Bits of zen flotsam & jetsam from the daily practice of a zen fool with shards of modern Buddhist art from my studio. Sometimes cranky, sometimes inspiring, mostly entertaining.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Working With Body Tension & Karmic Stuff
This is a close up shot of a piece I am slowly working on (perhaps I am inspired to slowness by the slugs that have all but decimated our garden). It seems there are never enough hours in the day for both gardening and artwork, but I've said that before, haven't I? I am not whining, really. I promise. Although occasionally I do have a little wine.
But I must confess I always turn a little green when I see the concerted efforts of those working away in their studios everyday. Ah... (she gives a wistful sigh which goes well with her green complexion). An osteopath told me sighing is good for releasing tension. Try it.
But I have made my choices about how to spend my time. I was talking about "choices" in terms of money with a friend the other day, but it is the same for time. If we attempt to live with awareness we choose where we spend our time and our $$. There is only so much of both to go around. I keep telling myself this is the year of the house and next year I will have more art time. I may be deluded, time will confirm or make a fool of me. How do you deal with this?
But there is always lots of Dharma up on the radar, no matter what I do, even if I'm not here writing about it. I have been sitting twice a day in preparation for a week long retreat in August. I'm in training, like a marathon runner (well maybe a slightly slacker marathon runner, the bald guy at the back of the pack). My body needs this extra sitting, my mind needs this.
As I sit a little longer and more often I have been noticing all the subtle ways and places I hold tension and how good it feels to find those spots and let them go. I am seeing strongly, how the mind doesn't settle with ease if there is no ease in the body, how the body tenses when the mind starts reciting the list of things to do. I think this can't be repeated too often. The mind/ body, which practice shows us, are really a single unit, has somehow in our modern world been divided into two separate things (did I miss a divorce in People magazine?). Where did this separation come from? "I think therefore I am?" Did this leave the body out of the equation of being?
This relaxing of the body has become a big part of my sitting. I have been doing a form of qi gong meditation for part of the time when I sit, which is really just concentrating or focusing on the hara (the area just below the navel). In doing this I am reminded so much of how we don't make anything happen. We focus and then when the qi or energy becomes strong enough it moves. WE are not doing. We are simply being.
Another part of my practice, as always, involves chipping away at my "karmic" or habitual stuff, the stuff we come here with, the personal stuff that we each have. This is such an important part of practice for me, to work with your personal stuff in a way that helps loosen it and if we're lucky release. Sometimes we have to go about this in different ways. And mostly it is hard even to see our own patterns and foibles; easy to see that of others. And the karmic stuff of others is their business, not ours. But that's another topic entirely.
I have been chipping away at my mountain of stuff (can I sell this stuff anywhere, maybe on ebay?) I have got the loader and the backhoe out and I am surveying "my stuff" from a totally different angle, using some Shamanic journeying, (okay so no bulldozers were involved). It's the same stuff (sigh), just seeing it from a different angle. It lends new perspectives and new tools for the chipping away process. It is this chipping away and releasing of our karmic patterns that will ultimately help us to see more clearly and release us from suffering.
Many monks when they have their "kenshos" or awakening experiences have past life rememberings. Shamanic journeying can help us relate to some of what is unseen in a similar way. Although again we must be careful not to "want" too much, or delude ourselves. As always on the path, we must proceed with caution and attend to what niggles.
And so I have been working away at those inclinations to retreat, working with fear, approaching it in different ways (like training a wild animal?), by doing some body work, by being willing to see what catches me, in a non judgmental way. I am learning to be comfortable in my own skin. In my Shamanic work it has been expressed as "hiding" which is just another way to say we feel uncomfortable exposing and being who we are. While some might see this as navel gazing, I believe it is an essential part of the inner journey. I don't think we can blast through it all by our will and simply extended sitting. What are your practices for working with your "personal" stuff? And have you had any success selling it on ebay?
Buddhism & Art...if I had to pick two words that give an overview of what I get up to in this world those would be my choices. Buddhism is the ground upon which I rest all else. I like to think it brings me some sanity. It helps me think in some logical way about what I am doing and look at it as deeply as possible. What did I just do? Why ? What's that all about? ...To try and look at my life without sliding over things or fooling myself...To be present for life, not rejecting or preferring one experience over another. Buddhist practice makes my life full and rich, sometimes filled with joy and sometimes with a deep experience of the suffering present in this world.
After all those words does it seem odd to say that it is the simplicity of Zen that appeals to me? This inclination to simplicity pulls me to try and integrate my practice and work, to paint Buddhas, to observe my process as I work.
I am drawn to mixed media, integrating script and words with images and colour.