are here all your needs will be met; we will love you; we will feed you; we will care for you. All we ask is that you be a teacher."
So there's this beautiful relationship not only to the land, but to the animals, to the animal kingdom. I feel like I tapped into that. I feel like I'm learning to listen more. Even with the redwoods, when I wake up and I feel a little out of sorts, I'll do one of two things [laughter]. I'll either go out and do a random act of kindness because that always brings me back to my heart or I'll take a walk and we're so blessed we live in Mill Valley. We have trails right from our home right to the mountain, Mount Tamalpais, a very sacred mountain. I'll usually walk down to where we have this beautiful cascade falls through the creek. I'm sure it was very ceremonial, sacred land to the Miwok at some point, because you can just feel it in the rocks and the boulders. I'll just walk it really slowly, just kind of take everything in and I come back home. One day I was walking down this beautiful trail to cascade falls and was so grateful to just be quiet and to just sit with the trees next to the waterfall. All of a sudden I got this sense, "come up the hill, come up the hill." And I thought, "What? Okay.”[laughter] So I look up the hill and there is a circle of young redwoods, maybe 50 years old or less. I hike up to the redwoods, there's a natural opening, and I greet them and bow and I walk in and there right at the base of one of the redwoods is this huge heart rock, I mean, huge. It's like 25-30 pounds. It's just gigantic and it's just sitting there. And I start to giggle and say "Oh my gosh this is so beautiful." I sat in the embrace of these small redwoods, these young redwoods and kind of felt embraced, felt this joy, but it was playful, totally playful. This sounds crazy, but another time I went to visit the redwoods and I was sitting in their embrace again and there was no wind, it was a very quiet, beautiful day and the redwoods started swaying and I was like, "No way, this is not possible." And they were dancing and so I put my arms around them and I swayed with them and I thought I am so happy and this moment sustained me and I felt so grateful to be alive. And it was really clear to me, our journey here on earth is brief and we're here in this human body to have gratitude for all these moments because they are blessings.
Audrey: Going back to the Wild Life sanctuary I know that for the last several years now you've been visiting quite a bit and working on a film with a friend around the program with the youth and the sanctuary in general. Can you share a bit about how that came about?
Anne: That first blessed day we had a ServiceSpace gathering with Steve and he shared a story about Susie Bear, his most profound teacher. I remember listening to him share the story and I was so, so deeply moved. After that day-- I'm usually shy and I don't usually do this but I found that I had to talk to Steve. So I called him and I said, "Steve I'm so moved by the story you shared about Susie Bear and these are healing stories and we need them in the world, we need these stories. Would you be okay if there is some way I could work with you to share these stories in the world?" And I remember he said really directly, "Anne, you're a facilitator, of course." And I thought, "What? I am?" But it was this beautiful 'yes'-- so I went down to visit him several times and Chris and Pavi joined me on many of these visits. I would bring my recorder and we would record Steve in conversation about the animals and his journeys and I found myself coming down more and more.
Then one day, Rajesh, who is a dear friend and filmmaker, was down and he also was equally moved by the sanctuary and Steve and the work with the youth and the sanctuary. He offered to make a small film to support the sanctuary's work in the world. So we were both there at a day when John had his middle school program and we were walking with the kids and Rajesh said to me that I seemed really connected here. And I replied that I felt really, really blessed and loved coming here. He said he was working on a film and did I want to help him. I said sure if it would be of service, of course. So we started to come down to the sanctuary and film together. He taught me how to do the sound work and we were probably working a couple months before he even knew I was a curator or anything about me. For me this was a beautiful teaching in saying yes and it was so natural, it felt like the right thing to do and it was so beautiful because right from the very beginning the intention of creating this film was a gift. How do we share the beauty that we have been gifted to be here at this time? How do we pay forward this gift? It's been this amazing experience. I feel like the intention was set before we even got there and it's unfolding the way it needs to unfold.
And now it's been 3 years and you think, wow that's a long time to make a film, but the relationships that we've developed with the children, and the families and with John and with Steve and with the animals have allowed the film to be what it needs to be and we'll know when it's done, we'll know and I think that's again the listening that I'm trying to really be sensitive to and I know we'll know when it's right.
Audrey: Are there any moments within that process of filming these kids that stand out to you?
Anne: Yeah. Yeah. A couple. Three students stand out to me and all of them we met when they were in 7th grade, so they're like 11 or 12. Samantha is one. We had just started filming some of the students and they were just really sweet interviews, we'd join the circle with John and his students around the fire and John is so wonderful in how he introduces us and the work. I remember the first circle we joined with the kids, this one boy, Nicholas, we were walking toward the circle and I said, "Oh I don't know where I'm going to sit down." And Nicholas steps up, opens up the circle and has this chair ready for me to sit. It was so beautiful. The children blow me away, their love and openness. The children that are part of this program have gone through really difficult lives -- what they've experienced in their short lives has been very challenging. But when they're around the circle and the fire, create a fire, it's a beautiful healing space. John said yes if you want to interview some of the kids and they're willing to be interviewed.
I remember Samantha came and sat down and she was so nervous because she was anxious. But once we started asking her questions about the sanctuary she would calm down and speak about her love of Thunder the horse. And how when she arrived at the sanctuary she just wanted to feed Thunder. Her whole face would get bright and her eyes would get so big. They would talk so articulately about what they had been experiencing. She has been raised in a mobile home and her parents had separated and there's no greenery, there's no trees, there's just cars and pavement everywhere. So when she comes to the sanctuary she wants live where there's green, where there's trees, she wants to live just like Steve, she never wants to leave. There's a sense of freedom and comfort and just being home. Rajesh and I were so blown away and the children felt so comfortable with us. I felt such deep gratitude that these children felt comfortable and really shared from their soul. They set the tone for how the film is unfolding with such deep reverence and then there's another beautiful young man, Marvin.
He was very shy and always had a hood over his head and looked down and was very quiet. I remember thinking Marvin is more comfortable in silence, that's his comfort and I understand that, I was a lot like that when I was young. So I had a particular fondness for Marvin. John was beautiful because he knew how to hold each child and inspire their deepest gifts and with Marvin he nurtured this leadership, this leader that was within Marvin even though he had gone through a difficult time. Marvin's healing happened around a condor. An Andean condor, named Veedor, who has a wing span of 9 or 10 feet. He's really beautiful and he's huge. When the kids are ready they will have privilege to walk into the sanctuary and into the enclosure and spend time with Veedor. Steve will say to the children, "If any of you have a question that no human being can answer, you can ask Veedor and he will respond to you. But you will have to listen. And you'll know if he responds to you."
So Marvin shares about that space with Veedor and that he asked Veedor if his (Marvin's) life was worth living, was it going to get better? He said that Veedor answered him in silence and Marvin learned the power of silence. What is happening at the sanctuary is so profound on so many levels. The children heal and learn how to trust, because animals don't lie. They learn the back stories of the animals. They identify with that and they have time to heal and they heal and they take it back to their families and they heal their families. We have seen this over and over and it's extraordinary. I think our greatest teachers are our children-- when you create a circle where they feel safe. For me the sanctuary became a really powerful healing place.
Audrey: In all these stories you have this amazing connection with youth. You just have this impulse to want to support them in such deep ways. Where does that impulse come from, where does that rise up from inside of you?
Anne: I didn't realize how much I love all children and I think I always have. I have two of my own, Emily and Peter, and being a mother is such a gift. And it's really humbling, so humbling. Both Emily and Peter have been incredible teachers to me. Emily has been a teacher in that when she was really, really young she was very shy and she had a hard time-- we would have little baby groups and she would cling to my legs and I realized I couldn't push her. When she said, "yes", she meant yes and when she said "no", she meant no. I really listened to her when she was young that way. Throughout her life she has been such a teacher to me because when she says yes, she is really clear it's a yes. And when it's no she's not ready and I trust there's wisdom behind that no. With Peter -- he keeps me honest. He sees things so clearly. I remember when he was little he said, "Mommy, you always say it will be five minutes, it's never five minutes." He would cry and he was right, I would say "I'll be there in five minutes." But then I'd find something else to do and I'd get distracted. He was devastated because I was not being honest. So he said, "Mommy you're lying." I said, "No I'm not." Then I realized, "Oh my gosh, Peter, you're right. I am. You are absolutely right and I am so sorry. I wasn't five minutes, I was much longer than that and I'm really going to pay attention to that." He always catches me. It's so beautiful. They're so loving. They're so much closer to the truth that it's been a humbling journey. I love being with youth because they're so vibrant, their life force is so beautiful and when you're with a child and especially when it's in that circle the most sacred space of their trust and there's openness, they'll invite you into their heart and you into theirs and there's nothing like that.
Audrey: I'm curious about your description as a mom to your experience with your own mom. You mentioned it a bit before. I know she passed away a little over a year ago so not when you were in fifth grade but years later and you were with her in her last days. It's been incredibly inspiring to hear about your process with that. So I'm curious what have you learned from your own mother and from her passing.
Anne: Thank you for asking about her. My mother was a very, very strong woman. She was 31 when she was diagnosed with cancer. At that time she had Hodgkins and it was in her lymph nodes and it was throughout her whole body. She had four children, I was the second of four, and she had a one year old, my brother, John. She said to the doctor, "You have to keep me alive until my son is 10. You have to keep me alive." She was just determined. So the doctors would always laugh when they would see her and say, "Oh here comes Mary, she's indestructible." [laughter] She lived 44 years after that diagnosis. She had a lot of health issues through that time but she never complained. Never complained, not once. She had this incredible strength to live. She wasn't the kind of mother who was really warm and fuzzy. She was very intellectual, a beautiful leader.
So when it was clear that the cancer had come back and she wasn't going to have much longer to live, I flew back to Florida where my parents were living. I remember thinking I'm going back to serve, I'm going to clean the house and however I can serve, I'm just going to serve. So I arrive and I'm so grateful for Service Space and this beautiful community because it's taught me so much about not having any strings attached but literally just being in service with a full heart. So one day her feet were really gnarled, her toes also, so I said to her, "I'd love to massage your feet, I'll just bathe them.” And usually she would say no, but she said okay, so I said alright. I got her seated in a chair and I put her feet in a bath and I started to massage her feet and she said, "Oh Anne that feels so good." And she started to soften. It was so beautiful. I was just holding her feet and massaging. And all of a sudden she started to share all these difficult times in her life with her own mother and anything that was difficult just started to come out, she just had to talk and let it all come out. As she did I was really clear that I was there to listen, I didn't need to say anything, just listen. It was the most intimate moment I've ever had with my mom. Afterward she thanked me and there was this opening. Since that time I would go back and spend one or two weeks at a time and she would invite me in a little bit more.
Then when she was passing, we were so blessed. My three siblings and I were able to spend the last two weeks with her before she passed. I remember one night my father came in at 3 in the morning, my sister and I were staying in the bedroom next door, and he said, "I'm not sure your mom is breathing." And he was really scared, so we got up and went in and she was breathing fine and was very peaceful. But when I first jumped out of bed I could feel this incredible prayer energy and I said to my father, "Oh my goodness, Dad, can you feel this, can you feel this? We are so held. I can feel the prayers, I can feel the prayers, Dad." I can feel it just now. "We have no idea how held we are, not only is mom being held, we are being held." And we had this moment where my sister and my father and I hugged each other. It was one of those moments of grace where you have to surrender to the beauty, to the grace of life.
She passed and her last words -- she was with my father when she passed and her last words to him were "I love you." And then her heart stopped. I can't tell you the blessings. For me also she invited me in as I said she wasn't really huggy and close that way but in the last two weeks she allowed me to bathe her and clean her. I slept in her room the last several nights. I slept in her room all night so I was with her 24/7. I'd have to give her a pill in the middle of the night and she would thank me for waking her up and I was like “Are you kidding? I'm so grateful to be here, thank you for letting me be here with you.” As a mother and child it's so profound to lose your mother who brings you in the world. But since she's passed I feel her. Even a week after she passed I was in my cottage and I was meditating and I got this really strong visit from her. I could feel her saying, "Anne you go girl, you go girl!" And I said to myself "Oh my gosh, mom, you're right!" So it's so beautiful, you get these gifts, it's extraordinary.
Audrey: The way you’re describing it Anne is so sacred. I’m curious did you have any religious or spiritual influences in your life as you were growing up or even as an adult?
Anne: Well I was raised a Catholic. I remember we would go to church every Sunday. The sermon was always like an hour and it usually wasn’t very interesting. So I found I would go in and be quiet during those times. I used to love going to church just for that time. I realized later in my life when I started being curious about meditation, I realized, “Oh that’s what I was doing all those years.” [laughter] “I was in silence.
I feel like my path is a devotional path that I really feel the presence of something greater. What I love is it’s a path of deep listening. It’s not like I prescribe to something. I’m very open and I’ve had different experiences like in nature that have allowed me to listen deeply and trust that inner voice and inner knowing.
A big push happened when Emily was a little girl, she was 3, and my friend Tammy also had a 3 year old. Her daughter was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer, a neuroblastoma. It’s very hard to survive. Little Deven only lived for six months. But during those six months we would go to the hospital to visit her and I saw myself being there with Tammy and Deven. Emily and I were with her throughout the whole six months. Emily was such a beautiful teacher to me at this time. One day Deven said, “I don’t want Emily here. Tell her to go.” And Emily looked at her with these beautiful eyes and she said, “It’s okay Deven I can come back any time.”
When Deven passed Emily had a birthday right afterwards. Emily said, “Mommy I want to invite Tammy to my birthday party.” I said, “Sure.” That morning she looked out her window and said, “Mommy, Mommy look there’s Deven, she’s in the trees.” I said “She is?” Emily said, “Yeah and she wearing her rainbow wings.” I just listened—Emily sees what I can’t see. She’s in that realm, she’s open. That period taught me so much about love. And Deven’s spirit came in with fire and she left. Her life was very brief but what she was able to do was extraordinary. She really set me on my spiritual path in terms of deeply questioning and how do I want to show up every day. And I remember Tammy says she was there in the grocery store and Deven was really sick, so Tammy was holding Deven and had all her groceries trying to get the cart to her car. A woman asked if she could help and Tammy said no it was okay. And Deven said to Tammy, "Mommy she wants to help you, let her." Deven was such a beautiful teacher and I think of Deven every day.
Deven wanted a dog so they adopted Helen, this black labrador, and after Deven passed away they had a hard time taking care of Helen. So she would come to our house all the time. One day Tammy said, "We'd love for your family to have Helen." So Helen became a very powerful teacher to me just like Suzie Bear for Steve, Helen was my first teacher. It was very, very clear to me that she was my teacher. It's beautiful how we never really know on this path who our teachers really are and I feel really grateful to keep listening and trust the teachers that will appear. When I'm ready they'll appear. They'll always surprise me. There was this beautiful young yoga teacher was a beautiful teacher to me that really helped me learn meditation and be open to that deeper space. So I feel really grateful. Really, really grateful.
Nicole: From my outside perspective, hearing all these stories it just seems like you have this flow and trust to follow your intuition and your heart. To really follow your "yeses" as well as your "no's" which I've heard you mention a couple of time. I'm wondering-- I can hear throughout your stories how you've gotten to that place up to now and I'm just wondering if it's meditation or another design that you have that helps continue to cultivate that in your life today?
Anne: The first thought that came to me was this moment when I was with Richard Whittaker, who is a beloved friend and also a beloved friend of Service Space. I remember spending the morning at his home, looking at his photography and we were talking about everything and I shared with him that I would love to contribute to works & conversations. He looked at me and said, "Anything you want to write, anyone you want to interview, I will put up on line, anything you just do it, just do it. I give you permission, anything you want." No one has ever said that to me in that way with that intention. It was one of those moments I look back and bow and thank you Richard. He believed in me and also I think a lot of my journey has been around finding my voice. In that moment it was so healing. I'm grateful to noble friends. I'm grateful when I walk out the door each morning. I love my garden. It's not a big garden but I greet the flowers and the trees and the plants and I talk to them. I love them and I'm so grateful. I have a little cottage that I meditate in every morning and I have this beautiful pine tree. One morning I look up at this pine tree and say, "I'm so grateful for you that you are holding this space for me.” I notice the limbs curve like a hug around my cottage and I thought to myself "Oh my gosh! How did I ever miss this?" There's so much beauty. I just feel so grateful for this journey. I think that's really what the answer is-- I feel really, really grateful. And it's interesting because I don't have that sense, like everyone wants to know what's on your bucket list, do you want to travel all over the world, do you want to do this? I don't have that. I just feel so grateful to be here. Everything is here. That's a great life lesson that I don't have to go anywhere or do anything but just being here is enough. It's more than enough, it's everything.
Aryae: In the midst of sharing about your journey, you make one mention about being a curator and I'm curious to hear you say a little more about that-- what you do professionally. And I'm curious to hear what you do as a curator and how does that relate to everything else you've been telling us about your journey?
Anne: Thank you Aryae, it's so good to hear your voice. So my past, professionally, has been in the art world for as long as I can remember since I was out of school. I'll just mention one memory that I had when I was in college I was an English major and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had these terrible visions of working in a bank some day and that's really not what I want to do. My mom encouraged me to study abroad. So I went to Paris. I was only going to go for six months but once I arrived there I just fell in love with the city and it felt like home in a way. So I stayed for three years and I was fortunate to matriculate into the Ecole du Louvre which is a beautiful museum school program. I remember having this epiphany standing outside the school one day at the museum. All of a sudden it just hit me, "Oh my god nothing is separate." Everything made sense, I can't really explain it. All of a sudden all the different pieces of my life, everything came to this point of "Oh my gosh, I understand."
Since that beautiful time in Paris where I was the only American in the school so I was truly on my own; I felt like I kind of grew up there. So when I came back to the art world, I had to get a job so I worked in galleries and I loved working with the artists. Every job I found myself in I would be helping put a show together or making a catalog or learning different aspects. I loved the idea of curating but I didn't go to school to be a curator. When I moved to San Francisco in 1990 I worked with this wonderful woman who was an art consultant and she was doing these international art programs with companies. She hired me to be the exhibitions coordinator and manager, so I started working with the local artists and curating and I just loved it. It was an opportunity to see what's living out in the world at this time and what artists can come together and share their vision. It was another form of listening. I would be learning with the artist. I kind of sat back and even selected the work and ask them what would you want, what’s important to you? I felt my role was to orchestrate it a little bit and bring it together. I worked with as a consultant for many years.
Then we had a fire in our home so I left the art world for 8 years and rebuilt our home and Emily was a baby at the time and it was a time to step away from everything professionally and focus on being a mom and how to rebuild our lives. It was a very powerful time. I remember after the 8 years I ran into a friend of mine from the art world and she said, “When are you going to get back to work. We would love to see you involved.” And I replied, “I’m getting ready.”
When I came back I didn't want to do what I did in the past. I didn't want to be an art consultant, I didn't want to work in corporations. I wanted to work with artists and I wanted to curate. So I went to the local theater in town, a beautiful theater where Charlie Chaplin used to perform. They have an incredible music program and theater but the arts were kind of ho-hum. I walked right into the director and said, "I would love to curate a show here and this is what I would like to do and I'll do it as a gift." And she said, "Okay!"
So that was the first show I curated and it was called the Landscape of War. It was an idea Rebecca Solman a beautiful writer had done a panel about it and I asked her if I could curate a show on this theme. It was very, very powerful and it was so scary because I had never done anything like it. I remember being in tears asking myself what was I doing, how'd I get myself into this. It was one of those times when I really stretched and stepped beyond my comfort zone. Such a powerful time and the artists were there to help me install and we were all in it together. What I love about curating is that it's not just about finding the artist and sharing their beautiful work in the world, it's about a conversation, we learn from each other and the kinds of relationships that develop, the learning and the programming, it's so rich. So I feel really, really grateful because I feel like I'm constantly learning. I've been really blessed to work with amazing artists and museums that have given me the freedom to create what I felt. And it's really a blessing to have that kind of freedom.
Aryae: You know Anne as I'm listening to you I have this picture in my mind of you, one side is of you in the redwoods and on the other side is you at the Louvre and they're totally connected. And what you're doing in both places is the same thing, you're listening.
Nicole: We have a couple online comments and questions. The first one is Jackie, she says in light of all the suffering in the world, and we don't have to look past the current political primaries, how do you keep such a positive outlook? Do you figure it will unfold as it needs to? Or do you feel a kind of responsibility on your shoulders? If it's the latter, how do you hold it all while keeping a kind heart?
Anne: That's the beauty of our hearts. The heart is vast. I've had moments in meditation where I'm almost overwhelmed by the vastness of the heart. How the heart can hold it all; the pain; the joy. I've thought a lot about this because I feel really grateful to have so much joy in my life. The joy comes because I'm also able to hold the pain. The current climate is a really challenging one but I also feel that every morning is a blessing. I have the space to sit every morning. That grounds me into a very beautiful place where I can listen and I can trust. I trust that more and more what I'm called to do. I trust that I can be an instrument in that way. And we all can. And the beauty of the community of Service Space and Noble Friends is we can hold each other through the difficult times, through the joyful times. Life is very rich and sometimes it doesn't make sense but my gratitude is that it is so much more and so much bigger than us I have to vouch the mystery of it all.
Nicole: Wow! It is a mystery and it's fun to be in that space sometimes. No matter if it's up or down. Kind of like surfing.
Anne: Yeah and I think it's also something I think about every day is where's my edge? One of my challenges in my life is I feel like I've been very careful. So I have to really listen. Am I being careful, is that wisdom to hold back? Or is that I'm careful and I'm scared, is that fear? What is that? So I'm grateful for that space of silence to have that inner inquiry because, especially in this world when it is challenging, what is needed of me and am I really listening?
Anne: And it's not actually what is needed of me, it's more about just that inner knowing, I guess.
Nicole: This is from Garrett: Anne you love animals and they have been among your most profound teachers. Do you think that human consciousness is higher than that of animals as many religions seem to suggest?
Anne: I'm actually looking at a beautiful picture of Garuda, I call this beautiful female hawk that comes to visit me. I was in my bedroom one morning and we have these glass doors that look out on the deck and all of a sudden this really large red shouldered hawk was sitting on the railing. I've never seen a hawk land on a home. I immediately sat in silence with her. She would look at me then she would look away and she'd look back at me. What astounding to me were her eyes were so loving. Then she flew away. I remember I immediately called Steve Karlin and told him I'd just had this beautiful visit from a hawk. He wanted to know what kind of hawk it was. I told him it wasn't a red tail because it had all these beautiful spots. And he said, "Oh that's a red shouldered hawk." And I don't know why but it was clear to me that it was a female. And I was open to her and she was so open.
So she would come every so often. She would land on the deck and I'd happen to be in my room and I would sit down on the floor and we would sit together. So then I would get up at 5:30 in the morning before the kids got up and I would come sit-- it was dark so I would open the door to the kitchen to go out to the cottage and she would call. She would always call at the most auspicious times. She would land on the telephone pole right above my cottage and just sit. So we had this relationship but I was very clear not to rationalize it. I was just grateful. I knew that hawks in medicine are messengers and I consider them divine messengers. So I knew there was a message coming and I didn't know what it was and it didn't matter, I just knew there was a divine message and I needed to listen.
Every time I heard her cry I would get this joy that would emanate out from within me, I love her.
I don't want to get too caught up in that story. So what I also want to share what the animals have taught me is when we sit in silence and we're quiet, our energy gets low and goes in, we are actually commuting with the animal world; that is where they commute. That is why Marvin could hear the condor answer his questions because he had opened his heart and he was in a quiet space.
So we are able to almost ask permission to open to their consciousness. Because it's not human consciousness. That's what Steve would teach. We can't objectify it or try to rationalize from a human perspective. It is an animal consciousness. But if we can quiet ourselves and be in a meditative state where our mind is quiet, we can meet that animal. And they enjoy our presence as much as we enjoy theirs. And that was a profound teaching for me. Whenever we invited a puppy into our home, into our lives, I would let our little puppy, Gus, into the cottage with me while I was meditating. And even with all that puppy energy he would quiet down and we would sit together for an hour at a time. I was amazed. He didn't get up, he didn't smell around the cottage, he's not curious, he just settles. So I realized he's been this beautiful teacher to me too.
I feel like we've always had the ability to commune with the land and the animals. It's just that we've lost that knowing. It's there we just don't remember. The animal world is a beautiful teacher for us to remind us of our connection to nature, to remind us that we are not separate. And Garuda has been a blessing in my life and a very powerful teacher. I light a candle for her every day.
I'll just share one other piece about Garuda. The kids and George, my beloved husband, kind of laugh at me some times because of my relationship with the hawk. One day I was making dinner, it was a beautiful spring night and George was going to barbecue out on our deck which is a tiny little deck off our kitchen. The doors were open and Peter was doing homework at the dining room table and all of a sudden Peter says, "Mom your hawk's here." Garuda had landed on our barbecue deck which is tiny, tiny. She was sitting on the ledge there and I walked right up to her within 12 inches of her and she was not afraid of my close presence or the family. Then her mate flew to our deck above. Peter said he was going to spend time with the hawk upstairs and took his camera. So he sat with the hawk, her mate, up on our deck. And Garuda stayed where she was.
Our neighbors came out of their house and couldn't believe the hawks were landing on our house, it was so crazy. I replied, "I know isn't this beautiful?!" They were with us about half an hour and then they flew off.
Two weeks later I got a call from a dear friend who was studying with a dear spiritual teacher, Angeles Arrien, who is a teacher of Steve Karlin, and a very dear friend of Steve's and John Malloy and many others in Service Space. She had passed unexpectedly. And the thought occurred to me that she passed two weeks ago when Garuda and her mate arrived. So I looked back to my camera where Peter had taken the picture and it was the same day. The day she passed. So who knows, right? But they are beautiful messengers. When you lose a teacher while you're studying with a teacher, her beautiful colleague, Laudrin, had said to us after Angeles had passed, when you lose a teacher when you're studying with her, you never really lose her. She'll be with you. And I feel that with Angeles, I feel that very strongly. So beautiful blessings.
The animal world -- there is so much. They enjoy our relationship as much as we enjoy theirs.
Nicole: Thank you so much for sharing that. Such a beautiful reminder for many of us to listen in those ways for those connections.
Our final question: How can we as the larger Service Space community support you in any way?
Anne: Oh you have beyond my wildest dreams. This has been the biggest blessing. And I feel so grateful to all the beautiful souls of Service Space. I guess I would say enjoy nature. There are so many blessings and gifts around us, our youth, and don't be afraid to step beyond your comfort zone, because what lies beyond our comfort zone is really extraordinary. Thank you for this call and all the beautiful questions. Just to be in this space is a real blessing to me. Thank you.
This article originally appeared in Awakin.org. Awakin.org is about deepening our self-awareness, in a community of kindred spirits. By changing ourselves, we change the world.
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