heART Exchange Art Swap

My swap partner received her art, so now I can really talk about it. I said a little the other day, but here’s the whole story. To recap, I started off thinking I would do a painting, but didn’t end up having enough time. This led to trying to figure out something to do with fabric left over from making a square for Kelly’s quilt.

What could I make?  To be honest, I’m not that crafty or artistic. I am a writer. I like to color and make collages, silly drawings, and hand-made cards, and I have a good eye, a sense of what works and is pleasing, but I’m not really that good at producing. However, I can sew. I don’t have a sewing machine right now, so it would have to be hand-stitched. I remembered seeing craft projects based on Tibetan Prayer Flags, so looked around on the internet to see what I could find. I found a really fun website, Future Craft Collective, that had a project they called “hope wish prayer flags.” Yes, this was it.

Traditionally, prayer flags are intended to generate peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom, and come in sets of five. The flags do not carry prayers to gods (as is commonly believed), but rather the prayers or mantras printed on the flags are blown by the wind and in this way they spread good will and compassion into all of space, providing benefit to all beings.

I didn’t have pinking sheers, so couldn’t make the fun edge, would have to stitch it.  The fabric is so beautiful, I wanted my swap partner to be able to see it on both sides, so I decided for each flag that I would stitch two pieces of fabric together. I sewed up three of the edges, flipped them right-side out, and ironed them. It was then that I noticed the way I had sewn the first two pieces of fabric together turned each flag into a pocket. This made me imagine all the things you could put inside: prayers, promises, wishes, worries, dreams, treasures, secrets.

And when I thought about what to write on the front of each flag-pocket, I decided to use the Metta Prayer as my inspiration, “metta” meaning lovingkindness. This is a Buddhist prayer that can be said for yourself, others, or even the planet. This has been a powerful practice for me in my own life. There are many versions, but in general, it goes something like this:

May I be peaceful.
May I be happy.
May I be safe.
May I awaken to the light of my true nature.
May I be free.

In the last two steps of the Metta Prayer, one would first imagine a specific person or a group, wishing these things for them, starting with “May you be peaceful.” And then in the final step of the practice, one wishes the same list of things for all beings.

May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.

The final step of my heART project was to sew ribbon on each flag-pocket. In this way, you can tie a single ribbon and hang a single flag-pocket on the wall or on the knob of a drawer or dresser.

Or, you can tie the five of them together and hang them like more traditional prayer flags.

I imagined that my art swap partner could write or whisper her worries, wishes, prayers, promises, secrets, and dreams into these flag-pockets, put them under her pillow when she sleeps, or slip it into the pages of a sacred book, or hang one or all of them where she can see them and remember, or put precious treasures inside, like a shell from the beach or a rock found on a walk or the key to her heart, and some sort of magic will happen.

Her worries will disappear and she will be safe.

Her wishes will come true and she will be happy.

Her prayers will be answered and she will be well.

Her promises will be kept and she will be peaceful.

Her secrets will be kept and she will be free.

Her dreams will come true and she will awaken to the light of her true nature.

As I mentioned the other day, it was really nice to be working on a sweet, handmade art project for someone else in the days leading up to my birthday, and oddly, it felt like I was doing it for me too: pouring all this care and lovingkindness into a creation that I blessed and let go, sent into the universe to love someone else. I think this is at the heart (the heART) of why I am an artist: to learn to love and be myself, and then send that love into the world, hoping it lands with whoever needs it most.

I'd love to hear what you think, kind and gentle reader.

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