Practice, Practice, Practice [on Merely A Thought Monday]

clean blackboard copy

Before Jonathan left town he gave us a book of daily devotions from his spiritual tradition. It is a significant book for him. It was his mother’s favorite and now it is his. He  starts his day with it, reading a passage, meditating on its meaning, and carrying the meditation through his day.

A mind needs a focus. Jonathan is one of the most positive people I’ve met and this lightness of spirit is not an accident. He carefully attends to the story he tells himself. He exercises his muscle of interpretation and, because he is looking for it, he will always sort to the positive. He assumes a positive tale.

One of the lessons I learned while in Bali goes like this (almost a direct quote from Budi): In Bali, when two cars crash, the drivers do not get out and begin yelling and blaming the other driver. Instead, they get out of their cars and greet the other driver because the gods meant for them to meet that day. They try to discover why they were brought together.

Sometimes I think the whole journey is a master class in focus-placement and assumption-making.

Early on in our life together, Kerri taught me this phrase: leave the outbreak of baggage behind. We carry yesterday’s baggage into today’s experiences. It’s possible to carry a lifetime’s collection of baggage into each and every moment. Heavy living comes from looking at life though the baggage-layer.

The first meditation in Jonathan’s book is the same first principle found in every spiritual tradition: Be present in this moment. Your life is not what happened yesterday; it is what is happening right now. If you are looking for your life you will miss it if your focus is backwards or forwards. It sounds trite in a world awash in Hallmark cards, Successories, Motivational Moments or books of daily devotions.

It’s trite until put into practice. It’s easy to say ‘be present’ or ‘make no assumptions’ or ‘be the change you seek’ or ‘focus on the positive’ or… It’s a whole different ballgame when the trite phrase comes off the aspirational wall and enters the daily grind.  Presence, the sensitivity to life happening right now, is not an achievement. It is an awareness that comes from practice amidst a world screaming for your attention.

Everyday a clean blackboard. I suspect that thought was Jonathan’s real gift to us.

 

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Laugh Together [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Why don’t people care?” I frequently loop back to Stephen’s question – asked so many years ago – about art. He’s a prolific and gifted painter. I have so many responses, mostly contradictory. Everything from ‘People do care, it’s just inaccessible,’ to ‘Why should they care, it’s so personal to the artist (not communal, not inclusive) that it’s not accessible.”  The common word in all my inner-Stephen-musings is ‘access.’

My pot was irrevocably stirred during my time in Bali. There, the arts are practiced in the temple – a place, the central focus – for everyone and everything in the community. Every aspect of life is rooted-in and practiced-through the temple. That is to say, all things are still considered sacred – even and especially ‘the arts.’ As sacred, the arts belong to everyone, not just the artist or the elite who can afford it. They are accessible because they are not a possession, they are a sacrament. Additionally, the temple does not stop at the end of the compound. The whole world is the temple. In this temple, the arts serve as the binder, the carrier of the story that holds the treasure of the community: its identity.  The arts are not only accessible, they provide access. They affirm belonging.

In this temple, through this sacred story, laughter is highly valued. Laughter, foible, whimsy, – all reminders that, 1) we should not take ourselves so seriously, and 2) laughter is a potent force, like gravity. It joins us. It cuts through division, turns fear into powder. It provides perspective. Laughter is the sound of appreciation, the music people make together when worshiping the great mystery of life.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE NOBLEST ART

 

 

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Pray In Opposites [on DR Thursday]

 

I love this painting and for some reason have never included it in a show. An early version of it hung for a few years in the undergraduate offices of Antioch University, Seattle. After returning from Bali I took it down, hauled it back to the studio and repainted it.

On my gallery site I wrote about this painting that paradoxes and oppositions are lively topics for me. Truth is always found in the “in-between” spaces. Truth is connective tissue.

Separation is only the beginning of the life-story. The rest of the story is a search for connection. It is lived as a quest to find the common center – through a prayer of opposites. As the Balinese would say in shorthand, many faces, one god.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about A PRAYER OF OPPOSITES

 

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a prayer of opposites ©️ 2002/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

See The Sacred

First Anniversary Sunrise

First Anniversary Sunrise

“…it seems to me absurd to consider problems about other beings while I am still in ignorance about my own nature. Phaedrus by Plato

I’m sitting alone in a sanctuary and thinking about sacred spaces. Here’s the thing I’ve come to understand about sacred spaces: slower motion is required to experience the power of the place. People in a hurry to get somewhere have little or no access to the sacred. Race through a meadow and you will miss it. Sacred spaces do not lose their power; people lose their access to the power of the space.

Once, many years ago in Bali, I made it a practice to walk the same pace as my Balinese hosts. To me, they moved at an impossibly slow pace. As an American, patterned to be forever in a hurry, I walk quickly “to get” somewhere else. There must always be a goal to achieve, a destination to reach. The Balinese were not patterned for transit but for presence. Over time, as I picked up their rhythm of movement I also picked up their pattern: it is possible to walk in presence. It is possible to be where you are with no imperative to get somewhere else – even while walking. It is possible to be in your life instead of racing through it.

A most amazing thing happens when “being here” becomes primary to “getting there”: everything becomes sacred space. Slow down enough and it is possible that you will recognize yourself as a sacred space.

After returning home from Bali I was able to sustain my capacity to move slowly for only a few months. It is easy to move slowly and be present when the culture you are in is patterned for presence. It is an entirely different challenge to move slowly and be present in a fast moving river. In the months after returning home I was either trampled or the cause of others (trying to navigate my slow movement) being trampled. We are not nearly as separate as we think we are. As I resumed my American pace I also dropped my capacity for presence and lost my lens on the sacred.

A recent surgery has necessitated slower moving. I have, in these past few weeks, found myself walking once again like a Balinese. I’ve stepped out of the fast moving river. Yesterday, standing on the back deck, I watched Dog-Dog delight in chasing squirrels. I listened to Kerri talk on the phone with a friend. I felt the sun on my face. There was no other place on earth I would rather be. There was nothing necessary to achieve.

Focus On The Important Stuff

an offer from TwoArtistMakingStuffForHumans

an offer from TwoArtistMakingStuffForHumans

A note from the temporary site of TwoArtistsMakingStuffForHumans:

The waxing moon was muted with fog. It made the air shimmer. Avalon was near. Although it seemed too soon, there was a hint of autumn in the air. We sat next to a chiminea talking to friends. Monica told us of her daughter working in villages in South America. She told Monica that, by our standards, the people there have nothing. They are possession poor. But, they were happy, genuinely happy. They didn’t have much money or stuff but they had the essential thing that many of us lack: peace of mind. They focus on different, more important stuff.

It brought to mind my experiences in Bali. When I arrived all I could see was the poverty. By the time I left several weeks later, I’d have given everything I own or will ever own to have what they have: presence. Ease of mind. They weren’t looking for fulfillment, status, or living for retirement. They were living. Life was fulfillment. In a world where all things are sacred, status is gained by the quality of your giving and not by the size of your piece of the limited pie. It is a different focus.

There is a hidden cost to what dominates our focus, the things that take our attention…as opposed to the things we pay attention to.

As artists, both Kerri and I believe the work of our lives has been, one way or another, to help people focus on the important stuff, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary moment, to find inside what people seek outside. We’ve both worked across the boundaries of business, art, and the fine art of living everyday, there is no lack of necessity to refocus the eye, mind, and heart.

In a few weeks we will be launching our business (details to follow). All the many aspects of our work – if you can call art a product and performing a service – are intended to support, exercise and pay forward a focus on the important stuff, the important moments…sometimes the teeniest things that in the chaos pass unnoticed.

We want to do for others what we do for each other. Check out our pre-launch coaching offer. Take us up on it! Or, if you know someone who might benefit from working with us, pass it on, pay it forward.

Lean And Rest

820. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

[continued from 811, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19]

Bali Journal Excerpt #10
At lunch, Rai told me that he also had no religion and then he corrected himself. “My religion is goodness,” he said. “Dharma,” he added. “In my religion you only need do your action and god will determine the result.”

In Bali, it is common to see a woman making an offering in the middle of a busy intersection, motorbikes flying by her. Her offering is normal to them. Each morning a new flower appears in my room. I never see who places it there. In a crowded temple, a man I have never before seen leans on me to rest. It has been a long night and he is very tired. I am filled with warm gratitude for what he teaches me.

This is the final excerpt from the journals. It is the one that touched me the most almost 13 years after writing the words. I realized that I am still filled with warm gratitude. I realized that my religion to be goodness. I am learning to do my action and let go of trying to determine the result. This, especially, has been my lesson during this long winter of wandering.

How Long Has It Been?

819. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

[continued from 811, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18]

Bali Journal Excerpt #9
The beach at Tulamben is course black lava stone. It is from another world. Lora sat at a distance as I said my prayer and made my offering as Jero had instructed. I invited my soul to come home. I asked it (me) to be happy. I made an offering in my own way – also as Jero had instructed. It felt right. When I was complete, I joined Lora and we watched the sun rise. After a moment she said, “Sometimes you have to slow way down before you can see the clouds move, before you can see the shapes in the clouds. How long has it been since you watched the clouds?” She showed me a mermaid and a spaceship. I saw a swordfish and a lion. The clouds moved into one shape and then another and another still, appearing and disappearing and then reappearing in yet another form. It was just like the message of the Wayan Kulit, the shadow puppets. The forms of this life are transitory, they appear and disappear, ever moving.

The ocean accepted my offering and I sometimes remind myself to slow down and look at the clouds that always remind me of how transitory is this life. I have a habit when I awake each morning of saying to myself, “This is the only day of life I will ever have….”