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Azul The Blue Dragon Sumi Painting

Here is a large scale sumi painting of Azul the Blue Dragon. Azul is the enlightened master who teaches Yendor to be a wizard in “The Song of Yendor.” I’m really happy with the way it came out. There is so much energy in this painting.

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Sumi Dragon sketch

Here is my 1st attempt at a traditional sumi Dragon. I’ve done sumi Dragons before, but those were done in a kind of one stroke method that I thought best utilized the energy channeling zen technique of Hitsuzendō. When I first started translating Hitsuzendō from calligraphy to painting, I hadn’t realized the breadth of the sumi style. I was trying to do calligraphy in picture form. I still really like the way that kind of image comes out, but I’m trying to to be more true to the sumi heritage while also learning to apply it to my more traditionally Western style of painting. That is a total contradiction I know, but luckily Taoism and tàijítú allow for, and indeed rely on contradictions.

This image is really tiny; and I realized I’d like to do this kind of thing on a large scale, so I have to figure out how to make that happen. The problem with that is, this kind of technique doesn’t lend itself to corrections, and materials can be expensive on a large scale, so I’m going to need some practice.

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Sumi Moon painting Color

I made this piece for my son, Gabriel, who is obsessed with the moon. Originally, I had planned on making it more detailed, but I really like the energy of this direct and simple execution. I am experimenting with this zen style of painting. The idea of the style is to empty your mind and let the energy of your spirit flow into the painting. When executing a Kanji calligraphy, the calligrapher would concentrate on the word or phrase and Chanel the energy of that into the calligraphy. When I do Sanskrit Calligraphy that’s what I do. It’s kind of a learning curve. I get a small brush and practice the word over and over until I’m comfortable with it. Even if it’s a word I know really well. Then I prepare several sheets of paper and execute the word full size several times. Sometimes I do several full size practices 1st, but if I have enough good paper, I just go for it, because sometimes the best one is what you thought was a practice one, and if you did it on practice paper, you’re screwed. At the end of the session, I’m exhausted and maybe have one or two good pieces. Maybe none came out good enough. It’s hard to tell because the aesthetic is different from traditional calligraphy. It has to have a vibe to it. It should also be relatively centered on the page and not have any glaring mistakes or drips.

A scene involving multiple subjects and composition and thought about meaning, mood, color, brushes, inks, requires too much mental activity to do it all in advance and then just execute a plan, like a well rehearsed dance. Spontaneity is a big part of of these pieces. It’s not Bach, it’s the blues. Pieces like the sumi moons on blue paper, are fairly spontaneous; I’ve painted similar scenes enough to not have to plan it out too much to get the right feel. Still the process of emptying my mind is the new element that has to fit into the puzzle. It’s difficult to do it for a prolonged period of time.

For this piece, I thought I would start with this simple moon/sky. First I did it in black; a series of enso circles to define the moon and the surrounding sky, then broader with water, to create a wash. Then back in with gold for the moon and a halo, and then blue violet for the sky, using the same technique. For each stroke, I empty my mind, breath out, breath in and then execute the stroke on the exhale, driving the energy through my body and down my arm and into the painting with each stroke. Then I had planned to go back and add detail to the moon, perhaps a ground beneath, maybe the ocean. Maybe add clouds, or stars. However, I was struck by the energy in the underpainting, and I thought further detail would weaken what seemed to me to be a strong piece. It’s for my son anyway, and not really for sale, so it doesn’t matter if it’s polished or not. He’s two years old. Almost three. But it was a real learning experience. To reset after each stroke, concentrate on what I am doing and not what I did or what I am going to do. This is the goal of this kind of technique. It’s a meditation practice for monks. Hopefully, I can keep this lesson learned.

A print of this piece can be purchased here.

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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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Kali Nights

I’m updating this post to include paintings of Kali incarnated as her traditional Goddess, replete with blue skin, lolling tongue, necklace of skulls and skirt of arms. These frightening accouterments strike fear into the hearts of those who are not familiar with her. But her devotees know that she destroys that which keep them from obtaining enlightenment.

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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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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Om is Where the Heart Is

omtibet 001 (2)In the beginning was the word and the word was OM. Chanting OM is like a tuning fork for your soul. The ancient sacred sound permeates the Cosmos; creating it and sustaining it.

In the 1950s Bell industries aka the phone company was experiencing static on their lines. They assigned 2 physicists to find the source of the static; Peebles and Dick. What they found was a vibration that emited from everywhere simultaneously. At a frequency that matched exactly what scientists postulated the remnant of the big bang would vibrate at. The universe was created by a sound, and is sustained by it. omEPSON007At Azul BlueDragon, we offer ancient, sacred Sanskrit words and phrases, rendered in the expressive Shodo style of Calligraphy,which utilizes a meditative technique to harness the spirit of Creation, imbuing the very ink on the page with energy.

For a limited time, we are offering a free digital download of the sacred Om, to keep. You can print it out and use it to decorate your home or office. It’s our gift to you. (via Free Download! Om Sanskrit Calligraphy!)

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