Janet Riehl celebrates 59 years—a revelatory conversation gestures the way to choreograph a creative life and bring forth many talents and art disciplines

Seventeen years ago (December 1990) I taped and transcribed this conversation with Lynda Caesara when I lived in the Bay Area. I’ve excerpted some portions I thought relevant to the themes of my Riehlife…creating connections through the arts, across cultures, and generations….and my role as catalyst and nexus. It is a snapshot of a stage in my creative life when the visual art had come in full force. I followed the thread of visual art for the last 17 years and now that thread is tucked back into the tapestry on the loom as writing becomes my major art discipline once again.

The tape begins as I recapped 1989-1990–a time that included a major operation, an unwarranted eviction, being laid off my corporate job, drafting a book on transition titled “Seasons of the Soul: Moving Gracefully Through Uncertain Times”, my first body of visual art (painting on cloth, photos, collages) becoming the art opening “Celebrating an African Experience.” It seemed like a good life review flashback to celebrate my 59th birthday today. It not only marks a moment, but gestures toward a method of how creative people who work in multiple disciples can gather and coalesce these into culminating work. And, to have the faith that this is so.

African Offering Goddess
Offering Gifts to the Emerging Goddess of Creation

Lynda: How exciting!

Janet: It is! People are fed by the work. It is deep stuff. In terms of a spiritual discipline, I’m investigating a Tibetan Buddhist fellowhsip in Berkeley called “Rigpa.”

Lynda: You’ll like that.

Janet: It does feel good. And this goldy color that I like so much is everywhere, which feels validating. And the rust colors which came in when I changed the color palette for my wardrobe in February.

Lynda: Do as much study as you can along with it and find what the mechanisms are in the rituals they do. They do a lot of rituals that are very powerful. How do they work? You are doing an exploratory journey.

Janet: Yes, my sister Julia said to me yesterday, “My sister, the explorer. Well, that’s good. Each family needs one.”

I see a mission to work with artists to help articulate and visualize their hopes, prayers, dreams for Gaia–to use all varieties of art forms to activate their heart energy for moving into action in healing the planet.

Lynda: The important thing is that if this is your purpose, that you really channel this energy.

Janet: Channel the passion of the earth energy through my body into the body of work.

Lynda: There’s a balance that you’re getting…the masculine spiritual energy, but with doing it for Gaia, the earth energy, it’s all about the feminine. What you are looking for is a blend between the two. How do you use these spiritual techniques to channel through this earth energy? You are looking for a balance, a synthesis between these two qualities.

Janet: . . . I always liked treasure hunts. (big laugh)

Lynda: Your purpose is to bring qualities of energy you are exploring and studying into the mainstream. Anything that furthers that will be powerful, and anything that doesn’t further it, won’t be. As long as you really hone to that purpose, it will move. Don’t get distracted from it.

Part of what you will learn with the Tibetans is how to get energy behind your work. That’s why you need to study their rituals. They are masters at moving energy. How do you get from here to there? How do you get something going?

You have a wonderful faculty for blending things. You are a synthesist. A person who synthesizes things. You are going to find a way to pull all this together. Through synthesizing everything, that’s the way you’re going to bring it out into the world.

Janet: In a form that other people will have access to without having to work quite so hard.

Lynda: Some they will be able to do consciously and some not. You are doing the background in order to bring forth. Stories affect energy…and children.

Janet: My sense is in the emphasis of artist, writer, storyteller, that I can lead with the painting and let the other two tuck in as I go.

Lynda: They are in the background to be done concurrently. Because you have so many fingers in so many pies, you will need to use your intuitive sense to find out what gets worked on next. Every day and during every day, scan to find out what is pulling on you for that day. That is what will lead you through.

You are gathering so many pieces that are going to culminate all at once. You have to give attention to each at different times. So you will be pulling each one along like that. You have to be sensitive to what pulls you. You may dwelve into a project whole-heartedly, but usually for not more than a few months, before you have to pull another one with you. Because you are bringing a whole body of information together.

Janet: To do that with some sense of peace instead of going crazy.

Lynda: Just realize that’s what is true. And just give it up and do it. (We laugh.)

Janet: The idea of stages has been helpful to me. To realize that everything doesn’t have to be done all at once.

Lynda: And it’s not gonna be. In 30 years it will come to its culmination (2020). That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be highpoints on the way with projects being completed and so forth. But you really are pulling on a main body of work with many pieces to a major culmination. Hang in there with it.

Janet:The story that I want to tell is an expanded definition of the erotic—the interconnection of life.

Lynda:There are two ways you are going to deal with all this. One is to put down your absolute sense of purpose. Get clear on it. Do rituals on it. Really get that as your life’s well-spring force to carry you through all this. It’s a wonderful time to develop this over the next month or two because we’re down at the source at the dark time of the year. Insemination moving to give forth birth.

The second stage is to check in at regular intervals during the day, week, and month to see what needs doing now. You need a great attunement to how this is going to manifest in the world and what you need to pay attention to it. As long as you can ride the sustenance of your connection, then your attunement will be really clear about where you need to be and what you need to be doing at each moment. And when your attunement starts to fade, then go back to the basic level of your sustenance. Put out your prayers and sense of purpose. It’s a tricky dance that you’ve created for yourself and it’s going to require that kind of listening.

A lot of what this stage is right now is mentors.Your life is going to be so filled with mentors and models. You are a sponge right now for anyone who is doing anything close to what you want to do. So that you can sort through it and see what your style of it is.

Janet: I can even approach people that way. To say “This is what I’m building toward and I’m looking for models of how other people have pursued their life work.”

Lynda: Yes, “I want to know how you did it because I’m doing it.”

Janet: Yes, that’s right. I’m at a stage that I’m not just wanting to do it, but I’m doing it.

Lynda: You are looking at all the forms and varieties and ways it’s been done. You’ll find that most artists are very supportive of people coming up underneath them. Those who have made it. People helped them to make it. People who are clear and who have made it, recognize that part of their job is to help other artists coming forward. And you are another artist coming forward. As long as you present yourself in that fashion, they will give you whatever it seems appropriate to give you.

Make sure that you allow the energy to support you. It’s very easy to get distracted into all the ways it manifests.

The biggest thing is to do your rituals, get your support base strong. Then you’ll be able to feel which of the manifestations is appropriate at the moment.

Janet: It seems that a lot of things I need to be doing right now are on the male interface. In regard to strategy, planning, and setting priorities.

What I’ve been learning this past year is how to take this wealth of inspiration that comes in and ground it, embody it. Now it’s continuing to do that and connecting it more firmly with the external world—to go public with my work. That takes the male strategy.

Lynda: You’ll keep your feminine connection by establishing rituals and connection with Gaia. And with the work you are continuing to do. That will keep you balanced on the feminine. That is your core. The energy running through you. All this male support will partner and support and structure your work. You have to maintain your female core in order to have the connection with the energy. As long as you do that, the rest will work.

You’re doing really well. There is a lot of stuff there to contain and work with. The Tibetan work–the sitting–will help you contain and hold the energy.

The biggest thing you’re going to have is that all these things would be good, but you’re going to have the task of knowing when to do it and the task of integrating them. That management task is the biggest.

Janet: Energy management. Managing my diversity.

Lynda: Allowing it. Because you really do need to do all these things. To exercise every day and so forth. All these things need to happen in some part of it. So you need to know what has to be a daily thing and what’s a monthly thing. What’s shifting here and there. That’s why your connection to the core is so important because that’s what will tell you needs to be done everyday. The ebb and flow.

Ram Dass has a story. A man comes along driving a wagon and he looks like he is asleep. A little kid runs out in front and he immediately is alert and stops the wagon.

The story is saying: This is how you need to be in your life. Sensitive to what is approaching at the moment. This man appeared to be asleep, but when it came time to react, he was there. If you are totally receptive in your mind, you’ll know what has to be done at any point in time. And that’s an art form.

Janet: That is probably the major art form. Choreographing my life is my major art form.

Lynda: And you’ll do it by your sustenance from the core and the receptivity to what needs to happen. That’s a dance. A difficult attuned dance. And you are doing it well now. You will do it better in the future.

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