Synesthesia: mystical motherhood, art, yoga, sound and movement.
An interview with yogi, momma, artist, sound healer and Onikas muse Sharon Aluma
According to Google “Synesthesia is when you hear music, but you see shapes. Or you hear a word or a name and instantly see a color.” When I sat in Sharon’s weekly “Yoga Ceremony” at The Standard last week this word came to me. It is how she teaches: words become trances, movement becomes mantra and sound becomes silence. She is an alchemist of the senses, and it comes through in her yoga, sound and art. Little is known about this synesthesiac state of being, Kandinsky and many artists are said to have possessed this ability and some scholars think that it develops during childhood when kids are intensely engaged with abstract concepts like art… Of course! I can picture my beautiful friend Sharon enraptured in her art as a young child. She certainly grew up in a home that fostered her art. She is an artist, traveler, sound alchemist, yoga + meditation teacher and a single momma to a precious boy. For this blog we talked about her journey and her transition into motherhood as well as the challenges inherent in carving out time for your creative pursuits, especially as the mom of a curious toddler! As she said, mothering a three year old means everything is orienting to their schedule. And somehow, like many women, she is doing it all!
Q: What helps you navigate the need to carve out studio time with the demands of motherhood? And what prepared you for this new stage?
I am learning through the process just as we do as artists. I can’t say I found a formula as I am finding my son’s growth and my own are parallel with each other. My timing was divine with the birth of my son two weeks before the world got quiet in March 2020. I did not have to deal with the outside world as much and got to have a very special postpartum experience. This also allowed me to paint more, I was determined to not stop painting as my life story already had me pause my painting practice from 2007- 2017. For those 10 years I dove very deep into the world of yoga, energetics and healing and through that I found myself painting again. I guess sometimes when you lose something and then get it back you learn it’s true worth.
My current studio space is a corner in my bedroom, not the ideal place but it is what I have right now. For a while I was able to work at naptime or sometimes while my son was in self play and he has his own canvas to paint on. Now we’re at a different stage with curiosity and it is hard to paint while my son is home with me. There is a need to take my tools out and lock them up in a closet each painting session which makes the process more laborious so I am reworking my system and looking for a studio space so I can keep all my toys out just like my son.
Being adaptable is what prepared me for this new stage. I had to pause from using oil paints which is what I’ve known since the age of 11. I learned to embrace using acrylic paint through necessity. What I did not know was how much time it truly takes to raise a child. It is not even a separate thing, I orient my life around his needs while still being aware of my needs. Motherhood is truly fulfilling, it’s a love that is so unique and I feel so blessed to get to experience this rite of passage. I look at mothers so differently than I did before knowing all that goes into it, there is a respect and an honor of each woman holding the container in their own way. Every mother is going through massive restructuring, the field is undeniable. We are almost expanding at such a rapid pace as we have to take on the daily tasks for a whole other human being. There is also the emotional regulation and guidance of being and raising a conscious human. What I became aware of is that all my practices have definitely prepared me for this experience but there is nothing comparable. Becoming a mother is the greatest spiritual experience I’ve had through a lifetime of seeking the spiritual high.
Q: Tell me about your greatest artistic influences growing up, and where you hope to take your art in the near future?
My greatest artistic influences were my parents to begin, as they saw my talent and gave me the tools to explore. My grandma lived in New York City and she would always take me to the museums, theater and dance when I came to visit her. She showed me a world where art was thriving and this was very impactful. My first painting teacher, Peter Olsen interprets the stories of Revelations through his surrealist paintings. I went to his studio every weekend from the age of 11-18 growing up with the structure and confidence to paint. He always encouraged me to connect to what I love which was the impressionist masters as well as underwater ocean scenes. Looking back I now know I was trained through this experience to learn from the etheric intelligence. At Maryland Institute College of Art I had some more great teachers including Carl Palansky, Howie Lee Weiss and Libby Nead. I would often travel in my summers to Europe and dive into landscape painting. I would sit outside from 9-5 painting in nature, it was very meditative as my senses were captivated by the presence of my surroundings and I would interpret that through strokes of paint.
After my 10 year hiatus from painting I dove back in through the Visionary Art group and learned from Amanda Sage and Autumn Skye. It was interesting work as it brought me into self reflection through portraiture. I also learned the Mischtechnik which helped me paint from my subconscious mind. In November 2018 after being in Upstate NY at COSOM I went to visit my grandma in the city and was able to immerse myself in Hilma AF Klimt’s work at The Guggenheim exhibition. There was also a small Joseph Albers exhibition that awakened my sense of a painting being something you can travel through. This moment in time was very pivotal for me as it is when I began finding my own language as a painter. I also simultaneously found the Transcendental Painting Group and I am very excited to be a part of its reemergence.
Q: Let’s talk about you as a yoga teacher! Your classes are so inspiring to so many, how has motherhood changed the energy that come through when you teach? Was it always in your cards to be a healer?
Thank you, it’s nice knowing people enjoy what I share and also everyone that shows up is a part of what is created. I grew up in a spiritual home with a very strong cross section of my father’s Middle Eastern Culture and my mother’s European American existence. It was a great foundation in witnessing polarities. I also felt very different growing up with this unique cultural and spiritual essence. Art was my therapist, it is where I could go to find myself and also escape from the complexity of feeling different. Art let me embrace my unique personality as a way of being seen while at the same time it was a way for me to hide and not have be normal.
I found a journal entry from when I was 15 and I wrote, “...It does not do anything if you are just there. Something has to come from you, something from your soul, from your heart no matter where you do it, it needs to be from the heart”
So I will say yes, I was blessed with a good amount of clarity and direction in life to stay steady on my path. Art and Spirituality has been my path from birth. In 2000 I found myself in my first yoga class at Charm City Yoga. Ashtanga was mostly what was available at the time and while I could not hold downward dog for five breaths something inside of me knew this was home. When I asked my teacher for advice on how to get stronger she said, “just keep showing up” and that’s what I have done to this day. My practices have evolved as I fell in love with Yoga. With time I studied many healing modalities including; Vinyasa yoga, Kirya yoga, a Mysore practice, Kundalini yoga, pre/post natal yoga, Holonomic Healing, Theta Healing, Marma Point Therapy, Ayurveda, Chi Gong Basics, Sound, Meditation, Ceremony and more. I list all this as when people ask me what type of yoga I am teaching I cannot classify it into one type. My teaching has truly become a full creative expression of embodied energetics.
Motherhood gave me the go ahead to finally teach without having to fit into a mold. It also forced me to slow down, be super kind with my nervous system and value time in a whole new way. What I learned through the process of birthing a child is that there is no system that can mimic what motherhood does for a woman. There is no fast, cleanse, kriya, meditation or anything that compares to the whole process of carrying and birthing a child. It is the most spiritual experience I have had while also being the most grounding. The innate journey of motherhood is a gift connected to the Divine.
Q: Speaking of post Covid let’s discuss how the wellness industry has made the teaching of yoga more of a business and less of a craft and how that impacts us as students and teachers.
Wow, well, having started my practice in 2000 I have watched over time how the consciousness of yoga has become what it is. I struggled with it at first just as I did when I was 15 and saw people practicing something without the heart connection. What I learned was that everyone has to start somewhere and sometimes it’s the physical. It is undeniable what conscious breathing for an hour can do. It is now scientific information in how it changes a human being. I love the world of wellness and yes it has been commodified making it mainstream. I find this as the merge of our worlds, it was perhaps inevitable and I can already see meditation now becoming more mainstream too which is exciting! The world we live in today is connected to this currency of money and it does orient a lot of people's minds. Any individual who is truly in the practice of healing and meditation will be able to see the truth. If someone gets into yoga because they want to do a handstand, I think that is great, it’s their doorway in and it’s a matter of time before something happens to bring a quantum shift through their system.
It’s always been somewhat humorous watching the world of science catch up to ‘pseudoscience’ For me, I learn most completely through experience. Some people can read a book and retain facts which is an incredible skill. However, you can read all the science on meditation or yoga but until you actually do the practice you cannot understand the transcendental experience. Yes, I want a world that is all about getting well and then one day the world will be well. The key to remember is that in oneness it all exists, duality and oneness are all a part of the same system. We will eventually get to a point where we are not denying the unhealed wounds. We will see them and heal them through loving them as they are and move forward in life through the choices we make. Meditation will heal the world and as a single mother I can say it is not easy to find the time for meditation however it is essential. We have to be able to listen to the Guru (Gu meaning dark, Ru meaning light. Transforming dark to light) When we meditate we connect to the truth within.
The world is going into a place of AI where we will soon not really know the truth in the outerworld or perhaps the innerwolds are being brought out. Technology is rapidly changing and is in fact using our conscious mind to learn how to create. We have to remember how to listen to the inner world in this day and age otherwise we will become deeply lost.
It can be hard at first as our inner voice might not be ours but rather a compilation of all that was told to us while growing up. Eventually we get through those layers and into our essence. If we decide we want to love our hair more and take supplements and use the non-toxic eco-friendly hair products that are all sold in the world of wellness, I think that is great. In my very experience with this I find it just connects me more deeply because of my perspective through meditation. Eventually meditation will be free because you will know how to do it innately. At first, you might need some guidance and that is ok.
There is a saying attributed to Buddha Siddhartha: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. With this we know the right teacher will appear at the right time and if you are truly on the path of wellness you will be mindful and learn who your teacher is and why. I have to have faith that each individual's light will be connected and nurtured. My advice is to meditate and you will know the truth.
Q: Tell me more about the divine or spiritual in yoga, in your art and in your life…
Oh, my God. The one thing I remember most growing up was being taught “God is everywhere and in everything.” I personally connect to God. There was a story I learned growing up and then there is my own divine experience, essentially it is all my own divine experience. My entire life, I have always sought out the spiritual, it is who I am. In 2013-2018 I had a long journey with Ayahuasca that unfolded in so many ways. It was the release I needed in a safe container that was held for spiritual growth. In time, I began playing my crystal sound bowls and other instruments in ceremonies and I came to know Ayahuasca as my sound teacher. At the same time I was in a 6am mysore practice which evolved into a 4am kundalini sadhana connection. If I love something I have a natural ‘discipline’ for it. It is through the feeling of what I experience that keeps me connected.
It was one day in meditation a few days after a ceremony that I remember weeping as I experienced a pure connection with God, it became a knowing which is different than a belief. I have not spoken much about this segment in my life but my time with Ayahuasca is what threw me out of teaching yoga, sent me to travel, study more and brought me back to my art. I remember for a while being angry at the world for all the pain and suffering that was happening and then I realized my anger became a part of the whole. I stepped back and began to inquire what brings me peace, joy and contentment because that is the world I want to live in.
Perhaps for a while connecting to the divine was feeding my need to escape but eventually I came to know how present it all is and there is absolutely no way we can escape. So instead of running I began to sit and no longer looked outside of myself. I released feelings of being the victim of anyone and came to know my true divine power. It is something that was always instilled in me, that God gives us a very unique imprint of what we are meant to bring to this space. Also, knowing we are all a part of this great divine energy, as every cell in our body is a part of us.
It can be a bit of a mindtrip to explain it all in words so I began painting again to be able to share fully. My sound bowls brought me back to painting. Using a stick I experienced myself painting with sound. So now I create these visual paintings as embodied experiences. I want the viewer to stand in front of a piece of my art and have an experience that recalibrates their system. All they have to do is stand in front of the painting and connect with it.
In my process of painting I keep going into a space of not allowing my mind to get in the way. Anytime it does I put myself into a somatic experience through movement or breathe so the paintings can truly pour through me. It is the dance of divine energy. In all moments but particularly when I am stressed or anxious I begin chanting “Divine Timing” I allow my system to trust there is a rhythm to everything that is happening and that the divine has the highest good for me. It’s a cosmic tool, perhaps “spontaneous self-organization” theory gives some science to this concept of frequency and divine energy that I am speaking about. The body is a fascinating thing in that we cannot yet mimic its engineering. If we look inside we see how things are working without us having to control it, like our heart beating. There is a system that is working with us and for us. When we acknowledge this we can begin to understand the divine nature of it all and find more harmony in our lives.
Thank you Sharon for sharing your wisdom so generously! When gathering these images I reflect on how much we have both changed, and I internally smile thinking of all these days we spent creating, dreaming up workshops, collaborations and just giggling. Thank you for your laugh, your friendship, support and teachings!