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.

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prayer ©️ 2017 david robinson & kerri sherwood

prayer – designs & products ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Taste It Fully

ice circles on the lake

ice circles on the lake

We heard the angry barking of crows before we saw them. They were haranguing an owl. It flew into a tree only a few yards in front of us. For several moments, through the ruckus of the crows, we stared at the owl and it stared at us. Time stopped. Nothing else existed. The owl’s eyes, our breathing, the crow’s chorus.

For our wedding gift, H and Teru sent several collections of poetry, “Manuals on marriage,” they wrote in the note that came with the poems. Kerri and I are savoring the poems, reading one or two aloud to each other every day. They are a source of warmth and inspiration during these cold dark winter months. A poem cannot be rushed or read merely. It must be slowly tasted. It is meant to be entered like a meadow; to be experienced. Try to make sense of a poem and you will miss it. Just like life.

She said, “inner quiet is low maintenance,” and I laughed. Yes it is. The trick is in getting quiet. It is not something that can be found or achieved. It is not a place or a state-of-being. It is what happens when you stop looking for it. Like the hermit says to Parcival when the Grail Castle suddenly reappears, “Boy, it’s been there all along.”

For years Sam the poet was afraid of his poems. Like all great art, his poems, his art, revealed the artist, and so he kept them locked up, un-tasted. He came alive and supremely dissatisfied when he finally unleashed his poetry. He let himself want more but also refused to let himself experience more; one foot on the gas, one foot on the brakes. To taste fully one must be willing to be tasted.

A snippet of a poem (a koan imbedded in a poem), RELAX by Ellen Bass:

The Buddha tells a story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs halfway down. But, there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice – one white, one black – scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.

Taste your moment. Taste it fully.

I wrote in my black and red notebook a simple recognition. The field of possibilities cuts both ways: in your despair you must remember that anything is possible. In your joy you must remember that anything is possible. Tiger above (the past), tiger below (imagined future). Do not reject your moment or attempt to hold on to it – both are methods of missing the moment. Taste it regardless of the circumstance. Taste it fully.

 

 

 

Thoughts Babble. Hearts Speak.

TODAY’S FEATURED THOUGHT FOR HUMANS

Thoughts Babble Hearts Speak

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is cut through the mental chatter, the fear stories and investments in obstacles to hear what your heart already knows: what is right for you…. Cutting through the racket is always a process of growing quiet enough to listen.

FOR TODAY’S FEATURED PRINT FOR HUMANS, GO HERE.

Drop Beneath The Noise

my latest work in progress

a detail of my latest work in progress

“Oppressors and oppressed meet at the end, and the only thing that prevails is that life was altogether too short for both.” Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality

A year and a half ago, when I moved to Wisconsin, I made the very conscious decision to unplug from the daily news cycle. I stopped watching it, listening to it, and reading it. My theory was that, if there was something truly newsworthy, I would hear about it. My intention was not to stick my head in the sand but the opposite. I wanted to drop the noise level so I might hear the stories with real value that were being obscured by the hype.

I was feeling more and more assaulted at the way the news was coming at me. I felt that it was literally coming AT me. I was disturbed that friends, family, and acquaintances oriented their truth (their opinions) according to their news source of choice. Events were not being reported as much as created for attention and spun for political leaning. It was feeding us a yummy addictive soap opera as context for our lives. Danger and deception were everywhere. “Us and Them” replayed at the top of the hour. One day, riding a bus through downtown Seattle, listening to the conversations around me, I realized that we were not consuming the media, it was consuming us. Division and drama sell.

Many years ago, Neil Postman in his brilliant book, Technopoly, like a prophet warned of the coming days when everything under the sun would be “breaking news.” What would serve as the touchstone of value (and values) when the monumental and the minimal were granted equal import, when news sources waved the flag of surrender and served the gods of entertainment? How might we hold a healthy center when we’ve so thoroughly blurred the line between ratings and reality?

So, I decided to live at the metaphoric edge of the village. An amazing thing happens when you drop beneath the chatter: with quiet comes the capacity to see how much of the chaos is concocted. Beauty becomes infinitely more accessible. The divisions drop away.

Sit Down

google "Chicken Little" and this one will come up. www.homesforsaleinlascruces.com

Google “Chicken Little” and this one will come up. http://www.homesforsaleinlascruces.com

Many years ago I was feeling disoriented in my life. I told my friend Rob that I was lost in the woods and looking for my way out. He replied, “Sometimes when you are lost in the woods the best thing to do is nothing. Just sit down.” His message was clear: no one gets oriented or reoriented by spinning. Running in circles, although it might feel useful, will only make you dizzy. Sit down. Get quiet. Listen. It was great advice and at the time nearly impossible.

Orientation to life comes from getting quiet. In one of his books, Deepak Chopra wrote that an important practice on the path to success is a half hour of meditation in the morning and another half hour at the end of the day. Make a practice of getting quiet. Exercise the muscle of stillness. Listen. Clarity will ensue. That way, when the inner compass goes awry, the right tool for the job will be more readily available.

Sitting down can be hard. Stillness and disorientation are not natural bedfellows. The impulse is to action, any action. I was once in a car on a remote mountain dirt road. The road collapsed and the car slowly rolled into a gully. My friend and I spent two days trying unsuccessfully to build a road out. It was only after we gave up and sat down that we were capable of thinking things through. Disorientation generally inspires panic. Panic-driven actions, like running in circles or hauling stones to build a road, are generally comical and make for great stories after orientation is restored. We’ve all turned the wrong way down a one-way street when lost and panicked. Pulling over would have been better but much harder to do when dedicated to forcing an outcome.

Beneath Rob’s message to me was a more important lesson: let go. Let go of the need to do. Let go of the need to solve, fix, or find. The path to orientation always leads through a necessary disorientation and the disorientation comes from hanging on to old ideas, old roles, old baggage, old heroics. The cycle is perfect as hanging on necessitates letting go and letting go often means to sit down, surrender, and breathe. To sit down always affords the opportunity to see where you are as distinct from where you think you should be. To surrender is to open. To breathe is to invite in the new. No one is lost when they stop trying to be some other place.

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Simply Listen

Pieta with Paparazzi

I call this one Pieta with Paparazzi

I am standing in a lobby listening to people compare their tragedies. It is more than comparison; it is a festival of one-ups-manship. “If you think that’s bad, my niece was just diagnosed with a terrible cancer….” The first speaker, now crestfallen, reaches into her story-bag of pain as another member of the group competes, “That happened to my brother just after his daughter was hit broadside by an enormous truck!” The group coos in sympathy, each in a hurry to make their personal story of hurt the center of the conversation. I wonder at their need to outdo each other in tragedy.

I suppose it is human, this feeding frenzy of drama. I want to reject my supposition outright. Suppose it is not human? I wonder if this dis-ease is cultural, an expression of the fragmentation that comes from the too-busy, the clan that avoids internal quiet at all costs, filling every moment with television, gaming, texting, emailing, gossip-news. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote in Gifts From The Sea, it is impossible to know who you are without dedicated inner spaciousness and quiet. To listen to your self is the only way to really know your self. Filling the quiet space with incessant noise withers the root.

Maybe.

All stories require conflict to move forward but it is also true that the point of all storytelling is transformation. Through the conflict we are transformed. Perhaps that is what bothers me as I listen to this pain frenzy: the emphasis is on the suffering. The investment, the identity, is in the wound, not the transformation.

There is a simple Buddhist prayer that I like:

May I dwell in my heart. May I be free from suffering. May I be healed. May I be at peace.

The prayer is like a musical round that progresses from the “I” to the “You” to the “We.” The emphasis is on the transformation. It begins with dwelling in the heart.

Maybe.

What bothers me most is the absence of the capacity to listen. The first speaker needed to be heard, not outdone. I wonder what might have happened if the group had simply said, “Tell us.” I wonder what might have happened if they had been able to be present with another’s pain. To listen, simply to listen, must be a route to free each other from suffering, to heal, to create peace.

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Intend And Forget

I have many titles for this painting and have used it a few times for posts. It is ultimately about intention and inner guidance.

I have many titles for this painting and have used it more than a few times for posts. It popped up for me again today. It is ultimately about intention and inner guidance.

I just finished writing this post and realized that, in many ways, this is the continuation of yesterday’s thought: clear the mental static and the channel to full expression opens. So, here is part two of my meditation on inner static:

John and I were having a conversation about the passage of time. He told me that he’d recently found some old lists that he’d written of life goals and intentions. The interesting thing about discovering the lists was 1) that he’d forgotten writing them and, 2) that he’d achieved most of what he’d written. He said, “The form of what I created was different than what I’d originally imagined but I was surprised to see that I’d actually created what I intended.” It was as if he had to write the intention in order to activate it. Forgetting the intention was necessary to give it space to manifest and grow. Write and forget.

When I was first training as an actor, late in every rehearsal process, my teachers consistently advised that we let go of everything we’d rehearsed and just show up. “You’ve done your work,” they’d say. “Now, let it go and trust.” Many years later when I was directing plays and teaching actors I gave the same advice. “Let go and trust. You’ve done your work. All that remains is to be present.” From the teacher/director seat, the moment of letting go is palpable; you can literally see and feel the phase in the process when an actor needs to let go of their work to come alive. They need to get out of their own way. They need to get out of their head and give all of their focus to the relationships on the stage. The work moves from the head to the body. It is this last step that transforms their study to a living pursuit. Forgetting the work creates spaciousness and allows the art to happen. Art is always about relationship and great art happens when the relationship is clear and expansive enough for all comers.

One of the most profound lessons I gained from my time in Bali concerned this dynamic connection between setting an intention and letting it go. While I was on the island my internal monologue disappeared; one day I realized that I was completely quiet. Thought was a choice and not a plague or chattering background noise. Silence was simple when no story was necessary, when no interpretation was needed. In the middle of that silence I could set an intention (“This is what I want to do/find today”) and then forget it. Before the day was over I would have found what I intended. The steps came to me; I did not have to seek the steps. Sometimes the intention was simple and sometimes seemed complex but that didn’t matter. If I clearly stated what I wanted and returned to silence the necessary coincidence always found me. I felt as if I could see the pieces on the game board moving on my behalf. There was no internal noise to compromise my intention so there was no external discord confusing my choices. I was conscious of my connection.

Alan calls this co-creating. Work with the energy and cease trying to force things to happen. John told me of his lists and I wondered how many people have had the same experience. We make lists, we try to make the list happen, life gets in the way and we forget. And, in the moment of forgetting, we relax our grip on how we think things need to happen. We forget the form and inadvertently open to possibility. In the forgetting we create the steps necessary for fulfillment: spaciousness, trust, and quiet participation.

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