Tickle Open The Closed [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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It used to be one of my favorite exercises to facilitate. Ask one person in a small group to tell a story of blame. Ask the rest of the group to invest in the story. In no time the small groups would be indignant, talking over each other in disgruntlement. A klatch of agitated victims, howling.  They’d laugh in their aggravated frenzy. They’d devise clever revenge or ways to torment the object of their blame story. They’d grow a monster.

Blame stories are like sugar. They are easy to eat and highly addictive. There’s rarely any real substance, so much gossip-cotton-candy, but there is an odd pleasure in playing the role of  “the injured party.” The groups would always reflect that the exercise was fun. So much so that they’d often forget it was an exercise. Commiseration and validation, after all, are the point of a blame story. That, and making someone else responsible for how we feel.

Ask the same groups to tell a story of choice or opportunity and most times, after only a minute or two, they’d sit in silence. Their, “Great. That’s really great,” support would dwindle. Feeding an idea is not nearly as easy as feeding a story of blame.

Quinn used to tell me that creativity is not for the faint of heart.

The groups were always shocked to discover how much of their lives were spent chewing the gristle of discontent, of feeding the notion that someone else was to blame for their choices or their circumstance. They’d generally comment on how easy it was to commiserate and how difficult it is to question, challenge or stop the blame-game. Mostly, they were shocked to discover how little of their time they dedicated to feeding ideas, theirs or another persons.

Blame stories are easy because they are reductive. They engender tight little balls of closed minds and closed circles. They close hearts. They take almost no energy at all to spark but, once burning, like a wildfire, they are capable of consuming entire forests.

Idea exploration is expansive. Seeing possibilities requires eyes that look up and out.  It takes much more energy to imagine, to question, to ponder. To try. To experiment. To ask. To challenge what you think you know. Opening minds, opening circles and hearts requires a deep sense of self-responsibility. It requires an even deeper sense of responsibility to others.

One of the purposes of the artist is to open closed circles, to tickle open closed minds. To help their community see anew and entertain never-before-imagined possibilities.

It takes more effort and courage to sail to the edges of the known world than it does to hang out around the water cooler and complain about others. Great minds do not have more capacity than any other mind, but they do require a very different focus.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GREAT MINDS & IDEAS

 

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FaceTheRain

feel the rain, mixed media, 2019

Ride The Lion [on KS Friday]

watershed the songbox copy

Let’s just say that 2020 is off to a rough start. If I was to get out my old-school label maker and slap a sticky tape descriptor on last year, on 2019, it would be the year of contention. 2020 is shaping up to be the watershed. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk.

Broken contracts [literal and metaphoric]. Broken wrists. Broken dreams. All of our presses have stopped. We are moving very, very slowly through our days. We are having long conversations about where we’ve been, our successes and failures, dreams realized and those that went to ashes in our mouths, and where we want to go from here.

Unless you are being chased by a real lion, fear is mostly a function of imagination. In the real-lion scenario, fear is a life-saver that makes world-class sprinters of us all. In every other case, sans lion, it is a made-up monster that chases.  Running does no good. This chasing monster requires the opposite of the real lion: stopping, turning, and looking squarely into the eyes of your own dark imagination. The only relevant question is, “What’s wearing the mask of this monster?” Shame? Failure? What should have been? What will never be?

It is a turning point. Stopping. Breathing. Turning and staring back at your wild-eyed scare-fantasy and realizing that it’s merely a mechanism to prevent you from being where you are.  Standing in this exact moment is the only place from which you can enact change. It is the single location in which you can fully, unequivocally appreciate your life. Self-made monsters always dissipate when scrutinized.

Running away casts you as both runner and lion, chaser and chased. Fear the imagined-lion, be the runner. It splits you in half. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! And what if it is not falling? What if the lion-monster chases precisely to prevent you from standing still?

It’s a vicious circle, an energy eddy, this hyper-active dark imagination. It is true, if you think about it, that an imagination that is capable of so much doom is equally capable of fixating on the light side. Ride the lion. Better yet, give it wings so the ride is uncanny and wondrous. The ultimate human choice is where we decide to place our focus.

The story we decide to tell follows the focus-choice. Standing still, the only place from which we can see the array of choices and available stories, we are once again learning, seems to be the gift of the Watershed.

 

 

WATERSHED on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes& CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WATERSHED

 

 

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watershed/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Help Yourself See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

gratitude blanks copy

In a particularly dismal period of time in my Seattle years, I decided I needed to focus on the good stuff. I made a game of writing on small bits of paper things in my life for which  I was grateful. And then I left my small gratitude notes around the city as I moved about my day. I left them at bus stops. I rolled some and tucked them in crosswalk signs. A few were tucked into menus or left on coffeehouse tables.

My gratitude notes had an interesting blow-back. They inspired me to seek things that I was grateful for so I might write a note about it. Not only that, but they made me pay attention to the infinite acts of kindness that I saw everyday. People were helping people everywhere! I was blind to it until I started paying attention; until I got out of my misery-head and opened my eyes.

I was struck by the vast difference between the story I was being told about humanity and the story I was witnessing on my daily walks across the city. I could count the acts of aggression. I lost track of the acts of kindness and generosity because there were too many to capture.

When you stop and think about it, isn’t it always the case that the the good stuff, the potential-pool-of-gratitude-possibilities is vast yet the gunk gets all the focus. What is it in us that hyper-focuses on the flaw, sorts to the wound, while the river of beauty roars by unnoticed?

Kerri designed these cards for another project and they made me remember my notes. Encouragement of gratitude. Give it a try. Download the blanks. Scribble a note or two of thanks-giving and leave them behind somewhere. Be prepared for some eye opening blow-back.

 

gratitude blanks PDF copy

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GRATITUDE

 

 

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Gaze Through It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Once, doing a night dive, through the inky black water, the sum total of what I could see was what existed in the beam of my flashlight. That experience provided insights into the limitations of perception and the power of focus placement. We see what we decide to focus on. We never see the whole picture.

It also gave me the Alice-in-Wonderland feeling of looking through a tunnel at an alternate reality. Peering through the portal, strange shapes darted across my beam. I was tempted to swim into the light, toward the illuminated world, but knew that I would never reach it. “There” was in constant motion and moved as I moved. It was hypnotic.

There is a old tree stump on our walks that Kerri likes to visit. It has a knot that serves as a looking glass. She peers through it and sometimes takes a picture to record the changing seasons, life as seen through the magic knot. Her photographs are a record of another kind of portal, another alternate reality only this one is not fluid. It is a fixed point of view. Yet, were I to sit for many days and gaze through this knot hole I’d be overwhelmed by the endless life-in-motion slowly moving within this limited view.

I used to lead groups through an exercise called The Long Walk. It is simple. Walk in any direction for ten minutes. However, if anyone can discern your movement, you are walking too fast. In fact, if you cover more than a few inches of territory in ten minutes, you have moved too fast. The Long Walk creates quite the challenge in a body used to racing through life. After the panic and frustration of slowing way down, an amazing thing happens. Senses open. Perceptions sharpen. The rich sounds and smells and breezes that generally go unnoticed crackle into presence. Tight concentration morphs into wide awareness. And, for a few short breaths, the mind ceases its babble and nothing stands between the walker and the walk.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TWO VIEWS

 

springfall website box copy

©️ 2019 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 

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

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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.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about

 

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Release The Peace [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Peace. Compassion. Strength. Wisdom. The idea is that prayers and mantras symbolized on the flags are blown by the wind, spreading their peace, compassion, strength and wisdom into the world. It’s not a bad idea. It’s not a bad reminder.

We pass beneath our prayer flags everyday. It is our version of the Balinese split gate. A symbol of bigger things. Coming or going we pass through a moment of meditation, a fluttering reminder of the path that threads through time’s center. The place of presence. It is the place where divisions fade – even for a moment. The place where the drama-of-the-day and turmoil – all expressions of separation – fall away.

The flags quiver and dance. We stop and listen to the quiet flapping, the release of peace into the wind. The basic elements of compassion, strength, and wisdom. Water, fire, earth and sky. A renewed focus.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAYER FLAGS

 

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Bring Peace [on DR Thursday]

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a morsel of PAX

Coming out of a deep sleep I pass through the flotsam layer at the bottom of consciousness. I call it the ‘garbage layer;’ the place where fears fester and worries lurk. It is the monster layer, the place where Grendel lives. When passing through the garbage layer I’m careful not to hook any of those thought-demons and bring them to the surface with me. Give them light and they will eat your day.

Just as I broke through the garbage layer, feeling the pull of a new day, my eyes not yet open, I was warmed by this thought:

Bring peace to your day and you will experience a bit more peace. Bring joy to your day and you will experience a bit more joy. Bring anxiety to your day and you will experience a bit more anxiety. Bring fear to your day and you will experience a bit more fear. Bring hope to your day and you will experience a bit more hope. What will you bring to this day?

My eyes popped open and I was floating on a raft of hope. A raft of my own choosing. A raft I could share.

This painting is called PAX (the kiss of peace). Like the thought that awaited me above the garbage layer, it is a meditation on the power of what you bring to your day. It is a meditation on the raft you choose to create.

It’s a simplicity. Bring peace. Experience peace. Bring hope to your day. Experience a bit more hope in your day. Share a bit more hope in your life.

 

PAXunframed copy 2

PAX, 24 x 24IN, mixed media

read Kerri’s blog post about PAX

 

slow dance party cropped website box copy

PAX/PAX morsel ©️ 2015/18 david robinson

Give Over The Melody Line [on KS Friday]

as it is songbox copy

Spiritual teachers across traditions suggest that the reason we suffer is that we focus on what we think should be/supposed to be instead of on what is. The dedication to being someplace other than where you are will split you every time! The notion that you can be someone other than who you are (at this moment) will cleave you in two. And so, we have traditions of mindfulness (be where you are) and acceptance (be who you are) and forgiveness (be at peace with who and where you are). The cliff notes version: stop hewing yourself in two and you will stop suffering.

This is the seed-idea that inspired AS IT IS. This is what is supposed to be. All is as it is, as it should be.

I delight when Kerri tells me the story behind a composition. This morning, as we listened, she asked me to pay attention to the melody line. The flute mostly carries it. The keyboard – what she is playing – is in a support role. She said it this way: the keyboard gives over the melody line. The flute gives it back. The keyboard returns it to the flute.

No resistance. Relationship. AS IT IS. These, too, are spiritual suggestions for mending the hew. I’ll add to my canon as a practice for presence: give over the melody line.

 

AS IT IS on the album AS IT IS, available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AS IT IS

 

by the fire in breckenridge website box copy

 

as it is/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

See The Hands [on DR Thursday]

I just googled the phrase “helping hands.’ Depending upon your world view you may or may not be surprised by the extraordinary number of services that appear. People helping people. Food pantries, home caregivers, support for people with spinal cord injuries, disaster relief, charity donations, hunger relief…. It’s a lengthy list. For a moment, if you can imagine – or better yet, realize – the reality represented by the list, you might get a tiny view into that part of humanity that is not often reported. People helping people everyday. It’s everywhere, all year, everyday.

Feel good stories don’t generate the same size audience as the horror stories so they populate less space in the news cycle. It’s possible to see, if you look away from your many screens, that vastly more people are helping people than are people hurting people. It’s possible to see it.

In my town, there is a woman who feeds the hungry twice a day, winter-spring-summer-fall. She doesn’t stop feeding people after the giving season passes or when the cameras are gone. That is true of most of the people helping people on this earth. They help. There is no limelight. They help because they want to help. They help because they feel compelled to help. She is one of a legion of people in my community living life as helping hands. I am surrounded by givers and helpers. So are you.

Ann used to tell me to find a need and fill it. Sage advice. Deeply human. It is true that you will see what you decide to see. Where you place your focus does truly matter. Hands that help. Hands that hurt. Both are out there. One vastly out-populates the other. Can you see it? Do you want to see it?

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on HELPING HANDS

 

 

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‘helping hands’ in all it’s forms ©️ 2018/2015 david robinson & kerri sherwood

DR Thursday

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Kerri calls them “morsels”: snapshots of a portion of one of my paintings. May You Be Peace is a morsel. I love watching her take the shots. I delight in how she helps me see my work anew. I appreciate how each morsel is a complete work of art in itself.

Shift the focus. Pull in the frame of reference. We live in a world of cameras and microscopes and telescopes and compartments; what we see and believe is very much determined by where we place our focus. Georgia O’Keeffe knew it; she was a master of the close-up.

A few years ago I began taking photographs of my paintings-in-process. The camera helps me sees aspects of the painting that would otherwise remain invisible. It’s odd. I stand before a canvas stapled to the wall and see one thing. I aim a camera at the canvas stapled to the wall and see a wholly different painting. Just imagine the infinite perceptions and perspectives at play in our world!

My photo-painting-practice is a constant reminder that my perspective, my perception is mine alone. You are most certainly looking through a different set of lenses.

Peace, I think, has nothing to do with sameness and everything to do with the celebration of  difference, the capacity to help each other see our lives anew.

MAY YOU BE PEACE merchandise

iphone  framed print  greeting card  MayYouBeToteBag

read Kerri’s thoughts on MAY YOU BE PEACE

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May You, 55″ x 36″

kerrianddavid.com

may you be peace and may you ©️ 2016, 2015 david robinson & kerri sherwood