| July 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

Dear Andre:

After our meeting today where I listened to you speak about your life’s journey and imagine what lies ahead, I am inspired to write to you to offer some support, as you take up the challenge to walk in life as an artist. As I watch you cross this threshold of your journey – returning to America to share the fruits of your creativity, purified after two years away in Brazil – I can clearly see that you are walking the five-fold path of the artist.

Last Saturday it was an honor to see you dance for my birthday and in celebration of New York City PRIDE.  You were golden. You danced completely covered in gold paint and glitter, as naked as protocol allowed. I saw you dance the story of your path to health after your diagnosis with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I saw you dance the many ways you have had to be brave in celebrating the new identities you have found in yourself since leaving Kansas, while holding with grace the ones you know so well; you danced the pain of the broken hearted lover and as a celebrant of the space you have claimed in your family and community.

You my new friend are at the front of long lines of shamanic artists — gatekeepers, who seek to link us to the Self of all of us by re-integrating the wounded parts of ourselves that have been denied, while pointing to what is transcendent and real in us. I write to you here mindful of this lineage and what I sense of its purpose and possibility.

To inhabit these spaces is the journey of many great artists; human beings who walk them consciously at the risk of amplifying self-destructive behaviors, madness, imbalance and poverty. Nonetheless the artist must walk them if the gateway through which life is sustained is to remain fully open for all humanity.  Ultimately, these pathways are the healing roads for us all.

These paths which I will identify below have been observed from over 20 years of coaching and advising the creative temperament as a lawyer and teacher. They are informed by my study of the indigenous spiritual traditions the Dagara of West Africa and a resulting growth philosophy that looks first to the elements  – that which enables growth in all living things – as metaphors to discover supportive life structures.  I share them here in the hope that they will inspire you to walk them deeply and evolve purposefully your creative gifts in service to your own well-being and that of all human beings.

VOICE – The Path of Mineral.

The Dagara of West Africa believe that mineral and bone embody our memory and voice. By voice I mean your true voice or HEKA.  HEKA was for the Ancient Egyptians the sound of the individual soul’s journey — the vibration of one’s evolutionary path. When one finds her true voice she re-members herself, hears herself and speaks clearly. When she does this her words are heard and responded to, by all the creative forces of nature.

Many people speak in unique and different ways. However walking the path of VOICE is not firstly about being unique. We are all unique even in our imitation of each other. Uniqueness is the result of something far more essential and compelling.  That thing is Love.  Love is a felt vibration, which though it is felt uniquely is ultimately ordering, nurturing, harmonizing and unseen.

To have true voice or HEKA means to find your unique vibratory source and destiny. This is confirmed and amplified by the qualities you have mastered or can’t help but be for better or worse. Your HEKA is also embedded in the desires you have – the qualities you now want to experience. For it is by desiring that we begin re-member: put ourselves back together, heal from the wounds of living and find true voice.

Indeed our experiences have confirmed for us, and have often caused us to overdo our best qualities – our creativity, dynamism, strength, freedom, compassion, ability to nurture and so on. And it’s our desires – the qualities that we have yet to fully allow to emerge from within us that also hold the full seed of our voice – qualities like patience, power, wisdom, order, relationship and so on. It is the alchemy of the qualities you have mastered thus far and those you now desire that sources your unique HEKA.

What qualities would you say you have mastered or best describes you? (These are the ways you can’t help but be, for better or worse.) When stressed how do you overdo these qualities, and in order to avoid feeling what – lonely, hopeless, worthless, unheard or lost? What qualities do you now want to experience? And in becoming both – the qualities that best describe you coupled with the qualities you now desire, what new world will be possible for yourself and others?

These are the questions we must consistently ask on the path of VOICE.  When we can ask and answer them clearly and unequivocally, we physically manifest new experiences for others and ourselves at the highest levels of creativity, spontaneously.

To do otherwise means developing creative expressions that are inauthentic and deadening to your spirit; to perpetuate the ways in which you mask your pain, and to teach others to take on postures that do the same.

In today’s world with so many platforms with global reach there is a real opportunity to connect ones art to a personal narrative and vision that serves you and the world with greater effect than ever before. In the marketplace of voices the world needs new narratives that help us make meaning of fear, dilemma and conflict.  Such narratives only come from our bones. It is free of pain-masking; it is authentic and creatively powerful. It can be spoken, sung, danced, dramatized even ritualized, but is ultimately sourced in silence and reflection.

VERSATILITY – The Path of Nature

This second path is the path of Nature.

Nature is not stuck on form. It will change to meet its ultimate mandate, which is to channel life.

As an artist you will walk a kind of death walk. These are the steps walked by the condemned when one’s life is called for and the only thing that will save you is the way you walk towards the death squad. You must as an artist make of this walk a shape shifting dance with the forces that seek to obliterate you, finding spaces within you in which the eternal dwells and walk before them as though there. No shields will help, no desperate pleas, no recounting of past victories or future promises will suffice; only a fluidity of form that’s says: to kill me is to kill you.

This is the imperative of the path of nature.

What wants to happen in you? Where are you allowing change to happen? Where are you holding on? What will you let go? And in letting go, which of your desires will you embody? How will your art making change?

VISIBILITY – the Path of Fire

To walk this path of fire is to carry a communal dream. It means that you would have trekked within and looked with eyes shut at the dreams of humanity and you are willing to make yourself a visible demonstration of that which you have glimpsed within.  In walking it you will illuminate the dreams of others, even when they do not clearly see themselves.

You will become invisible when you cannot see yourself. To see oneself the artist has to be able to see himself as a unique participant in humanity’s ultimate dream: A world where everyone’s unique expression is heard, where we each have hope, are valued, connected and at home.

Are you willing to be visible? Where or what are you hiding, and why? What does your invisibility/ visibility serve? These are some of the questions on the path of fire.

VULNERABILITY – The Path of Water

This is the path that connects us all. It’s the path of tears — the waters you must navigate to reach the each person in the world and have them close by, as if they are standing next to you.

For too long we have allowed the binary of commercial art versus personal art to divide and confuse our art making.  It is just as easy these days to be local as it is to be global.  The only issue is, are you willing to sit in the raw with shared human pain and create from there – the pain of not being heard, disconnected, hopeless and invisible. To do so may mean, speaking of your own hard experiences on the road to wholeness and vision.

What do you choose to share about yourself and why?  What don’t you share and why? What does your sharing or not sharing serve? These are the questions on this path.

VIABILITY – The Path of Earth

Finally, to walk this path of earth you must become vital to the nourishment, nurturance and power of your community. It means that you will allow yourself to be recognized as such and honored accordingly.

The viability of artist is a shared communal responsibility. As an artist you must begin to more deeply serve the needs in your community while being clear about your place and value — the promises to be negotiated for the ongoing balance and well being of everyone.

Within the context of such great communal need the idea of the “struggling artists “ must die. This I know is often the hardest pill to swallow. For it forces us to confront the ways in which we have been stingy and self-serving; or where comfort in giving has been prized over the courage it takes to deliver the bad news in service of a greater good.

This path requires that we ask ourselves and balance the answers to questions such as: How generous am I? Where am I opting to remain comfortable and not vitally engaged with the needs of others, and why? What am I willing to be held accountable for in the world? What is required for me to take care of myself in service to my community?


Andre, I have shared these paths with you not because I think you do not already know them. Indeed you do and have been walking them. I share them in the hope that they will inspire you to walk to even more consciously and deeply.

These five paths must be walked together as they are all intrinsically connected. When we walk them as disconnected paths we experience ourselves in outsized ways. We know how visibility or voice without vulnerability can sound so hollow. We know that vulnerability without a visionary narrative often leaves others asking, why.  So all five paths are to be walked in tandem with full awareness.


Love Always,


Thursday July 4, 2013


New York City



Olubode Shawn Brown is the facilitator of the Essential Journey – a guided program of self discovery for human beings working on urgent life projects. For more information about Olubode & The Essential Journey visit www.theessentialjourney.com







Powered by Facebook Comments

Category: ART, CULTURE, From the Editor, Spirituality


About the Author ()

Olubode was born in Kingston Jamaica. In 1984 he migrated to the United States. He has lived and worked in New York City and Los Angles as an attorney, business manager and life coach. He is the facilitator of The Essential Journey, a professional photographer and the founder of BLOOM Magazine and The BLOOM Party. Websites: theessentialjourney.com thebloomparty.com bloommediaphotography.com

Leave a Reply