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November 2016
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The Rabbit in the Moon
A Wisdom We Cannot See

Moon Bunnies by CJ Shelton

Illusion and acceptance are things I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately as we linger in the final days of November before the holiday season. Although recent world events are casting a pall of uncertainty over things, I like to think the Super Moon on November 14 was a herald of some wisdom we cannot yet see. I say that because lunar tales abound throughout many cultures of the moon’s propensity to illuminate life’s ambiguities. One such story is of the rabbit in the moon.

A long time ago, a God, curious to learn more about the creatures he watched over from his sky-realm, took the form of an old man so that he could walk the earth. After journeying for a long time without food he became very hungry. Scent of the Moon by CJ SheltonEventually he came upon three creatures, a monkey, a fox and a rabbit, living together quite harmoniously. The God, in his human form, approached the trio and wondered: “which of these creatures will be the kindest? Which will be the most generous?

All three creatures greeted him and immediately became concerned for the old man’s welfare. They then ran off in search of food. Squirrel Monkey by CJ SheltonThe cheerful monkey quickly returned laden with as much fresh fallen fruit as he could carry from the nearby trees. The thrifty fox went down to the water to retrieve a dead fish he had seen earlier on the riverbank. Meanwhile, the rabbit dashed this way and that. The only thing she knew how to do was gather grass to feed herself and soon she became sad she could not find any other food for the old man.

At long last the rabbit returned to the group and asked the monkey and the fox to build a fire. The monkey and the fox were puzzled but began doing as their friend asked.Moon Bunny Detail The old man, the God in disguise, sat quietly by, watching in wonder. When the fire was blazing, the rabbit turned to the old man and said, “I have nothing to offer you but myself, so I am going to jump into the fire and, when I am quite roasted, please eat me as I cannot bear to see you go hungry.”

The rabbit then bent her knees and jumped into the fire. But the God, now so moved by the rabbit’s noble offering, grabbed her by her long ears before the flames could touch her. As his robes fell away he turned back into his God-form and shot sky-wards. Up to the moon he went, cradling the rabbit in his arms, until eventually, very gently, he lowered the rabbit back to Earth saying, “you may be just a rabbit, but now everyone will remember you, for there is your image that I have etched on the face of the moon, to shine on all people, for all time.”
Rabbit shape on the Moon
Various versions of this story are told throughout Japan, China and India and particularly within the Buddhist tradition. The familiar markings on the face of the moon have become a symbolic touchstone for this fable’s lessons of selfless generosity and compassion. For many Westerners though, the moon’s markings are regarded as nothing more than an illusion, sometimes indulgently referred to as “the Man in the Moon”.

To get all scientific and sensible for a moment, the phenomena of seeing something that isnAngel shaped cloud’t actually there is known as a “pareidolia” or the imagined perception of a pattern of meaning or significance where it does not actually exist. A pareidolia is literally seeing a face in an inanimate object or a cloud shaped like an angel. It is also a facet of our evolutionary heritage at work. We humans are pre-wired to make sense of things by matching them to something stored in our long-term collective knowledge. This of course served a useful purpose long ago when a shadow in the forest could potentially be a sabre-tooted tiger getting ready to pounce … which meant we had better run, and fast!

Seriously though, who among us hasn’t been guilty of a little pareidolia lately? Since a pareidolia is the product of our expectations, seeing a face on the moon reveals a lot more about how we are interpreting the world based on those expectations rather than anything that's actually within the moon. Face in a Tree - PareidoliaUnfortunately, once that face is spotted, it's virtually impossible to un-see it. That's the thing about illusions, they have a remarkable tendency to formulate in our minds and then it becomes very difficult to un-think them ... or accept the truth when we finally see it. A pareidolia can be an extremely evocative and influential force because, if we really want to see something, our perceptual system will set out to do just that.

So in these uncertain times, perhaps we should question where our commonly held expectations have suddenly proven to be an illusion and where there might actually be something very real we need to be paying attention to instead. Maybe we should ask ourselves how ready we are to step up and be as virtuous and compassionate as the fabled Moon Rabbit by selflessly offering whatever we can to help alleviate dire situations around us. And just maybe, we humans should have faith in the hidden wisdom of certain outcomes that, at first glance, appear to be a step backwards but which may be, in fact, be a herald of deeper expectations beneath a surface disguise.

I believe each and every one of us is responsible in some way for that pall now draped upon our collective shoulders. Like the monkey, the fox and the rabbit, when the chips are down, the outcome will ultimately be determined by what each individual chooses to do in response to the inevitable challenges ahead.

Will that response be to take the easy route, as the monkey did by gathering fallen fruit? Or will we, like the fox, go back to retrieve something dead from the past? Perhaps we will run to and fro like the rabbit …  then sit and stare at the moon awhile until the shock wears off and we can get down to the business of accepting what it is we really must do. I have to confess, I have been doing a lot of that last one the past couple of weeks.

Moon in night skyIn the waxing and waning energies of the moon lie the keys to a wisdom we cannot always see from our earthly abode -  the wisdom that all things must change and all things that shine bright and clear for a time must inevitably go dark for a spell in order to return another day, in another form. Sometimes that form will inspire us with its new found light. Sometimes that form may remain dark until we are able to find a match and strike our own light to see by. Either way, as our bewildered gaze turns skyward, beseeching the starry night sky with the big questions, we may eventually exclaim: “look, is that a rabbit in the moon?” We simply have to have faith.
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Are you in need of a calm and creative oasis during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? There are still two opportunities in early December to learn to paint your very own Snow-covered Pine Trees or Snowflakes in Watercolour and make them into greeting cards. I also have a couple of spots still open on December 17 for making a Wishing Candle that will light up the darkness and help you welcome in the Winter Solstice. Be sure to check out my website for other enjoyable activities to inspire your creativity.
 
May you enjoy the dance!

CJ Shelton
Artist, Instructor & Healing Arts Practitioner


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THE STORY BEHIND THE PIECE ..."Tree Spirit"
Indigenous cultures have a core belief that everything is alive, aware, and responsive - that everything has a spirit including rocks, plants, trees and animals.

Many "practical" people reject this idea though since it appears to contradict scientific reasoning. But consider for a moment the concept is true ... would we not approach all things, both animate and inanimate, with a greater degree of caring and respect?

If everything is alive with spirit, it also follows that our human spirits are connected to all other spirits on the planet. So while we humans tend to have close connections with creatures that share similarities with us (like dogs and cats) there are other very different life forms we could also experience close spiritual links with …like trees.

The mandala above is one of many images I have created over the years of “tree spirits”. Rather than realistic representations, my creative explorations with trees seek to express the inherent spirit and individual energy that lives within each one, the wisdom we cannot see. Or can we …?

Cards available with this image, $10 each
"INTO THE MYSTICAL" Learning & Sharing Circle
Moon Quest
Share spiritual wisdom, experiences and all things of a mystical nature with like-minded souls at this monthly gathering of 'friends on the journey’.
PLEASE RSVP or email to be added to the notification list

UPCOMING CIRCLES:

Thurs. Dec. 15, 7-9 pm - Winter Solstice Celebration, A Magical Potluck of Spiritual Treats

2017 Circles will be announced soon!
CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE at the Alton Mill
THIS WEEKEND
Sat. Nov. 26 & Sun. Nov. 27 - 10 am to 5 pm both days
Visit my studio this weekend to soak up its magical atmosphere and take a peek at my "Druid's Grove" display of artsy trees. You can also add your own personal and unique dash of creativity to my "Colouring Tree". It's going to be so much fun to watch it come to life!
“ART IN THE ROUND” MANDALA and “ZEN-DOODLING” Parties
Book your own custom session anytime to fit your schedule. For groups of two or more. Great for families, girls-day-out or wedding groups. Discounts for large groups. Please email for more info.
DRAWING LESSONS - "Seeing With New Eyes"
ONGOING SESSIONS

Sun. Afternoons, 1-3 pm
Wed. Afternoons, 1-3 pm

Student DrawingBuild your drawing skills and learn to see the world through an artist's eyes. Newbies and more advanced welcome. Start anytime. Pay as you go.
CHRISTMAS THEMED WATERCOLOUR PAINTING WORKSHOPS
These are great sessions for those new to watercolour. An added bonus is you can print your finished paintings on greeting cards or use in holiday e-messages.

Snow Covered Pine TreesSNOW COVERED PINE TREES
Sat. Dec. 3, 1-4 pm
$75 per person

Snowflake Painting"NO TWO ARE ALIKE" SNOWFLAKE PAINTING
Sat. Dec. 10, 1-4 pm
$75 per person

WINTER SOLSTICE WISHING CANDLES
Rune Solstice CandleSat. Dec. 17
Two Sessions Available:
Morning 10am-12 Noon OR Afternoon 1-3 pm
$50 per person.
Spaces are filling up for this beautiful festive tradition so please REGISTER soon to avoid disappointment! Carve your own special candle with secret runes and decorate it with sparkling charms and personal wishes for the new year.
"SEED DREAMS" Creating an Intention Mandala for 2017
Seed Dreams MandalaSat. Jan. 7, 2017, 1-4 pm

Learn to create one of the most simple yet powerful patterns in sacred geometry then use it as a tool for manifesting your dreams.
$80 per person
CELTIC ILLUMINATIONS
Illuminated Celtic LetterSat. Jan. 14, 2017, 10am-4:30 pm

Let’s get knotty! Create and paint your own decorated and ‘illuminated’ initials, word or name in traditional Celtic knotwork style.
Full day workshop
$135 per person
WEARABLE ART Pendants
$40 each. 10 different designs to choose from. Drop by the studio to purchase or email your order.

"What the World Needs Now" Design
Shamanic Consultations & Spiritual Mentoring
Are you in search of answers or experiencing a challenging life transition? 1-on-1 sessions can be booked with me at the Alton Mill to help you find solutions.

MARI® Mandala "Soul Symbol" Interpretation
Explore the 'language of your soul' in a 1-on-1 self-discovery mandala making session with interpretation and a symbol 'reading' that lets your inner wisdom shine through. Sessions by appointment at my studio. Visit my website to learn more.
“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”

~ Tahereh Mafi
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