The Journey of a Colorful Soul

(or: Heidi Damata in a nutshell…)

I believe everyone’s path to wholeness, or to finding the right path at all, begins with understanding our journey. How has it shaped the people we’ve become? How can it inform what we need to do and how we need to heal from it or through it? I’m sharing my story, my journey, in the hope it will inspire you to create and share your own!

If you’re like me and obsessed with history and stories and paths, read on.

My journey began in the picturesque and aptly named mountain town of Evergreen, Colorado. Perhaps I wasn’t quite ready to come into this world, for my first few days on Earth were very rough. Tests, declining blood cell counts, confusion. A final diagnosis of pneumonia which almost swept me away before my life had even really begun. But born out of this near miss was my mother’s own spiritual path and the proof that I was a bit of a fighter. Despite this precarious start, my story begins with love and beauty and song and color…

The “Perfect” Childhood

Heidi Damata - Journey of A Colorful Soul

I lived with my family; father, mother, older brother, and various dogs and cats in sprawling mountain top homes with names like “The Eagle’s Nest” and “Monte Sol” (Sun Mountain) which my parents filled with the colorful art, antiques, and textiles acquired during our many trips to Mexico. At night I would often hear the sound of coyotes howling in the distance and wake up to an enormous herd of elk just outside my window, framed by the seemingly endless rows of purple peaks beyond.

My mother was a music teacher, singer, and performer. My father; a banker, real estate entrepreneur, and performer. Many of my earliest memories include falling asleep in a pile of coats or on my mother’s lap during cast parties and rehearsals to the sounds of laughter and guitars and four part harmonies. My brother and I, and whatever friends or other relatives were staying with us, were serenaded by my father singing John Denver songs or my mom rehearsing her various solos. I probably started singing before I started talking. My childhood was somewhat “Sound of Music”-ish, albeit with a few less children or an impending world war. But there were mountains and music in spades.

Childhood winters were spent performing in concerts, skiing in the Rockies, building snow forts, or tucked by the fire, hot cup of Sleepytime in one hand and a book by Tasha Tudor or Madeline L’Engle in the other. Summers were blissful blurs of traipsing over mossy rocks and pine needles with my brother and cousins, swimming at the country club, singing along to the player piano, watching classic films, creating improvised musicals for my parents and extended family, or tucked in my window seat, glass of lemonade in one hand and a book by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Tolkein in the other.

Life was perfect, yes?

Or was it? I wasn’t sure.

For I also had fears and worries that never quite made sense from a practical, logical standpoint. For I had so much love. I had security and abundance. I had beauty everywhere around me. But I was “sensitive”, too sensitive perhaps. And I knew life couldn’t truly be perfect. And somehow this knowledge felt like a bitterly cold wind or a seeping poison or a dark, menacing stranger lurking just outside the door of my warm and safe home. A knot in my stomach that began to grow.

Teenage (and General Existential) Angst

Heidi Damata - A Colorful SoulLater I began to see little cracks in the veneer of my perfect world. I felt anxious and restless. Perhaps I knew. And there was, of course, the ruptured appendix and the long stint in the hospital. Around that time, life started to change, it had a different color. It felt off. Behind the sparkly smiles on stage, the fun parties, the immaculate houses featured in home tours, the nice cars, the private schools, the lovely clothes. Was life what it seemed? Was this the life we were meant to live?

Then suddenly (or not?) somehow the beautiful, colorful, richly patterned rug upon which I had lived my whole life felt ungraciously ripped out from under me. It was no one’s fault. Life happens. Real estate markets go soft. Business deals fall through. And my parent’s marriage, which had seemed so enduring, so real, was no longer. There were no angry words, no loud arguments. But would there be with perfect parents?

But my family, my home, my life as I knew it was no longer. We moved away from our mountain town, our lovely home, our “perfect” life. I moved with my mother to a tiny house in the city. My brother left for college. My dad moved here, then there, then here and there again.

A profound fear and insecurity began to settle like a fine mist upon my long dark hair, my freckled nose, and my colorful clothes. Had my life been a fraud? My ego stepped in. Something had to make up for the loss I felt. I became a little bit feisty and more than a little bit dramatic. And guarded. And still sensitive, very sensitive. And deeply sad. The stomach aches, the discomfort, the issues that were rather mild when I was younger became more debilitating.

But life continued on. I went off to a big midwestern university. I did have some extended family close by-aunts, uncle, grandparents, cousins, which was a blessing indeed. But, overall, it was perhaps not quite the right place for a zany, dreamy, somewhat artsy sort like me. I felt distinctly out of place in the world of keg parties and sororities. I missed my Denver East Coast -style prep school experience which had opened up a whole world for me, artistically and academically, in high school. So I escaped; reading, studying, singing, and pouring over costume and fashion illustration books in the art library or taking long walks as I dreamed of being someplace or someone else.

Real Life, or: The Rocky Transition into Adulthood

After I graduated, Art History degree in hand, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Then an opportunity arose. FASHION. In New York. What I always wanted, right?! I moved to the BIG city for the life I thought I was meant to live. The world of fashion. But it was certainly not what I thought. It was far too loud, people were far too grumpy. And, most importantly, the beauty, color, and magic I had envisioned didn’t really exist, at least not from my dingy little cubicle. So back to Denver I went.  Not because that’s where I thought I should be, for I really wasn’t sure. But I knew NYC was not it.

But what to do with my life, my “career”? What was my path? It was murky and unclear. And everything seemed a bit intimidating and there were too many choices. What if I chose the wrong one? The paralysis of analysis. Every decision seemed weighted and permanent.  And interestingly, I always felt somehow inferior, like I didn’t have the quite the right credentials, the right degree, the right experience. I felt like I needed to prove myself. I went back to school, then back to school, then back to school again. All the while paying the bills by bartending. Bartending, for a bit too long. What was only supposed to be a brief stint as I got my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds was becoming more and more like an undesired career, which only made the angst more pronounced. My parents have always been so wonderful, so supportive, but I can only imagine what they were thinking as I floundered around trying to find myself. Why wasn’t I doing more with my life? How and why did I get so stuck?  Afraid to take the leap, afraid to fail, afraid to be the ARTIST that I always wanted to be.

Heidi Damata - Journey of A Colorful SoulBut during that tumultuous time, I also found my tribe. The free spirits, the musicians, the DJs, the dancers, the artists. While I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I did take a few years to actually live it. It was the only time my otherwise inappropriately chosen high school senior quote of “You’ve got to live it up or you’ll never live it down” seemed relevant to me. Trips to Miami, San Francisco, Vegas, Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, England. Moves to Los Angeles and Phoenix and back to Denver again. VIP sections, oversized sunglasses, shiny lip gloss, sassy clothes, expensive jeans. Dancing with my “Vibe Tribe” to Deep House until the sun came up, hanging out with promoters and well known DJs, planning and designing parties and events at big night clubs with loads of people.

It was fun, for a bit, but it was definitely too much. I eventually felt stuck and sad and lost. And my body continued to rebel. The years of digestive distress were compounded by a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease and other physical challenges. I made friends which will last a lifetime, but the nightlife wasn’t the place for me.

I wanted, I needed, out.

So finding my path was no longer just a function of trying to find some elusive happiness, it had become an essential part of my healing journey. I wanted to be well and healed and I wanted a home, a partner, a path, a point!

But I needed direction. I needed a sign.

And I got one, in a major way.

The Moment It All Changed

One spring morning, after perhaps the most difficult and uncomfortable year of my life, I was quite literally woken up by the sunrise, or what I think back on as my “soulrise”. Light was pouring into my white and silver room (probably the only time I’ve had a room void of color!) making it seem as though I was resting on a cloud. Everything seemed sparkly and shiny. The room suddenly had presence, as though I wasn’t in there alone. I felt overpowered, overwhelmed, energized, and awake, in more ways than one. I was suddenly called to open a book of poems that my mom had given to me years before. I turned to a page which began: “O dreamer, leave thy dreams for joyful waking, O captive, rise and sing for thou art free”. It seemed to be speaking directly to me. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I grabbed other mystical and spiritual books from a variety of traditions that had been gathering dust on my shelf, and each page seemed to find me and provide me with some new truth.

Suddenly everything resonated. I got it.  My life seemed genuinely and forever changed in what seemed like a single, significant, shiny flash.

Of course, I couldn’t remain on that sparkly cloud forever, life was waiting. But I took that sense of peace and direction with me, as well as I could, that glimpse into light and wholeness that made change seem somehow possible. Taking care of myself was the first step. I got more sleep, altered my eating habits, took long walks, started doing a bit of yoga, and found a team of healers which helped facilitate a path to physical wellness. And, I listened to my mother. While she had always given me little notes and articles and passages to read with a spiritual message, which I did, they never really sunk in. My physical issues had felt too deeply entrenched, too insurmountable to be affected by what seemed more like wishful thinking. And even more seemingly intractable was that ongoing “existential paralysis”.

But that sunshine-y/soulshine-y morning had shifted everything.

While I made changes to my physical routine and regimen and lifestyle, I also worked on my mind and my heart. I started saying mantras and prayers and visualizing myself as someone who was worthy and capable of being healed. Eventually things began to fall into place. I bought a home, and, yes, I went back to school again. But I found a sense of direction. And my physical issues slowly began to dissipate.  After years of gray and darkness and confusion, life and color and joy began to seep back in, filling in the cracks. Creating a foundation I could actually build upon.

And I met my partner, my soul mate.

We had worked together for a few months, but although I thought he was “cute”, I didn’t think he was “my type”. He was a few years younger and in a different scene and finishing up college. But one funny, random night while I was waiting for my roommate to stop spinning records at a club, this guy gave me a goodnight hug which became a goodnight peck which became a soul-stirring life altering kiss as in, as Rumi says: “When soul rises to lips you’ll feel the kiss you’ve wanted”. What I hadn’t known when he was just someone I worked with, was how interesting and funny and smart and driven and aware he was. He’d had plenty of difficulty in his life but he was a warrior. Soon after, we took our imperfect, healing, broken selves and realized we could make a whole. Six months later, I rented out my house, packed my boxes and moved with him to Washington DC to truly start anew.

New Horizons!

We lived in DC for three years. Although we literally knew no one when we arrived, we quickly made a little life for ourselves. When we moved, I knew it was time for me to get a “real job”, a 9 to 5 which I had mostly avoided until then. But first, I went back to school (surprise!) and soon after began managing nonprofit events and fundraisers. My future husband worked in political media, coming home daily with stories about globe trotting journalists and former Vice Presidents and Secretaries of State and other various leaders in the global arena. One such story included a ridiculous incident about my husband almost tripping a certain Presidential candidate as he stepped on the back of her shoe…

Heidi Damta - Journey of a Colorful SoulWe spent weekend mornings in coffee shops reading the Washington Post and the New York Times and evenings entertaining new friends. We had riveting conversations with connected people who had their fingers on the pulse of real life. And suddenly life did indeed seem very real in the very scared and scarred post 911 world. It felt good to be engaged and involved.  At that time, we also adopted our fur children. Our darling, hilarious, snuggly, happy dogs; Charlotte and Simba.

But we are nomads and restless souls at heart. And my inner artist was calling. In DC, my work felt purposeful and important, but I didn’t feel inspired. I had healed my body, I had found my love, but I still hadn’t discovered my purpose. I had written a line of the Rumi poem, “Let the beauty you love be what you do” on my mirror. But I wasn’t doing the beauty I loved and I didn’t know where or how to do it in DC. So when an opportunity to move to San Francisco for work arose, it seemed rather kismet-ish. I had somehow always known I would go back to California. Since I had made the move to DC for him, the boyfriend agreed to make the move to San Francisco for me. I quickly fell in love with the city. With my job, not so much. In fact, I disliked it rather intensely. But if it had been a great job, perhaps I wouldn’t have been open to the beauty that unveiled itself to me soon after our arrival.

One very early morning, my husband and I decided to pack an overnight bag, grab the dogs and jump in the van (yes, we had a van), and head north. We didn’t have a specific destination in mind, we just wanted to see “The Redwoods” and ended up in Mendocino, a few hours up the coast, just in time to cook breakfast on the beach.  A few hours later we decided to roam around town and our first stop was a tiny art gallery overlooking the sea called…

Wisdom House.

Heidi + Shiloh, Widsom HouseWhen I walked through the door, it was like walking into my own soul. It was essentially a little chapel pulsing with the energy of the Divine Feminine.  The walls were covered with colorful canvases of beautiful, sacred women. As I looked around the space, tears of joy and recognition rolled down my cheeks. I was home.  It felt like the physical manifestation of the space between the worlds that I intuitively knew I needed to find. I knew I would never be content unless my own life somehow embodied the same melding of creative, artistic endeavor with soulful intent. The next stone on my path had been placed before me just below the very large and clearly labeled arrow flashing “THIS IT IT” in neon.

It was then a question of figuring out how to make it, whatever, exactly, “it” was, happen!

THIS IS IT! Ideas into Action!

Heidi Damta - Journey of a Colorful SoulThe following year, I quit my job in the city and moved to Mendocino to manage Wisdom House and learn how to run my own gallery. After my husband and I got married five months later, in a tiny ceremony in a picturesque garden on a sunny September Saturday in Northern California, we moved back to Denver to be near family as we started our own. I also opened my own art sanctuary called Soulrise Gallery, which showcased sacred art created by women and offered workshops and events promoting art as a spiritual practice. I also brought the precious, humorous, inquisitive, engaging, sensitive, and soulful spirit we named Rio into the world. Although his birth and a stalling economy prompted closing the gallery a bit later, it was a mystical little spot forever suspended in a magical moment in time.

I spent the next few years happily being a mama and creating jewelry, paintings, home furnishings, and decorating and designing. After a bit, though, I started to feel as though what I was doing and making was merely decorative.  While I absolutely loved the physical process of creation, I’d lost the “between the worlds” spirit of Wisdom House and Soulrise Gallery. In an effort to connect again to my soul, I became a certified yoga teacher, and began writing a visionary fiction novel.

Meanwhile, my husband’s business, started the very month our son was born, was thriving, but necessitated a lot of travel to the coasts. And we were getting restless again. So we rented out our house in Denver, packed up our babies (one human, two canine) and our stuff and headed West again to a bougainvillea and jasmine covered house of color a mile from the beach.

Me and my dear momlet, Susie

Heidi Damta - Journey of a Colorful SoulAfter settling into Santa Monica, I got back to writing, found an amazing teacher and writing group and read and read and wrote and wrote. But in the fall, I began to feel overwhelmed and anxious, perhaps from spending so much time alone, writing, and in my head, thinking. Compared to the years before when my creative efforts felt more superficial, I may have had the depth, but I wasn’t feeling the joy. I felt like I needed to create using my hands again, utilizing color and form and imagery but in a way that felt more soulful, more connected, more aligned with what I felt my work in the world-that whole “melding of creative, artistic endeavor with soulful intent”-should be.  Soon after, I was awakened at 3am, bursting with the idea of creating Colorful Soul Imprints, a way for me to connect my head with my heart and soul. The portraits and accompanying personal mythologies would be a way to create something of beauty, an essential piece of my life’s work, but more so, to provide an offering for clients imbued with meaning and intention. An exploration and lasting legacy of their own journey.

I can’t say what the next unfoldment of my journey will entail; undoubtedly another move, definitely more creative endeavors, lots of traveling, lots of family time, many dinners with friends and reading way too many books. And finishing my own. Mostly, though, I plan to connect others to their own creative processes, to beauty and color and joy!

And if you’re still with me after this whole rambling bonanza,
thanks for coming along for the ride!

For questions or more information,
please email me at: heidi@acolorfulsoul.com.