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.

 

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Look For Erle [on KS Friday]

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When you pull up Kerri’s page on iTunes you’ll notice that they have a hard time placing her music in a category. New Age? Easy listening? Classical? Country? One does not easily fit into the filing system until one can be clearly labeled. How can you be effortlessly labeled?

It’s a challenge all of us face. What’s the label? How do you fit? And (here’s the rub), it’s bad enough that the greater-world-filing-system needs a label to locate you, the real confusion comes in the labels we impose on ourselves. Are you a dentist? A liberal? A conservative? A mother? A foodie? Self-made, dependent, injured, Christian (which branch?), Muslim, agnostic, vegetarian, cowboy, rich, poor, retired, globalist, nationalist, capitalist, socialist? Do you “know?” Are you the righteous? Professor? How do you place yourself in the greater-world-filing system? Never mind how the “the system” attempts to squeeze you into a role, what’s the little box that you try to squeeze yourself into?

Is that who you are? Is that little box where you belong? Is it the totality of your being?

Sometimes I think we spend most of our lives dividing ourselves so that we might fit into a very small box. And, what we do to ourselves we most certainly do to others. They. Them. Not us.

Divide. Label. Locate.

Reduce. Contain. Shelve.

Although there is a certain amount of safety-feeling when living in a very small box, there is also very little vitality. Little things look big from the vantage point of a tiny box.  Little things look threatening from the confines of a too-tight label. Little boxes are petri dishes for big fear.

We bandy these words about and paste them on the walls of our too-little-boxes: mindfulness, wholeness, vitality. “This life is not a dress rehearsal.” “You are infinite potential.” “Today is day one.” Maya Angelou, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Peace.

These ideals, all of them, wonder, magic, love, artistry, unity, harmony,…truth…crackle beyond the label. They are there – outside the box – and they are never found in the direction of division. They are always present if you care to put down the label-maker.

Get out of your box and turn around. Maybe spin around and around and lose your balance like you did when you were young and less needy of location. Look at the mystery that chases you and chase it. Play tag with this life. Remember how you laughed just because? Reach.

Kerri stood on the edge of a canyon and, although afraid of heights, she threw open her arms. Kirsten called me to tell me. “Mom’s on the edge,” she whispered into the phone. “I’m really proud of her.”

note: this composition has nothing to do with what I just ranted about except for maybe this: the only locators that really matter are the people who love you and show up for you. Your friends along the way. This is the label I am most attached to: Kerri and I are very rich in friends.

OLD FRIENDS REVISITED on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ERLE

 

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old friends revisited/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

erle ©️ 2019 (and beyond) kerri sherwood

Give Over The Melody Line [on KS Friday]

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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

 

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as it is/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Enjoy The Puddles [it’s Chicken Marsala Monday]

 

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Puddle is a fun word to say. Try it. Puddle. Muddle. Fuddle. In fact, when fuddled or muddled, there is only one thing to be done and that is to find and jump gleefully into a puddle. Essentially, become puddled.

Chicken has a decidedly Buddhist side. If he had three simple rules for spiritual growth, one would certainly involve puddles and play. Speaking to we too serious adult-types, he might say: you can never control the rain, but you can most certainly control how often you play in the puddles .

On this Chicken Marsala Monday, from studio melange, leave behind your muddle and go to the puddle side of life [begin by reading this post out loud to someone you love – puddles are more fun with friends].

ENJOY THE PUDDLES gifts and cool things to remind you to play

read Kerri’s blog post on ENJOY THE PUDDLES.

www.kerrianddavid.com

enjoy the puddles nugget & designs ©️ 2016/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Prayer [on DR Thursday]

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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

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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

KS Friday

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Always With Us (track 14)

Kerri and I had a few days off. I’d never seen Door County so we jumped in the car and headed, as the folks around here like to say, “up north.” On our way back we stopped to say hello to Hans the music producer. Kerri and Hans have been for years dancing around producing an album together. Hans is also an amazing cellist. He gave us a tour through his recording studio and invited Kerri to give his studio piano a try. She sat and began to play. He sat at his cello and joined her. My mouth dropped open and I started to cry. Artistry, when it is pure, does that to me. I found myself standing in a sacred space created by two consummate musicians who were simply doing what they were born to do. They had no idea I was stunned to tears. They were playing around. They were having fun. They played together for about an hour, Hans dashing in and out to get different instruments to noodle around with, Kerri playing whatever came through the channel. I sat in the corner and tried to keep breathing.

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Always With Us [solo piano version, track 2]

No recording exists of that day. I would listen to it every day if it did. It was spontaneous and as holy and temporary as a sand painting. On the drive home I tried to describe my experience to Kerri and asked her why she and Hans had never recorded together. “It costs a lot of money to record, ” she said, adding, “and, nowadays, with people streaming music instead of buying it, there’s almost no way to recoup the investment. It’s better to enjoy the process, to have fun playing with someone like Hans.”

I remembered that day with Hans when we chose Always With Us for this week’s melange. It turns out that our melange conversation this week has been all about artistic process: stepping blindly, having faith, landing in pot holes, making bold offers, capturing moments, and most importantly, treasuring the relationship with “something bigger” that comes through when the artist(s) step out of the way and something sacred happens.

ALWAYS WITH US from the album AS IT IS (track 14) iTunes

ALWAYS WITH US from the album AS IT IS (track 14) CDBaby

ALWAYS WITH US from the album ALWAYS WITH US (track 2) iTunes

ALWAYS WITH US from the album ALWAYS WITH US (track 2) CDBaby

PURCHASE THE PHYSICAL CD: ALWAYS WITH US v. 1

 

KS DESIGNS on society6.com

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always with us LEGGINGS copy

always with us FRAMED ART copy

always with us COFFEE MUG copy

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read Kerri’s thoughts on ALWAYS WITH US

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kerrianddavid.com

ALWAYS WITH US from AS IT IS, ALWAYS WITH US v.1 ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

Chicken Marsala Monday

Chicken Marsala thoughts from the melange to help you start your week:

MASTER assumeawe WITH EYES jpeg copy 2.jpg Almost every spiritual tradition offers a form of this thought: make no assumptions. Sometimes it is called ‘detachment.’ Sometimes it is called ‘the middle way.’ Often, it is referred to as ‘presence.’

It sounds so simple. Be where you are. Be here now. Aspirations always sound easy but are never easy to realize.

In my past life as a consultant/facilitator I regularly issued two “caveats” prior to beginning the work of the day. The first was, “Have the experience first, make meaning of the experience second.” The idea of opening to an experience, that they might actually be capable of stepping out of their roiling story of assumptions, was a revelation to my clients.

And, that’s the point. The revelation, the insight, the heaven-that-you-seek is just on the other side of the story-fog that obscures your experience of life. That is why it shows up so often in all-practices-spiritual. Quiet your mind. Make no assumptions. Open to what is there beyond what you think is there.

However, we are human. That fast running inner monologue, that incessant storying of experiences, pre-and-post occurrence, is what we do. So, a good first step toward the quiet mind, toward the suspension of assumptions, is to make life-giving assumptions. Our runaway minds chug down a track so why not put that train on a generative track: assume awe.

ASSUME AWE merchandise

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assume awe METAL WALL ART copy

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read Kerri’s thoughts about Assuming Awe on Chicken Marsala Monday

 

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assume awe ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood