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  • Kris Newlin

Stuff Shaman

Inspired by the many shamanic images encountered in the artwork of Santa Fe, New Mexico; I took a deep dive into my own psyche and my relationship with false idols. Where do I go to fill the holes in my heart, the voids in my life? I'd like to say I always turn to God, the Creator of the Universe and The One who knows my whole heart but in my honest searching I had to admit hard things.

Just as shamans are often sought out as healers, I knew I had turned to a soulless bounty of stuff to soothe my soul on more than one occasion. Rough day? I deserved a little something special to put a smile on my face. I also had a million justifications for why I had such a bounty of stuff. "I'm a mixed media artist" was my favorite go to excuse. Another rationalization gem, "My stuff is things others discarded so I'm placing value where others devalued something, isn't that a good thing?" "I'm keeping it out of the landfill and being a good steward of this global garden My Father entrusted me with".

Admitting I have a problem was my first step, sitting with it and understanding it was the next. So I began the therapeutic process through my art of looking at my layered relationship with accumulation. I began a journey with my stuff and its shamanic hold in my life. I surprised myself at times, struggling with letting go of some of the treasures I tied to the Stuff Shaman's skirt. I'd ask myself what is this thing and quickly follow it up with what if this is valuable? Parting with my years of precious piles was certainly a struggle at times, so there is a nod to that with a dog fight tied on to show my internal confliction with purging. There is also the stuff that was attached to a person, a memory, a place, etc. that really sinks its teeth into your heart. How can I let go of that? Some of the pieces had become a physical manifestation of love in the form of tiny tokens. When did I start to equate love and importance with these bits and pieces?

Interestingly, stuff can seemingly bring pleasure initially then become a burden weighing one down, taking up space yet still leaving one feeling empty. The Stuff Shaman shows the intellectual and emotional emptiness while being surrounded by things once thought to be the answer to life's disappointments, struggles, and stresses. A skirt has two fun definitions at play here, it is something that conceals or protects. What all had I used stuff as a barrier for to protect my vulnerabilities? One of my favorites is needing a new shirt, shoes, or piece of jewelry when I'm going to a public speaking engagement in order to take the edge off my nerves. It is hiding my underbelly: lack of confidence, self-esteem struggles, uncertainty. Just a little flash of stuff and everyone will assume I've got it all together, which brings me to the other definition of skirt-to avoid something or ignore it. How many times have I used stuff to skirt the issue that I didn't want to face?

Where do I go from here? I'm trying to look my false idols in the face, looking at you Stuff Shaman. I'm asking God to search my heart and soothe my soul before and above anything else in this world. I'm praying open handed prayers. Where do I have plenty and can I fill a need for someone else with anything extra? I'm practicing gratitude, contentment, and stillness. I'm listening more to God and less to the noise around me and inside me. I'm remembering that my true value comes from Him and there is nothing I can do to add to that value. I'm trying not to skirt any issues that are a distraction from my walk with God.

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