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

Have Wings [on DR Thursday]

wings copy

This painting jumped to the canvas fully formed. It announced itself and I simply opened the door. It was not what I’d intended  to paint when I entered the studio. I had a wholly different idea In Mind. I’ve learned that the best work has very little to do with what I have In Mind. The best work comes from the other place, the place available when Mind steps out of the way.

Meditation, prayer, inner reaching….is a theme I loop back to again and again. Lately, I’ve been pondering what happens when we cease searching for peace and instead simply bring it. What if prayer/meditation was not a quest for center, a search for inner peace or quiet mind? What if there was no separation? What if prayer/meditation was a bringing to the surface of the peace that already exists? What if you need not search for it because it is already here? What if, like this painting, that place is available when we stop listening to a Mind that tells us the center is lost, that peace is somewhere over there?

I suspect my pondering produced this painting. Kerri calls it Winged.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post on WINGED

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

winged ©️ david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

(Y)Our Earth [It’s Two Artists Tuesday]

Take a moment to take a look around you. A thought to ponder and share from the melange.

our earth FRAMED ART PRINT copy

Tibetan monks have been in residence this week at a local technical college. They are creating a mandala sand painting. For the monks, creating the mandala is a spiritual practice, a meditation. As they construct the design they contemplate the meaning of the symbols within the design. In other words, they are in a constant state of prayer while they create. They invite the community to enter the prayerful space and contemplate with them; the “space” is, of course, the essential part of their creation. More to the point, the shared space of peace, an intentional communal tranquility, is the creation. And, to make sure we grasp the point, the final step in their creative process is to blow the design away. Nothing is permanent. Beauty is passing and so are you and me. It is, we are, energy in motion. The process, rather than the product, is the meditation.

our earth SQ PILLOW copyWhen Kerri drew this design it immediately reminded me of the Earth’s currents, a perfect sentiment for the coming Earth Day celebrations. The essential convection currents that create our wind, our weather. The currents in the earth moving layers of magma, the transfer of energy in the heating and cooling of the ocean. Motion creates life, tosses up forms and pulls them down again. Motion is life, life is motion. And, in this mandala we call Earth, there is a deeper meditation found within the sand and the impermanence: it’s all connected. We are all connected. Blowing sands. The process, the quality of our participation in impermanence, is the art.

From studio melange, an earth day meditation: this is your/our earth.

THIS IS (Y)OUR EARTH reminders/merchandise

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our earth TOTE BAG copy

OUR EARTH MUG copy

our earth IPHONE CASE copy

iphone cases

OUR EARTH BEACH TOWEL copy

a beach towel!

our earth LEGGINGS copy

(Y)Our Earth Leggings

read kerri’s blog post on (Y)Our Earth

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kerrianddavid.com

 

this is (y)our earth ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Surrender And Surrender Again

I’ve grown accustomed to this sanctuary. I come here when Kerri has meetings in the church. It is quiet. As I sit here alone, I easily become quiet. The evening sun pours through the stained glass, the symbols shimmer.

When I met Kerri I told her that, if we were going to have a relationship, she needed to understand two things about me: I don’t sing and I don’t pray. I imagine that was stark news for a woman who works as a minister of music. I imagine she rolled her eyes. It is a running joke with the folks that know the story of my proclamation that I now sing in the church choir and band. I love to sing. As for the praying, well…, I’ve always been a meditator and that counts. Quiet is a delicious form of prayer. I was hung up on definitions. I talk to the universe all the time. To-mAaa-to, to-Mah-to.

I have, all my life, believed religion most often gets in the way of a true spiritual experience (life). “Prayer” was for me, at the time I met Kerri, a word of religion while “meditation” was a word I associated with a spiritual life. One night, not long after my move, Kerri and I had dinner with Heidi. She asked me about my faith and laughed at my reflections, saying, “You are one of those many-paths-one-mountain guys.” Yes. And, to truly be a many-paths-one-mountain guy, I’ve had to challenge some of my long held defenses, walk into some of my long held prejudices.

Yesterday, Bill said a simple, beautiful thing about faith, grace and spiritual journeys. It reinforced something I have known (for myself) for years. He said, “The problem with religion is it is heavily invested in having answers. It becomes invested in being right (righteousness), being “the way” as if there was only one way. A true spiritual life,” he said, “is about walking into the questions.” Life, the real crackling, shimmering life, is always experienced in the questions. Awe is rarely experienced in something so constructed and contained as an answer.

I brought to the sanctuary an outline/book of a class that I intended to teach years ago but never got around to offering. In the introduction a previous-version-of-me wrote this: The premise is simple and ancient: when you change your story you change your world. All stories of transformation begin with an attempt to control the uncontrollable: transformation in a story happens when the main character surrenders their illusion of control, strips their armor, walks into their fear, and meets their dragon. There are many variations on this theme. What is important to grasp is that empowerment follows surrender….

Were I writing that today I would never use the word “empowerment.It is an overused and abstract word like “presence” and generally misunderstood as something to achieve (or sold as an answer). Power is irrelevant after a dragon is met.

When I met Kerri I was terrified to sing. I’d been shamed more than once for opening my mouth, thus my proclamation. I learned, as I sang the fear from myself, that the only thing that follows surrender is more surrender.

And, in surrender, there is shimmering quiet.

Have A Conversation

my quick sketches of two of the stained glass window panels

my quick sketches of two of the stained glass window panels

Yesterday I learned that my conversation with the stained glass window was only on hiatus. Several months ago we simply stopped talking. In the silence I thought the conversation was complete. For almost two years we had a weekly chat. I took lots of notes.

I recognize that one is not supposed to have chats with windows – at least not admit to it. Master Marsh teased me saying, “There’s help for things like this.” I’ve decided that my conversation with the window is more ordinary than odd: plenty of people around the world talk to statues. Most of us have had silent reckoning with the sky. I’ve witnessed mechanics talking to their tools and bakers wooing their dough. Who hasn’t cursed the object of a home fix-it job-gone-wrong (plumbing regularly gets a tongue lashing from me!) or praised a project done well? Traffic gets a regular talking to. In this region, at this time of year, more than a few brides make deals with the weather. A soul in exchange for sunshine.

Who hasn’t, in a moment of turmoil, looked inside themselves and asked for help? Who hasn’t uttered a quiet thank you or asked for guidance or made an appeal? Call it prayer, meditation, epiphany, catharsis, intuition, gut instinct, reading the signs, hearing the call, or communing with nature, it’s a conversation.

I’m not the only artist – or scientist for that matter – that, in moments of flow, feels as if something bigger is coming through. In that sense, all of my paintings might serve as the record of a conversation with something bigger. Writers often speak about having the experience of the characters writing themselves, of following rather than creating. Following, surrendering, allowing, listening, responding, getting out of the way. Play the chords long enough and you no longer need to think about them. In the land beyond thinking about it, music becomes possible. It’s a conversation.

Sitting on the chancel, listening to Kerri play, I stared as I often do at the morning light pouring through the colored glass. I studied the symbols. Birth and death. Tree of knowledge, Tree of Everlasting Life. The Grail standing between two flames. It’s a repetition in symbol of the same idea. Born into an experience of duality and distinctions, a world fighting over its differences, we have the opportunity to walk the middle path, the unity consciousness, the “something bigger.” “Between the two, one,” I the heard the window whisper. “It’s simple, really.”

a quick sketch of all three panels: birth, death, and the middle way.

a quick sketch of all three panels: birth, death, and the middle way.

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Create A Purpose

photo-2In the sixteenth hour of our drive to the mountains, to keep us awake, Kerri and I began a rousing game of This-or-That. “Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms?” Frosted Flakes all the way; those little marshmallow things get wonky in the milk. It’s amazing what you learn about yourself and others when the world of infinite possibilities is reduced to two choices. The game soon escalated to the impossible with pairings like “Coffee or Chocolate?” Real life penetrates the game when the only possible answers are, “It depends!” or “Both!”

Since our drive to the mountains I’ve been paying attention to how often people unwittingly play the This-or-That game, pretending that there are only two choices and, further, pretending that the choices are distinct and knowable. Democrat or Republican? Communities collapse when they forget that the important stuff is unanswerable. The important stuff is a moving target and requires conversation, debate, and comes along with multiple points of view. Two sizes do not fit all bodies.

I’ve also been playing my own inner game of This-or-That, purposefully choosing impossible pairings. Order or Chaos? It seems like a no-brainer until you dive in a bit deeper.

My favorite version so far is the Purpose-of-Life category. I picked a most lofty purpose: Illumination – and matched it with the utter absence of purpose. And, of course, I came to, “It depends!” or “Both!” I sprang my line of reasoning on Kerri (she thought we were going to talk about what to make for breakfast. She’s grown quite used to my surprise topics so she rolled her eyes, sipped coffee, and listened, knowing that no breakfast choice would be possible until after I unpacked my game).

No matter which spiritual tradition I read, the final point seems to be presence (living fully – aware of your moments). And in practice, presence becomes possible when thought is either transcended (meditation) or focused (prayer). Meditation and prayer are both purpose-full. Thought needs transcending and/or focus because it is mostly a babbling brook of nonsense or, better, a brook of babbling nonsense. It’s a lot of made up stuff that often takes the form of a game called This-or-That (I win/I lose, I’m right/I’m wrong, Us/Them). The game, as is true of all forms of interpretation, gets in the way of direct experience. It interrupts presence.

Detach from the babble. Meditate. Or recognize that it’s all made up and focus what’s made up. Pray. In either case presence comes through the recognition that it is all made up. The hitch: every notion of purpose, then, is also made up. There isn’t one. But, having a purpose is required to come to the recognition that there is no purpose. It’s a loop. It’s all creativity. It’s all imagination.

Spectrums and polarities are often cycles in disguise. They are both/and. They are yin and yang (not Yin or Yang). Illumination or Purposelessness? It depends. Both. Order needs chaos just as much as chaos needs order. The question is, what do we want to create? Why, a purpose, of course! So, let’s see what’s needed and decide to address it.

“My imagined purpose is breakfast,” Kerri sighed at the end of my rambling dissertation. “Pancakes or an egg scramble?”

 

Listen To Your Teachers

my yoga companions

my yoga companions and a belly-belly

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog and BabyCat (aka Slim, Sumo, Belly-with-a-Mouth) join me for my morning stretch and yoga. I need only walk to the yoga rug and my practice mates come running. I suspect they are not invested in the quieting of their minds or keeping limber. Their attendance on the rug has a simpler, more pure agenda: attention and pets.

Our preparation looks something like this: BabyCat wraps himself around my ankles and purrs. Dog-Dog jumps with enthusiasm and nearly knocks me over. With a Sumo-sized kitty warming my ankles and a circus dog leaping all around me, my gentle, quiet practice begins. As I drop forward to touch my toes, Dog-Dog rolls over for what we have lovingly dubbed a “belly-belly.” Clearly, Dog-Dog is an opportunist who sees all things as an opportunity. He is, therefore, a very happy spirit.

BabyCat is more strategic. He waits patiently until I move into a downward-dog pose so he can inhabit his favored spot and nibble my hair. It is counter-intuitive but true that BabyCat is more vocal than Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog. As a strategist, BabyCat complains a lot. He is an adherent to the philosophy of the squeaky wheel getting all the grease and BabyCat knows how to squeak the wheel. He is, therefore, as a necessary prerequisite to wheel squeaking, never satisfied.

photo-3My yoga companions have served to make me more mindful though it took me a while to recognize the teachings of my rug mates. At first I thought of them as distractions: they are very demanding of my attention. I thought they were getting in the way. I contemplated shooing them from the rug but, in truth, they made me laugh and what could be better for any healthy practice – for a healthy life – than laughter. It occurred to me that I’d rarely laughed in the many, many previous years of my practice. I was missing the essential ingredient and nearly banished it from my life-rug!

Next, I had to learn to move slower with much more intention so as not to topple or step on the squeaky wheel. I became much more present and aware of even the simplest movement. Awareness is a muscle and BabyCat is a gifted instructor of the fine art of awareness.

As an opportunist for fun, the Dog-Dog believes every pose is, in fact, a bridge to run under or an invitation to wrestle so I’ve had to learn how to root myself in every moment of my practice, particularly the in-between moments. I cannot afford to be ungrounded, even for a single moment, or the master Dog-Dog will have me sprawling on the floor. Saul-The-Tai-Chi-Master would be proud of my new capacity to remain grounded while in motion. Dog-Dog is an excellent teacher!

Perhaps their attendance on the rug with me has a more complex agenda after all: they recognized that their human needed to welcome more laughter into his too serious practice (life), he needed to find a deeper, easier grounding. And, in my predisposition the think I am higher up the chain of consciousness, I foolishly believed I was giving my love and attention to them but the opposite has been the case all along.