Spoken word artist and Moon Club founding member Lisa Luxx, has a powerful message for International Women’s Day. Voice of Earth is a poem about sisterhood, mother nature and the history of womankind. Written at a Sisters of the Wild gathering.
When Courtney Alexander couldn’t find a deck that spoke to her on a soul level, she decided to create her own… All images: the Dust II Onyx tarot
I had been reading and learning about the tarot for around two years, when I pin-pointed an issue I hadn’t been able to put my finger on. I had a hard time finding a deck that really spoke to me. I’d discovered so many decks, my favorites being the Wild Unknown and Fountain Tarot. And although the art was beautiful, there was still a disconnect for me at soul level.
Because, being a fat/black/queer woman there wasn’t a deck I saw myself in. I agonized for months over how to express the depth and diversity I wanted to see, and the idea to create my own deck—Dust II Onyx—began rolling around in my head.
Then life happened. I lost my job and found myself spiraling into anxiety and depression. This directly following an intense nocturnal vision. I had gone to bed as normal, but woke in the middle of the night thinking someone was in my apartment. Once I realized there was no one there, I attempted to go back to sleep.
At this point I slipped into a lucid dream. I heard noises again and when I got up to investigate, a shadow figure appeared in front of me—who I read as being my six-year-old nephew. When I went to turn on a light, I felt an intense sensation hit my belly, and I woke up with a yell.
The following morning, I went to work completely shaken and lacking sleep, as well as still feeling the strange sensation in my stomach. I tried to go about my day as normal, although something felt different. That evening I received a phone call telling me not to come back in.
Although losing my job was stressful, I saw it as an opportunity to visit family. So I made a trip to my hometown and saw my nephew while I was there. We shared a moment, where we were dancing and singing together. Then he laid his head on my belly, and he turned his face towards mine with his eyes closed. His face had the most blissful look I had ever seen.
In the moment, I actually wondered if I could be physically pregnant—because of the dream and this experience with my nephew. But looking back I truly believe that my dream had been the moment of conception of the Dust II Onyx tarot.
By now, I had been mulling over art for my deck for a few months, and still hadn’t got a clear vision of how I wanted it to look. Then another dream came to me, twice! And in this dream I saw an intensely gorgeous black portrait, which has gone on to become the chief inspiration behind my deck.
I began the work using my current knowledge of tarot and plenty of my own intuition. The imagery that comes forth is as new to me as it is for the readers who will use this deck, and it is coming from a place that feels far beyond my conscious mind.
Dust II Onyx was created from my desire to make artwork that resonated with my soul, and has become a work I want to share with others. I consider it an honor to create this deck and I look forward it being a tool for beautiful and transformative experiences for each and every reader.
To fund the production of this deep and powerful multi-media collage collector’s tarot, Courtney is running a Kickstarter campaign through October 17 2016.
The girl making meditation the new nightlife, Biet Simkin shares her spiritual practices and how her higher self embraces the shocks of life with Kiran Gill…
The Numinous: You’ve experienced a lot of loss in your life, including the death of your parents and daughter, and you describe these events as shocks that have connected you to your higher self. How have these shocks aided you in your spiritual journey? What advice would you offer someone going through a similar experience?
Biet Simkin: Life is beautiful, but it wasn’t created to be a whole experience. It was broken into millions of shattered parts for our exploration. This is why we sometimes see the beauty in the shattered glass, and at other times the grief and rage. My advice for anyone at any time is to listen, listen to that inner voice and stay close to it. “This too shall pass,” is what they say. And eventually it does, and you will realize it was all worth it. In my life I actually remember experiencing ecstasy around these shocks. My higher self does not want a boring life. Only my mechanics or what some people call “ego” wants it all to be easy. My soul is interested in challenge and loss. My soul is interested in heartache and fear. Get interested in what is breaking you, look closely, it is in the center of these things that your grace can be found.
TN: Your father was a shaman/psychotherapist from Russia. How did his work and beliefs influence you as a child? In your present work, how do your father’s beliefs influence you?
BS: As a child, his influence aided me in being lazy, poetic and curious. He always insisted that I do whatever I want. Being the sad and confused child that I was, having just lost my mother, I didn’t want to do much but sit around, make art, eat snacks and cry sometimes. Eventually, this lack of structure led to rock and roll, drug use, world travel and many lovers. And finally, his passing eight years ago led to a complete shift in being, rendering me a most disciplined and focused entrepreneur in a healthy relationship, with a healthy diet, sober life and perpetual tangos with joy. I am his daughter; I continue his legacy of mixing fun with art and spirituality. The real icing on the cake of his legacy was laughter, and I carry that on.
TN: You have previously described yourself as having a “strong sensual energy.” How have you cultivated this part of your identity in a society that frequently represses and condemns female sexuality?
BS: I do not pay attention to that stuff and consider myself rather masculine, actually. I never really bought into the whole gender thing, it seems kind of silly to me. There are so many feminine men and masculine women….what is gender anyway? I am sexual because sex energy is the highest energy we have on Earth. It is love energy and it is the force with which we create. I consider myself a creator, and to me that is about the sexiest thing a person can remind themselves to be. I think all people want to create, so when they see someone doing it they get excited!
TN: You advocate for a more emotional meditative experience that encompasses beauty and gratitude. Why is that? How does this differ from more traditional meditative practices?
BS: My work is more than that of just a meditation teacher. I am an artist who realized that utilizing meditation and space (artistic space or otherwise) could transmute the state of a human being, so the next obvious action was getting human beings into beautiful spaces where I could assist them in transmuting their state! Everything about my work differs from anything else out there because it is an experience created from my inner world. Just like a Kubrick film is different from a Spielberg film. In my film, my work is about exploring the emotional center in a super intellectual way. I like to marry these two, and I do it well. People often comment in their testimonials that there is wit in my work. I believe that part of what makes my meditation experiences so emotional is that I laugh a lot and don’t take life too seriously.
TN: Likewise, you speak of cultivating “divided attention” throughout your day. What is “divided attention” and how does one master it?
BS: Divided attention simply means placing your attention on many things at the same time. So, one would experience the music in the room, their hand on the tea, the tea itself, and perhaps the people around them, and do that all at the same time. This helps slow down time. As it is a difficult practice, it is the ultimate practice. It’s easiest learned in a group or from a teacher, but it must be done out in the world.
TN: What are some of your greatest tools in your spiritual tool kit? Do you have a daily spiritual practice/ritual? What is it?
BS: Listen to your inner voice. It is telling you what to do and you do not listen. When you listen, you will hear it give you clear direction. My daily practice is obedience to this voice. Come hell or high water I will pursue what serves this voice within me. This means I do all the things you would imagine someone does who guards their higher state: I meditate daily, I work out, I pray, I journal, I see friends, I help people, I laugh a lot, I make love, I eat sustainable healthy food, I sleep well…It sounds kind of boring I guess, but it actually sheer ecstasy! Also, I practice gratitude as a way of “being” not “doing.” It is in being in a state of gratitude all day that everything I experience gets transmuted into food for my higher self.
Yumi Sakugawa’s cute illustrated books bring life’s big questions down to earth. But mastering them herself will always be a work in progress, she tells Gabriela Herstik.
If there’s one thing Yumi Sakugawa thinks you should every day, it’s meditate. And with her sweetly illustrated books, the Los Angeles based comic book artist and illustrator is on a mission – to teach the world that there’s no right way to meditate, and you should do it anyway. In fact, Yumi is leading a shift in how we approach our relationship to our consciousness – and her childlike curiosity on her everlasting search of ways to connect to the cosmos is creating some truly spectacular magic.
The Numinous: There’s an almost childlike innocence in the way you present very important spiritual and Universal truths. How do you think this helps get your message across?
Yumi Sakugawa: I want to believe that core spiritual and universal truths can be distilled to simple and profound messages that can be easily understood by everybody regardless of religious background, spiritual training or level of education / life experience. Also, I don’t think illustrated books should be limited to just children.
TN: One of the points you emphasize is that we ARE one – with each other and the Universe. How do you think living in this truth can change your life, and how has it impacted your own?
YS: This is a principle I illustrate a lot, but one I have the hardest time practicing for myself. I want to believe that in embodying this truth, we collectively awaken to the idea that other people’s suffering is our own suffering, to help remind us of our innate nature to take care of our communities and the planet as a whole.
I do feel ready, more than I’ve ever been, to really ask myself what cosmic interconnectedness means and how I can embody this more in my life and my work. Self-care and self-love must come first before extending that love to the community at large. Meditating on this truth gives me a greater sense of responsibility and purpose in the art I create and share with the world.
TN: How and why did you decide to tackle such a heavy (and worthy!) concept like oneness?
YS: Again, I think I am drawn to this principle of oneness because I have the hardest time fully practicing it – even though I know on some primal, deep level that this is something the survival of our humanity and goodness depends upon. I spend a lot of time alone working on my artwork, which makes it easy for me to have an isolated and self-centered worldview. I am in awe of friends and colleagues who are really out there in the world interacting with more people from all walks of life every single day in very difficult, challenging situations – whether they are teachers, doctors, community activists, or work in the non-profit sector.
But at the same time I feel very lucky that my artwork has found an audience out there, and it’s so humbling to know that the work I create to ease my own mental health issues and insecurities can also help complete strangers from all walks of life, in all parts of the world. That, to me, brings a beautiful and profound sense of interconnectedness, that so many people may be experiencing the same shades of suffering, but can also experience the same spiritual relief by unshackling their minds from their own self-inflicted and self-limiting beliefs. I am reminded often that my artwork cannot exist in a vacuum and it must be seen by other people in order for the process of creation to be complete.
TN: What’s on the horizon for you in the upcoming Year of the Monkey?
YS: I do hope to further extend my involvement with the world in 2016, though I am not sure yet what that would look like. In addition to continuing to create more artwork and comics relating to mindfulness, perhaps I will be doing more workshops and guided meditations IRL? To be continued! (Ed. Let’s talk Yumi, we’d love to create a Numinous Presents event with you!)
TN: What’s your process like for creating your art? Is there a special space that you tune into?
YS: Especially with my books about meditation and mindfulness, it’s important for me to be in an intuitive flow state where I am feeling clearheaded and not overthinking things. This is why it is so important for me to meditate first thing in the morning. Having meditated for seven years now, I cannot imagine doing my creative work without a daily meditation practice, which creates the best mental space for me to pay attention to my inner guide – the voice that tells me when something is authentic or not. It is in this space where the best creative decisions are made, and the artwork that needs to be created unfolds with the ease of a flower opening its petals to the sun.
TN: What is the one message you hope to get across to all humans who read your books?
YS: Pay attention, listen and celebrate.
Discover more about Yumi Sakugawa and her work at Yumisakugawa.com
Okay so first off, totally digging the cute meets sassy meets edgy theme you have going on. When did you decide to start selling and creating your art? Were any aliens involved?
I started selling my art right out of high school. I would hand paint tote bags and sell them on Livejournal! But I would say I started taking it seriously in about 2009, when I decided I wanted to start working for myself. I don’t think aliens were involved, although I completely believe in the supernatural…all this sass has been with me since birth. I really feel like my style is a reflection of myself. I’m a very opinionated person who likes really cute and weird things.
You’re based in Florida. Do you love it? Hate it? What’s it like?
Yep I was born and raised in Miami. I really hated it for a while, and spent most of my early 20s trying to move somewhere else. In the past two or three years though I’ve really grown to love it here. I live about two miles from the beach so it’s kind of a slow paced lifestyle, which I like, but it also has some of the allure of city life at times. Miami also has a really great art scene. If I’m feeling especially uninspired, I like heading down to Wynwood in Downtown Miami and just taking in the street art that’s literally everywhere.
So as you can probably tell, we’re a tad obsessed with all things mystical. What stirred your inspiration to create pieces like the Junk Food Pentagrams and Ali?
I grew up going to catholic school my entire life and as a weird gay kid my body basically repelled the lessons of the bible. I was also really into science fiction and reading about magic and stuff and it’s still kind of stayed with me as an adult.
Are you into the mystical and numinous side of life? If so, does this impact what you create?
I’m not a super spiritual person, but I do believe in karma and that there are spiritual, mystical things out there in the Universe. I personally just like to focus on being a good person, or the best ‘me’ I could be. I think it impacts my art, especially my more feminist or motivational type pieces. I like being able to uplift people with the things I create.
Besides all the pieces in your shop, you have some wild art pieces – a lot of which also happen to feature totally rad women! Is this intentional?
It’s completely intentional because I’ve just always drawn girls, even when I was younger. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized the injustice women face every day. I’m a cisgendered gay man, but I consider myself a feminist and I like to create things that support women. I think the girls I draw are inherently girly but still strong.
Don’t think you’ve escaped more questions about aliens just yet – we have to ask, are you a believer?
I am! Absolutely, I mean I’ve never personally seen any proof but I just find it so interesting. If there’s a low budget alien movie, I’ve probably seen it. I’m also an avid X-Files fan. I’ve seen every episode more times than I can count.
Last but not least, are there any life lessons you’re dying to pass on to our Numi readers?
I think just be yourself, 100%. People can see when somebody is genuine, even through the internets. If you want to get to know me, just follow me on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Essentially my social media is my brain just spewing out onto the web.
P.S. Numis – Mention The Numinous when you’re checking out of the Danny Brito Etsy store and you’ll get a special surprise! Keep scrolling for a selection of that’s on offer…