What is a life? This mysterious thing we possess, given to us without asking, without instructions. This quivering mass of flesh cast into a place alive with chaos and joy and danger, with it's own momentum, with it's own sweet and terrifying signatures. Do we live it on auto pilot like the one in my gas stove, always lit just a little, burning a low flame?
Where does the journey of our heart meet the road map of the soul? Can I really taste, see, feel? I mean deeply, in some way that passes through this paper thin skin into the deep parts of me that are ready to lap it up, that are waiting to experience the richness and terror of being alive, unprotected, unmitigated, Open.
This thing I call my life seems stitched together by bits of everyday experience: a chance meeting here, a movie, a piece of art, a song, a bar of soap. Occasionally insights bubble up from the deep well of knowing that lives inside me, and I say, ah I see now. Something inside me is ignited and I see motives, and maps and visions of possibility. I see tiny keys to doors locked somewhere deep inside some past me, some future me, some simmering me.
Sometimes I think my heart has been locked inside an armoured car for years and then mysteriously it is set free by a song. Sometimes it seems I can hardly feel anything and then a friend pulls me into a gallery and we understand how strength and vulnerability are interwoven, as we gaze on a sculpted face. Sometimes just when I think I can never really know another being, someone stirs me with a story of how they died on an operating table and came back to life. Sometimes when I'm thinking it is too hard to be alive I am offered a parent's story of navigating the churning waters of a child's addiction without a compass.
Here are the bits that have been flavouring the rich, vital and surprising broth that is my recent life. Tell me what fantastic journeys your life is taking you on these days? We are travelers without a map, following the gulf winds of our hearts. Wishing you a wondrous journey that opens your heart and affords you good passage. And always we know there are no safe passages through the straits and isthmus of an authentic life.
I am smitten by the integrity, purity and commitment to supporting the environment and traditional cultures of the personal care products at Sinfully Wholesome.
I have been gobsmacked and mesmerized by the beauty and serenity of the sculpture of local artist Lynn Demers.
And I have been tantalized by the fermented creations I've been conjuring up in the kitchen: kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickled ginger. Looking forward to making some sourdough and other goodies when I get my copy of Sandor Katz "The Art of Fermentation"
Oh yeah, and there's been some art but that's for next time.
Weather Map of The Heart 12"x12" cold wax on canvas
I have been noticing things, things like how much I want from a moment, just a single innocent moment. When I sit, if I am honest with myself, I see the long slender digits of desire greedily fingering the air. I want this moment to be a certain way. I might want it to make me happy or entertain me, make me feel safe or comfortable or offer me a little drama so that I might escape from the boredom of a grey February morning.
All this wanting and noticing is like what is happening in the kitchen of a fine dining restaurant while you sit out front sipping wine and chatting. But when I sit quietly in the kitchen of my mind, I see how much I try to cook the moment so as to make its flavour just right for me. I am kneading and pulling on each little fibre of now.
I also notice how I am not content to just work the moment but I lean anxiously into the future looking for the next moment or hour to please me, seeing what I might wring from the day. If we are honest we can notice how much we "want" without pause: how we want things to be easy or simple or sweet, people to cooperate with and like us, how it would be nice to get some good news or a special treat. Fill in the blanks. And with all the wanting I notice what it stirs: agitation, busy mind, nervous energy. I notice all these underlying weather patterns of my heart and mind when I am quiet. If I weren't sitting in meditation they would simply form the ground which the day travels over.
All this noticing reminds me to stop, to take a breath and just be. I remember how pleasant it is to just be right here, right now, without wanting. And I notice how hard this is, how the momentum of habit has hardwired wanting into my brain. I notice how much energy is preserved, even cultivated in this state of not wanting, how my heart sighs in relief when I am simply with life as it is. I notice the startling and mysterious sound of rain drops plopping into the pond as I make my way around the shore. I am gobsmacked by the chartruesey greenness of the moss on the roof.
As I did a drawing exercise from my Frederick Franck book the other evening I notice how hard it is to really see. As I drew a small fallen leaf from my indoor ficus tree, I notice how my mind jumped ahead to fill in the lines with how it imagined the leaf looked. I noticed how hard it was to slow down and simply see, to let the hand follow the eye. The mind is such an impatient, bossy creature!
So in between noticing things, I have been making my own cold wax with gamsol and beeswax. It smells divine, sweet like the beeswax (even though the gamsol is a petroleum based product). This seems much more do-able for me than the orange oil solvent which was a natural product, but intensely smelly. Turpentine is a natural product and also intensely smelly.
I have been doing an online course with Eric Maisel which is essentially coaching for artists. I am liking it a lot. It deals in this lovely straight forward way with how to actually get down to work, how to deal with some of the unhelpful self talk that can surround the creative process and lots of helpful info on working with stress and anxiety and thoughts about marketing.
I have been listening to the World Tapping Summit! Have you heard of tapping or EFT. It uses meridian points (as in acupuncture) paired with some statements around things that might be issues for us; health issues, emotional issues. I am finding it really interesting and it feels like there's something to it.
And thanks to Eric Maisel I have actually been painting everyday, first thing in the morning that's the trick. I have some coffee, do my qi gong, make my juice and go off to paint for a while. January has flown by and now February is blasting through. I hope your winter days are rich and filled with inner and outer adventure! Where has this new year carried you off to?
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.