Thursday, January 22, 2009

Awakening Through Pilgrimage: Angela Mullins

Angela Mullins, an accomplished flutist who has performed and taught around the country, came to Goddard with a yearning to go on a pilgrimage – a sacred journey to a site of religious and spiritual significance. So she set out to study pilgrimage, which she defined as “an intentional journey in which the pilgrim communes with the divine, communes with the divine, contemplates his/her life path, and renews his/her connection to the sacred.” Inspired by a pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago in Spain before she started the IMA program, she focused her IMA studies on pilgrimages to China, Tibet, Bolivia, Peru, and even Paris. The journeys culminated in her thesis, Awakening to Awakening: An Intimate Exploration of Pilgrimage, a comprehensive exploration of the traditions, psychology, and religious roots of pilgrimage, and a beautifully-written memoir of her own journeys that also includes her sparkling photographs.

Mullins explains that the study “allowed me to integrate parts of myself that never integrated before. When I first went on my original pilgrimage – to Santiago – that itself unraveled my life in a powerful way, and I realized that writing was going to be really important to my life, but the process of studying pilgrimage at Goddard and integrating my own experience to the depths of my soul, and my writing and study, enabled me to realize my work and life don't have to be separate things.” Along the way, she also took her bamboo flute with her on many journeys, and played around the world, offering her music and collaborating with local musicians. “Being in other cultures, I learned how music served culture, and how music is beyond high art and is its own pathway to healing.”

In addition to her music, she awakened the writer and photographer in her. She says she only started taking her writing seriously right before she started at Goddard. “Up to that point, I was a closet journaler, and would have smacked somebody if they dared to read it, but going on that first pilgrimage, and realizing writing would be an important part of understanding pilgrimage showed me how to follow writing wherever it took me, and how writing was its own pilgrimage path.” What she saw not only infused and opened up her writing, but her photography also as she took thousands of pictures on her travels.

Her pilgrimage continues in several forms. Right after she finished her thesis at the end of 2007, she went to Pisco, Peru to volunteer for Hands on Disaster Response. She currently is on a journey through massage school, and she's studying yoga, looking all the time for how these healing arts enhance and integrate into her writing, photography, and music, and in how she serves her community.

While she continues to teach flute at a studio in her home, perform, and do arts outreach in Washington, D.C. public schools – taking music into the classroom to help students find their own voices – she says her journey in the IMA program and around the world has “taken music from where it was before my life – as an intellectual process – and taken it back into my heart and back into my body. It's also opened up my whole life so that everything I do – music, writing, photography, yoga, massage, everything – now comes from that place within me.”

For more on Angela's reflections, please see http://mysticalroad.blogspot.comand

Photos (from top): 1) Walking along the Camino near Pamplona, Spain; 2) Inside the Inca Ruins at Ollantaytambo, Peru; 3) Flying over the Himalayas: the Rooftop of the World; 4) Sharing melodies inside the Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China; 5) Friends from the Camino, in front of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain; 6) Connecting with the music inside Templo de la Luna, near Cusco, Peru

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lise Weil & Trivia: Voices of Feminism

Lise Weil, IMA faculty, had a revelation 26 years ago: “The essays that were being written by my friends at that time were to me the most exciting and important things being written in the feminist world, and I wanted to publish those essays and to attract more writing of that kind. I also wanted to create a space where women could take themselves seriously as thinkers.” That vision led her to found Trivia: A Journal of Ideas, which, over its 13 years as a print journal, published feminist writer throughout the U.S. and Canada, such as Gloria Anzaldua, Andrea Dworkin, Mary Daly, Kim Chernin, Nicole Brossard, Paula Gunn Allen, Renate Stendhal and Betsy Warland.

Trivia had an impact on the field of women's studies and won grants from the NEA and the Mass Council on the Arts. In 2004, some IMA students approached Weil to join them in resurrecting Trivia as an on-line journal. Since that time, Trivia has flourished, again helping to shape feminism. While Trivia used to focus more on discursive prose and experimental critical writing, the new Trivia embraces creative writing as well. “It's changed too,” explains Weil. “The notion of feminism used to be much more monolithic.

This [new Trivia] is called 'voices of feminism' rather than 'a journal of ideas'.” IMA students, faculty and alumni, who have contributed to Trivia in recent years include Mercy Morganfield, Susan Moul, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Lise Weil, Julianna Borrero, Sara Wright, Rhonda Patzia; MeLissa Gabriels was a founding editor. Other writers of note, such as Judy Grahn and Deena Metzger, plus many Canadian and U.S. Scholars, poets and writers fill the pages of Trivia, each issue centered on a theme such as “The Wonderful and the Terrible,” The Resurrection Issue,” “Love and Lust,” “Memory,”The Art of the Possible,” and the “The Body.”

The current issue, “Unabashed Knowing,” was edited by Weil with co-editor and Goddard alumna Harriet Ellenberger. “It's about women's power of knowing, this ancient oracular capacity that women have always had to speak truth that no everyone wants to hear, to know things that not everyone wants to know,” Weil says.

Upcoming issues continue to embrace a wide spectrum of feminism. “Thinking about Goddesses,” currently being co-edited by Weil with Hye-Sook Hwang, a Korean goddess scholar, will incorporate stories, experiences and visions of and research on goddesses. Beyond that, Weil will co-edit an issue with acclaimed Canadian writer and scholar Betsy Warland, “Are Lesbians Going Extinct?” Based on a line from Nicole Brossand – “A lesbian who does not reinvent the world is a lesbian going extinct” – the issue asks writers, thinkers and activists to consider whether, as they are more accepted and occasionally even embraced by mainstream culture, lesbians are still reinventing the world.

Considering “Trivia” was one of the names of the Triple Goddess, and it's also a word marginalized in our culture, it's no surprise that Trivia embraces both these themes, each of which illustrates the journal's vision “as a place at the crossroads where women's ideas can assume their original power and significance.”

Photos, form top: Lise Weil, artwork courtesy of Gabrielle Meixner, and Trivia Logo.