Contemplate [on DR Thursday]

 

I do more than my fair share of contemplating (just ask Kerri. My incessant contemplation drives her bonkers). For instance, years ago, it occurred to me that every thought we human-storytellers have IS a kind of meditation. It’s a fair question – a necessary question – to ask: what are you meditating on? Your pain? Your troubles? Who you blame? Your grudges? Your obstacles? Your joys? Your opportunities? Your privileges? Your love? Your losses? Your list? All of the above?  Keep in mind (where else would you keep it) that most of your thoughts are repetitive. The majority of what you think today is a repeat of what you thought yesterday. Your thoughts are not passive. They are also not truth. They are patterned, mostly made up, and a powerful lens through which you define your experiences. The good news is that you can change your meditation if you want to.

Listening to the news it will make you gag when you stop and realize what actually populates our national meditation and how our angry narrative permeates your personal mediation. We are not as separate as we like to pretend. That’s good news. That, and, we can change our meditation. We can tell a better story.

 

This morsel comes from a painting that recently returned to the stable. It is, quite literally, a blast from the past. What I find most amazing about this particular return-to-the-fold is that, just a few months ago, I uncovered the old drawing that inspired Contemplation and sourced it again for another painting, Softly She Prays. And then, in a fit of good timing, Contemplation arrived at our door.

Paintings are like journal entries. It is not often that happenstance provides such a rich opportunity for comparison. Comparison of contemplation. What was my meditation 15 years ago? What is it now? Horatio told me my body of work is a study of stillness in motion (not a direct quote H, but I love the reflection non-the-less). The deep river story remains. The top layer meditation has shifted.

Ah. Do you see? Incessant contemplation.

 

 

color & contemplation copy

Contemplation, circa 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

softly she prays copy

Softly She Prays, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on CONTEMPLATION

 

 

babycatContemplating website copy

 

contemplation/softly she prays ©️ 2004/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Blink! [on Flawed Cartoon Wednesday]

DeerHeadlights BIGcopy copy

One of my least favorite self discoveries is that I am obsessive. And compulsive (so I’m told…). If I latch onto a task, a painting, a project, an idea,…, it is nearly impossible for me to let it go. I am a deer in the headlights. A moth to flame. Fixated. Mesmerized. Obsessed. Compulsive. Don’t ask Kerri for examples!

Standing squarely on the pavement of the back road of life, transfixed by the headlights coming my way, I am trying to learn to blink. For all of those in the singular-focus-club, this Flawed’s for you. Blink!

 

if you'd like to see FLAWED CARTOON copy

read Kerri’s blog post about BLINK, DUSTY! BLINK! just don’t ask her for examples of my obsessive/compulsive behavior!

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

blink, dusty! blink ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Flawed Cartoon Wednesday

a bit of hump day humor from the melange!

49Steps BIGcopy copy 3

One of my favorite things about this week’s Flawed Cartoon is that I drew it years and years before there was a notion of Flawed. I drew it in an era when cell phones were not ubiquitous and looked more like walkie talkies. Were I to draw this cartoon today, my  man walking unconscious through the world would be glued to his phone instead of reading a book. The times have changed. Our distractions have gone electronic. However, the manholes of life remain surprisingly constant.

PAY ATTENTION merchandise/reminders [mugs, cards, wall art, cool stuff]

society 6 info jpeg copy

pay attention RECT PILLOW copy   pay attention SQ PILLOW copy

pay attention LAPTOP SLEEVE copy

i love this laptop sleeve!

‘I AM paying attention’ leggings

 

read Kerri’s thoughts on paying attention

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

 

pay attention! ©️ 1999/2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Go Slow

Our feet at Montauk

Our feet not rushing at Montauk

 

 

Years ago Quinn gave me a book by George Leonard called Mastery. I revisit it from time to time when I feel, as I do now, that I know nothing. In truth, the older I get, the more experiences I have, the more certain I become that I know nothing at all. If George Leonard was still living I imagine he would approve of my not knowing. “Finally, we are getting somewhere!” he might declare.

Here’s a bit from the book’s introduction:

“The many comments and inquiries that I continue to receive have convinced me more than ever that the quick-fix, fast-temporary-relief, bottom-line mentality doesn’t work in the long run, and is eventually destructive to the individual and the society. If there is any sure route to success and fulfillment in life, it is to be found in the long-term, essentially goalless process of mastery.”

Although in the quarter of a century since Mastery was published the pace of life has, if anything, shifted into hyper-drive, the truth of George Leonard’s assertion remains constant. Fulfillment is found in the long-term. It is found in the goalless processes like friendship or love or a walk in the woods. Fulfillment is a relationship and not an achievement. Learning is a relationship and not an achievement. Spirituality is a relationship and not an achievement. Artistry is a relationship and not an achievement.

All the things we think we know, the things we argue for or against, the righteous territories we claim, the belief flags we plant in the sand, the battle lines we draw, the hills we die on, the idea-wars we wage,.., make muddy the life crackling right before our eyes. After all, what do we really know?

On Sunday I witnessed a baptism. The next day I attended a funeral. These two back-to-back rituals left me with a question: What’s the rush?

I have absolutely no idea.

Be Clumsy

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

a detail of my painting, May You Be.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. lacking dexterity, grace or skill; awkward. 2. ungracefully shaped or made; unwieldy. 3. awkwardly or unskillfully said or done, ill-contrived.

“We don’t allow ourselves to be clumsy,” Kerri said. “Life is clumsy.”

Many years ago I read a commentary that suggested we moderns have a harder time of feeling good about ourselves than people of ages past. The argument went something like this: we have an impossibly high standard to meet and it is mostly illusory. For instance, our predecessors compared themselves and their successes against a relatively small village populace. We are swimming in pool that stretches around the earth. The athletes in our ancestral villages ran against their neighbors, the artists created for a specific purpose that served a tangible need in their community. Our young runners know to the hundreth-of-a-second what greatness requires. They run against the world. Our artists rarely know outside of their own inner imperative why they are creating. With no outer limit they spend a great deal of time wondering if their work has any impact or greater significance. With no outer limit it has no defined audience or community. Stephen, a gifted and prolific artist, used to ask, “Why don’t people recognize the value of art?”

The argument is largely a question of access. Our predecessors had limited and very abstract access to the news of the day, to the happenings beyond their region. We have a 24-hour global news cycle that comes to us on multiple devices that are designed to grab and keep our attention. It is not passive. On our multiple devices we are bombarded with images and messages of what we should look and feel like. Yet, almost all of the images populating our personal measuring stick are constructed. They are manipulated, retouched, powdered and Photoshopped. Legs are stretched. Wrinkles are removed. Sunsets are filtered. We measure ourselves against illusions.

Thus, intermediaries are everywhere. Interpreters abound. I rarely go into a gallery without a curator telling me why the work on the walls is important. The news of the day makes us the rope in a tug-of-war of interpretation.

Art, like life, like deep spirituality, requires direct engagement. It is made rich in the rough draft and the mistake. The broken road is interesting, vital. Learning is a process that takes time. It is messy. It is clumsy. It is not straight, paved, and has no road signs. And, it cannot be walked alone.

There is no forgiveness (of self or other) on the path of perfection; forgiveness is in short supply when the standard is both impossible to attain and an illusion. On the clumsy path, on the messy and muddy road, lives grace, generosity of spirit and deep forgiveness.

Clumsy (klum’ ze) adj. 1. Human

May You Be

May You Be

 

Place No Blame

a detail of my painting, "John's Secret."

a detail of my painting, “John’s Secret.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness. Earlier today, Kerri read an article to me and the author, someone with terminal cancer, wrote that blame is a waste of energy. Life is too precious to waste on blaming. Forgive and move on.

My meditation on forgiveness has inadvertently become a meditation on blame. As it turns out, forgiveness and blame are often dance partners.

My favorite phrase of this week: Blame, no matter where you place it, does no good. To me, the crucial concept within the phrase is this: blame requires placement. Although it might feel otherwise, blame is not a passive act. We place it. We aim it. It is a way of making meaning of things that don’t feel good. I’ve written that blame is like sugar; it is addictive. It is choice wearing the mask of it-happened-to-me. Oddly, as an active choice, blame actually inhibits action and as an inhibitor it does no good either for the placer-of-the–blame or the recipient. It stops motion. It is an energy eddy. It is destructive both ways.

Forgiveness is also not a passive act. Forgiveness takes more effort because forgiveness is an unmasked choice. It, too, requires placement and aim. It is also a way of making meaning of something that doesn’t feel good. But, unlike blame, forgiveness does great good for both the giver-of-forgiveness and the recipient. It creates motion. It is generative both ways.

Study Your Practice

During his recent visit, Skip wanted to see my latest paintings so we went down to the studio. He is a great studier of people and processes and while flipping through my work he asked if I’d ever taken process shots or filmed my process of painting. Occasionally I take photographs of a painting in process – not to record the stages of development but so I can see what’s there. I’ve learned that a photograph can sometimes help me see what I’ve grown blind to seeing. I agreed to take and share some process shots. Yesterday, I started a new piece and here is the day’s progress:

#1

#1

 

#2

#2

This is the next in my “Yoga series” of paintings. A “yoga” is a practice and I started this series because I was curious about my practices: I was meditating on this question:what is the difference between what I actually do and what I think I do? For most of us the gap is vast between those two points. This series is my ongoing meditation/inquiry into the gap.

#3

#3

A study of your practices will surprise you. What you do and think each day is a practice – it is your yoga; your actions and thoughts constitute the rituals of your life. So, for instance, when I was younger (lots younger) I believed my paintings were “not good enough.” Each day I’d approach the easel and practice “not good enough.” It’s amazing the transformation that becomes possible when you simply change your practice. Practice dropping the judge from your menu. Why not?

Last night I had a conversation with someone who asked, “Why don’t people care?” I suggested that people do care but you have to practice seeing it. It’s all around us if we refocus our eyes. And, in cultivating the practice of seeing the acts of kindness and caring, we become kind and caring (because that is the object of our focus).

photo-5

#4

My yoga series has brought me to this (so far): The world does not need changing; we need, as Doug used to say, to close the gap between what we think we do and what we actually practice doing.