Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Art comes from...


Jon made a pretty spiffy comment to my last post:
Emptiness. Fullness comes from emptiness, and moves towards emptiness. Be empty about the strict pictures/intentions you have for your art, and Isness will direct what needs to be into the space you create.

What I really like about this is leaving the specific details to work themselves out. I got to class tonight during a discussion on making art, begun by one person's comment that she gets "all bottled up" trying to do some kinds of work; she makes some really lovely loose little sculptures but was a disaster at a couple more functional pieces, today.

And I was again uninspired to make anything. Life had provided plenty of material, but none of it mattered. I'd gotten a parking ticket for no apparent reason while I'd been at work, I registered to vote, had dinner. Before class, the phone rang as I was changing into my favorite ratty jeans and my toe caught an existing hole as I hurried to pull them on, making it much larger. The call was my mother, to call my grandmother; exciting family news. And yes, it was exciting, but not...

In last night's movie, "Adaptation", Charlie Kaufmann is advised, "find the one thing you care about, and write about that." So, I suppose, find the one thing you care about, and let the art be about or around or something to that. Well, in theory, at least.

I'm not sure what I care about. It's awfully easy to let things go on around me and not be touched by them; I nearly went kayaking tonight because the weather is so lovely. Different sort of meditation. (Here I paused writing for easily ten minutes.) That's it - what I'm really interested in is experience.

Not oddly, that's what my art and architecture have been about all along. Including the nice little pieces made tonight.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Exposure, too.

Meredith and Akilesh have shared an amazing dialog begun in Exposure and continued in Exposure - Going Deeper. It was such a lot to try to digest that I found myself responding with quotations and notes in excitement. This is more or less just my response to them, but I as always look forward to seeing how other people will respond.

Meredith made this comment and I understood exactly: "we can chose to be in places and near people that have this resonance for us, that feel good to be around, that have a vibration that harmonizes." It just feels good to be with some people, it's the easiest and most natural thing in the world to be there. Like a favorite well-worn pair of jeans.

They go on to talk about the light/energy/vibration within us, and Akilesh comments "And that energy has no intention to change anyone or anything, yet in its light everything changes, and transformation begins to occur naturally and spontaneously."

This reminds me of quantum physics, of how observation actually changes (or perhaps creates!) the apparent reality that is observed.

I'm also reminded of my first week at my new job, and that's a good way to describe the situation. I remember feeling compelled to be as true and honest to myself as possible - because there was no other possible appropriate response to being in proximity to Peter.

Akilesh, of this energy, that everything we experience as reality is that reflected back to us: "And we may recognize it as our own and make friends with it, and welcome it back home."

Henri Nouwen wrote a book entitled Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. From loneliness to solitude, from hostility to hospitality, from illusion to prayer. At the St. Anthony Messenger online catalog I found this quote: Nouwen says the journey is "frightful as well as exhilarating because it is the great experience of being alone, alone in the world, alone before God." Something about that description resonates, too.

Another concept addressed: "To be helpful from wakefulness." The most powerful thing seems to be presence; just showing up. That presence carries a force of its own; right action in right time moves with it. Trying to understand the direction and cause anything of one's own tends to produce disharmony for the effort. It feels to me like making a great effort (which is really none at all) to keep one's eyes directly forward and to remain blissfully unaware that all the magnificent things going on around are one's own doing - lest ego get in the way, or pride think it was involved somehow. To say I did anything at all is a misstatement (that's frequently necessary). Not I, not I, it is here, I was somehow involved, but it was co-creative at best: the mystery in Christianity that both will and grace are needed. That's also one of the nifty things about playing guitar; the same thing'll happen. A twelve-string with lots of open chords can become very intensely resonant. Again and again I have beheld the most beautiful thing; it can barely be breathed. Any attempt at words has been an eternity short, and better left unspoken. Yet there it is.

"Don't expect God to meet you in the way you want Him to." The speaker would take them back if he'd known what that word would become. Ironically, he was Pentecostal, where apparently God is supposed to meet us in a very specific way (or such was my experience). But that's what all the above and (it seems) the dialog at Graceful Presence is about. Things will not happen in the way we expect them to, but they will happen of their own accord if we just let them. That's the big secret!

Akilesh also has this gorgeous observation: "When we have identified our hearts deepest longing, and clarified it as best as we can, we open up, clear out and pray; we yearn with everything we've got; we put our heartfelt intention out to the universe and ask that this be manifested. If we are devoted to this longing, we water and feed it, visualize it, meditate on it, paint, sculpt, draw, dance and write it every day and we hold it lovingly in our mind's eye, we give it oodles of attention, and sure as day follows night, this longing will manifest. The universe will line up with our intention and it will show up."

So it is! Even when that longing is for the unnamable and sublime - it happens...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

What an odd evening.

I nearly died again today. The air raid sirens went off; after a couple minutes I called the office to see if it was my imagination. A funnel cloud had been spotted and was headed toward Lincoln Park, a neighborhood a mile from where I was at the time. Great time to be in traffic in my car.

(In the afternoon there'd been some, pretty far north of the city; they get clobbered all the time. I'd been on the roof deck before leaving work; the clouds over downtown were incredible; it had that mixture of light and dark that comes with bad weather, a sort of eerie glow, but none of the weird colors. It was so clear how the wind was moving on the water, from up there. Thought I saw a couple waterspouts trying to form on the lake, figured it was my imagination. Guess not. Camera phone would've been cool.)

Once I was off the phone, I was under a mile from my destination, and it seemed wiser to go for closer shelter than to bail on her and go home. The rain, nonexistent when the sirens sounded, got torrential just before I reached my destination - a concrete building, with parking garage. All safe.

It was surreal to be wandering through a shoe store and wondering if death was on its way. My friend was twenty minutes late coming from downtown, I managed not to worry much. Later in our expedition, I was overtired and hungry, and started feeling depressed and wanting to die. Not because I want to die but I'm not all too attached to life. I commented to her that rest and food would solve the problem, so it was funny that death was on my mind. It's odd to experience such emotions, and also be able to stop, just stop, and know - this - [space]. What a weird dichotomy. I'm dead already.

We went back to my friend's house and made crepes with crushed pecans and chocolate chips inside; it'd been a long week for each of us, and we were both silly. (The best way to make crepes, by the way, is to blend the eggs and dry ingredients, then add the milk and water. Much smoother consistency.) Then her husband joined us and we played a game for awhile before I came back home. I absconded with the loose sweater she'd lent me; the house was cold. It's a cozy sweater.

When I arrived, fire trucks were pulling up to the apartment building a couple of houses down. I'm pretty sure that nothing had happened; they left in about ten minutes.

What an odd evening.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Where does art come from?

I'm taking a new ceramics class; the teacher used to be a Jungian analyst and is now a sculptor. She was saying something utterly marvelous and very Zen, about not doing things that are too forced but keeping it loose, allowing your subconscious to be directing the work more. She was telling a story about one of her own pieces, how she'd undertaken some tedious drawing and it'd become all too contrived, and how it helped so much when the thing collapsed and found its soul.

And now it seems to me that there, with Jung and Freud too I guess, (I can't keep them straight) that there is yet another way of describing this, life, how things work inside us, or how they seem to from what we see... the unconscious is just the Unmanifest, the big Ocean, and all this we see, all waves and ripples and what-have-you. It was really exciting, as she was talking, because she said a fair amount before using the word "unconscious" and so I was completely following without getting hung up on a word.

It's difficult for me to do sculpture in a loose way, because craftsmanship is so important to me. Not to say that it can't be done, but I've got to learn to live with the intermediate messiness. I've practiced and practiced and learned to draw in a loose way, very relaxed, but sculpture is another matter entirely; perhaps I'll learn. Or I'll keep on making tumblers and things and drawing on them. Before the job switch, it was easy to dream onto a cup; now that I'm happier with life, I've little need to wish myself anyplace else, so finding a place for art to come from is more difficult.

Monday I made a little house with "rock star" stamped into it, to commemorate a very good trip downtown, doing permit stuff. Perhaps it'll just be lots of little pieces, comments on whatever's going on in my life at that moment; the real happenings, rather than the imaginary destinations.

I've been writing a lot, lately, about connection, about connecting with other people. Perhaps the details will fade from my mind over time and the poems will be fossils to us all; maybe I'll remember the unrecorded details and leave to everyone else the mystery. Does it matter?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

rainy evening drive

the stillness that is me
the stillness that is you.
bottom drops out,
silence explodes.
scarcely breathing, here, to hold it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Well. That describes it perfectly.

A wonderful! bit of quote from Trev's latest entry:

If you are in the poustinia (internal "desert" or solitude) and God knocks on your door and speaks to you, that doesn't sound mystical to me; it sounds quite normal."

At times it's more like sitting down and drinking tea together. My perception, then, is split between the moment, where there's no question, no thought, only acting, being, and it's all as it should be... and a sort of outside perception, knowing that on some level something incredible is going on. And so these ordinary-extraoridinary moments are recorded, sometimes, so I can look back later, and remember.

It's been on my mind, lately, to try to describe why, of all things, I still practice Catholicism. Yes, I go to Mass, and am even the strong alto in choir. (My family is Catholic, I was raised Catholic. It amuses me that some people take on spiritual names at some point; Catholics choose theirs at confirmation.) But then I say things that are so apparently unorthodox. I feel inconsistent.

There's everything to say, but few words for it. I like singing. A lot. It's good for me. A different sort of breathing exercise, but more than that. I like the ritual. A lot. A different sort of meditation, but beyond that. Mass was once described as a framework in which other things can occur - in the original context, funeral Mass and grieving. I like the sense of being part of something greater, something ancient and enduring and universal. A different sort of depth, a different sort of center. And there's a sort of gritty reality to it all.

Catholicism is kind of the odd duck in Christianity for the Eucharist. Conceptually, I prefer it, but haven't found a need to revisit the question in the last months, much less the divinity of Christ, or the Trinity, or... The truth of it matters deeply and not at all. I feel excluded at times for having grown up with transubstantiation and being rather fond of it, like an eccentric great-aunt, and furthermore, feeling that something is real about it. Which is kind of weird-sounding too.

The insubstantial conclusion is just that I like it. Something connects. It helps.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

rainy afternoon intimacy, or, zero 7, distractions, simple things, or, a day at work

a couple hours of wonderfully relaxed music
finished with a song that we both love.
the silence at the end, deafening,

after long minutes,
he picks the next album.
so unexpectedly tender, so gorgeous,
not filling the silence but filled with it,
fitting, perfect,
i find myself nearly in tears.
and when some songs later he starts quietly singing along,
a phrase here and there,
i close my eyes and and breathe deep,
holding back tears, filled with emotion, for an unexpected moment so strangely perfect.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five years later: V for...

Ceramics class started tonight, and the instructor had an exercise for us. Fifteen minutes. September 11. Make something. Go.

Five years, what's changed? Fifteen minutes isn't long; I ran with my first impulse, and time was up too soon. We took turns discussing what we'd created, what we were thinking about or expressing.

The fragility of life. Memories of a mother wanting to fill up all the cars that day. A sense of removal, sitting in a restaurant in California, eating sushi. Remembering images of people falling, and wishing to give them wings. Watching the collapse, at once with horror and amazement at the beauty of it. Deep sadness at the events, and at the dismissed opportunity to wonder, why did this happen? How even now, all one artist still has are questions, questions.

I talked about Paradise Now and the perspective it gave me; V for Vendetta, wondering if the war's nothing more than repayment, anymore; V for victory, from WWII, at this point, hollow at best; V for versus, us against them, no communication, no understanding, no empathy... this isn't going to change anything. And forgot to mention where it started: V for five.

It's weird to find myself thinking such things, much less speaking them to a group of strangers in class. Even with the best of intentions, any action undertaken without full understanding... without dialog, without the willingness to enter into somebody else's world, somebody else's experience, to consider that there might be another perspective outside our own, and to see from there...

Monday, September 11, 2006

long moments

What with being the rational type and all, I'm not terribly comfortable with posting something I've written from a feeling standpoint - being of the viewpoint that emotions are generally insubstantial and create a lot of trouble; they're nice human things but ultimately... well, anyway, it's more important to be honest to the experience, so here goes. Written early Sunday afternoon.
my heart breaks open, to hold the world.
a cool breeze through the window brushes my face,
(signs of autumn, i love the cool, the barn-ish-ness)
and i feel - and i feel, and i feel, and i feel -

held, caressed, loved,
a sob rising, or something, rising, for sure.
rising, pressing through, pushing thought aside,
demanding to be it, and only it, occupying my attention.
i am happy to oblige, and sit here, with it

and i want to remember this gentle kiss
stay forever where i feel, now
i haven't been far, lately,
but this is closer still, and so i draw,
closer, and closer still.

but held close,
as in that sketch of my longing
to be held,
i am.
even as i draw the world to myself, it holds me.

sitting, perfectly content,
arms round knee, head laid down,
as though held - and truly, held eternally
but i find it now
corners of mouth turn up, though still i want to cry
deep breath brings me nearly to tears
for how sweet this is.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The things that come to pass...

Jon linked last week to a podcast on nonduality - from a logical (as opposed to spiritual) perspective.

Things are not as they seem - there is a percieved, or apparent, reality... and then there's reality, which I then termed absolute reality. (Sometimes one sees both at once.) Amusing that Steve uses different words... what I call percieved reality is his "objective" (because everybody thinks it is objective!) reality... and my absolute reality, called nondual by many, Steve terms subjective, which has become his point of view.

Vocabulary aside, Steve's description of the series of events that started him was all too familiar: he approaches reality from a logical, rational point of view.

As did I. When searching for the true nature of reality, what better way to go than to ask, what do I know? What can I prove? (The brilliant premise, of course, being that truth can survive questioning. Well, it can, but the warning on the back of Hardcore Zen was several months too late for me.) The answer, as it turned out, is, next to nothing, and I can't really really be sure about that, either. Hold loosely, indeed! Every foundational assumption has to be tested and ultimately cut loose. And so Steve, like many of us, has found a framework to describe his experiences, though admittedly also doesn't have enough data to declare it more than a work in progress. Being the logical/experiential type myself, I do appreciate stumbling across another of the same.

The question of creating reality has been making its rounds lately. Andrew and Meredith bring it up, and so does Jon, obliquely. Oh yeah, and so did I. And it doesn't seem to be going away.

Steve's suggestion is that we create reality by intentions within ourselves or toward others. Being the logical, you-have-to-prove-this type, I am not ready to believe anything I haven't experienced... and Steve even covered one of my favorite questions - do we merely experience things because we're looking for them? Maybe not, he says. (By the way, I liked his use of the word "framework" and discussion of a high degree of correlation (because it reminded me of my observation on fractal-ness).)

So what about the state of no-mind, of being without expectation, just going in as the observer... then what's that? Whatever is - is spontaneous. Oh, duh, I know this one. That is the true Zen.

It's looking increasingly as though my intentions are creating my reality. "Give present reality momentum in the direction of your desires." One of my architectural fantasies is distinctly headed toward reality - one signed contract, one potential client. When I learned about the potential client on Friday, I distinctly had the sense of having created that one myself. This followed a minor architectural fantasy being approved by the client at first sight, the previous evening. I tend to keep my intentions secret, not that I'm afraid they'll fail, but that I don't want to risk being discouraged by anybody, lest I believe it. (It doesn't work long-term, but can derail things, which is just messy.) Nonetheless. The greatest fact of my trajectory is that I shall be an outstanding architect.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

written in the day, july 28

backing off
taking a moment to stop and feel
and i know
and there's no question
the stillness that i am
troubles press, but they are out there
on the other side of the screen

some days it helps to read my own writing
reel me back into that
not the writing but where it came from - me.


funny sometimes it only takes wishing for something to realize - it already is.

Mystic's Drift

In some beautiful way, it would describe that path,
always flowing downhill. And how before I know it, the scenery's entirely changed,
and knowing nothing except the path.
And the path is forward, always forward,
so seeming-inevitable that we wonder about predestination.
Noting the new surroundings, I wonder, how did I get here?
and can't remember being anywhere else, but dimly, so far passed.
And yet I slid here, so silently, that I myself didn't even notice the shift.
Here I am, a drifted mystic!

Found Poem

"there is a peace that words can't touch
it dwells in silence, within
expands to fill me, blows beyond,

press into this body, hide in an embrace
no wonder i've eaten and drunk little of late
could paddle an eternity or skate for miles
i will go on forever
this body, though, cannot, i should care for her."
-June 7 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Touch the Sound

Exquisite treatment of ordinary sound...

The last movie was a symphony and a cacophany rolled into one. "Touch the Sound" is in some ways a crash course in being present to the moment and whatever's going on.

"There's sound absolutely everywhere. We have to listen. That's it, really."

Perhaps 'mysticism' is mostly comprised of noticing the things that most people overlook. The film is rife with footage of a recording session in a warehouse - completely improvised music. And amazing. When the instruments fall silent, there's the most profound silence; that's perfect just as it is.

"Silence is probably one of the loudest sounds and heaviest sounds that you're ever likely to experience. At the end of the day we still know that within everything we see there's sound. I mean, we know that, we just don't have that sensitivity to know what is going on around us." Good observation.

Partway through, I had to move the cord and transformer-thingie for my laptop, to plug it in; the battery was running low. Found myself attentive to every noise; the fine cord, heavier one, transformer, stool, frame, cushion, the sound of my bare feet, creak of floor, crack of an ankle; it was a symphony in itself.

"We are the sound."

Something to sit with.

I'm one of those people who'll often have music running through her head; it takes an effort to turn my attention outward, to be attentive. Just sitting, listening - sometimes there is too much to take in - but when it's a little quiet, and it's possible to pick out everything and appreciate it... well, the world really is perfect, just as it is.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Try this on.

"I figured out how to hang on as long as I want. It's all a matter of making friends with the Malkovich body: rather than thinking of it as an enemy that has to be pounded into submission, I've begun imagining it as a really expensive suit that I enjoy wearing." -Being John Malkovich

My impetus for posting is the discovery of another framework that helps. The words encapsulate the experience of disidentification (mine have been more or less happenchance) in a way powerful enough, for me, to recall it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

all questions return to the inner path

It's all bound by a common thread...

The nature of mysticism
I have been meditating on the nature of mysticism for some time now, and at last managed to record my conclusions: it is beyond thought, it is beyond logic. it is the inner path.

Everything is complete - here, now.

It's been a day of relief, in general. I was near tears throughout Mass. The divide between appearance and reality can be deep. But the experience of being there, is the answer in itself; nothing else is needed but presence. I've alternately known and wished to ask the pastor for confirmation - do you know what you appear to know? are we on the same path? Today would've been a question day, afterwards. But the homily was about the inner path, circuitously, but too carefully, and with too much truth spoken, to be accidental. We spoke later; nothing needed to be said; communication closes the circuit.

More thoughts
In early Buddhism and in Christ's walk, people were called to leave everything behind. And I think that's a necessary thing. We don't have to leave everything behind, but must - and this is essential - we must be willing to leave it all behind, to let it all go. It's like the proverb about setting the caged bird free. It brings the fullness of meaning to "who would lose his life will save it" - because true freedom is in holding loosely.

Even to life.

Fight Club
In Fight Club, we're invited to face a lot of horrifying truths. My reflection from the evening I watched it:

you can't get there without going all the way into the darkness
this - i am this, too
everything i hate, everything against which i would cover my eyes
go there - and become that.
it is needed.
to be unafraid to enter the darkest places, and to see that they are light
the fearlessness is important; it lets one enter truly, unprotected.

what's in there?

nothing. and that's freedom.

When I was in high school, I had an outstanding sparring partner; both epeeists. At practice, we wouldn't practice - we'd fight, going at it, hammer and tongs, until quitting time. It was living. It was fun. I understood, watching the movie, why they would fight. I've been there.

There seems to be some kind of taboo on acknowledging what we might be, what we're capable of - anything, specifically harmful things. I could be a murderer. Could. Am not, but could be - and I'm not at all threatened to say so. It seems like so many people would say, "oh, I could never do that" - perhaps, and this is only a suggestion - they don't know what they really are.

As with Mass above, I know, and yet, I wonder. This afternoon's reading included Cohen's interview with Tolle, from 2000. It was nice to be able to relate, to find that anybody has found words to point to experience in a meaningful way. To me, listening to a teacher is a relief (that word again!) because somebody is finally saying something that groks. (The word "teacher" has never sat well with me, and there seem to be as many prescriptions as people. While we all are moved along our path in myriad ways, I will claim that a teacher is unnecessary, that truth can be found in many ways, and thus we all are taught.)

Even without a spiritual teaching or a spiritual teacher, I believe that everybody would get [to the place that is free of suffering] eventually. But that could take time. . . . A spiritual teaching is there to save time. The basic message of the teaching is that you don't need any more time, you don't need any more suffering.

I wrote to somebody, lately, that perhaps we are all moving forward, even if apparently backward or other-serpentinely, and thus, perhaps everything is in order. To the same end, Tolle commented upon watching over-busy New Yorkers:

They are running to a then. They are suffering, but they don't even know it. But to me, even watching that was joyful. I didn't feel, "Oh, they should know better." They are on their spiritual path. At the moment, that is their spiritual path, and it works beautifully.

Something else it's nice to find; words describing a thing I meditated upon while kayaking:

There's a vast spaciousness. There's a vast stillness and there's a little ripple activity on the surface, which isn't separate, just like the ripples are not separate from the ocean.

Another question lately - okay, nothing, so what now? Everything that appears to exist, doesn't; the only thing that does, cannot be understood in the conventional manner of things - it is beyond thought, beyond logic. So what is one to comport oneself toward this world thing?

Cohen: If someone simply asks you, "Is the world real or unreal?" would you say it was real or would you have to qualify the statement?
Tolle: I would probably qualify the statement.
Cohen: Saying what?
Tolle: It's a temporary manifestation of the real.

It's not as though that answers the question, but having some words for the hulking beast is helpful.

And a recurring dream
Since I was a child, I've occasionally had a vision, usually when I was ill, or had slept too warmly, and I recalled it the other day. There's always a delicate pale pink-purple flower, a single stem, in a glad bud vase on a table, outdoors, as though part of a restaurant patio (though I have never seen chairs other tables); a frail glassy tinkling sound goes with it. The other I could sense, but never see; an enormous crushing weight, which would destroy the flower like so much nothing; a deep, though not discordant, but rich and overpowering sound accompanies this; it's like a steamroller, but with the texture of marshmallow, and the character of a black hole, in a matter-of-fact unmenacing way. The focus of my dream shifts back and forth between the two; the flower's position seems precarious, but is never destroyed.

It fits my present experience: the insubstantial nature of what is seen, and the invisible overwhelming presence nearby.

No answers, but the framework, a more substantial way to hold the thoughts, experiences, questions - helps.