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Welcome to the Adventure

I see a lot of articles about “being present,” “be in the moment,” and things of this nature. Some say that that is all there is to enlightenment. Entire books are written on mindfullnes. As a person who has spent a lot of my life daydreaming… I mean “writing fiction,” uh… anyway, I’ve struggled with this concept. Yoda says that Luke “Never is his mind on where he is, what he is doing.” The Tao espouses this concept, as does the Dharma, and Krishna. Even Western religion calls for this kind of behavior as when Jesus says to be like children. And again when He says how we should be like the lilies of the field, (that Jesus and his references to mortality with “lilies”) and the birds of the air who neither reap nor sow, but are taken care of by their father in heavan. This is telling us to “Leave tomorrow for tomorrow and worry about today instead” (which he also says in his hit musical: “Jesus Christ Superstar”.)

But what does all this mean? Are we supposed to not think about the future? Do we discount the lessons of our past? Are we to be automotons? I think we are not supposed to be slaves to our thought processes. In the Bhagavad Gita we are told of the blind King Dhritarashtra, who is the ego, who is the regent, and when the rightful king comes to claim the throne, Dhritarashtra refuses to relinquish the throne. Our brain is a tool like our eyes or our arms, but we are not our bodies. We are more than our arms, more than our eyes, and we are more than our brains as well.
When a dancer is best, it is when she is not thinking about the next move, but when she is so practiced, that she does not have to think about it. Artists often talk about when they are so involved in the creative process, that time seems to have flown by. This is known as Aphrodite time, named for the Goddess of love, as opposed to normal time, named for Chronos, the Titan that consumed the gods, (his children) only to be saved by Zues (thus freeing them from time and giving them immortality.

I read instructions that tell me to pay attention to my breathing. Listen to my heart beating. The term Buddha means, “the awoken one.” and so being awake means being aware. Being aware of what’s going on that normal people are asleep to. Yet it is impossible to concentrate on all my senses at once. To pay attention to my heart beating and my breathing and the people talking to me, and feel the breeze and all that.
It is impossible to silence my mind as well. There is no way for me to do all these things. I am not a buddha.
The problem, as I see it, is that these instructions to be in the moment lack one key ingredient. Motivation. Why be in the moment? Because it leads to enlightenment? What is that? Being aware? I try and I just don’t seem to get it.
Until last night.
The reason to be in the moment is this:
Because to be awake to what is happening is FUCKING AWESOME!
This realization makes even a mundane trip to the market thrilling. I don’t have to simultaneously be aware of my breathing and seeing what’s on sale. I can seemlessly move from one to the other. To realize that every moment is brand new and the present is right now, and the eternal present is all there is. Even if I’ve done something a million times before, It’s still new in this moment. Think about that dancer. In order to not have to think about her dance, she had to practice the dance a million times to perform it flawlessly.

When you realize each moment, each experience is brand new, life is an adventure. People pay huge sums of money to be thrilled by adventure: they go skydiving, they go on safari, they go to exotic locals. There is nothing wrong with doing these things, but every second of everyday is unique, whether you are stuck in traffic, being chewed out by your boss, screwing up the courage to ask out that girl in accounting, or going to bed for the night.
I fall back into being humdrum, getting frustrated, and these things. life goes on, but once having realized the adventure that is each moment, I can re-enter that sensibility at any time. There is a Buddhist saying: “Chop wood, carry water.” It means to do what is needed in the moment. But it also means that that is the meditation. That is what to be awake to; not some spiritual ethereal concept, but the concrete reality of living life. I have long said that just going to church for an hour once a week is not enough, that each action we take is an act of worship, whether we realize it or not. If we chase money and are assholes all week long, that’s what we worship, that’s what we are dedicating our lives to, not just something we do for an hour. Of course, going to church can center us, give us our direction and if we fall short much of the time, we can still aspire to be more like we want. Living life in the moment, realizing the adventure can help us to feel less stuck, help us to be the kind of person we want to be in the moment.
If we fall into the rut of feeling like there’s nothing new, and we’ve done everything a million times, we rob ourselves of the thrill of being in the moment. Once we experience this thrill, we can motivate ourselves to do new things, and accept things as they are. There is a place for both of these in our lives.
Welcome to the adventure.

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I Learned Something About Love

I write alot about love as a force we can use to effect positive change around us, but I rarely talk about the need to charge ourselves with love so we can live in its abundance and share that positive energy with our fellows.

Sometimes this can be easy; if our lives are going the way we want, then connecting to a feeling of love takes little effort. If, however; we are at odds with what’s happening in our lives, it may seem like love isn’t there to connect to. I have always been told that God loves me and is always there for me. This is hard not to take as an empty platitude when you don’t know how you’re going to provide for your family, whether there will be enough to pay the rent, buy food, etc… It’s hard if you are fighting with family members or people at work. We all know struggle; it defines the human experience.
With 2 small children, it can be a challenge to find some “me” time. I feel guilty telling my wife I need to do something for myself. We both work hard and spend all our spare time taking care of our children and trying to keep up with the housework. The other day I expressed my desire to work on an art project. My wife insisted I take the time to do it. Many of our arguments are the opposite of normal arguments with us each advocating for the other to do the thing they want.
My newest bent on creating art is to attempt to do them all like zen calligraphy. Zen Calligraphy is a process where the Calligrapher becomes the instrument of what is called “Chi” in Chinese. In Japanese it’s called “ki”, in Korean it’s called “Qi”. Seeing as how none of these languages use the alphabet we use, I consider the word to be basically the same in these languages. In Sanskrit the concept is known as prana. These words all mean “life force” or energy. The process involves being in a meditative state during the execution of the project. Zen masters say the process is the same whether one is doing calligraphy, flower arranging, or swordfighting.
When the children are screaming and I leave my wife in the next room to deal while I guiltily go to a quiet room to do art, it is difficult for me to put myself in this state. It is a state of love. how can I put myself in a state of love, which is giving and caring, and selfishly go to create art?
I realized that I was missing the love that was there. My children were screaming because they love me and want me near them. My wife gave me the time to work on my project because she loves me. It was the love charge I was needing that was there all along. Part of love is being able to accept it.

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Kali Nights

For my series of paintings, “Kali Night,” I have chosen as my subject matter, a stormy night. My inspiration comes from driving home from work one evening and seeing the sky lit up eerily beautiful and ominous. I was reminded of the Goddess Kali, who is a paradox of beauty, compassion, violence, love and is ultimately nearly as incomprehensible as the ultimate reality she represents. She has been worshipped for longer than recorded history, which is fitting since one interpretation of her name is “beyond time.”

Kali Nights

Kali is misunderstood in the west. Really she is the perfect boogeyman for Puritan Americans; She’s naked (being infinite and unfathomable makes it hard to find something in your size, besides, Kali is indifferent to human conventions), except for the skirt of human arms! (being pure energy, Kali/Shakti is the receiver of all action, these limbs represent those who have been liberated from karma) Also she is adorned by a necklace of skulls! (one for each letter of the Sanskrit alphabet. This is a very “Alpha & Omega symbol. Alphabets contain the seeds of everything that can be expressed, thus attributing to God all that exists. Also, it is the beginning and the end of everything, thus skulls are appropriate.)

Kali is really a compassionate mother whose fearsomeness represents the way in which she destroys evil and all that stands in the way of her devotee’s liberation from the bondage of self.

I choose a stormy night to represent Kali as a metaphor for her ominous and fearsome qualities as the Goddess is everywhere and the various experiences we have in life remind us of the myriad manifestations of the Goddess.

Kali Nights II
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Blessed Muladhara root chakra mandala

The Muladhara chakra is often referred to as the root chakra because it is located at the root of your spine. It is also the root of the sacred chakra tree of Kundalini. The word chakra means “wheel”, and it is thought to be like a circuit in the spiritual wiring we possess. Just as the seven Kundalini chakra corespond with our spinal cord, there are several “lesser” chakras that occur in conjunction with our nervous system throughout our bodies. Just as the spinal chord is the most important nerve we have so are the seven chakras associated with it. Activating them is one way to achieve enlightenment.

This is because Kundalini is the name for the latent energy that lays dormant within us which corresponds with Shakti, the creative force of the universe. When we complete the circuit of Kundalini from Muladhara to Sahasrara, or crown chakra, we connect this inner energy with the outer energy of Shakti, thus becoming one with the primal creative force. This is the purpose for which we were born.

The Muladhara is where to start. It is here that the dormant Kundalini serpent is coiled waiting to be awakened. Once awakened, the sacred Kundalini uncoils and travel up through the remaining chakras. The Muladhara chakra is therefore very important, for without activating it, the remaining chakras Can do nothing for us.

To activate this sacred chakra, and thus awaken Kundalini, we must focus our attention on it as we meditate each day.

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Love Is the Most Powerful Force in the Universe

We see ourselves as limited, finite beings. We’re only human. We’re fragile. While on some levels, these things are true, and we need to treat each other with care, that is only part of the story. The other part is that we spiritual, luminous beings. We are limitless energy. We are conduits of the most powerful force in the universe: love. We are, in fact comprised entirely of love. We can learn to focus this miraculous energy, and heal ourselves and each other.

You don’t have to quit your job & become a monk to harness this power. It is your birthright. There are simple steps that you already know how to do that can lead you in the right direction. Smile. This sends the people who receive your smile positive energy. They can probably use it. Everyone has a struggle they are going through, and a little encouragement can go along way. Once you feel comfortable with this, you can expand your methods. Smile at strangers. Don’t expect anything in return. If they smile back, that’s great, if not, that’s ok too. If you get caught up in whether or not you’re getting reciprocation, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, which is the opposite of positive energy. Nobody bats 1000. That means nobody is successful 100% of the time.

Another method of conveying positive energy is the hug. However, hugs are only for people you are close enough to feel comfortable with. Forcing a hug on a stranger is not helpful and could be a crime! But that energy can be sent without physical contact. The wholesome, positive encouragement you convey in a hug can be sent psychically. You don’t have to be a jedi to transmit positive energy to people. Don’t exhaust yourself, and don’t be obsessive. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get immediate results. When you find out someone is sick, send them positive vibes. You can focus your energy by vocalizing what you’re doing. You can do it silently. Just say to yourself, “I’m sending so & so positive, healing energy.”

Don’t ever focus your energy in a negative way. Don’t send energy to hurt someone you’re mad at. If you can, send people you’re mad at a blessing. Even if you can’t do it while you’re angry, do it later. We all get angry, and we all act on anger in ways we regret. Don’t chanel your energy in a negative way. It can become a habit, and will be hard to come back from. Don’t let simple mistakes ruin this process for you. If you do something negative, just put it behind you and stick to the positive. Always take responsibility for your actions.

Also, it should go without saying that while sending healing vibes is an honorable way to learn to focus spiritual energy, always seek professional medical help for illnesses or injuries. Do not under any circumstances think that the methods described above can replace or substitute a doctor’s attention.

Fill your life with positive love & actions. Be love. That’s what you are.

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Original Sin

I have spent most of my spiritual life avoiding argument. It is usually a better idea to find common ground where one can and let people have their own spiritual truths. The exception would be if someone’s religious beliefs promoted violence, oppression, inequality, or caused physical harm. There are aspects of these negatives to most religions, particularly Monotheism, in which, not only is only one specific deity is recognized, but the worship of the deity is specific to one religion or religious sect. However, most people recognize the importance of extending the courtesy of religious freedom to others that they themselves would want to have extended to themselves. It prevents war.

This argument is really more of the bomb throwing kind. I’m not actually looking to start a fight, but I could easily avoid one by not making the following thesis: The Adam & Eve story is so ridiculous that it could never have been meant to be taken literally. That is; it was written by someone who thought the very idea of what they were writing was too ridiculous to be taken literally. It was probably a kind of teaching story that we lost the lesson part of in the ensuing millenia.

Here’s what I mean: Adam & Eve are created without original sin by an all-knowing, all-powerful, Loving, forgiving God. A God so loving and forgiving, he eventually sends Jesus to save mankind from itself. God places Adam & Even in the Garden of Eden, where they can eat or drink anything they want. The world is literally their oyster. With one notable exception: They cannot eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. You will probably agree that this is a very specific kind of tree. It’s not the tree of bad haircuts, or the tree of drunk driving; it’s the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And, although, the completely new, innocent and inexperienced Adam and Eve can eat from any tree in their garden, they can not eat of this tree. that’s also in their garden, where they can eat anything they want.

So at first they do pretty good. But then the devil comes as a snake in the grass to tempt Eve. And it works. She eats from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And then she tempts Adam into doing it. And then God, who is everywhere, comes to the garden. The all-knowing God asks Adam and Eve what they were up to. Well, they hide, because what do they have now that they didn’t have before? Knowledge of good and evil. So they know they’ve done something wrong. So the All forgiving, loving God, what does He do to these first offenders? He Sentences them to death! And not just them; but all their progeny for all time. That’s me and you. We didn’t eat from the damn tree! Why are we being punished? So the all-knowing, all-wise God gave Adam and Eve free will and the all-powerful God put the temptation in their garden. In their refrigerator, if you will. “Hey, I’m gonna stock your fridge with food, you can eat whatever you want, but not this fruit that’s basically the same as all the other fruit except you can’t eat it.” “k. by.!”

What was the name of that tree? The tree of knowledge of good and evil. So, they didn’t know good from bad before they ate from the tree? So they couldn’t know it was wrong to do it? And God being all-knowing, knew they would eat from it. Hell, I knew they would eat from it, and I’m not all-knowing. So the all loving all forgiving, Just God punishes Adam and Eve for doing something they couldn’t conceive was wrong in the first place. And He’s punishing us for it, when we didn’t even do it! He gave them free will. He put the fruit tree in their garden and told them not to eat that one.

At this point, I would like to point out that I often use the analogy of a kid who sticks his finger in an electric socket when his parents have told him not to. The electric shock the kid suffers is not punishment for disobeying his parents, but merely the consequence of putting your finger in the socket. That’s not what’s happening to Adam and Eve. We are told specifically and repeatedly that this is punishment for disobeying God’s commandment. This God is an asshole.

That’s why I think this story was not meant to be taken literally. As Tori Amos says; “I thing the Good book is missing some pages…”

I think most of the fables in the Bible are meant to make us think. There are also some teachings that contradict others. There are some that I just don’t agree with. I think this is a case of “we don’t have the whole story.”

But it won’t make you think, if you just take it literally as this is how things are and how God operates. It’s not how things are, and it’s not how God operates. Learn to think, to ask questions.

I worship an all knowledgeable, all-powerful, all Loving God. This story does not depict that God.

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Often when we engage in spiritual or religious conversations, some varient of the word “Devotion” is part of it. We art devoted to our path, devotees of our diety, and we measure our success by the amount of devotion we commit to our cause. When I met my first spiritual teacher, we talked about the life long commitment I would be undertaking. I don’t spend every minute of every day contemplating my relationship with the Source, but I do spend time everday, even spare time, not just, “ok, I have to spend a half hour meditating”, but throughout the day, because it is what I am most interested in, I come back to it over and over again.

What I am proposing is rather than creating a difficult regimen to stick to, instead think about just how important your devotion is to you. I like things to not be too structured so that my life can happen organically and I can still make time for what’s important to me. I was lucky that at some point on my journey, I heard a priest being interviewed for the radio, NPR’s “On Being” which is a fascinating look at how various people approach the divine. In anycase, the priest said that he liked to think of God as someone to have over for dinner, in an informal setting. His point was that rather than make every interaction with God formal, you make time for God in your everyday life, wearing your everyday clothes. Yes, there’s time for formal ritual, but I’m a believer that every moment of every day is worship, whether we mean for it to be or not, so how we act when we’re not “at church” is more important than the show we attend once a week.

Much of my work is devoted to the spiritual, but not all of it is specifically focused on that. I figure what I devote to God because I want to will have a better quality than doing it because I feel obligated to do it. There are many ways to devote yourself to God: all the way from simple prayer to becoming a monk or priest. How we treat each other is of primary importance.

I’m trying to keep this vague because whatever path you’re on, I want that to work for you. My understanding of the Deity evolves over time, which I think is healthy because if you have a perfect idea of the deity to start with, and no further understanding is needed then your education on this plane is complete, and you would no longer be confined to it. It may be useful as we go along for me to be specific about my beliefs, which I will do for the sake of getting from point A to point B. If the details of my beliefs don’t mesh exactly with yours, feel free to substitute your specifics for mine, if you find that to be helpful. It can be useful to bring us closer to our Higher Power to have details fill in blank areas that aren’t really turning points in spiritual advancement. For instance; I was raised Catholic, and Catholics believe that Mary was a Virgin when she conceived Jesus. This story helps some people realize the divine nature of Jesus, but to me, my faith in the divinity of Jesus doesn’t hinge on this detail. In some ways this is a story that brings the culture of the ancient world to us so we can enjoy being part of something ancient. On the other hand, it seems to say that even sex between to holy reverent people is somehow bad and Mary conceived Jesus without sex. (The idea that sex was involved, just not w/Joseph, since he was technically not Jesus’ father smacks of a kind of Zuesian tale, which it may in fact have been. My point is all this is a distraction from the teachings of Jesus, which are the focus of the religion.) I know it opens a can of worms to bring up this particular story, but that’s kind of the point. It’s a huge distraction from what important about Christianity. Just one point further on this argument: one often hears that God does this to show that all things are possible through God. Well, then why isn’t it possible for God to do it the conventional way? Of course, God is trying to make a point by doing it uncovnetionally, but I don’t think the point is that all things are possible, it’s that Jesus is more divine that human conception can yield (but if all things were possible to God, human conception could yield a divinity like Jesus; it’s that God is making a point, not that God is constrained.

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Dragon Manifesto

I am the Blue Dragon. I serve the Blue Light; whose physical manifestation is the Universe: the One Voice, the Eternal Word, the Infinite Sound. All things are revealed by the Light. All shadows are created by the Light. Love is the Way of the Light. Either one serves Love or one opposes Love. One cannot claim to serve Love through hate. Anger and fear are the absence of Love. Love is omnipresent. There is nowhere it is not. It does not shirk; it does not hide. To be unable to feel its presence is delusion. It is we who turn away from the Light. It is constant and never abandons us. It is The Energy; The Force; The Power. The Source of all. Love is indiscriminate. Love is not concerned with what name it is called, or what rituals it is worshiped by. Love does not favor one over another. Love does not punish. Love wants you to be happy and healthy. For this to happen you must conform to Love. Love cannot be ruled by you. You are a manifestation of Love. There is no intermediary.

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tàijítú Yin Yang Tao Calligraphy symbols

The tàijítú is the name of the symbol commonly known as “yin/yang.” It is a symbol for the complementary nature of opposites; night defines day, shadow defines light; an inhale isn’t complete without an exhale… All existence can be seen to utilize this seeming duality to for a unified whole.

Also, In non dualistic Shaivism of Kashmir, there is a tradition known as Spanda, which like the material of a similar name, expands & contracts. That is the the universe, like a beating heart, or a piece of metal that expands in the heat and contracts in the cold, or water which does the opposite. It’s very much a yin and yang view of reality.

These pieces are rendered using a zen technique that infuses them with chi (the “ji” in “tàijítú”). They are aproxamately 8×10 in size. They are rendered with gold, purple and sumi ink with a sumi brush on lokta paper; a paper made in the Himalayas from materials indigenous to that region.


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Telling the Tao

fotor_147869657337290“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao” so begins the Tao te Ching; “The Book of the Way,” by Lao Tsu. Over 25 years ago I consciously began my journey on the Path. One of the first books I stumbled upon was Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao. I keep a copy with me and drag it out every once in while. Sometimes I get in a mood where I take my pocket copy with me everywhere, though I may never look at it when I do. The message is pretty simple: Don’t try to control the universe. Be in the moment, let life guide you, and become a master by not trying. Of course there’s more to it than this. I refer you to the first sentence in this post. I’m sure the Old Boy knew the irony of making that the first line of his book.
In the passing years I’ve learned many things, and unlearned many as well. I have to keep unlearning them. One of the things I’ve seen real value in for me is practicing zen calligraphy. The method is very similar to what I’ve just stated; be in the moment, let the universe be in charge and in this way, become a master. As zen is a Japanese form of Buddhism, the calligraphy is Japanese as well. Japanese traditionally write in Kanji, which was originally Chinese, like Taoism. The calligraphic method can be applied to any writing; indeed it can be applied to life itself. Using the tools to render the Taijitu (yin yang symbol) is a natural.

fotor_147869716888396What made me realize this was of course watching Kung Fu Panda III.
I was struck by the idea that the image can be seen to describe a spinning effect; as is often depicted with the yin and yang chasing each other. What was significant this time was how it is a symbol for everything. our galaxy is spinning, the sun revolves around it, the earth around the sun as it spins on its own axis. Dervish spin in meditation. Also, in reading up on the symbol, pronounced “Tai Chi tu” by the way, many of the complimentary aspect it represents were explained including one which I hadn’t thought of: the expanding contracting duality of life. This is key to Hamsa meditation, as well as understanding non dualist Kashmiri Shavism, which is another key component of my education.
So rendering the Taijitu deeply gratifying to me. It is a powerful exercise and a powerful symbol.



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