Category Archives: art journal

The Dance of Awareness

Awareness in life is not hoping you learn to dance — it is recognizing that you already are dancing. Life is the dancer, you are the dance.

2004:

It is true that being aware of how things happen makes one’s words more potent and one’s behavior more effective. But even without the light of consciousness, people grow and improve. Being unconscious is not a crime; it is merely a lack of a very helpful ability.

Knowing how things work gives the leader more real power and ability than all the degrees or titles the world can offer. That is why people in every era and in every culture have honored those who know how things happen.”Tao of Leadership

When I first started blogging about the Tao back in 2004, I was at the beginning of developing my full sense of awareness. But of course developing awareness isn’t something you can ever really finish; it is always a continuing process. Some moments allow us to be more present and aware than others, some people in our lives allow us to be more present with them than do others. This summer I had the amazing experience of being with a friend where we were both totally and completely aware with each other over several days, and it was a life changing experience for both of us.

I can still find it difficult to be around those who lack awareness, as I said when I posted this in 2004. I am pretty forgiving most of the time, though, and see it as a way to practice loving kindness towards those who are less aware. I often take the bodhisatva path of trying to wake others up, and walk with them for a while, but I usually revert to Tao eventually and am content to simply walk my own path.

2005:

Too many people seem to walk through their lives in a daze, not aware of what is going on around them at all, lost in their concerns over what has happened or will happen. We all need to be awake and aware to the possibilities of the Now –- and the consequences to the future of lacking that awareness.

I blogged a great deal about Tao in 2005, including most of Deng Ming Dao’s wonderful 365 Tao, which I sometimes give to friends who are in conflict. I have a good friend who is reading this right now, and I think it is beginning to help her. I credit this book with helping me the most with my own personal inner changes. If you want to see my real changes, it is in the contrast between the posts from that book and the political articles I was posting. In that year, I felt all the anger I had felt over our country’s situation shift into taking action to do something to change things. I worked a lot on political issues, but lost the anger I had felt and let it shift into movement. I began to understand that Tao is not only about acceptance of what is, but using the power of Tao to help create new or different situations. We are not helpless victims, we are the creators of our own world.

2006:

A person with true self-acceptance is “a person with full awareness of self in body, mind and spirit. This person’s center of consciousness (Hsing – “Heart Flower”) is in full bloom, ready to receive power from above, openly relating to and being reflected by others.”

It may seem clever to know and accept others
Yet accepting oneself is the way to Wisdom.
It may feel powerful to overcome others
Yet disciplining oneself is true Strength.
It may be noble to honor others
Yet respecting oneself is deep self-esteem.

Tao Mentoring

It has taken me a long time to fully learn to accept myself as I am. And it is a process I’ve repeated many times over. Each time I come to believe I finally accept myself, I find something I still want to improve. Meeting this balance between accepting myself as I am and knowing that I have even more room to grow is always interesting. It means not being complacent with where I am at, but always knowing there is more to know, more to see and feel and do, and that is ok.

But I think the key is really respect. Self-respect is not simply about accepting who you are right at this moment, but also respecting yourself enough to continually challenge yourself. Not allowing yourself to become complacent, thinking you are already the best you can be, but knowing there is more you can do and always being ready to learn and grow and change, truly opening yourself to the possibilities of life that are all around you.

This was one of my favorite posts, and one I return to often. I truly believe the key to being able to help others lies in acceptance of ourselves. In 2006, I developed the ability to really create change through simply being myself. I also blogged a lot about art journaling, and using art as a means to learn about yourself and perhaps visually see the inner processes that are usually hidden within us. It was a very helpful time for me, opening me up to new experiences and ideas and a great community of art bloggers.

2007:

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips we lay on ourselves never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of the eye from being fully awake.” — Pema Chodron, Start From Where You Are

In 2007, I blogged about yoga, including Rolf Gates’ wonderful “Meditations from the Mat”, and Buddhism, including much of the wonderful Pema Chodron . I spent a lot of time exploring different paths, but still found Tao to be the one that I kept returning to (well, return is the way of the Tao…) I did a lot of traveling and exploring, worked a great deal on politics, and really felt that our political community was moving towards creating change.

2009:

How much of the day are you aware -– just basically aware of what life is presenting -– rather than being lost in waking sleep, in being identified with whatever you’re doing, almost as if you didn’t exist?

To what extent do you blindly drift from one form of comfort to another, from one daydream or fantasy to another, from one secure place to another, in order to avoid the anxious quiver of discomfort or insecurity? How much of your energy is used to fortify a particular self-image, or to simply please others in order to gain approval, instead of devoting your energy to living a genuine life?” — At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos Ezra Bayda

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.”

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

For me, spiritual growth has come in strange ways and from strange places, and I think that is how authentic spiritual growth progresses, from within, as we turn through the limits of our own being and try to become more. We find ourselves turning again and again within the limited space of ourselves, and finally realize that there is an enormous amount of space outside of ourselves. We then create mobius strips and Klein bottles, trying to bring this outside space within ourselves, an impossible task at first. We see the beautiful poetry of Rumi as he struggles with spirituality, the magnificent stories and tales of mythology, religion, and literature, all trying to move in these same paths.

And then one day, a small hummingbird sits in front of your nose, flapping its wings, and looks at you curiously, or you gaze into a flower and finally really see it, or someone says something that catches your ear and your mind at just the right moment, or a quiet meditation brings you to the place within yourself that just knows, simply knows, and you smile. You get it. You get that Mona Lisa smile on your face and just — become yourself.

And it happens over and over. We find ourselves, we lose ourselves, we find ourselves again, at another place on the spiral. The helixes divide, and come back together. And life goes on.

2009 for me was about realizing “there is nothing to achieve” — we are already within ourselves everything we want to be or could hope to be. Everything else is just ego. It’s the point where I really became comfortable in my own skin, even as I watch that skin age.

And then — my wonderful friend came along and exploded my world again with this question:

“How open to change are you?”

My boat strikes something deep.
At first, sounds of silence, waves.
Nothing has happened;
Or perhaps everything has happened
And I am sitting in my new life.
-– Rumi

2010:

Dogen reminds us that to raise the mind of compassionate awakening is none other than the whole of daily activity with no concern for one’s self, no thought of outcome, no sense of self-gratification. It means that whatever is, is the best that there is at this moment. Just this, wholly this, only this.

Engaging in the Way, in the life of continuous practice, means that we are constantly awakening with each new moment. Awakening is not a single event in time. Rather it is a continuous event through time. Basho wrote: Let me be called a traveler. He did not mention any destination. Just a traveler.”
– Joan Halifax via Whiskey River

“Being present in the motion, moment after moment, provides that secret chamber of awareness and gives the writer the chance to notice what is passing by before it is gone.” — Richard R. Powell, Wabi Sabi for Writers

So you may have noticed a lack of posting here lately. Well, much of my work has moved elsewhere on the Internet — into Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr — but much of me is now just off living my life, living in awareness, being where I am and with who I am with and doing whatever I am doing, but always Being. I made a vision board a year or so ago with the words “Go. Do. Be” on it, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I keep growing, moving, changing, becoming, being. Others may notice, or not, it doesn’t matter. I may change the world, or those around me, or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters, for all of us, is Awareness and Being.

That’s all there is, really. The rest is ego. Life dances. You are the dance, not the dancer.

Digging Deep: Creativity

A lot of us still think that in order to be creative we need to pen a great piece of fiction, compose a symphony, build a skyscraper or design magical gardens. This isn’t true. Creativity is not restricted to being specifically creative in terms of one area of expertise or talent. The ultimate goal is not to be more creative, but to learn how to live creatively. Simply put, it is much less about what you do with your life; rather, it is how you go about doing it.

Living creatively means approaching each moment as a new opportunity. It’s about exploring, trusting your instincts, and owning and expressing your unique style. It means being true to your needs, experimenting, taking risks, staying flexible, and not always having to rush to conclusion. A person living creatively is always pushing towards new growth, as the psychologist Rollo May says, not without fear, but in spite of it.

via Digging Deep: Creativity.

What our ash tree is becoming…..

It was a pleasure to meet you Saturday.
I have been working on the first ash bowl. It’s a natural edge.
The wood is still wet. It will be a few days until I can get a finish on it.
When I do it would be a pleasure to give one like this to you.
The wood on this piece should warp as it cures giving it character.

Allan Schiro
San Diego Wood Turner

Conduit


Wassily Kandinsky. The Blue Mountain


Marietta Ganapin. Untitled (Blue Mountain by Vasily Kandinsky), 2004 Paper collage

Both yoga and art aim at the same thing, that is, to re-establish our personal connection with the world around us according to our own inner creativity. To render body and mind a conduit through which the creative energy can flow freely, unimpeded by outer restrictions, in the trust that this energy, being a part of the universal energy, is ultimately pure and joyful. — Dona Halleman

This is the work of sauca, “to render body and mind a conduit through which the creative energy can flow freely”. It is a noble endeavor. The asanas do much of the work for us.They cleanse the organs, the central nervous system, and the mind, while strengthening the muscular-skeletal system. Much can be accomplished through the asanas, but not all. For each of us, sauca is a journey of discovery. What works for you? Dairy, no dairy; meat, no meat; lots of sunshine, very little sun; lots of stimulation, or quiet solitude; long ambles, or power walks. We each find our own way to health and balance. Once again, we are on the path that leads to truth, and the means for determining the truth is our own individual experience. What practices render you a conduit through which the creative energy can flow freely? — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat.

Marietta Ganapin is an avid museum and gallery visitor, and her relationship to specific works of art is highly personal and reverential. Her creative method is an expression of her spiritual connection to artwork that she loves. After having viewed the work of art–whether a painting, a sculpture, or decorative object–many times, she then gathers scores or even hundreds of gift-shop postcards or museum brochures which reproduce it. Using a hand-held hole punch and scissors, Ganapin creates a palette of color, pattern and form by repeatedly cutting specific areas of the reproduced image. These hole punches and cut-outs are then used as the building blocks of her designs. With great care and attention to detail, the artist transforms these elements into intricately detailed mandalas. At first, the viewer is dazzled by the obsessive and precise execution in these colorful and beautiful works. Slowly, recognizable details from the source material reveal themselves: a shank of hair in Roy Lichtenstein’s Stepping Out reads as a yellow arabesque in the concentric composition; the eyes and lips of a statuette of the Egyptian god Amun become a ring of dimensional, abstracted forms within the inner rings of the mandala structure. Yet the resultant artworks transcend mere appropriation. Ganapin’s labor-intensive execution and reverence toward her subject parallels the devotional activity of a Buddhist monk creating a sand mandala. As Ganapin has noted, “A symbol of healing, wholeness, totality and spirituality, the mandala inspires contemplation and meditation. For me, what more fitting framework than that of the mandala in reinterpreting other works of art.”

Artifacts

“Naked I came into the world, but brush strokes cover me, language raises me, music rhythms me. Art is my rod and staff, my resting place and shield, and not mine only, for art leaves nobody out. Even those from whom art has been stolen away by tyranny, by poverty, begin to make it again. If the arts did not exist, at every moment, someone would begin to create them, in song, out of dust and mud, and although the artifacts might be destroyed, the energy that creates them is not destroyed.”
– Jeanette Winterson

via Whiskey River

“Artifacts are the physical manifestation of dreams, ideas, and great deeds … some point to successes, some point to great mistakes.” — Bruce Wells

“Perhaps we will learn how small differences in the code of life enabled us — but not chimpanzees — to cook soufflés, create symphonies, translate our own voyages into maps, build ever more complicated artifacts, and write plays that reflect the social intricacies of our lives,” — Marc Hauser

“The muddy waters roiled by Katrina have no doubt flooded some legendary musical locales and wiped out irreplaceable artifacts of New Orleans music. Among the hardest hit areas were the poverty-stricken African-American neighborhoods, where the New Orleans musical traditions are all but woven into the tattered but colorful fabric of everyday life. But the music of Crescent City as well as the people who create it — and the spirit, soul, originality, independence and distinctive locality of that art and the musicians who create it — cannot be washed away, no matter what the category hurricane or depth of flood. It’s going to take some time, but it will come back … We’ve got to put it back because it’s so involved with the local economy and the United States.” — Art Neville

I think for most of us our art is stolen away by what we perceive as our lack of time, the importance of our daily lives or the habits of our routines. Our culture doesn’t place a high priority on making time for art. And yet, many of us persist, with a bit of music, a snatch of song, even just a thought of what we might paint or draw or photograph if we got a moment. Taking the time to create those artifacts in the real world might be beyond us, but perhaps we can start to sneak it back in again, a tiny bit at a time. I love that our new gadgets and phones and toys are beginning to contain cameras, so we can record those fleeting moments that grab our attention. Perhaps next will be those ultra portable touch pads to sketch on, or ways to record our songs on the fly, or create spontaneous poetry slams as we perform and record our poetry wherever we like. Will our culture begin to value more creative work from all of us, let us weave it into the fabric of our daily lives, or just keep honoring the few who can successfully make art their lives’ work?

BibliOdyssey: Handshakes in Thought

Great piece on Van Gogh’s letters at BiblioOdyssey — and more at linesandcolors

“The feeling for and love of nature always strike a chord sooner or later with people who take an interest in art. The duty of the painter is to study nature in depth and to use all his intelligence, to put his feelings into his work so that it becomes comprehensible to others.

But working with an eye to saleability isn’t exactly the right way in my view, but rather is cheating art lovers. The true artists didn’t do that; the sympathy they received sooner or later came because of their sincerity. I know no more than that, and don’t believe I need to know any more.”
{Vincent Van Gogh b. 1853 d. 29 July 1890}

“And we sometimes lack the desire to throw ourselves head first into art again and to build ourselves up for that. We know we’re cab-horses and that it’ll be the same cab we’re going to be harnessed to again. And so we don’t feel like doing it and we’d prefer to live in a meadow with a sun, a river, the company of other horses who are also free, and the act of generation. And perhaps in the final account your heart condition comes partly from there; it wouldn’t greatly surprise me. We no longer rebel against things, we’re not resigned either — we’re ill and it’s not going to get any better — and we can’t do anything specific about it. I don’t know who called this condition being struck by death and immortality.

The cab we drag along must be of use to people we don’t know. But you see, if we believe in the new art, in the artists of the future, our presentiment doesn’t deceive us. When good père Corot said a few days before he died: ‘last night I saw in my dreams landscapes with entirely pink skies’, well, didn’t they come, those pink skies, and yellow and green into the bargain, in Impressionist landscapes? All this is to say there are things one senses in the future and that really come about.”

BibliOdyssey: Handshakes in Thought.

What is art journaling?

As good a definition as any….

“I should advise you to put it all down as beautifully as you can — in some beautifully bound book,” Jung instructed. “It will seem as if you were making the visions banal — but then you need to do that — then you are freed from the power of them. . . . Then when these things are in some precious book you can go to the book & turn over the pages & for you it will be your church — your cathedral — the silent places of your spirit where you will find renewal. If anyone tells you that it is morbid or neurotic and you listen to them — then you will lose your soul — for in that book is your soul.”

via Carl Jung and the Holy Grail of the Unconscious – NYTimes.com.

Musee Rodin

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In some ways the Musee Rodin was my favorite — the former Hotel Biron where Rodin actually worked, the beautiful gardens full of Rodin’s sculptures, watching people interact with the sculptures — it was all beautiful and fascinating. There’s also an excellent little garden cafe here which was very pleasant. It’s very fortunate that Rodin’s plan to save this place as a museum for his work succeeded — I think he would have been pleased at the result, watching people interact with his sculptures in such a great setting.

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The gardens are really stunning, and very enjoyable to wander through and visit with the sculptures.

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Even the Gates of Hell become beautiful in the right setting…

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More Musee Rodin photos here.

Musee d'Orsay

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Not only is the Musee d’Orsay full of wonderful art, it is wonderful art itself. The building is absolutely gorgeous.

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Something here seems to inspire the visitors to become art themselves. This girl was posed just like the statue, but I missed the shot that her friend was taking and caught her as she was getting back up. I love how the boy in the background is posed, too. The sculptures here are all so elegant, and I loved watching the crowd interact with them.

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It’s difficult to not feel beautiful when surrounded by so much beauty, though.

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Especially when so many of the lovely ladies are curvy like me!

Lots more Musee d’Orsay photos here. And here.