Sunday, December 29, 2013

Where Are All the Imps & Mischievous Ones?

Being The Pink Dog of Happiness
I have something serious to talk to you about. It's been up on my radar for a bit.  Yesterday I began a conversation with myself about it and then I continued the conversation today with my daughter.  I realized it's a seldom discussed subject and perhaps we are all really starved for it. Before you peek at the next sentence, can you guess what it is?  If this were a card I'd have a little bit of paper covering the word but I can't do that here. Hopefully your crafty eyes have not darted ahead and you have filled in your own special word about what you think we all need more of in our lives and are not really getting.

I've been thinking about fun. Fun and lightness, lightheartedness, and my personal favourites foolishness, perhaps even impishness.  Where are the imps and mischievous ones these days?  It seems to me what our culture often sells us as fun is merely escapism and indulgence. Not to say that a movie or a novel, a dish of ice cream or a new toy can't be fun.  But at the end of the day how does it make you feel, that's the question I've been asking myself.  Do I feel nourished and restored or do I just need more? Do I feel joyful and revived or a little dirty?  Am I  on the prowl for something else? Or do I feel a little used and empty after that last new sweater or the eggnog latte?  Those are the the little elf questions that have been popping up and asking me to look at the details that make up my life.

An ocean of fun at Tofino, BC

Our culture is so busy convincing us of all the things we need to have and do to have fun, messing with our heads and hearts in sly marketing kinds of ways.  Just today as I waited to watch a Ustream teaching, a kindle advert told me that if I liked to read, I'd want the new kindle. It showed me happy pictures of young women with cats on their laps, cozy sleeping partners nestled beside them.  Surely my life would be more fun with a kindle?  And if I didn't buy a new kindle was the implication, I didn't like to read? Fun it seems has been hijacked, kidnapped, gagged and tied by the advertising industry, made into a thing, a lifestyle.  They have sucked all the life out of fun and put a price tag on it (whoops, that little rant was no fun was it?) Note to self, the truth is not always fun. Back to fun.  Are we having any yet?

When I took the awakening joy course, James Baraz asked people to do things that were fun for them.  Hmmm, a lot of us had to stop and think about that.  How do I have fun?  What do I regard as fun? Do you have some fun everyday?  I think often I am so busy getting done what needs to be taken care of, that I forget about fun.  I often choose work.  I like to cross those things off my to do list and fun isn't on it.  I have even watched myself doing things that I think should be fun and realized for whatever reason, that I'm not really having fun, I'm not fully engaged.  I'm half there, watching myself, watching others.  I might be noticing petty annoyances (it's cold out) or thinking about the next thing I have to do.

Fun Spots Tofino BC

I once heard a yoga teacher make an interesting comment.  She said something like, "I pretty much resist everything, except lying on the couch drinking a latte."  And I could identify with that!  I could see how I look forward to things until it's time to do them and then by some strange twist of mind, I'd rather stay home or do something else.  I read some research a while ago that made me realize I'm not alone.  People expressed the most happiness when "planning a vacation".  Not actually taking the vacation, but planning it was the fun part.  Hmmm.

So I realized a couple of things.  Culturally fun isn't valued for adults.  And many of us don't really know what is truly fun for us, what feeds us and nourishes us.  I'm not talking about fun substitutes, you know the tofurkey of fun, nope I'm talking about the meaty, luscious, drippy stuff that makes us smile from the inside out, leaves us feeling full and satisfied, corners of the mouth turned upwards.  And to find that thing we have to be like the Sherlock Holmes of fun, snooping around for signs, just the smallest ones, for those mid afternoon shafts of sunlight across the floor, the handful of paint chips we surreptitiously collected at the hardware store for no reason at all other that we like those colours.
A little Buddha 6"x6"

The more I explored the idea of fun, the more I realized that like so many things, it was an attitude of mind, something that comes from the inside and radiates out, not the other way around.  If you spend time with children, you probably know about fun.  They don't need much, a couple of fingers to turn into a spider, a cardboard box that becomes a house.  Fun is everywhere if you know "how" to find it.

You know how people pick words that they want to focus on for the next year, important words, weighty, thoughtful words like silence and love.  I've never been very successful with that. My words usually crinkle up and dry out by the first week of January.  Some years I find them all mouldy and sour under the couch.  But maybe FUN could be my word for 2014.  Maybe at the end of 2014 if I explored fun with enough gusto I'll have a great big freeway of neural pathways with on and off ramps that flash the word "fun" in big neon letters.  Who knows, but it could be fun.  I'll keep you posted.  And if you really want to have a little fun, watch this bonus video below.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Geography of the Art and our Internal Compass

"Geography of the Heart" New Work at Cafe Talia 
It's been a weird couple of weeks in my world: time consuming email crash, got the flu, vacuum stopped working, then pretty much right after I stopped whining a largish painting sold and I got a small art show hung.  As I watched it all unfold and unravel, it was interesting to observe.  Again I was reminded of my preference for things to unfold as "I like". You've heard me talk about this before. Of course you say, who wishes for the flu, who hopes to spend 2 days mopping up after an explosion in  their inbox?  Excellent point. But the subtle thing is the mind's arguing with what is, evidenced by impatience, grumbling, imagining that things should be otherwise.  When the desirable things arrived I could even see the slightly edgy excitement of them, which felt uncomfortable in the body.  There was a subtle background note of the nose sniffing around for more "good stuff" as the "desirable" unfolded.  I could see the imbalance at both ends of the spectrum.

At one point a line from a Zen poem popped into my mind: "the way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose" . Here's the whole poem if you're interested: "Affirming Faith In Mind".  As my mind staggered back to centre I realized I wasn't chicken little and the sky wasn't falling.  This was simply life unfolding as it does and I could do what needed to be done and not terrorize myself with whining, clutching and looking like an embodiment of Edvard Munsch's "The Scream"(perhaps that's a little too dramatic?).  I sometimes forget that it is my railing against what is, rather than the circumstances, that really makes life suck.

Cafe Talia with painting "Continents of the Heart"
It reminds me of a teaching story about a farmer who lets his old horse loose and it runs away. The villagers say, "that's too bad."  The farmer says, "who knows?"  The next day the old horse returns followed by a beautiful wild stallion.  The villagers say, "that's wonderful, now you have 2 horses."  The farmer says, "who knows?" The story continues.  Here's the link to the full story but I know you're getting the gist of the story: "how do we know what's good or bad, really?"  And for me this is such a good reminder of how small our focus is.  How do we really know?  The most helpful position is to simply be with what is and take the next step that needs to be taken.

The Density of Air 12"x24"

 I have been reading some interesting stuff by a German doctor named Rudiger Dahlke who talks about the fact that the human mind is so drawn to divide things up into light an dark and wanted and unwanted.  Even our word de-cision means to cut in two.  He warns about chasing "the light" and how one side of a pair is likely to draw in it's opposite, in it's attempt to seek balance.  Harmony and balance are what create health.

Crossing The Fields in Winter

Dahlke has an interesting view of illness.  He says our illnesses are in fact messages from our bodies about imbalances or things that are missing in our lives  that we have consciously rejected or ignored.  Our symptoms are telling us we need to deal with these things.  I find this so interesting.  Of course the trick in this is to hear the message accurately.  I think part of why I find this so interesting is that it feeds into this duality of picking and choosing, of liking and not liking what comes up in our lives.

peeking in the door at Cafe Talia

I will end with a quote about "Geography of the Heart" that I used in my artists statement at Cafe Talia:

“... Setting the compass of our heart, no matter how rough the storms, how difficult the terrain, even if we have to back track around obstacles, our direction is clear.”
- Jack Kornfield