According to Thomas Ashley-Farrand, in his Masterful and highly recommended “Shakti Mantras”: “This mantra will gently and powerfully activate Kriya Shakti.”
According to Thomas Ashley-Farrand, in his Masterful and highly recommended “Shakti Mantras”: “This mantra will gently and powerfully activate Kriya Shakti.”
I have been meditating for decades. I was initiated into a little known method by someone I met and became close to not long after I prayed to meet them. I have studied and practiced numerous spiritual paths, ever searching for the Source; the Beloved Divine; always whittling my way through the chaff as I saw it, paring down and gluing together bits and pieces of the puzzle, always missing something. Missing a piece of the puzzle actually seemed to be part of the puzzle. You can’t have all the pieces, it’s too much to comprehend.
Similarly, it’s always said, in riddles and right out in the open that you already have all you need. It’s all right there for the taking. So which is it? Is it all right there in the open? Is there always a missing piece? My favorite is the idea that it will take lifetimes. Multiple lifetimes. Hey, maybe I’ve already been working on it for multiple lifetimes? How would you know? Maybe it wouldn’t take so many lifetimes if we could remember one to the next. The whole karma from a previous life is great too. How can I learn the lesson now if I don’t know what I failed before? “Just be in the moment. There is no past or future, only now.” Then WTF is karma for? “Life is just an illusion, it’s not real.” Then WTF are morals? Look, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but some of this doesn’t make sense. And of course the field is ride with charlatans. It’s too much! Too much I say!
I recently had a crisis of faith. I’ve always sort of sided with atheists on most things. Everything except the idea that there’s no God. It’s kind of a joke. Atheists claim to side with science, and often people of faith feel compelled to choose their faith over science. I’ve always felt that if your faith can’t accommodate reality, then it’s not very strong. But, all the strife, the bad people getting away with everything, the pain, and disease and suffering of the world got to me and I started to think, that there was nothing, and the idea that there’s something is unsupportable.
I don’t know how much of the atheist thing I want to get into but I agree that there’s no talking snake and all the animals in the world won’t fit in a boat. That doesn’t mean there’s no God. I agree that you can’t prove there’s a God. You also can’t prove there isn’t. Absence of proof is not proof of absence. Science is not equipped to answer questions about God. It’s like looking for a rainbow with a microphone. (It’s a metaphor, don’t come to me with radio spectrometer talk or whatever.)
So I moved on with my life. But at some point I realized that I was just that much more miserable without this component of spirituality in my life that had been there for so long. I played some of my new age music and it really helped.
Then, one day, I had a thought. A little inspiration. Like when you look at something you’ve seen a million times and notice something new. It’s like the Beatles say: All you need is love. And that was the missing piece. I mean I always knew that was important. The Catholic Church (in which I was raised) says that God is literally Love. Not just that God loves but that (he) is literally Love. The experience of love, for a pet, a child, aother or father… Is literally experiencing the Divine.
I’d always taken it as a kind of metaphor. I knew it was true, but couldn’t see how to translate it into everyday life. Until I could. The sensation of meditation is experiencing the Divine, which I also knew, but experiencing that sensation as receiving love was just a little click. Just a slight adjustment that changed everything for me. It’s the missing piece that was there in plain sight all along.
Whether you’re practicing Tai Chi, or yoga, or TCM, or praying, or singing Christmas carols, you’re experiencing Divine Love. It’s not some ethereal non attainable mystery that only a select few can have. It’s there all the time for everyone. It’s not something you have to be worthy of. It’s energy; you just plug into it, anyway you can.
It’s miraculous. You’re miraculous.
It was getting a bit chilly for camping. In retrospect, Damien had made some poor choices. referring to his current situation as camping was probably the least of them. It had been an emotional experience. They had been trick or treating and his kids had not been paying attention, so they had gone on ahead while Damien had struggled to adjust his cloak. It had gotten caught on a thorn bush and he didn’t want to rip it. His wife had made it for him a few years back. That was the year they were Jedi. Then he had been Robin Hood, and this year, he was a wizard. Stupid. So, when he had caught up to his kids, he was already irritated about the thorn bush, and them not staying with him. They were young and small for their age. It had only been a minute, less than that, surely. These kids were so excited about Halloween that they wouldn’t listen to any instructions. All evening this had been a problem. They didn’t realize how dangerous it could be. He was constantly worried something was going to happen. They were his whole world. How was he going to protect them if they wouldn’t stay with him? And now, here they were, being shaken down for their candy by some older kids.
Well, by the time they got home, the kids were crying, they couldn’t get the story out coherently to their mother. He tried to explain, but she seemed to reach her own conclusions before he could get the words out. “Not the first time,” she had said. It rang in his ears. It reminded him of just before he had gotten sober, how the incidents seemed to beget each other, as if he were caught in some spider’s web, some thorny bush!
He wasn’t a violent person. He didn’t think of himself as one anyway. Not the first time.
She asked him to leave right then. For the children’s sake. She was concerned for their safety. Not the first time.
He had still been wearing the costume. the wool cloak, the boots, the dagger, the staff, the whole nine yards. He grabbed the tent, and the camping pack with all the gear in it, the speckled cookware, the lantern, and stove, bedroll, sleeping bag tied to the bottom and took off. He just set out walking. He didn’t want to take the car, she would need that. He didn’t want to spend money on a motel, they couldn’t afford it. Maybe he was punishing himself. His heart was beating harder than it was during the incident. Was he being a martyr? Probably.
Damien had made some very quick, very rash decisions at that point. If he couldn’t be around his kids, he was done. He was done with the rat race, done with civilization, done with hiding who he was.
Maybe he wasn’t wearing a costume. Maybe this is who he was.
Those older kids weren’t with their parents. They weren’t wearing costumes. They were teenagers and they hadn’t wasted a moment to bully a couple little kids who had gotten away from their dad for a second.
“Give us your candy, you little turd!” one was saying as he pulled on Damien’s daughter’s arm.
The memory seemed to actually sear Damien’s brain. He walked on. Lowami woods shouldn’t be far. He had never walked it before. Maybe He should have headed for Memorial off of Garden Home… There were plenty of wooded areas right in the midst of SW Portland. He was sure he could find a spot to pitch his tent, even if it was illegal. He wasn’t sure. One night, surely would be ok. Then he could figure it out tomorrow. He didn’t want to join the homeless in a patch by a freeway onramp. This was Oregon. Why camp in civilization? He’d see whether that dagger was just for show or not. Maybe catch a rabbit, they were everywhere. Damien had picked up the medieval replica at one of those cutlery stores in the mall. The kind that had pocket knives, kitchenware, and swords. Of course, he had wanted a sword, but he had been unable to bring himself to spend the money. This 2ft miniature had been considerable more money than the hunting knives, but he had suspected it was just for show. He had displayed it on the wall when he was a bachelor, but married with kids, it stayed in a box in a drawer until Halloween.
Now he could concentrate on becoming one with nature. Get away from the concrete jungle and be more spiritual. He could finally learn to control his Chi, let it flow through him, instead of building up inside and exploding out… That’s what he was being guided to do, right? Of course, this kind of behavior, this kind of thinking would not play well in a custody hearing. The rational, right thing to do, would be to go to a motel, and seek counseling. Where did spiritual people get counseling? Was there a priest of Chi? Where can you find a Shaolin temple when you need one?
Then, there in the concrete jungle, just as the drizzle began, came the neon glow of the sign he was seeking.
Damien entered the little house and a bell rang as the door struck it. He had been by this place dozens of times, driving to Target. He had never thought to visit before. Who goes to places like this? Now that he was here, he worried maybe it would cost more than a motel. He had a twenty on him and had vowed an hour earlier not to use his debit card tonight. The rain picked up in earnest outside. Portland.
Dimly lit, ambient music played in unseen speakers. This part of the house had been converted into a lobby, deep red walls, with purple wall hangings. Batiks, abstract, soothing. Well worn carpet, a couch against the wall to the right. No one in sight. Who comes to places like this? Not the first time.
Damien removed his hood and shook out his graying, windblown hair. Curly enough to never look combed. His middle age was beginning to show on his lanky frame. The dim light made his eyes seem to recede into their sockets. His mustache and beard needed trimming. He needed a shave. Portland.
A door opened and a woman appeared. What had he been expecting? She had a scarf on her head and hoop earrings. She had a bunch of jangly bangles on her wrist. She had a vest over a paisley blouse that gathered at her wrists.
He had on a damp woolen cloak.
He had completely forgotten he was wearing a costume. He even still had the staff. A branch from their parking lot. It had broken off during a windstorm and landed on the car.
Maybe this is who you are.
Jesus Christ, what was he thinking?
“Come in,” she said. He walked through the lobby into the room she had just come from. Another dimly lit room. The most electricity the place used was the sign outside: “Psychic.” “I’m Marla.” she said. She looked at slightly sideways, waiting.
“I’m Damien.” he said. He felt ridiculous. He was sure he was as red as a beet.
“Have a seat, Mr. Damien.” she said. In the middle of the room was a table. it was wooden and had a tasseled table cloth in deep red paisley over it. There was room for a tarot reading, or a crystal ball. Neither was on display. He sat down. “What can I do for you, on this Blessed Samhain?” She asked. She pronounced the word “Sowen” He knew it was the Wiccan word for Halloween, the night that the great goddess slept or died, and the horned god reined for the dark winter months. How did he know this? He had studied. Damien had taken a comparative religion course in college.
“Blessed be.” he said, making blessed two syllables. He had never heard the phrased aloud.
“Blessed be, indeed.” she said. one syllable. Was she correcting him, or did it matter? He decided it didn’t matter.
“I need direction.” he said. “I’m lost.” he cast about for where to begin.
She smiled. “You are not lost. For the first time, maybe in your entire life, you’re home.” This was exactly what he wanted to hear, but he suspected she knew this. She stood up and went to a shelf against the wall. Were these walls black? It was too dim to be sure. She came back with a pitcher and a cup. A chalice, really. Really? A fucking chalice.
“The chalice with the palace has the brew that is true.” invaded his memory. A Danny Kaye movie.
“I’m sober.” he said. “I don’t drink.”
“It’s not that.”
“Or drugs. I’m sober.”
“It’s not that.” she repeated. “It’s the cost of your visit.” she said.
What the hell? He hadn’t been to a meeting in years. Tonight would have never happened if he had. He took a sip. It was like an herbal tea, but fortified somehow. Thick.
Just then, the bell rang. She did not look surprised, but her smile left and her jaw set. She stood. She didn’t say, “Just a minute,” or “I’ll be right back,” she just went to the door. Her stride was different. Defiant. She opened the door to the lobby. His back was to it. He couldn’t see. As he turned, she blocked his view. She was diminutive, but he was seated. What was in the tea?
“Ah, Marla. There you are. Look at you, dressed like a Gypsy for Halloween. How apropos.”
She’s wearing a costume? thought Damien.
“You are not welcome here.” she said. She spoke with authority that Damien found surprising. He stood up. Huh, any effect of the tea had been ruined by this interruption. He felt normal again. In fact, he felt calm, detached.
“Marla, you need to rethink your situation. You’re in no position to give orders.” Damien came up behind her and saw that there were four large men in the small lobby. They wore black. They had slicked back hair. The leader had a black blazer. Were they dressed for Halloween too? If so, the main guy was missing a fedora.
Marla was barring the door. Damien understood why he was there. “let me through.” he said. She looked up at him, unsure. He wasn’t much bigger than her. “I’m who you asked for.” he said. She looked at him, this costumed dad, out of place everywhere. He would have to do.
Damien stepped into the room.
The men chuckled. “Ok, Gandalf, we don’t want any trouble.”
“That is simply not true, is it?” said Damien. The men smiled.
The main guy shook his head, chuckling. He couldn’t bring himself to say the words. It would sound like an old episode of Batman or something. He didn’t have to say anything. They spread out along the walls of the small room. They had no idea.
It came up through from the ground through his feat, an energy that was warm. It gathered in his chest and he swung his arms in a kind of Tai Chi motion, which culminated as if he were striking the two outermost men, even though they were about five feet away each. A beat later they each slammed against the walls hard, their faces looking like they were experiencing mach 2 G force. Taking his staff in both hands, he pointed at the guy coming at him from his left and hit him with it, end first like a spear, knocking him back. The last guy was going for his gun and had it out fast, pointed at Marla. Without thinking, Damien pulled the dagger from its sheath at his belt and flung it. It embedded itself in the crook of the man’s arm, causing him to drop the gun as it went off, spoiling the shot.
The main guy’s eyes were wide but recovering. His mouth was set in a closed line. He and Damien faced off across the room. thirty seconds had passed. The guy looked at Marla but didn’t speak. He shook his head and left. The others all followed warily out the door, bleeding and leaving the thin weapon behind.
Damien turned back to Marla. She smiled. “Welcome home.” she said.
Learn to meditate for real. For free. For real. Today. Here.
There is a lot of turmoil in the world right now. Maybe you are reading this a hundred years after I wrote this. I’ll bet there was a lot of turmoil going on in the world. There has never been a time when there wasn’t. It can be difficult not to get caught up in it. In fact, it may be important for you to take action. Nevertheless it is also important not to let it consume you. That’s what turmoil does. Another word for turmoil is chaos. The world is chaos. Chaos is the original formless, orderless void, or absence of order that existed before God created the Cosmos or ordered universe in Genesis. It’s important to not let such a force take over our lives. We need to connect with the original creative force.
We should remember that we are always connected. The connection cannot be severed. We have only to tune in to the vast unending peace and love available to us. It could be listening to music, meditating, reaching out with love to your community. You could take a nature hike, read a special book. It’s important to take time to recharge your batteries as well as truly meditate.
There are many ways to meditate, but if it’s what I call “true meditation,” its purpose is to tune in to the creative force. I refer to this as Beloved, or Devi. You may connect to this sacred energy by whatever face or culture that suits you. The most common word is God, but this word is so full of loaded preconceptions that I avoid it. The energy is pure, undying, Neverending Love. There are many superb books recordings and videos that can teach you how to meditate. It’s a good idea to find one that suits your sensibilities. However, I will share one with you here.
This meditation practice is called Kundalini meditation. It is a sacred and powerful form of meditation kept secret from the world except for a few select and dedicated people who received it directly from their lifelong guru, and in turn taught it to their few handpicked students or chelas. There is an energy transfer that takes place between guru and student called “Shaktipat.” this can only happen in person, and is thought to be necessary for true liberation or enlightenment. If this is the experience you seek, you need to find a personal guru, experienced in this type of training. I have chosen this type to relate to you, because anyone can do it, and I learned it by reading about it, so I know it can be learned this way. I learned this practice from several texts, but the book that was my main source is called “Kundalini Awakening,” and is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Kundalini-Awakening-Gentle-Activation-Spiritual-ebook/dp/B002IPZJY2. I recommend getting a physical copy that you can use to concentrate on the mandala illustrations. My guide will differ from this text as it is not my only source and the guide I am giving you is a short synopsis of the technique.
First, set aside some time that you won’t be interrupted. Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can be alone. The accepted position is called the lotus position and it is seated cross-legged with your back straight. If you know the yoga position, then use that, if not, simple “Indian style” cross legged is fine. You can use a cushion or sit against a wall if you like.
Kundalini refers to a latent energy source located at the base of your spine in what is known as the root chakra. Chakra means wheel, and there are seven located a various points on your spine. (some sources refer to them as being part of your subtle body, a spirit body inside your physical or “gross” body. For the purpose of practicing the technique, further knowledge is not required but is recommended.
Now, to begin the meditation, it is recommended that you close your eyes Breathe deeply in through your nose, hold it just for a moment and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this a few times and relax your body.pay attention to the breathe entering your body, filling your lungs, feel your pulse at various points on your body as the oxygen is delivered and transfered with the exhaust that you exhale. Feel the breathe leave your lungs, rise through your trachea and exit to provide life to plants as they give us oxygen. We are connected to everything in various ways.
Now concentrate on your perineum. This is the location of the root chakra, also known as the Muladhara chakra, the seat of your sleeping Kundalini energy. Picture it as a red four petaled flower. Feel this area heat up as you exhale like applying a billows to a forge, causing the red flower to glow. Your subsequent chakras cannot be activated until you have successfully activated the Kundalini energy within this root chakra. However, we will continue to meditate up the chakra tree of your spine, as I think connecting all your chakras and connecting to the cosmic Shakti through your crown chakra can aid in activating you Kundalini.
So, having fired the red furnace of your root chakra, send the heat and energy to your next chakra located just below your navel, known as the sacral, or Svadhisthana chakra, this one is orange. Each chakra blends into the next color of the rainbow and you can feel the energy flow and change through each blend.
Each chakra has many elements associated with it. There are musical notes to hum and mantras and behaviors said to be tied to each chakra. I am concerned only with the meditation technique in this post. I have said at several points to educate yourself further about this, but it is also important not to get caught up in minutiae that might distract you from concentrating on the meditation itself. Full and complete focus is necessary for meditation. As you master the basics, you may introduce new elements to your practice.
Feel the energy move up your spine to your solar plexis chakra, even with the bottom of the front your ribcage. Known as the Manipura chakra, its color is yellow. Travel up to each successive chakra as you inhale, and rest as you exhale. Ignite and stoke the chakra as you exhale, as if you are blowing on a fire you are lighting.
Next comes the heart chakra, called Anahata. It is green in color. To many, this is a very important and special chakra. It is associated with love, and is very powerful. This is a good place to grow this energy rising up through you. Feel your heart beat with the energy of love coursing through you.
Next, as we continue our journey up the chakra rainbow, we come to Ajna, the (light) blue throat chakra. As you exhale, feel your breathe cause the chakra to glow brightly.
Next is the famous third eye, Vishuddha, located in the center of your brow, above and between your eyes. To me, this chakra starts in the peneal gland at the center of the brain, this would be where the glowing ember is located, and then, when activated, shoots a deep blue beam from your third eye, giving spiritual sight.
From there, we arrive at the crown chakra, the sacred Sahasrara, seen as violet, it is the gateway to the blessed holy Shakti, the all pervasive power of the cosmos. Our bodies and our chakras are antenna, receiving this energy is their purpose.
Now travel down through each chakra, taking the same slow deliberate steps, delivering the outer cosmic energy to the Muladhara and sending out the sacred Kundalini in and “breathing” in and out becoming one with the source of life.
When you have completed as many cycles of these Kriyas (action) as you are comfortable with, sit in contemplation a few minutes, allowing the energy to settle.
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The holidays are here again and this is my first time not working in a retail store during them since 2010. Before that I also spent most of the holidays working retail going back to when I got my first job in1982. I had become quite a humbug. I worked at a craft store once that started playing Christmas music in August. He said crafter have to start their holiday season early to be ready to ship the things they make on time. It made me feel sorry for the poor schmucks writing magazine articles; they generally have to have things ready six months in advance. Between the season starting earlier every year (war on Christmas? Christmas has eaten Thanksgiving, so retailers have to spend that holiday dealing with people known to have actually killed others in their rush for holiday savings.), with no time off allowed, (family going to spend the holidays with relatives out of town? That’s black out time in retail, no time off requests allowed.) the crowds of angry customers (“What do you mean you’re out of the most popular gift in the country the weekend before Christmas? It’s all my kid wants! Did you say I should take responsibility for shopping so late in the season? Let me talk to your manager!”) and the four versions of “Last Christmas” playing on a loop, it’s enough to turn Santa himself into a humbug! (Santa Claus is a man, Santa Barbara is a woman, San Francisco is a man… Why isn’t it San Claus? And why isn’t there a coastal town named after him in California?) it may sound like I’m complaining alot, but I’m just trying to relay what we deal with.
Where was going with all this? Oh yeah, the first holiday season I’m not working retail.. So instead, I’m raising my children. It’s much harder. As I write this my 3yr old finally fell asleep at about 5am, but woke up. So I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in a while. But it’s much more fulfilling. I get to see them grow and learn, and laugh. I get to show them the magic Christmas. I get to teach them what’s good in the world. I also have to be the one to say “no more candy tonight,” and “get that out of your mouth!” I put on music instead of cartoons (for a while at least). I cook meals they won’t eat. (well, the 3yr old does, his little sister won’t eat meat, and won’t take food from a spoon, so it’s broccoli, spaghetti, and lots of goldfish for her) I get to pick up the mega blocks mega times a day, and clean up the spills and change the diapers. It’s mostly totally worth it.
I also try to make time to paint and write, and work on my spiritual path. I get moments after they’ve gone to sleep, or if my wife isn’t too exhausted from working all day. Sometimes I just read. But I have received real blessings over this last year. I finally realize that I have something to offer. That my work has value. Not just because I’ve spent twenty five years as a seeker; learning to meditate, finding my way on the path. Not just because I got accepted to one of the hardest schools to get into in the world, because it’s the best; did the work, and graduated even though fewer than half the people who attend do. Not just because I’ve learned ancient techniques, few people know, and developed them into a unique style that combines the spiritually authentic, with traditional painting styles to create images with energy that is communicated from the artist to be received directly by the viewer. But because I’m seeing results, in my work and in my life. I’m not perfect, but I have crossed a threshold into a new way of seeing myself and my work. I don’t have to be the best. I just have to be myself. And that has real value.
Your life has real value as well. You don’t have to go to a fancy school, or be rich or famous. Each one of you is amazing. We are made of Love. Remember that.
I always fall sort. I fail myself, my expectations, and my family. I will never not fail. Not every time. Just occasionally. It’s unpredictable. It is very difficult to accept. Yet I am enough. I try my best. I will fall short. It will have to be enough. That’s why we have family; to carry each other when by ourselves we fall. It is my shortcomings that make me need others, and my shortcomings that make me feel unworthy of others.
I’ve been getting into a lot of musical biographies lately. It’s really inspiring to hear the creative journey of people like George Harrison and John Coltrane; their musical genius is wrapped up in spiritual expression. I identify with that quite a bit.
From the microscopic atom, with its orbiting electrons, to our planet rotating on its axis, which orbits the star we call the Sun, which also spins and orbits the galaxy, which itself rotates around its center, everything is spinning and swirling in a circular motion. It’s fascinating to me that electricity is generated this way as well. Is this why dervishes whirl? I think it is Probable, even though the method was developed in the thirteenth century by Rumi himself. (if Rumi had taken up Asian style calligraphy, he would have been Rumi the sumi sufi.)
This piece is part of a series and was done with acrylic, ink, and digital media. Buy the shirt here.
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.
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.
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.