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

 

Prayer [on DR Thursday]

Prayer copy 2

prayer product boxBAR jpeg copy

Naming paintings is problematic for me. I’ve never been good at it. Sometimes I bristle at it. People project their own meanings into the images I paint (as it should be) and sometimes the name I’ve given the piece gets in their way.  A favorite quote from a Joseph Campbell lecture: “If the artist doesn’t like you he will tell you what the painting means.” At openings, when people ask me what the painting means, my standard response is, “What does it mean to you?” I like most people though most people dislike my standard response.

Nowadays Kerri helps me find names. I ask her what she sees. We talk about the paintings and usually a phrase or name that I like floats to the top.

This one is simple and obvious. Prayer.  One who looks inward and entreats.

PRAYER gifts and cool stuff like wall murals

prayer FRAMED PRINT copy

buy the original painting

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAYER

www.kerrianddavid.com

prayer ©️ 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood

prayer – designs & products ©️ 2018 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

society 6 info jpeg copy

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

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

 

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

DR Thursday

layered meditation with frame jpeg copy

kerri calls this morsel, Layered Meditation. a perfect name as it comes from my painting, Meditation.

I believe that every moment of life is a meditation, conscious or otherwise. Your current meditation may be about the anxiety of  having enough money to pay the bills. It may be about the frustration of being stuck in traffic – again. It might be about a perceived injustice; blame meditations dominate most of our inner monologues. Of course, you might also be meditating about what to get at the grocery store or what to plant in the garden this year. You might be meditating about how to make life better for your children. Not all meditations are worrisome. Generally, we dedicate a small sliver of the meditation pie chart to the generative.

And, that’s really the point. We choose where we place our thoughts, we decide where we aim our focus. It is a dedication, not a runaway train.

One of my favorite moments in Carlos Castaneda’s book, The Teachings of Don Juan, happens when the master, Don Juan, refuses to place any value in the continued angst of his student, Carlos. Laughing at Carlos’ dedication to his misery, Don Juan says, “You indulge like a son-of-a-bitch!” Discovering and shedding indulgences is a many layered exploration. Shedding indulgences, like cutting junk food from your diet, comes when you recognize that you choose what you consume, not the other way around. You choose what you think, you choose your meditations, not the other way around.

Meditation10.17 copy

Meditation, 48 x 48in, mixed media

I am relearning this lesson. Lately, in the studio, I find I am meditating on my personal hall of monsters and past injustices. I’ve been taken aback at my dedication to replaying these tales of woe and unfairness.  And then I hear Roger’s voice in my head saying, “What kind of a sissy word is ‘fair!'” And I laugh. Laughter is great for rededicating the thought-train. Laughter loops me back to another favorite Don Juan-ism: “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”

 

LAYERED MEDITATION reminder/merchandise

society 6 info jpeg copy

layered meditation METAL WALL ART copy

metal wall art

layered meditation LEGGINGS copy 2

layered meditation FLOOR PILLOW copy

layered meditation BEACH TOWEL copy

it makes a cool beach towel!

stationary gift cards, mugs, framed art prints, and more.

PURCHASE THE ORIGINAL PAINTING: MEDITATION

read Kerri’s blog post about LAYERED MEDITATION

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

layered meditation & meditation ©️ 2018, 2012 david robinson & kerri sherwood

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.

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?”

 

See It Blaze

text from Krishnamurti as it appears in my painting

text from Krishnamurti as it appears in my painting

Every once in a while the things I read, the experiences of my life, seem to coordinate. Like a thought-confluence, the books, the poems, the errands, the conversations, run into a single thought-stream. It’s as if they called each other last week and asked, “So what are you going to wear?” Often, this is how the universe places its hammer on my head.

A few stanzas from a Mary Oliver poem, Morning Poem (read the whole poem sometime. It’s breathtaking):

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
each morning

 whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray

Did you catch the word, ‘lavishly?’

Here’s a bit from Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality:

What makes us unhappy is to want. Yet if we would learn to cut our wants to nothing, the smallest thing would be a true gift…. A warrior knows that he is waiting and what he is waiting for; and while he waits he wants nothing and thus whatever little thing he gets is more than he can take.

Prayers answered lavishly. Whatever little thing he gets is more than he can take.

For me, there are a few important words that have, from over-use, fallen into the bin of meaninglessness:

presence, transformation

Actually, they are in the bin because we’ve managed to make them (like the word, ‘art’) commodities, marketing terms, something owned or purchased with coin or wile or reason. Something possessed or not possessed. Something available to a few but not all.

Sometimes the words open again, the experience opens again, when said another way. For instance, the phrase, “cutting our wants to nothing,” is another way of saying ‘presence.’ Don Juan would have made a good Buddhist! When present, the ordinary pond blazes, it teems with life and isn’t the experience of teeming life at the heart of any good prayer? The last time you caught your breath, a sunset or watching your child sleep, you were present, you wanted for nothing,  your prayers were lavishly answered.

my latest work-in-progress

not yet finished – maybe never will be – an, perhaps, that is the point.

The message of the hammer on my head: The pond is always blazing. The transformation is not in the pond but in our ability to see it.