Dance Video: “Isolation”

 

“Isolation”
Yoga and Modern Dance fusion piece by Eli Stewart

Music – Beck’s “Wave”

I decided to play with some movement to this song and overlay the videos. I did this in the wake of the rampant bullshit of trans people no longer being able to serve in the military. That brought back a lot of memories of my own very short tenure in the Navy, and how isolated I felt, regardless of how many people I was surrounded by. It was one of the loneliest times of my life, and Beck’s “Wave” has always been very evocative of this emotional spectrum for me. Soooo, I decided to move to the music, play with the video, and now I guess I’m sharing it with you!

 

So, what do you do?

I hate this question. I mean, I truly loathe this question. First, I hate that our entire society pins the definition of our identities on this question – on something as banal as a job. And for most people, that’s all that the answer is – a job. An occupation. They do what they do to put money in the bank to keep food on the table and roof over head. Yet, the question itself implies this vast importance attached to some 40-60 odd hours a week of our lives (if we’re lucky enough to have a decent job, that is).

The answer to this question is so complicated for me that it has become uncomfortable to answer. What’s worse is that for years, I interpreted this discomfort for shame. I would begin to feel anxiety anytime I’d be about to meet new people, because inevitably the question would quickly arise. I became very adept at evading this question, mostly because I really suck at just plain lying.

When I actually dig in and examine myself, I don’t feel shame in the answer. I’m happy to be able to do the work that I do. It’s simply a matter that no singular title actually conveys my work effectively.

Psychic Medium is probably the most common answer given (at least when my friends describe what I do), but it lacks the components of creativity, connection, and frankly the term has become almost clinical. My work is much more intimately tied to my spirituality and my art than what people assume.

Yoga teacher is one that I throw out there when I just don’t want to deal with too many questions, but that falls so short of the actual scope of what I actual ‘do’, that it’s almost laughable. Yes, I teach yoga, but that’s not what my day looks like.

Artist makes my skin crawl, but that’s a total insecurity space that I battle.  I also hate actually discussing art with people, since my ‘technique’ is mostly “I wonder what will happen if I ____”.

Ministering or priesting is somewhat accurate (accept for the part that I’m not really attached to any church), but then the assumption becomes that I’m a Christian minister. People also have no idea what ministers actually do – they just think they write a nice speech and show up to church once a week to give it. They don’t see ALL of the work that goes on behind the scenes, which is the work that I actually do. Ministerial counselling, organization and leadership, volunteerism, research, not to mention the immense amounts of keeping your own spiritual practice in a good place…..that takes a LOT of work.

None of these terms are a catch all for me, but they are all hats that I wear in the broader stroke of what I do. Nobody sees the full scope. I live with my best friend, and we spend a great deal of time together (as in we not only hang out, but we also volunteer at the same place, work together a lot, etc.)  For all that she sees of me, she still doesn’t really see everything that goes into my ‘professional’ life.  She glimpses maybe half of my world.  I believe that to be a true sentiment for most people though. No matter how well you know a person, or how much time you spend together, you never really, fully know.

It’s also hard to draw a firm line between what is part of my ‘professional’ life and what isn’t, because there’s a lot that I consider part of my profession that I’m not financially compensated for.  But sometimes these are the parts of my career that are the most important to me. That said, I still have to keep the bills paid and edible food on the table, so begins the great balancing act of life.

There’s also no such thing as a typical day.  One thing is for sure though, my day is almost always filled to the point of overflowing. I try to make time for myself, but this rarely seems to hold the space given on my calendar, and I’m working on that but I also have no regrets. I’m always happy to be of service (and if I’m not, I will generally say so).

A fictional account of a ‘typical’ day may involve waking up and sitting in my own spiritual and yoga practice (this is an ideal – sometimes these don’t get worked in until later).  Then I may begin with one of my various projects, where I’ll get maybe 10-20 minutes of work done before the first call or message comes in. These may be about a personal or spiritual crisis, and I determine what is going to be the best course of action for the person. (95% of the time, it’s not me – it’s not a reading or healing that I do that’s the type of work that they need primarily, so I refer them to people I may know, such as lawyers, therapists, massage therapists, etc.) Sometimes, what they need is a listening ear or a friend. Sometimes what they need is someone to just tell them they aren’t crazy.

My day gets highjacked a lot. I think I’ll be doing one thing, and it turns into another. For instance, on the rare occasion I may work a purely social call into my calendar, it frequently becomes one of those moments where someone shares something they’ve never been able to share with anyone else. So we cry together. I hold space. I let it become something sacred for them, and that takes time and patience. More often though, I’ve never bothered putting the social event into the calendar.

I may go into the office where I volunteer to help with (usually) the paperwork end of a non-profit that helps ex-offenders after they’ve gotten out of prison. I may go into the studio where I teach yoga. I may just be going to the store to run some errands. In the midst of all of this, I’m approached with questions to help people process their own spiritual journeys. I’m approached with stories about hate crimes and violence. I’m frequently approached as the first person someone has ever told about being sexually assaulted. So I hold space. I make the conversation sacred for these people, most of whom are strangers who have no idea who I am or why they feel compelled to talk to me.

In the middle of all of this madness, I schedule in time to make appointments for readings and healing sessions. I fight to carve out time for my art, though admittedly that time frequently never comes, or doesn’t come until the wee hours when I should be sleeping instead. I struggle to maintain a disciplined routine of a set schedule, so that I know that the hours of x to y are for my personal spiritual and yogic practice, and that y to z  are for creative expression…… Then necessity rears it’s head, and I bend and my practice slips into the spaces where it will fit. My creative endeavors take a backseat to that which the Lady Ananke presents before me, as I curse at her consort Chronos for not being enough.

There is no part of this that I don’t consider a part of my ‘career’, or the better word for it I suppose would be my ‘calling’ (which I choose to make my career).  It’s all part of that same greater overarching vision that I choose to paint into the world – one interaction, one reading, one piece of art – at a time. So, how can I answer such a question? What answer would lead the asker to see the value in what I do? And furthermore, why do I need them to find value in what I do?

 

 

A bit about me….

 

So here is a random smattering of info about me to help you understand a bit more of my motivations behind why I’ve made some of the choices I’ve made in putting together this site.

I work as a psychic medium and spirit artist, as well as teaching yoga. Though this is my ‘professional life’, I spend the better chunk of my time volunteering and creating.  I work with a handful of organizations on a volunteer basis that allow me to give back to the community in a variety of ways. This is one of my deepest passions, and feeds my soul.

I live with a seizure disorder that currently requires me to be on some medication. I struggle to not let this define me, but this is also part of who I am.  I have been able to grow and I no longer see the condition as a ‘disease’, as much as it is just a part of my makeup. It informs my art, my spiritual practice, and my daily life, but it doesn’t define me.

I lived through a sexual assault a couple of years ago. This was probably the single most pivotal point in my life to date. I have to make the conscious choice to be open about it, because my natural tendency is to be very guarded about it, but I also feel like it’s important that people know that we aren’t alone. If someone isn’t willing to open the conversation, then we can sit in silence. And to borrow from the AIDS awareness campaign of the 90’s, Silence=Death.  (It’s sometimes hard to remember though, that this is just a small fraction of my experience. A tiny moment that carries a heavy weight in the make up of who I am.)

My personal spiritual practices are those of the hedgewitch, edgedweller or ecstatic mystic variety.  In other words, I play with boundaries. I like to have a foot in each world (it’s more fun dancing that way).  Nothing is taboo. Everything is sacred. (***I should note that some people automatically affiliate the term “hedgewitch” with drug use……Don’t. There are LOTS of ways of crossing the hedge into the other worlds, and if someone is using their spiritual path as a front for addiction, or as an excuse to just get high – they are doing just that and not engaging in a meaningful spiritual path.)

In the vein of being in that ‘in-between’, I identify as being queer. Now, for most folks reading this, you may just nod and see it as being a fancy word choice for gay.  This is not the case though, at least not to me, and not to many in the LGBTQ+ community.  While I am still comfortable with the label ‘gay’, queer is a better term to fit me for several reasons. First, queer also means odd, whereas gay also means happy. I’m always a bit odd, but trying to live up to the standard of being perpetually “happy and gay”…..I’m not a fucking unicorn that shits rainbows and sunshine (though how cool would that be).   Second, queer implies a spectrum of inclusiveness, an umbrella of otherness (even if you can’t neatly define what that otherness is just yet).  I’m there. I’m in.  Third, queer has the right sound to my ears. I can’t explain it beyond that, but it does. And finally, as I get to know myself better and better, I find that I don’t fit as neatly into the gender categories as I once did. I just stopped caring about expectations placed upon me based upon gender. I also just don’t think of myself in terms of gender. I just…don’t….care about how others would define me, and I’m comfortable sitting in a space that lacks a certain level of definition. So, I am a gay man, but more descriptively, I am queer.

I do not especially enjoy technology.  I see social media as a necessary evil (and an amazing time sucking entity).  But, I work with it as best I can. I can be slow responding to messages I receive through social media, mostly because I don’t always get the notifications so if you need to reach me – text me.

I have many pet peeve, and twice as many quirks. Do NOT disrespect someone around me. This means racist/misogynistic/sexist/derogatory comments of any kind. Also, don’t fucking mis-gender a person. Slip ups happen (I am guilty of this), but don’t do it out of disrespect because I will come for blood.

I will stop in the middle of a sentence to look up the correct usage or conjugation of a word that I’m unsure of. (Grammar. It’s a thing.) I’m very emotional. I’m a good Pisces that way. I cry a lot. No, I’m not depressed. I’m just sensitive and expressive, and I’m not afraid of tears.  No, when I bellydance, I don’t do it in drag. No, I don’t have a constant stream of dead people trying to talk to me all of the time. (There is an off-switch). No, I’m not reading your thoughts right now. (I don’t randomly read people without permission, and even then it isn’t like THAT.)

Yes, I have a ‘daily’ yoga practice (the amount and type of yoga varies by the day).  Yes, I have a daily spiritual practice. Yes, I’m probably wearing eyeliner. Yes, my name(s) can be confusing. Elige is my given name (pronounced like Elijah, without the -ah). I finally just started going by Eli for the sake of ease and simplicity, and frankly I sort of wanted a fresh start.  And yes, I will probably answer your question, so be careful what you ask.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the rest of my website, www.EliStewart.com.

 

Authenticity (Parts 1 & 2)

(Originally posted on my PsychicSpiritArt.com Blog, Click here for part 1 of the original post.)

So, I started this little dialogue out on my front porch with the intention of it being a little Facebook post for the LGBTQ30DayChallenge…..except that I couldn’t hear myself think over this fucking cardinal looking me dead in the eye on a branch six feet away squawking at the top of it’s lungs. I finally had to stop and think about what message the Universe was bringing to me.

Cardinal is traditionally associated with owning your power, being assertive, blah, blah, blah…whatever. Maybe that could apply, but it doesn’t feel right and the little asshole is ringing through my head so hard I can’t see straight. What is it that you are trying to tell me?! I just wanted to post a happy little something to kick off Pride month, and be a little lemming and post this damn challenge thing like all of my LGBTQ friends are doing.

Then, I remembered it, as clear as day. It was the last day of school. I was getting off of the bus on Cardinal Street in our trailer park in Virginia. My brother had gotten picked up from school early, so I was walking down the street alone. As the bus pulled away, I was smacked to the ground by a couple of kids who then spit in my face and taunted me. While no real physical damage was done, this cut ran much deeper. This was the first time I was called a faggot. I was in the third grade.

It didn’t get any easier after that. Actually, it just got a lot harder. And you would’ve thought that I would have had the sense to try to hide my sexuality as I discovered it. But that’s not my style. As quickly as I discovered myself, I shared it with the world. I have at times thought to do otherwise, but anything less than just being me (whoever “me” happens to be at that moment) feels…..inauthentic.

In a long roundabout way, the cardinal’s message was becoming clearer. Authenticity. Be true to who you are, regardless of what other people would have you be.

As I faced this insight, the cardinal saw fit to finally fly away, his message having been delivered successfully. I dwelled for a moment on what authenticity means in this moment to me. I also began to consider whether this was something that I am meant to share, or if like so many other little treasures as of late, I was keeping this all to myself – a personal insight just for me. My stomach tightened as I realized that I was deciding to share this openly.

You may have noticed that I’ve not posting much here or on social media lately. I do this from time to time, and a lot of folks assume it’s because I get busy (and there’s truth in this), or that maybe I’m just flaking out a little bit (also some truth to this sometimes). This has been more of an instance of retreating to find my voice again. I had a horrible habit for many years of living my life for everyone else, and I was starting to notice a disturbing trend in several areas of my life – my art, my spiritual practices, even some personal practices (like my diet) – they were all being driven externally.

So I decided to just be aware for a moment and I let myself chew on these thoughts. Well, after chewing on a few things, I started spitting a few things out of my life. Part of this resulted in a little bit of a fast from writing (with the exception of what was required of me for my yoga teacher training).  I realized how creatively stifled I had become. I also slowly began to admit that I’d also become quite spiritually stagnant, and if I was going to be honest many of my choices I was making to try to “be more spiritual” by someone else’s standard, which is to say I was going through the motions. I knew on some level that my spiritual stagnation could be broken up by accessing my creative drive again, but to actually sit in my creative self I would have to move through this spiritual stagnation. What the fuck can I do with this?? Where do you even start!?

These moments arrive in life again and again – a seeming paradox which elicits so many emotions for me. Anxiety for sure, anger, frustration, but there is also this comfort because I am aware of this pattern of indecision (thank you Libra moon) that I have as an ally (that I’ll often call an enemy, but I rely on this friend way too much to really count them as a foe), and in indecision I can almost fall into a trance (Pisces sun) of looking at both sides of the paradox, and never having to make a move. I could just be perfectly still here. Perfectly lazy, locked in a state of hopeless inability to move, a victim to the paradox. Rock. Me. Hard place.

Except, in my Piscean inner lament, that still, small voice from the inner recesses of my spirit echoes through…… “Jump.”

Now, normally I’m a great listener, and I’m an even better ignore-er (at least when it comes to this still small voice saying this particular word).  However, I actually cleared out a lot of the clutter that I used to distract myself, to dampen the sound, to mute that voice, so suddenly instead of throwing myself further into lament, I find myself in front of my canvas covered in acrylics – creating a painting. I find myself undulating to music across the floor – creating a yoga based dance flow. I find myself sitting in front of my laptop watching words pop up on the screen – creating a poem (or a blog post), and it’s like having the band aid ripped off.

It’s when that bandage comes off that the real healing began to happen for me. That’s when my spiritual practices started to take on find their meaning again- to live, to breathe. These moments of art were the meeting places for my spirit to reintegrate itself into my practices. These hard fought moments were where I found my authenticity. And this is where I decided that my life truly would have to be in a constant state of becoming – my life would have to become my art.

Continued in Authenticity Part 2

There has always been an intimate tie between art and spirituality. For many of us, creativity and intuition are varied shades of the same color. For the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of deep exploration of the tie between these spaces to help me in further grow my own practice, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Then, finally it hit me.

Spiritual folks share one pivotal thing in common with creative folks – you have to walk in authenticity.  And there is a difference between someone who ‘practices the art’ versus an artist. There is a difference between a ‘witchcraft practitioner’ and a witch. There is a difference between a person who practices the practice and a person who lives the life. This difference has nothing to do with skill level either in many instances. It’s all authenticity. It’s relationship to your craft. It’s relationship to your self. It’s a certain kind of presence, breath, recognition.

I happened onto the connection between creative force and spirituality late in the game, as my early years shaped me to seek comfort in conformity and labels. You find a lot more of that in realms of science, so I was much more keen on exploring the connections between science and spirituality for a long time. But I finally had a stark realization: a few hundred years ago, religion became the mouthpiece for spiritual experience as a whole. Then science and religion decided they didn’t like each other, went to war and essentially the whole thing erupted into a giant shit storm that will most likely not be reconciled easily within my lifespan (even though they really are pretty much talking about the same thing with different words and concepts).

I was seeking acceptance. I was looking for this acceptance through validation. I searched everywhere, by looking into theories from quantum physics that supported the existence of psychic phenomenon and magic, even by participating in open source scientific studies for remote viewing and mediumship. I amassed certifications and documentation and research into various metaphysical and occult studies. And you know what? I did pretty damn well, but I never found the acceptance I was looking for. Science and spirituality are still stacking the deck against one another.

I’d always had a creative side. I danced since I was a kid and took a couple of drawing and design classes in college to fill in gaps in my schedule. I didn’t really consider myself artistic though. But something started calling to me here. I started to meditate on what it would be like to be an artist. I really struggled with thinking of myself in terms of fitting into that category at all, but slowly I began to realize – it’s about authenticity. It’s about truth. It’s about your truth, and your personal expression of your truth.

Art is about being bold enough to share your truth with the world, and sometimes I fail at that in a big way. Since I’ve decided that this is about being authentic and truthful, I should address the other reason big reason that I go silent on the blog.  It has to do with my struggles of feeling insecure and worthy. Will people find value in this? Is it good enough? What will people think? Nobody likes to be judged, but sometimes I let these fears pin me in a corner to a point of nearly forgetting who I am.

I fight the same battle in all forms of my expression. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve done a dance performance (though I do dance on a very regular basis to keep my body happy). I don’t update the gallery of paintings or list any paintings that I do on my website for fear of judgement. I still have a great deal of insecurity sharing creative yoga flows when I lead classes, or sharing videos of my movement practice. I let my fear overwhelm my authenticity. And that pulls me out of the space of being an artist. In short, I still get really nervous when I’m sharing something of myself that may be different from people are used to seeing.

But, I also have to remind myself of something. This little bit of nervousness helps to remind me that it’s a piece of ME that I’m sharing. In other words, it keeps me authentic! If I’m not a little nervous or excited to share something with someone, then chances are it’s crap and I’ve just called it in.

When we live in our authenticity and share our truth, the magic can’t help but to happen. All of those lines between the labels blur or disappear completely because they were imaginary to begin with. I think some of us long for days long past because in those days, there was an understanding that the big “intangible” was woven between spirituality, artistry, and science in a way that can never be truly broken. It just made sense that the doctors were the astrologers, and that the churches employed the very best artists, and so on.

Why? Because art can’t help but to heal and evoke. Connection to spirit within moves through you in a way that inspires you to want to create. And when you understand yourself, then you suddenly gain an understanding of the world around you. All of these things that we label and painstakingly separate are connected in the light of authenticity.

So be true to yourself. Or, wait until the universe sends you a cardinal to remind you to be you. Screw that loud, red, beautifully authentic cardinal!

"I Am the Woman that I Create for Myself" - Acrylic on Canvas. E. Stewart, April 2017