Monday, September 18, 2017

Life/Art









                                    Portrait/LPC
Art, to be fully appreciated, must be true to contemporaneous life. It is not that we should ignore the claims of posterity, but that we should seek to enjoy the present more. It is not that we should disregard the creations of the past, but that we should try and assimilate them into our consciousness. Slavish conformity to traditions and formulas fetters the expression of individuality…
There should be a dynamic nature to one’s philosophy, which places more stress on the process through which perfection is sought rather than the attainment of perfection itself. True beauty lies in the incomplete. It is left for each individual to complete the picture and, in so doing, obtain true beauty, a beauty which is as unique as each individual. The virility of life and art lay in its possibilities for growth, not in achievement. It is the expression of each individual’s imagination which is to be sought, not the conformity of things symmetrical, which suggests completion or worse repetition. Uniformity of design in life and art proves fatal to the freshness of imagination.


Monday, August 7, 2017

SANGHA

Meyerowitz/Barrett Studio/Tuscany 5/17
sangha |ˈsäNG(ɡ)ə|
noun
the Buddhist community of monks, nuns, novices, and laity.

         Interesting word Sangha. A place to take refuge along with the Buddha and the Dharma. Of course, I might ask, “A refuge from what?” It could be the day to day, the repetitive grind of daily life, a place to seek something greater, aspire to something more meaningful than questions about the weather, It is a community, which by definition puts me in the company of others; not just any others, but like minded others, who are seeking something also. People who I can relate to and be sustained by in my common desire to be happier. In the AA world it is called “the fellowship.”
So much of my time is spent in quiet communion with myself. Here is the place where I have tried to figure things out; at times thinking there is something wrong with me if I can’t. Culturally, there have been countless efforts for me to develop a can do attitude; some sort of resilience necessary to contend with life in the big city. Asking for help…a sign of weakness, admitting I don’t know…the same. To surrender with the admission that I  do need help and that I truly don’t know is the first step towards the wisdom I’ve been seeking. I might not even appreciate that I’m seeking this, but the futility of my previous efforts to find a lasting happiness inevitably leads me to a place that is often described as: sick and tired of being sick and tired or more simply…just unhappy. With all the past habits so deeply engrained, it is going to require a whole lot of heavy lifting to extricate myself from the safe, comfortable, familiar, habitual life I’ve been leading. Change is not something I’ve found comfort in and the fear of change is more than a bit daunting. Just what might this change entail, actually be? To begin with it requires an ability to say I’m my our own problem. It has always been more comfortable to blame others or circumstances for my unhappiness, but the cause has never been anything other than myself. Admission of this will be the first and perhaps the most crucial realization I will make to begin the process of awakening, being reborn, reunited with myself, reacquainted with the child like curiosity that was such a great teacher. Who amongst us has the courage to say we are our own problem? Who amongst us will have the willingness to look for the answers? Who amongst us will possess an open-minded effort to begin the process of recovery from what is keeping us from attaining true peace and happiness? Let each of us say, “I am.” Bingo and the door opens. Not far perhaps, but far enough to allow a crack of light in and a tiny glimpse of something other than what we’ve been used to seeing. What does this crack of light reveal? What is it that we are getting a tiny glimpse of? For all our efforts to dispel the truth of it, it is a power greater. I have, for the first time in a very, very long time, seen and felt the stirrings of hopefulness as realized through the admission of defeat. And, if I’ve been defeated well enough (and the more defeated the better) I will reach for that light as if for a life preserver and sense a small taste of gratitude that it exists and I might not just keep sinking if I hold on. But hold on to what? A power greater than myself is what. A power much greater than the little me, myself and I. A power which, at a minimum, can best be described as We. We can do this together. We are far better equipped to figure these things out if we ask for help and are willing to say, “I don’t know.” A power greater need not be some murky deity or a super human being, a god or a goddess with which we have to come to believe in before proceeding.
This is a common roadblock well worth taking a big detour around. Fortunately, there is a well trodden path to follow here. It is called the Sangha in Buddhist teachings and the fellowship in the world of Alcoholics Anonymous. But let us dispense with labels and fully embrace the idea that what is at the heart of any of these descriptions is…more human interaction. Not super human, which leads to debate and sadly in most places in the world, conflict, but rather just the ordinary beauty of being human and growing in a full appreciation that other humans have achieved something called happy, joyous and free by following this path, this way, this thing which cannot be named, but can be most accurately referred to as a power greater than self. A power, which is in full view each and every day as I watch those struggling alone vs. those asking for and receiving help.
The more I’m willing to see this power at work, the more likely I will be to seek its benefits. How could it be otherwise? With little more effort, it is not such a leap to turn myself over to the care of it, while at the same time grow to understand that my active participation is a necessary ingredient. I am not passively surrendering, I’m actively reaching out with a hand that is asking for help. And, whose hand am I  reaching out for?  I’m reaching out to the hand of those who have gone before me. To the hand of those who have more experience than I do. To the hand of wisdom that has been where I’ve been and has achieved what I want. Not what I need (although I do need it), but more importantly, what I genuinely want. For if there is still a remnant of self will, a small amount of doubt, a lack of willingness to turn a new corner, then I will undermine the very thing I’ve been looking for all along and have failed miserably to find and that is something called happiness. I must know intuitively that whatever habits or old patterns of being I’ve employed haven’t worked, while at the same time fully appreciating the need for change. And, this change I seek, because I genuinely want it, can be found in the Sangha or fellowship of like-minded souls, whom I can both relate to and revel in, due to our common goal. A goal, which originally takes the form of an end to suffering, grows into a goal of something called happy, joyous and free and fully blossoms into and culminates with a life’s purpose of being of benefit to others. And, through the last of these, I’ve seen the beauty of the circle which is continually strengthened, first by protecting myself, next by protecting others and then experiencing the true gift of doing so, which I happily find is: the more I benefit others, the more I benefit myself. But, let me not forget that it starts with self- protection. I’m ill equipped to be of service without firstly achieving a safe harbor for myself. This harbor has a name. It is the Sangha/the fellowship. Finding this place is where I will develop an enlightened state of being or consciousness of the unity in all things; a great departure from where I’ve come from, which was a place of separateness and isolation from others.

                          --LPC 2/13/17

The Sketch

LPC 5/17
People say, “It is only a sketch.” It takes the genius of a real artist to make a good sketch, to express the most important things in life, the fairness of a face, to represent air and light and to do it all with such simple shorthand means. One must have wit to make a sketch. Pictures that have had months of labor expended on them may be more incomplete than a sketch.
                                                                            --Robert Henri

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Everyday Sublime



                Villa des Amis 8/4/2017 LPC
When one tugs at a single thing in Nature,                                     
He finds it attached to the rest of the world.  
--John Muir    
                                                                                    
Good snowflakes. They don’t fall anywhere else.                                                                                                 --Layman Pang                             
The mystical is not how the world is, but what it is.                                                                                      --Ludwig Wittgenstein
Meditation originates and culminates in the everyday sublime. Meditation is about embracing what is happening in this moment. I do not reject the experience of the mystical. I reject only the view that the mystical is concealed behind what is merely apparent, that it is anything other than what is occurring in time and space right now. It is the ongoing cultivation of a sensibility. It is a way of attending and intending to cultivate an understanding of experience within a framework of ethical values and goals. As a sensibility it enables me to cultivate this understanding of my moment-to-moment experiences. It is developing a perspective that engenders another kind of response to what is happening, not to me, but is just happening. It begins with my breath, my primordial relationship to the fabric of the world in which I live. It lifts me out of reactivity and into just seeing, knowing even. To dwell in concentration through mindfulness of breathing is to dwell in a noble place, a sacred place, a place within the primary rhythms of the body that link me seamlessly to the universe or, as Muir said, “When one tugs at a single thing in Nature. He finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  This sacred place is not found in a transcendent realm beyond oneself or the world; it is disclosed here and now. This sacred dimension of experience opens up as I let go of the constrictive, obsessive concern with “me” and “mine.” This sacred dimension is excessive and is not manageable. It pours forth relentlessly, voluptuously and evaporates when I reach out to seize and control it. This sacred place, dwelling, dimension is better known as loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. Focusing on my breath not only grounds me in the rhythm of life, it also allows me to feel and relate to everything else that is alive and breathing; experiencing the Oneness, the interconnectivity, the interdependence with not only all that breathes, but all that is. Of course, I have to guard against thinking that the breath is “mine.” After all, it is not “me” that is breathing. This process happens with or without my conscious awareness, with or without my attending to it. I have to act as a disinterested observer and then I can catch the body in the act of inhaling and exhaling of its own accord. It is then with insight that I might ask, “Who is breathing?” It is here in this moment of realization that I am able to feel an awed participation in and indebtedness to life itself.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

When I was a child I loved and craved bacon and I could never get enough. There was always a father, mother, brother and two sisters to share it with, and I thought, “When I’m old like my parents, I’ll have all the bacon I want, and then I’ll be happy.” Then I could have as much bacon as I wanted and I did. I remember going out shopping for food and buying a package of bacon and cooking the whole package of bacon during my first week of living in an apartment in Long Beach, California. Initially, this was very satisfying, but my happiness didn’t last very long and I quit doing it.  So then I decide that since this doesn’t make me happy I’ll get a car, a house, a television, a wife and then I’ll be happy. So now I have everything, but there are more problems: The car is a problem, the house is a problem, the wife is a problem, the children are a problem. I realized, Oh, this is not satisfaction. This is not happiness.
Then I started reading more about the subject of happiness and attended some lectures by Buddhist teachers on happiness. What I learned was that I only had to know what I am, how I exist; that’s all. Kind of like developing self awareness in the 12 step program where I learned about self examination. With the simple goal of just looking at my own mind: how it works, how attachment and desire arise, how ignorance arises, where my emotions were coming from, what my part in things was. It became sufficient to know just these things. My life changed completely. Everything got turned upside down. What I’d interpreted as bad became good. So now I just try and watch my mind; see how it perceives or interprets things right now: how I feel and what that feeling is—comfortable or uncomfortable. When I find a level of dissatisfaction I try and immediately identify the source of it. This points me in the direction of next right actions. I couple this with right views, right speech and right intentions along with an ever developing level of right awareness. Most simply put what I’m doing is checking my mind, which is my greatest asset and can be my biggest adversary. 
I still like bacon, but the craving has diminished. 
                                        LPC 7-12-17

Friday, July 7, 2017


They have no final essence
Ephemeral
Carefree
Like butterflies
darting here and there
Threatening
Like piercing eyes
and a clenched fist
They can be a source of
great joy or harm.
Vessels of love.
Bullets of hurt.
They hold no ultimate power
or meaning.
Yet, if allowed,
do both.
They can be remembered
as something real or
   forgotten as they are not.
They infect and affect my mind.   
Are illusionary
in delusional
and illusionary ways.
Ultimately, not to be trusted
      For their ability to be
      Misinterpreted.