Click here to go to the next issue
Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nondual Highlights each day
#1536 - Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - Editor: Joyce (Know_Mystery)
Eagle III - Photo by Alan Larus ~ TrueVision
Music: Central.mid from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Panhala/
[Editor's Note: This issue of the NDHighlights is dedicated to the memory of Liz Moray, whose genuine compassion, empathy, faith, and friendship touched many in the Buddhist community. Namaste Liz. With love, joyce]
Jack ~ insightpractice
Let all the strains of joy mingle in my last song - the joy that makes
the earth flow over in the riotous excess of the grass, the joy that sets
the twin brothers life and death dancing over the wide world, the joy that
sweeps in with the tempest, shaking and waking all life with laughter,
the joy that sits still with its tears on the open red lotus of pain, and
the joy that throws everything it has upon the dust, and knows not a word. ~ Rabindranath Tagore ~
Joyce ~ Spiritual-Friends & Helena Nelson-Reed, http://www.fine-art-studios.com
We Never Really Disappear
"A lyrically beautiful story from the Sufi tradition relates the dilemma faced by
river water as it comes to the edge of the desert and is about to be transformed
into vapor and carried away on the wind. The water knows what it is to be water
and what it means to be part of a river. It does not know about this other state,
vapor. But if it resists this change, it will end up brackish in the sands of the
desert. Only if it accepts change will it be carried across the desert to the
mountains, where it will condense and fall, to begin the cycle anew with more
~ Kenneth W. Christian, Ph.D.'s, "Your Own Worst Enemy." ~
About The Artist
"Helena Nelson-Reed is an American artist specializing in fine art watercolor
painting, pencil drawings, fine art illustration, private/commercial commissions,
and portraits. Helena's collections portray a visionary world focused on
positive, feminine archetypal imagery. Each painting offers the viewer a portal
into their imagination, tapping ancient wellsprings of knowledge and emotion.
These collections portray a world filled with light and shadow..."
Liz Moray ~ insightpractice archives
[Editor's Note: To me, this post is vintage Liz, here sharing
her curiousity and joy and struggles with typical candor and
warmth and gentle humor. joyce]
I just got back from my Metta retreat with Marcia
Rose. Among other things, I have her schedule for the
next year, and if anyone has a chance to study with
her, I highly recommend it. She is very experienced,
has taught around the world, and is open to new ideas,
and so her teaching and practice is constantly growing
and deepening. She also has a lot of wonderful
stories, and closes each session with an always
surprisingly relavent poem.
On Friday evening, she gave us quite a long Dharma
talk, going through the phrases of Mettaa (which she
always pronounced with the double t - it sounded
aspirated to me - and the double a at the end, which
gave the word a lovely, exotic sound), which I found
deeply engrossing and also a bit confusing, since I
didn't really know how these phrases were used. The
meditation turned out to be mindfulness meditation,
and as she was guided us with the breath, all of the
things she said were along the lines of "See where the
energy of the breath is." This was a phenomenal way of
looking at it for me. I realized that in fact I've
never watched the breath. I've always watched a
location - the tip of the nose, the lungs the rising
and falling abdomen - and observed what the breath was
doing to it. I've never had a sense of the living,
energetic, dynamic quality of the breath itself. Now,
if I catch myself noticing the breath at odd moments,
it's feels like a connection with life, rather than an
observation of an object.
On Saturday she started with a little history of
Mettaa meditation, which she said is traditionally
known as (something like) the Brahama-virayana
practices (couldn't tell how to spell it from her
pronunciation), and have also been described as the
Beautiful practices, because of the effects it has on
the experience of those who practice them. She said
that traditionally in Theravada these practices were
not taught until the monk had completed a full cycle
of Vipassana teachings (I don't know exactly what that
means either). But as more ane more Asian teachers
have come to this country, they realized that we need
Mettaa practice earlier, to counter the self-hatred
which is built into our culture. I usually bristle
when people start talking like that, but she explained
that we have such a strong emphasis on producing, on
accomplishing, along with an equally strong sense that
we've never done enough, which leads to a strong sense
of inadequacy among us. I can buy that, because the
benefits of the emphasis on accomplishing are apparent
She again went through the phrases we would use. They
are all traditional phrases, although the wording has
been to some extent has changed from teacher to
teacher. They all speak to general issues which matter
to all of us - May I be safe from internal and
external harm, may you love yourself wholeheartedly
just as you are, at this and every moment,
unconditionally. She says that sometimes we are
tempted to be more specific, but she recommends
against that, as anything specific to us would be
included in the general that applies to everyone.
She said that what she called "radical acceptance" is
fundamental to Mettaa meditation. "Radical acceptance"
is the knowing, the accepting, that what is here now,
is here now, *whatever* that may be. I found this
fascinating, because of my readings years ago in which
this fundamental level of acceptance was described as
essential for Mindfulness.
She said there is no Mettaa without Mindfulness. If we
are presented with an insight, which may be
accompanied by a strong emotion, it may be necessary
to stay with that emotion til it's run its course,
which is hard to do without the practice that
mindfulness brings. Or if we find our mind churning,
thinking about this and that, even though it might
feel important, still, we need to let it go and return
to the phrases, just as we leave thoughts behind and
return to the breath in Mindfulness. For this reason,
she says a strong foundation in Mindfulness is crucial
to Mettaa practice.
Then we sat, focusing on ourselves as the subject of
the phrases. I included my basic staples among them:
May I be happy. May I be filled with joy. May I be
safe from internal and external harm. May I be strong.
May I be without fear. May I live with the ease of
inner peace. May I love myself wholeheartedly, just as
I am, at this and every moment, unconditionally,
without judgement. May I accept everything I do. May I
accept whatever gifts I have to offer. These phrases I
repeated over and over, having a rather hard time, at
first, trying to remember them all and get them all
straight. I still don't have the one about living at
As I practiced I realized what the process was. In
Mettaa meditation we go deeply into the phrases, we
stay with the phrases and their meaning. We are not
thinking "about" someone. We are *being with* our idea
of them, with meaningful intention. It is the staying
with the phrases in this manner that brings
I had two goals for this retreat. I've been doing an
uneducated version of Mettaa practice since last June,
feeling my way through the process, and though I've
had some extraordinary experiences, I'd gotten to the
point where I didn't feel comfortable continuing. I
was feeling to some extent manipulative, and also,
that I couldn't keep self out of it. I was hoping that
I would resolve this problem on the retreat. Also,
among my relationships is one of a number of years
which has been both difficult and rewarding for me,
and I felt that I was at a point at which I could
resolve my part of it, and so I intended to focus on
that person for the retreat, in the hope that a
resolution would arise in my mind.
As I practiced the phrases in that first meditation, I
realized that my practice of the past few months had
ceased to feel comfortable because it was unbalanced.
I never practiced Mettaa with myself, the very idea
bored me, I was only interested in resolving
relationships and helping others. So I had a terribly
hard time practicing Mettaa with myself; it was quite
terrifying - which Marcia said is *very* common. My
inability to sit still reached gargantuan proportions
as I wrestled with the fear, and forced myself to send
the Mettaa of the phrases to me. And so it was clear
to me that the reason my practice had begun to feel
manipulative was that I was practicing not at all with
myself, and sending an exaggerated energy to others,
which always implies an expectation that others will
give me the validation I won't give myself. As I saw
this, I was finally able to let the tension go and sit
In the next session we were to focus on another
person. Marcia recommended that we think of someone
who had done something kind for us, someone who has
been a benefactor in some way. But i was determined to
work with a certain person, so, although it felt like,
disobedience, I decided to think of the person I had
chosen in the way they have been kind to me, intending
to work with other aspects of the relationship as the
day went on. Later in the question period she
mentioned that one person can fill many categories, so
I realized my choice was ok. I was all set for the
session to begin, when she said, now we will work with
the phrases, focusing on ourselves.
Ourselves!!!!!!!! Yet again!!!!!!!! Wouldn't we ever
get to the good stuff??????? I was a bit irritated. My
mind went all over the place, and stayed out there for
quite a while, until suddenly I heard Marcia say, Now
we will take the energy of practicing Mettaa with
ourselves and direct it toward the person we have
chosen. So there I was, with no energy to apply, since
I'd been too snooty to do the practice. I had to do
something. I struggled quite intently with this.
Couldn't go back and apply the phrases to myself now,
not without shortchanging the focus of this session,
and I probably wouldn't generate much good quality
energy anyway. Finally, I decided that I had to bring
myself into the meditation as I did it. May you, and
also I, be happy, I said. May you, and also I, be free
from internal and external harm......May you, and also
I, love ourselves completely, just as we are, at this
moment and all others, unconditionally.....
As I repeated the phrases I realized I was solving my
balance problem - I was giving to another the *very
same* thing I was giving myself. It couldn't be
manipulative, not for me, although doubtless another
person might find a way to make it so for themselves,
as they worked through their own path. But for me,
this did the trick. I stayed with the modified phrases
pretty intently for the full meditation and walking
period, and when I sat down at the end, I realized
that I had also resolved the relationship, that in a
fundamental way, the aspect of the relationship which
had concerned me, was history.
This is the major learning I got from the retreat. I
continued to have some intense experiences, but they
tended to be relationship sorts of things - I don't
know how it is that I so often get into intense
interactions without a word being said, with the
entire contact being things like passing each other in
the hall, but I do. However, the interactions all
seemed to resolve on a different level. I could see
that certain things were being thought about me, and I
just simply let them be thought. I can still be me,
here, and not be tied up in other's mistaken ideas.
I've been getting to this way of thinking over the
past few months, but during the retreat it was
manifested with symbolically crucial people.
In the question period at the end Marcia talked about
focusing on difficult people during Mettaa practice.
She recommends that we do *not* start with those most
difficult for us. It can create emotional conditions
within us that we are not ready to handle. So she
recommends that we start with the easier ones, and
I know this is a pretty long post, but I want to share
what happened to me: I had a wonderful retreat largely
because I was so well prepared, and I was well
prepared because of that wonderful conversation we had
about concentration a week ago. I want to thank
everyone who participated in it, and especially Jack
for introducing the thread and persisting with it.
Cornelius ~ UniversalMeditations
THE PRESENT MOMENT.... (Part 1)
"You are always in the present moment. You are not always aware that you are in the present moment. The present moment continues with your awareness or without it. The difference is one of power. When you are aware in the present moment, you have the option of power. When you are not aware in the present moment you have no power.
Not having power means being under the control of external circumstances. Having the option to create power means you are able to decide what you will say next and do next, and the consequences you will create with your words and actions. All possibilities exist in the present moment. When you are aware of the present moment, you have access to all possibilities that the present moment offers.
Most people are not aware of the present moment, and the options available to them are very limited. When they are offended, they get angry and shout or withdraw. When they are tempted by alcohol, they drink it. When they are jealous, they become focused on a narrow part of the vast array of experience that presents itself moment by moment. The vast array is all contained in the present moment. Becoming aware of the present moment gives access to that vast array, and with that vast array of experience comes numerous possibilities.
It is not possible to become aware of the present moment by examing, studying, or thinking about external circumstances. The more absorbed you become in these activities, the less aware of the present moment you are. When you are fixated on your computer, for example, time seems to go by very quickly and you don't have enough of it. Before you are finished with what you want to do, dinner is ready, or it is bedtime, and you stay up late to do even more.
The same is true of homework, business demands, and every other activity that takes you away from the present moment. You put on blinders, and it is not possible to distract you because you are like a train on tracks. All you see are the tracks unfolding before you, and none of the landscape that continually presents itself.
You cannot see all of the outer landscape that surrounds you while you are unaware of your inner landscape. Your inner landscape is the anchor of your experience. It is the ground of your life. When you live your life without seeing it, your life becomes ungrounded. You are tossed about by circumstances like a leaf in the wind. You become a boat without a rudder, and the currents of your life take you where they go, whether you want to go there or not.
Your inner landscape is richer than your outer landscape, no matter how magnificent the sunrise you are seeing might be, or how awesome the night sky above you, or how immense the turbulent ocean rushing toward you." Gary Zukav
ambient_techno ~ The_Other_Syntax
"Feeling is like water. It molds perception like a river cutting its
way through the earth. Formless, it can also be molded. How you feel
about something helps to form your worldview. In turn, your worldview
helps forge how you feel about things.
To begin educating feeling, don't always act on your thoughts. Within
the limits of not bringing harm to another or to yourself, act
according to how you feel. Regularly go out for a walk and follow
your heart faithfully and fearlessly. Don't censor your intuition."
~ A Toltec Path - The Seer ~
Karta ~ UniversalMeditations archives
Wider and Deeper consciousness is higher
Nisargadatta: The entire universe is your Guru. You learn from
everything if you are alert and intelligent. Were your mind clear and
your heart clean, you would learn from every passerby. It is because
you are indolent or restless that o=your inner Self manifests as the
outer Guru and makes you trust Him and obey. Q. Is a Guru inevitable? Nisargadatta: It is like asking "is a mother inevitable? To rise in
consciousness from one dimension to another, you need help. The help
may not alway being the shape of a human person, it may be a subtle
presence, or a spark of intuition, but help must come. The inner Self
is watching and waiting for the son to return to his father. At the
right time he arranges everything affectionately and effectively.
Where a messenger is needed, or a guide, He sends the Guru to do the
needful. Q. There is one thing i cannot grasp, You speak of the inner self as
wise and good and beautiful and in every way perfect, and of the
person merely as a reflection without a being of its own. On the
other hand you take so much trouble in helping the person to realize
itself. If the person is so unimportant, why be so concerned with its
welfare? Who cares for a shadow? Nisargadatta: You have brought duality where there is none. There is
the body and there is the *Self* Between them is the mind, in which
the Self is reflected as "I am". Because of the imperfections of the
mind, its crudity and restlessness, lack of discernment and insight,
it takes itself to be the body, not the Self. All that is needed is
to purify the mind so that it can realize its identity with the Self.
When the mind merges in the Self, the body presents no problem. It
remains what it is, an instrument of cognition and action, the tool
and the expression of the creative fire within. The ultimate value of
the body is that it serves to discover the cosmic body, which is the
universe in its entirety. As you realize yourself in manifestation,
you keeP on discovering that you are ever more than what you have
imagined.. Q. Is there no end to self-discovery? Nisargadatta: As there is no beginning, there is no end, but what i
have discovered by the grace of my Guru is...I am nothing that can be
pointed at. I am neither a "this" nor a "that" This holds absolutely. Q. Then, where comes in the never-ending discovery, the endless
transcending oneself into new dimensions? Nisargadatta: All this belongs to the realm of manifestation. Wider and
deeper consciousness is higher. All that lives, works for protecting,
perpetuating and expanding consciousness, discover of new dimensions,
with their properties, qualities and powers. In that sense the entire
universe becomes a school of Yoga. Q. Is perfection the destiny of all human beings? Nisargadatta: Of all living beings - ultimately. The possibility
becomes a certainty when the notion of enlightenment appears in the
mind. Once a living being has heard and understood that deliverance
is within his reach, he will never forget, for it is the first
message from within. It will take roots and grow and in due course
take the blessed shape of the Guru. Q. So all we are concerned with is the redemption of the mind? Nisargadatta: What else? The mind goes astray, the mind returns
home. Even the word astray is not proper. The mind must know itself
in every mood. Nothing is a mistake unless repeated.
Earl ~ Mind-Shifting
PPPP - IIII - A-B-C-D
Well, for the few formula nuts left here, here is another that I came up with when writing stuff for another site. P P P P represents simply
First-- Physiological events have psychological consequences ( The physical CAN and does, cause our personal psychology to change)
The reverse is also true that,
Second-- Psychological events have physiological consequences. (Here the psychology of mind CAN, and does, project a/some "desired" perceived physical outcome)
The first (P-P) is true in that we are surrounded with "things" beginning the day we are born, with, blue and pink blankets, religious idols and icons, models of ethnicity and cultural identifiers and reinforced by language by those "wizards" in our early lives that represent and support those developmental representations. As we grow, those representations become a foundation for our belief system where we develop an "auto-response" to many of the "models" within our lives. We have model maleness and femaleness, families, spiritualisms, social orders, political and governmental models all stemming from early childhood, projected into our futures until death, starting very early in life.
The second (P-P) represents our thinking processes where we create our futures in the sense of well being or not, in either mental models of control dramas and coping scenarios or physical expressions of health and happiness or suffering and discomfort. The second is well know in healing processes where we know that if we have a positive outlook, our prognosis for a life of well being is more favorably realized than if our attitudes are less than positive. If our outlook is negative we tend to see only despair, depression, tragedy, and the like.
The two expressions then become intertwined as we meander mentally in an ever growing field of beliefs, where we create a psychology of mind that projects our expectations in a concretized outcome of "physical form" and then take what we view as any "concrete form", or "physiological form" and use it to reinforce our psychology of belief to complete the cycle.
These two representations of PPPP equate to our "status quo-ing " our ever developing system of beliefs, NO MATTER AT WHAT AGE WE EXAMINE THEM. This is a dynamic realm where change (contradiction to established beliefs) is seen as the enemy. It is dynamic in the sense that we will do whatever is necessary to support "the system."
Now, we add that to I-I-I-I (It is, if and only if) as a "projection principle". ("It is, if and only if" is our conditional belief system of ego representations where attachments thrive. It focuses conditionality aka "if and only if".)
Then that A- B- C-D becomes---
A---Ask Yourself, what am I feeling right now?
The simple cycle of "form recognition" (both psychological and physiological)
within personal emotional identification (discomfort, suffering and terror)
B---Boldly step in.
Interrupt the process intentionally and refocus my intention from what I do not want, to what I do want, and from the negative to the positive using self talk as THE primary tool within words, emotions and visualization.
C-- Choose again.
Choice decision (do this, do that, do nothing, supporting my focused intention)
D-- Demonstrate release.
Demonstrate means to show with actions and words the unconditional release of all that has transpired as past and willingly allow the potentiality of the universe to present what it will, that I willingly accept, because I can do no more.
So starting at birth we have P P P P then I I I I the A-B-C-D---and that my friends, is the entire cycle of physical conscious life unto death, excluding of course, altered states within other non-ego realms.
This is far easier to remember with life starting as PPPP and the becoming of I-I-I-I and then learning of our A-B-Cs and D too.
This is fairly consistent with my book Mind-Shifting but is much simpler to remember with cues. I am fond of cues, markers and triggers. Whatever gets our attention or distracts us, there is a reason. It can be a distraction to keep us from dealing with things or it can be a distraction leading us toward conflict and then reconciliation. I see reconciliation as also dynamic in that it can be anything from complete removal to a minor desensitization all of which are positive, all are miracles.
Does this make sense and if not, what do you see? Peace earl
From the NDS Archives (posted by Gracie) & Alan Larus ~ TrueVision
warmth of the morning sun softly caresses the flower's
Each is valuable just in being, the
universe, minus just one of
Freyja ~ UniversalMeditations
Art and the Challenge of Change
By Stewart Cubley A student once asked Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, one of the earliest and most widely revered Zen masters to come to the West, "can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?" Suzuki Roshi answered, "Everything changes."
We know this. But then again we don't. Buddhist monks spend their lifetimes understanding this statement. To really know that 'everything changes' is to live in harmony with change, which few of us do.
Most of us don't feel truly at home with ourselves in a world of exponentially increasing change. Our net worth as measured by the stock market fluctuates wildly on a daily basis. Relationships form and fall away with greater rapidity than anytime in history. Job security is the relic of a past in which our livelihood was a stable measure of identity. Instant access to information compresses decision-making into minutes rather than days or weeks. We live pressured by time and accomplishment - postponing our lives until after the next hurdle is overcome, the next problem solved, the next career step achieved. It's easy to experience life more as a burden than as a source of passion and revelation.
The opportunity that the creative arts process offers is to fully inhabit our experience right now just as it is. It's a practice, as valid as any spiritual path, that requires us to drop the insane rush toward the imagined goal and to experience being at home with ourselves. The transformation that occurs when we touch our home base is nothing short of miraculous. There is an expansiveness in which the circumstances of our lives are held differently, and our world appears in its potential rather than it's limitation. For a moment at least, we perceive the incredible mystery of existence, and we know what it means to accept our place in the scheme of things.
"Within us we have a hope
which always walks in front of our present narrow experience;
it is the undying faith in the infinite in us." ~ Tagore ~ For the past twenty years I've been exploring the nature of creative change using the tool of painting. When I mention painting, I often get some response like; "Oh, painting - I have no talent". "My brother could draw, but I'm not really creative". "My mother's the artist, not me. I don't have an artistic bone in my body". "I paint houses - does that count?"
The moment when I first start a class or workshop always has a special poignancy to me. People of all ages and backgrounds and varying degrees of experience have taken the time and energy to commit themselves to an inner exploration that is totally unknown to them. There's an electric mixture of excitement and fear in the air as we gather for the first session. People are wondering what they've gotten themselves into, and whether it's not too late to back out. In one workshop a man laughingly said, "Why do I keep finding myself in groups of such talented and creative people?", meaning of course, that he didn't think of himself that way.
If you can hold a brush you can paint. Once it's removed from the strictures of talent, skill, accomplishment, interpretation, competition and awards, painting becomes a medium for challenge and change. The power inherent in painting is that it can awaken a wild vein of passion in you that will not go back to sleep. Through listening to your intuition - the color you are attracted to, the placement of the brush on the paper, the shape, the form, the image that wants to be born - a fire is ignited that jumps off the paper and into your life. Perceptions arise that are profound yet practical. Decisions become available that were dormant, new courses of action demand to be initiated, and old places of blockage ready themselves to be let go. Your view of yourself and what is possible in your life transform in the reflection you observe in the mirror of your painting.
There is no formula by which the impulse for change will manifest for any individual's life, but its birth requires a clear environment for exploration. First, there needs to be a safe, supportive space of focused acceptance in which we can begin to let down the defenses we have erected around our own deep listening. Then there needs to be the encouragement and stimulation to look at those areas where we are challenged, where we come to the edge. In entering those places courageously and meeting ourselves there, we discover our genuine passion and inspiration. We realize that we have nothing to protect and nothing to lose, and we are then free to ask: "What do I really want to do, given who I am and with the tools I have to use?" "Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?"
~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day ~ Art Making as Spiritual Practice
"Care of the soul appreciates the mystery of human suffering and does not offer the illusion of a problem-free life. It sees every fall into ignorance and confusion as an opportunity to discover that the beast residing at the center of the labyrinth is also an angel."
~ Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore ~ In the recent movie, "Pollack", the artist is portrayed in the usual stereotypes of a suffering, dysfunctional and ultimately self-destructive egomaniac. What is the right relationship between our wounds and our creativity? We intuit that the process of creating art can be healing on many levels, but is a psychotic personality the prerequisite for membership? Do we have to endure extreme suffering in order to create? A realistic model for the artist as spiritual explorer needs to be found.
It's interesting that the word passion has its roots in the Latin pati 'to suffer'. To take the leap into the truth of our own experience and to give it form in the world requires becoming engaged in a holy struggle of sorts, where we must face the actual rather than the idealized. One of the myths of art is that we have to feel inspired, have endless ideas or feel confident in order to create. But if we truly desire passion in our lives, we must also be willing to experience our emptiness and our lack of inspiration. There may be an encounter with the inevitable sadnesses that have accumulated from a lifetime of experience. We will have to revisit those places where we turned away from our potential out of fear - where we said no instead of yes. And our habitual self-judgment will take on monstrous proportions before it retreats into its cave, rendered ineffectual by our courage to look it squarely in the eye. We'll probably be tested by the terror of chaos and loss of control. Our tendency to defuse the potency of the mysterious and the irrational through explanation and interpretation will seriously try to deflect us. And then there is the continual desire to quit, to abandon our work midstream, to retreat to a point of safety and immunity.
Meaningful change, although our birthright, must be won. It's the fruit of challenge well met. It requires that we take our difficulties seriously, seeing them as important, rather than as bothersome aggravations. What creative longings remain asleep inside that we're hesitant to arouse? Where do we feel our ability to express has been wounded or armored? We should not to be ashamed of these struggles, because they are worthy of our engagement. The places where we once turned back become doors we walk through, and with an earned authority can now say....Yes.
Challenge as Initiation
"Homesick for moderation,
Half the world's artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile, I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.
I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?"
~ Mary Oliver, A Dream of Trees ~
Crisis, which has its roots in the ancient Greek, 'to decide' or 'to separate', is an inner state of readiness that precedes creative breakthrough. We must literally be at a critical juncture where a road must be chosen - where there is absolutely no chance to stall or turn back - before we have the urgency and energy to take that plunge that will determine the next direction in our lives.
In retrospect, we see how decisions made at crisis points often lead to new possibilities that wouldn't have existed otherwise. Yet we instinctively view the appearance of crisis with abhorrence and dread - we want anything except to enter into the state of immediacy that creative challenge demands. We will avoid at all costs the experience of stepping across the line without a guarantee, where we will be transformed in ways that we can't predict.
Crisis is a notice from our intuitive self that an initiation is due. We're presented with an opportunity to pass through the fire deeply altered by the experience, or to continue grasping the illusion that we can remain fixed and untouched. The fact is that when we truly meet crisis we don't remain fixed at all - the 'I' that enters the experience is not the 'I' that is spit out the other end. The experience and the experiencer are inseparably entwined in a mysterious and profound relationship that is interdependent and co-evolving. In embracing crisis the way opens up from within it like a flower blooming from the darkest soil.
Crisis Of Emptiness
The crisis of emptiness is one of the first encounters in the journey of painting. This crisis essentially is saying, "So you think you're creative do you? Well, I've got news for you - there's nothing inside you. And even if there is something inside you, it's just bullshit."
You stand in front of your painting frozen in your tracks. Any movement would be a failure, so you don't even attempt it. You look around at the other painters convinced that everyone knows what they're doing except you. A deep well of hopelessness wells up from the core, reminding you of all the places where you've run from this feeling, filling it with food that doesn't sustain.
It's a paradox that in this time of such freedom of choice, we often don't know what we really care about. We are taught to do what's right rather than ask what we truly desire. We react according to the pressures we feel around us to conform and perform rather than acting from what's within us. We even lose track of the question, as though it's irrelevant. Painting requires us to listen inwardly on a moment to moment basis to what we truly feel and want - to act not from what we think we should do, but from what is more mysterious and more irrational and less dominated by the notion of achievement.
"The first painting doesn't count", I often announce when we start. This always gets a few laughs, because we recognize how important the painting has already become - even before we've begun.
The remedy for the crisis of emptiness of course is to step into the creative void. The courage it takes to do this will be returned a million times over - but the task is yours to take the first step. Just remember, even though it may feel like your life is at stake, in the end it's just a painting!
Crisis Of Discontent
Often in the painting workshops I'll approach someone who's been painting for a while and ask how they're doing. With their fist clenched and their jaw set in grim determination, they'll say sweetly, "Oh, I'm just fine." Their body is screaming out with tension and forced effort, yet I know there's nothing I can do until their discontent becomes obvious.
We're trained to be bored, desensitized us to our own discomfort. Something is calling out to be recognized, but we're afraid that it means something is wrong with us, and therefore shame, guilt and denial become distracting factors.
Creative disturbance is an intelligent voice - it's purpose is to point out to us where we're holding on and what we must let go of to proceed. To bury disturbance is the greatest disservice we can give ourselves, and yet it's the accepted norm of our culture. We're surrounded by ways in which to buy our way out, to consume more in order to feel less, to take the quick fix instead of face the underlying reality. A reorientation to discontent must be achieved, where we view trouble as fodder for change rather than proof of failure.
"I want to quit, the painting is feeling too tight and constricted. I've gone too far", are often the comments once the tension becomes unbearable. "Instead of quitting just now, what could you do to make it worse?" I reply.
"But I want to feel more expanded, maybe if I had a new piece of paper....."
"Do you trust what you want or what actually is?" I ask, knowing it's a leading question. "If you trust the integrity of your own experience, then go toward the constriction, express the feeling you're having right now, instead of trying to fix it."
If a ripening has occurred in a person through the act of standing in their creative process, an explosion will occur at this point. A flood of new energy and wild abandon will catapult them into an entirely different arena that breaks wide open the barrier created by their efforts to control. The way out lies in the very heart of the disturbance. The permission to actually go towards what you're feeling is so simple - yet so radical.
"Only those who will risk going too far
Can possibly find out how far one can go."
~ T.S. Eliot ~ Crisis Of Criticism
Once we've had the courage to enter the fray and commit ourselves to form and color, it's not unusual to get a big dose of self-condemnation. This is the crisis of criticism. The magnitude and scope of our self-judgment is immense, and it's there looking over our shoulder at every brush stroke.
Once I was working with a woman who had been struggling for days with her own judgment and doubt, disliking her painting immensely. Finally she took a break for a cup of tea, and she was sitting on the far side of the studio, looking through the central glass atrium at her painting without realizing that it was her own. Enamored, she said to me, "If only I could paint like that. That painting is so beautiful!"
The crisis of criticism on some level always involves a self-referencing factor. The filter of 'me' and 'mine' encumbers creative action. We are unable to detach the painting from our own success/failure quotient. We measure each proposed step by the yardstick of our own image. Will I like what I've done? Did I make the right action? Will I be recognized for my contribution? Will I be humiliated? Will I fail? But I have a better question. What if you were not defined by what you paint?
As long as the painting is entirely about my success/failure, there's no freedom to meet the challenge of creating. The environment needed is one of no measurement, no rewards, no comparisons, no failure or success, no striving or accomplishment - only permission to become a pioneer in your own creative wilderness. Then the painting process can become a deeply satisfying practice, and a profound connection can be made. The 'me' and the effort that maintains it are absent when there is absolute absorption in the process of creating.
Crisis Of Chaos
In the crisis of chaos all bets are off. We've crossed the line, taken the jump, and everything feels up for grabs. It's both frightening and exhilarating. We fluctuate between bouts of self-doubt over what we've left behind and excitement for what lies ahead. The painting may seem wildly out of control, nothing fits together and nothing makes sense in the jumble of interweaving colors, images and forms. This is a 'divine chaos' in which we can feel deluged with new possibilities and find it hard to contain the energy. On the other extreme, we may feel overwhelmed and exhausted, needing to withdraw and allow the gestation that's occurring to have our full attention.
We tend to panic in the face of chaos and feel that our state of 'not-knowing' is a limitation rather than an asset. On the contrary, chaos is the absence of organizing concepts, and therefore an indication that we've loosened our control on the situation enough to let the old structures be shaken up. Chaos is the experience of being awash in the tide of new possibilities and directions that have not yet coalesced. It is an infusion of energy that's generated from the essential risk of leaving behind our familiar points of reference, especially our criticism. No real change is possible without experiencing the divine state of 'not-knowing' that is the crisis of chaos.
As with the other moments of crisis, the intelligent response to chaos is to dive more fully into it. Chaos is an opportunity to radically trust that there's a support for you in the world much larger than you imagine. Generally when someone tells me that their painting has become too chaotic it's a sign that they secretly want to put even more into it!
Crisis of Meaning
"I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening
Called a mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing --
~ I Heard God Laughing - renderings of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky ~
Recently in a weeklong training session the quiet concentration of the group was broken by a wild hoot of uncontrollable laughter. Despite her attempts to stifle the eruption, Julia couldn't contain it and she ran out of the studio and into the street. Then we heard the cackling continue, amplified to the point where it became contagious and the whole studio became infected. Soon we were all laughing with her without knowing quite at what, but sure that it was somehow profound. Later, after things had settled down, Julia shared with us the story behind her spontaneous uprising. A respected medical professional, Julia uses the painting process as meditation, a chance to slow down and be with her thoughts and feelings. That afternoon she'd found herself painting something that she judged as trite and unimportant- a cute little poodle. This horrified her sense of the importance of her work, and she just couldn't accept it. But being attuned to doing what the painting demands rather than what she prefers, she continued - this time to paint an equally meaningless monkey next to the dog in pink, her least favorite color. That's when the hooting started, and she broke open with the insight of her own self-importance and her attachment to profundity.
"I couldn't get over how stupid it was! I realized I'm always so afraid of being perceived as stupid, and there it was right in front of me for all to see." It was a tribute to her maturity in the process that she was able to accept such a poignant and relevant teaching, and to laugh it directly into her bones.
There are precious moments that arise in the painting process where we're asked to let go of our concepts of the very meaning of our work itself. No matter how open we deem ourselves to be, our mind begins to wrap around our experience and we subtly form a frame within which we view the painting. Unconsciously we try to explain away the mystery by classifying the elements and images into safe categories where we can deal with them under the veil of familiarity. No matter that the creative vitality of the painting narrows the more we 'know' about it. No matter that our conclusions often cause us upset and conflict - prone as we are to negative interpretations. And no matter that we finally end up bored and blocked because we've explained the painting to death.
What makes the painting precious is that it's undefined. There's a feeling of great intimacy in the forms, shapes and images that we so caringly create. They strike at the heart, yet their meaning remains obscure. They disturb us and mesmerize us at the same time. We are fascinated by what comes out of our brush, yet any attempt to interpret seems self-constructed and too contrived. The power of the painting cannot be captured by knowing. It's magic lies in the undefined. It's meaning lies beyond any label or concept. Its life is in the unknown, palpable and close, yet ever unnamable.
Crisis of Completion
"I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness, I can wait."
~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass ~
One of the greatest mysteries of the process of change has to do with completion. In painting this can be a moment of astonishing surprise and release. You were convinced you were done, you'd been just adding the finishing touches, ready to take the painting off the wall, when out of left field comes a wild color or an image that demands to be painted. You're sure it won't fit, it will certainly 'ruin' your hard work, but - there it is. And of course, once done, it's obvious it was meant to be there from the beginning.
To be open to the moment of completion means to be willing to drop your investment in the outcome and ask yourself in full honesty - is this journey over? Each painting has a definite destination that is not one of your own making. If you don't follow the journey through to the end, you'll feel incomplete - no matter how much paint is on the paper. Completion is reaching the ground where nothing else is required. It's an inner state of freedom and rest in which there is no running away and no holding onto. Being complete with a painting is being complete with yourself, and that's both and ending and a beginning.
Change is Us
At this time in history we have the freedom and the tools to make choices that were never before possible, yet our systems - cultural, educational, organizational, as well as psychological and spiritual - are not designed to accommodate the radical shifts being asked of us. Fundamentally we are totally unprepared for change. We attempt to neutralize change rather than engage it. Our attitude is adversarial - we see change as a dangerous intruder in our lives rather than a source of passion, revelation and transformation.
What does it mean to recognize that transition is the one constant in our lives, and therefore to participate with the process of change? What does it mean to stop controlling change as we are prone to do, and instead to dive in and be nurtured by the perpetual movement that swirls around us?
As the contemporary poet David Whyte says, we must be willing "to show up on life's radar screen". This means being willing to take the leap and commit the brush to form and color, the pen to ink (or finger to keyboard), the voice to sound, the body to movement. It also means being willing to accept fully what comes from our own expression, whatever form it takes- for this is the doorway to the inner fire. The very part we're avoiding becomes the point of entry to the next destination in our journey. Once this transformational element of the creative process is tasted, creative challenge becomes our delight and our play. Risking becomes our excitement, that leap into the unknown our desire. Our very weapons in this holy battle are our wildness, our outrageous irrationality, our humor and our freedom - and they want to be exercised.
In the end what's important is not whether we call ourselves artists. The real question is whether we have the courage and the audacity to bring our own voice into the world. David Whyte sees that as our sacred responsibility.
"Our voice is unique and one of a kind, and it's been given to us in order to speak out. And if our voice isn't brought forth, then the world isn't complete. Certainly our personal world isn't complete. But the world at large also isn't complete until we speak out our true voice. And the world is waiting....."
Used with permission for one time use. ©2001-2003, Stewart Cubley, PO Box 309 Fairfax, CA 94978. For over 20 years The Painting Experience(SM) has provided a supportive and stimulating environment guiding many thousands of people to explore their creative process through expressive painting. It continues to serve people in their quest to discover the essence of the creative experience in their lives. www.processarts.com
Jonathan ~ The_Other_Syntax
"The feeling everyone knows as "intuition" is the activation of our
link with intent. And since sorcerers deliberately pursue the
understanding and strengthening of that link, it could be said that
they intuit everything unerringly and accurately. Reading omens is
commonplace for sorcerers-mistakes happen only when personal feelings
intervene and cloud the sorcerers' connecting link with intent.
Otherwise their direct knowledge is totally accurate and functional."
[The Power Of Silence]
Cornelius ~ UniversalMeditations
THE PRESENT MOMENT.... (Part 2) FUNDAMENTALS
"[The inner landscape] is more diverse and more meaningful. It is your inner landscape that gives meaning to your outer landscape. A golden sunset does not fill you with appreciation. Your inner landscape does. When you mistake the circumstances that you encounter in your outer landscape for the experiences of your inner landscape, you miss the point entirely.
The point is that you are on the Earth in order to grow spiritually and to give gifts that only you are capable of giving. Those gifts do not originate in the outer world but in the deepest parts of yourself. They are your potential waiting to spring into being like seeds in the earth waiting to sprout. Your "earth" is your inner landscape. The more attention you pay to it, the more familiar you become with it, and the more familiar you become with it, the more able you are to see what you want to cultivate and what you want to remove.
Your inner landscape is always changing. You may be content for a few moments, then angry, then jealous, then delighted, and then angry again. Throughout your life, your inner landscape persents itself to you again and again. This presentation continues until you die--until your soul goes home.
Only you can change the contents of that presentation, and only after you become aware of what it is. Then you can observe it as it flows through you. When you are not aware of it, your emotion delight you, disturb you, calm you, and agitate you. They frighten you, please you, and confuse you.
Your emotions are the force field of your soul, not products of hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters. They are the experiences, coming to you in a dramatically intimate way, of parts of your soul. Painful emotions--such as anger, fear, jealousy, and vengefulness--are experiences of the parts of your soul that your soul desires to heal. Emotions that nurture you, such as gratitude, contentment, and appreciateion, are experiences of the parts of your soul that are already healthy.
When you are aware of everything that you are feeling, all the time, you are in continual communication with your soul. Learning how to listen to that communication, and act on it, is the purpose of your being in the Earth school. Becoming aware of your soul does not require that you study or take examinations. It begins with you becoming aware of what you are feeling. It requires recognizing everything that you are feeling moment by moment--how your energy system is processing the energy moving through it.
This communication with your soul can be very difficult to listen to, and sometimes it is extremely painful. In those cases especially, it is easier to run away from the communication than to remain and hear it. When your stomach is hurting, or your chest is aching, or both are in pain,it is difficult to listen to what your soul is saying. That is when most people shout at someone else, or at a pet, or throw a dish, or withdraw in resentment, hit a pillow, decide to get divorced, or go shopping, turn on the television, eat, or in some other way divert their attention.
The more painful the communication is, the more compulsive is the desire to avoid the communication. There are fundamentally two ways to avoid experiencing what you are feeling. The first is to escape into your thoughts.
People judge one another because it is easier to believe that someone else is responsible for their circumstances than it is to face the pain of their circumstances or the reality of the world around them. This flight into thoughts the same as putting a numbing agent on a wound. The wound does not disappear. It must still be treated. Nothing has changed except that, for the moment, you do not feel it. When the numbing agent wears off, the wound is there, and so is the pain.
Whe the pain of communication with your soul becomes intense, you are at a pivotal moment. The choice that confronts you is whether to ease the pain you feel by escaping from it into thoughts or activities, or to keep your attention inward in order to learn where your discomfort is coming from, and heal the source of it. Becoming immersed in circumstances around you is the decision to pursue external power. Remaining with your inner experience is the choice to pursue authentic power." Gary Zukav
Joyce ~ Spiritual Friends
The Way of Chuang Tzu
"Tao is obscured when men understand only one pair of opposites, or concentrate
only on a partial aspect of being. Then clear expression also becomes muddled
by mere wordplay, affirming this one aspect and denying all the rest.
The pivot of Tao passes through the center where all affirmations and denials
converge. He who grasps the pivot is at the still-point from which all
movements and oppositions can be seen in their right relationship.
Abandoning all thought of imposing a limit or taking sides, he rests in direct
~ The Way of Chuang Tzu ~
THE SMALL WORLD PROJECT
"The SMALL WORLD project is an online experiment to test the idea that any two people in the world can be connected via 'six degrees of separation.' Your objective is to get a message to a *target person*, somewhere in the world, by forwarding the message to a friend of yours -- someone who is *closer* to the target than you are. (If you happen to know the target, you can of course send it to them)" Columbia University http://smallworld.columbia.edu/
Rassouli ~ Hafiz, http://www.rassouli.com/index.html & Kuwana Haulsey
The light of Love poured
From now on, my face is the
So does it really surprise
For on that day, the Unseen
All this sugar that now
Translation & Imagery by Rassouli - Poetized by Kuwana Haulsey
ABOUT THE ARTIST:
"Freydoon Rassouli is a mystic artist who has come to the attention of the international art world in recent years. What makes his art so unique is the way he translates spiritual experience from his subconscious onto canvas through meditation. With vibrant hues, Rassouli produces joyful color blends and circular brushwork that create a timeless perspective. These unique features that distinguish Rassouli's painting technique, which he defines as Fusionart is a style created and registered by him. Fusionart's main theme is cosmic unity. The painting style is derived from mysticism, near-eastern spirituality, and a foundation in European painting technology. Rassouli represents this concept through illumination of the Divine Creative Light coupled with its manifestation reflected on his canvas in the form of Feminine Beauty..."
the Panhala Archives When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
~ Mary Oliver ~
Mace Mealer ~ Illuminata
Present Untense What grows but that the senses reap?
What moves the eyes to see?
What carries us to gentle sleep
and brings our song to be?
In all that round this world does dance,
in wind and wing and tree.
Our place is now and here my love,
and flies forever free.
"Art washes away from the world the dust of everyday life." ~ Picasso ~
top of page