Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why are you going? A reflection on Standing Rock.

A dear friend in Berkeley sent me Facebook message one evening saying that she felt called to go stand with the water protectors at Standing Rock and did I want to go with her.  No was never really going to be the answer, but I definitely had to think about what I was agreeing to do. After several meetings and a week of prep – including research, prayer, mediation, meetings, and just trying to discern my role and reason for showing up there, I left on election night with a group of six friends to go to the Ocheti Sakowin Camp on the bank of the Cannonball River just outside of the Lakota Sioux Reservation at Standing Rock.

I have a deck of cards on my alter that a friend of mine in Georgia gave me thirteen or fourteen years ago. It has images of the Buddha from all over the world and from many lineages.  I pulled a card from that deck for our trip.  I pulled the only card that has no image.  It has this word, sammasati, which means remember.  This is a portion of the dharma that goes with this word:  “The last words of Gautam Buddha were sammasati-“remember.” In a single word, everything significant is contained. Sammasati. Remember what is your inner space. Just remember. . . Just for a few seconds sit down with closed eyes to remember, to make a note of where you have been, to what depth you have been able to reach:  what is the taste of silence, peace?  What is the taste of disappearing into the ultimate?  Look in. And whenever you have time, you know the path.  Just go again and again to the inner space so that your fear of disappearing is dropped, and you start remembering the forgotten language.  Sammasati. 

There is an exercise in Buddhist mediation practice where two people sit together. One person simply asks the same question over and over and the other answers it each time it is asked.  The dyad is designed to pull the questioner into deep listening and compassion. The person answering is exploring more deeply the complexity of feeling and experiences of what is being asked. Standing Rock felt to me like the call of this questioner and I was the one trying to answer.  I was asked over and over during the prep to go and during my time in Standing Rock – why are you going?  Why are you going? Why are you here? What is your intention? Why are you here? What are you doing here? The answers are an ever-evolving response.

Why are you going?
A friend asked me to go.
To help.  NOPE! To be in solidarity. To see my settler language and to try and decolonize my responses.
To lament.
To be with other queer people.
To show up.
Why are you going?
To learn.
To pray.
To meditate.
To ride in a van for sixty plus hours with people I love.
To NOT get arrested.
To make phone calls, send texts, to check Facebook.
Why are you here?
To hear the wind.
To follow the water.
To sit on the ground.
To smell like campfire smoke.
To pound in tent stakes.
To hold my breath.
To wait.
Why are you here?
To chop onions.
To paint banners.
To connect to bosses, partners, friends, chosen family, moms
To meditate.
To be in ceremony.
Why are you here?
To talk to a Buddhist monk at the sacred fire.
To stand for the first half of the pipe ceremony with the women and for the second half with the men.
To hear the elders call for Two Spirit Nation to take their place at the water ceremony.
To smell sage.
To cry.
To have no words.
To watch the super moon outshine the floodlights over the pipeline
Why are you here?
To not know.
To not understand.
To hold stories and songs in my heart that were a gift to hear and to know that they are NOT my gift to give.
Why are you here?
To learn that Two Spirit is not just a beautiful way of saying LBGTQ.
To NOT see burned out cars, barricades, or militarized police.
To see community.
To see peace  - not to bring it.
To join prayers – not to create them.
To live into story – not narrate it.
To learn from elders and follow their lead
            Zubian, a two spirit elder, said to me:  “ I have been transformed before. Others are here for that transformation.”  He was speaking of a young woman who had pulled him out of the way of a speeding truck meant to hit him and stop him from praying at a direct action. But it was clear he meant more than just her.
Why did you go?
To follow the water.
To sleep on the ground, listening to the calls of prayer, and drums, and drones, and helicopters, and wind, and flags.
Why did you go?
To shout Mni Wiconi and mean it.
Why did you go?
To protect.
To have hope.
To be surprised.
To remember.

 The Army Corp of Engineers denied the pipeline permit, but the energy companies do not care. They are preparing to drill under the Missouri River even though it is illegal for them to do so. The thousands of protectors and the $50,000 per day in fines are not enough to make them feel that they should obey the law.  They are the ones not following law or treaty. Not one time in U.S. history has our government actually followed through with the promises made to the indigenous peoples here.  Again and again they take. There is plenty of work still to be done and water protectors at Standing Rock are now dealing with the harshness of winter.  There are places where you can donate funds and winter supplies to support the work of the protectors. Those places are not hard to find. Please do all that you can for people who feel that it is their sacred duty to pray and protect the water. And Pray for them. Pray for our government. Pray for the militarized police and DAPL workers.  Pray for goodness and change of heart. Pray for hope. That is what the protectors are doing.  Commune with the holy in the ways that work best for you. Do it for yourself. Do it for others. We are all wanted and needed in these testing times. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

grieving for the world

Some days I don't know what to do with the things that I see happening in the world.  Actually I feel that way most days if I'm honest.  Often I accuse myself of having no feelings about these things. I think it is actually the battle of having so many.  As an artist, there is some call to see and find beauty in the world. But in the face of so much loss, what does it mean to be an artist?  This is a question that I find myself asking as I now walking through my first semester of seminary.  

Today there are bigger questions.  
What does it mean to live in this world right now? 
What does it mean to be a spiritual person right now? 
What does it mean about creating right now? 

What does it mean to be a witness? 

Today in my artist journal, I practice drawing mouths because so many voices are now silent.
Today I practice drawing eyes, because so many are, looking for answers, blinded by pain and prejudice, and closed in death. 
Today I practice drawing ears as a prayer for deep listening and compassion. 
Today I will try and draw hands - the hardest feature - because they are so 
essential, so needed.  

I think about our need just to grieve, that is so dishonored and policed in our culture.  "Move on." "Let it go." "Things happen for a reason."  All platitudes that diminish that grief is alive and ever present, and a part of what makes us human. 

And so for the 115,000 people whom we were allowed to know lost their lives to violence and natural disasters on Friday, I write and share these words:

there is no need
to split our grief

bodies are on the ground.
ashes are on fingertips,
in breaths.
a long and repeated
blue flashing

around cities
and lines
around barricades
and bullets,

no need
to split
our grief
because outlines
of countries
because edges
of whiteness
because molds
of a necessary blame

no need to split
our grief
as if the shapes
of pupils,
ear lobes,
nostrils and lips,
browns -  all the browns - 
draw some
mourning as
less important.

no need to split grief.

no contour drawings
around sadness.
no borders around spirits.
lifting up has only the sky
to stop it.

no need but to grieve.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Art. Autonomy. Whoa.

Today I was thinking about the notion of autonomy.  I have fought for a long time the idea that other people know me better than I know myself. I have had this phrase said to me more often that I care to remember. I have also butted up against the idea that someone outside of myself understands what my spiritual life is meant to be and what works for me. People from all sorts of religious traditions want to tell other people the world over that their way is the only way to understand and connect with God.  I was very skeptical of this as a young person but didn't have tons of opportunity to explore this idea.  I also now believe that I was on the path intended for me at the time.  It's part of what makes me who I am now.  I also know that a traditional spiritual path isn't the one that I'm walking, but that I'm not doing this particular journey alone.

Autonomy in this regard is something I'm still learning, seeking, discerning. Maybe I will be my entire life.  That seems okay to me.   In my spiritual life it means that I get to walk in partnership with my higher power and discern what is a better path for myself. It means that if I'm paying attention, that things happen to direct me.  And also when I'm lucky enough to trip over the obvious things that are given to me like gifts because I wasn't able to pay attention.  I have spiritual ADD, so I often ask my HP for guidance and to please please make it obvious.  The Divine Artist often accommodates that request.  I guess if I'm still missing stuff it's because I'm truly walking around as Buddhists describe as being a sleep walker.   I'll own it. I enjoy a good delusion.  And a good fantasy. I think it's part of my job as an artist to appreciate those two things. But it's really hard not to get trapped there.

I think autonomy has something to do with this.  Being willing to be present to what resonates with me, and acting on that, wakes me up a little more. It snaps me out of that spiritual ADD into some focus, even if it's just a few minutes. I find in those moments that I'm given gifts. I'm given the gift a quiet mind.  Somewhere I learned that I can't be alive without a running commentary in my head. Narrative, my friends, is everything.  Well... nope.  It's so nice when it stops.  When the stories I tell myself stop, the things around me seem to be in sharper focus, the air smells cleaner, whatever I'm doing seems more real, more connected to my body and to my spirit, and the ever appalling self-judgement and judgment of others shuts off.  It's like leaving a loud, crowded heavy metal concert and walking out into the quiet of an evening at the beach.

In 12 Step programs, coming to terms with ideas of higher power include spiritual awakenings of one form or another.  The Big Book talks about folks who have those on the road to Damascus type experiences, where the addict sees the light of Spirit, falls to their knees,  and never takes a drink again.  But even the book owns that "most of us" get spiritual awakenings of the educational variety.  In my head, that means it takes a village - awakening through experience, through other people, through acts of service, through trials, and through good times.  This makes sense.  I have had a few small whamo! type spiritual experiences in my life.  And I feel like I have had many of the educational variety.

I remember coming to terms with the fact that I saw religion and spirituality as two very different things when I was in early high school.  I said this to someone (one of my mom's friends) early after I had embraced it, and she looked at me totally baffled and said "What do you mean?" I thought I had just figured out what everyone else knew.  It hadn't occurred to me that this would be news to anyone.  Not that I'm trying to say I was having an original thought. I was just shocked that other people in my life seemed not to be thinking about this. Why weren't other people wondering about it in a place where a basic intro goes:   "And you are? And your daddy is? And what church do you go to?"  This thought process is one of the things that lead to the first college class I ever signed up for being World Religions.

 I read something recently that added a new layer to this idea.  I'm currently reading Awakening to the Sacred by Lama Surya Das.  In this book, he talks about the spiritual versus religiosity. He also draws a distinction between mysticism and enlightenment. Frankly, I didn't think they were the same thing, but honestly I didn't think that they operated without one another.  I love that I was wrong about this.  His explanation is that the mystical is the awareness of the higher self, the Buddha self, Spirit, whatever you want to call it.  He says that it's connectedness and awareness only.  A mystical experience doesn't have to be enlightening. Awareness can just be for the importance of awareness; it doesn't have to bring any further understanding.   He also said that something that is especially enlightening doesn't necessarily have a mystical component. Understanding and awareness, i.e. awakened connectedness, are not inextricably linked. Um. Whoa. 

I think this actually explains why sometimes visual artists don't have words to go with what they have created. I got told in art school that if you don't know what you made and why you were making it you are copping out.  I believed that even though it didn't quite resonate.  And it kept me from making things for the pure joy of making.  See, there I was again, not trusting my own sense of self.  But again, that's part of learning too:  Try it on, see how it fits, wear it to sleep in because it's so awesome or stick it back on the rack and keep looking.  I still struggle with this idea actually but I'm making strides in showing up to the camera, the sketchbook, and to the easel. without that aforementioned heavy metal concert coming along to steal the show. And so, now I have a different feeling when I have a friend who can sometimes better articulate what I've drawn that I can.  It's her view, but often she understands what I was doing at the time.  The process of making work that I'm really following is like singing. It feels like singing feels to me - connected, filled with emotion, in the flow. I don't always have words once I'm out of that space. Art-making can be a mystical experience. It can be an incredibly enlightening experience.  And it can be both.  Again. Whoa.  It's the mystical ones that I struggle to explain.  They simply felt right when I was making them. And it is an embracing of autonomy that lets me admit that now.

One of my awesome artist sponsors and I had a discussion about artistic process and faith.  He is a painter and has this amazing sense of being and staying in that flow of creation from some higher place. He describes this as having the time of being connected with his higher self and with the spirit realm. Things are coming to him faster than he can articulate even in thought, so it comes out as a painting. And the moment between "oh! I should make that" and taking the step to make it, is this profound silence.  The silent thunder is what he calls it. Because it's in that moment that the art work is really born. The artist takes the leap of faith to pick up their medium and make it happen.  I remember him telling me something similar to this nearly a year earlier. I didn't have the faintest idea what he was talking about.  But now that I've been actively walking my spiritual path, I understood this better. I know that for me that connecting to the flow is quick. I don't dwell there in a way that I recognize and can actively dip into like he does. It just happens and passes.  But when I have my camera/phone in my hand, that is what photography is for me. When I think too hard, my pictures look like I was over thinking them.  But if I show up and just listen before I click, happy things happen.

Another thought on autonomy is that the art world and western culture especially loves the notion of the original. It isn't great if it isn't new and hasn't been done before. That's a tough demand. Eastern culture, especially Eastern art training starts with a attention to the traditional.  There is honor in doing what has been done before.  And then you can take that and reflect your own experience in it. I think art education in the states values what has come before and wants students to see the greatness in those from before. But often it comes in the form of a warning:  this has been done before.  Or a criticism: that is derivative. And so it dangerous to dance with the fact that what has been said and done before can still be profound on repeat. Allowing myself to stand in the same spot with 50 other tourists at the Grand Canyon with all of us taking pictures of the same thing doesn't take away from the fact that making that picture was, for me, a profound moment.  What is lovely is that I get to be a part of other people having an experience like mine but also all their own - a separate experience profoundly shared.  I think spiritual experiences work like this too. Enlightenment and mystical experiences some times feel to me like the most profound DUH!. But the key is being profound not the uniqueness of whatever it is.  The profundity lies in the newness to me and the shared experience that I can now have with others because of it.

I'm working on a body of work that comes out of meditative places with both photography and drawing. I have a sketchbook ap on my phone that I love. And this fancy stylus I bought in the San Francisco Airport in February.  This body of work started when I went to a conference exploring the intersectionality of art, activism and spirituality called Be/Art/Now at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.  This is definitely an intersection of spirituality and art for me. I make these drawings often in meetings. That is the closest thing that I have to church (other than being in my studio).  This work connects me when my pen meets the page and often a photograph.  When I'm making this work, I connect to mind, body and spirit more, and consequently, also connect more radically with the people around me and with what is read and being shared.

After asking you to read such a long post, I thought I would share a little bit of this work with you.
This work is called spiritual [precision]. The photos, brushwork and pencil work were all done on my iPhone.

"The soul never thinks without an image."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

looking up

I've been thinking a lot about the nature of the divine, about mysticism, about religion, about spirituality, and about what if anything any of that means.  I recognize that I carry my own internal definitions of these things not just based on study but also based on experience and other influences.  Maybe my understanding has some connect to what is accepted as a good understanding.  But really I think personal definitions, especially around the spiritual, carry more weight - at least in my day to day attempts and living my path.

I spent a lot of time in the fall delving into steps 1, 2 and 3 of my Twelve Step life.  For anyone reading who isn't familiar with these, they look like this:
1. We admitted we were powerless over ___________ (insert addiction, people, institutions, ideas, etc).  - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn out will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Of course the Christian roots here are obvious in the language of God and Him. But the key to the three in my mind is looking to a power outside of myself that is bigger than me and is of my own understanding.  That's huge.  I was told what I should think God is and what God should do by people in my life and the religious institutions I participated in growing up.  I still had my own ideas. I feared them when they seem to stray too far from what I was being told, but I still had them.  As a part of working the steps, I get a safe place to explore those ideas and work out what makes sense to me and what actually works for me spiritually.

I am lucky enough to have three sponsors, all of whom are artists.  And I have worked with all of them on these steps.  They have all given me artistic gifts, knowledge and a place of working that has helped build my art practice as essential to my spiritual life. I have been exploring the ideas in the above steps through art.

I came to better understanding of what I understand my higher power (HP) to be.  My higher power is the Divine Artist.  It is the unfettered, genderless, kind, and loving energy that connects all living beings and the universe.  It is the intensity of the creative process, the beauty of the rapid change that occurs in that process, the love and faith involved in the process, and the result of it.

But me being me, I wanted a visual I could hold onto. When I think of the divine, where do I look? What do I photograph, draw, paint, make videos of? It was an exploration that was worth the time.  In Dharma Art, the idea isn't really the object that you are creating, but the connection to it, to beauty, and to the mediatative process of making. The object bears it's own evidence and lives it's own life in order to evoke change in the world. It can be a long process or a short one. Photography, I realized for myself, is a spiritual action.

And so photography has been my companion in spiritual seeking in the last 11 years in a way that I didn't realize.  In thinking of what the Divine Artist might look like, I started looking up. The ever shifting skies, the brushstroke-like cloud formations, and feeling of connection and awe accompanying the looking just made sense as the image to capture during this study.  This series of cloud images and appreciation for the beauty that is the Arizona light and sky are the ongoing results.  This is an important and almost daily (depending on if there is enough humidity for clouds, of course) part of my life.  I wanted to share some of those images. I hope they bring joy to you has they have to me.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

in thinking about rain

". . . I have been easy with trees
Too long.
Too familiar with mountains.
Joy has been a habit.
This rain.”
- Jack Gilbert

 I took these a little earlier in our monsoon season-which appears to be earning it's name this year. The rain in the desert is a beautiful and rare thing that is wonderful to be present for, especially with a camera. The rainy season is an oportunity to photography amazing skies even without the rain. The desert in Arizona holds this amazing yellow light before a rain that I'm still trying to capture in a photograph, and that I have never seen any where else.

I have a friend who talked about making images where the rain stops.  He says he gets excited about photographing the rain because suddenly there is the ability to take a million little photos in one - as the drops act as their own  lenses and capture their own worlds.

“Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.” - Vladimir Nabokov

Thursday, July 31, 2014


A goodbye near the George Washington Bridge.

Someone told me once that soul mates come along to us all the time. These people are not just the typical way that that idea gets used. You know that idea: bells ringing, twirling in fields with Julie Andrews singing, and Disney birds exploding around heads due to the powerful pull of romance and love. (Wait, maybe that discloses more about me than anybody else's idea of that concept of soul mate.) But soul mates can be other things to us entirely. Sometimes they come along because they are in our lives to push us (sometimes hard) onto our more intended path.  People come along that we connect to strongly, but their time in our lives is short, their exit is painful, and their influence is long lasting.

My friend Rodger was one of those for me. He walked into my solo show in Truth or Consequences, NM because he had stopped for the night on his way to Texas, and the hotel owner told him about the opening. And so into the gallery walks the tallest man I've have ever met - and beautiful to boot. And as I was to learn over the next week, a man who was also sophisticated, southern, brilliant, charming, arrogant, kind, generous, and in pain.

And then there is who he was to the public. It's interesting that I have friends who are working and wandering their way into being well known, and others who very much are awarded and well known and connected in art, poetry, and other places. Rodger was an author. I have his NPR interview on my laptop. He started the Gay Men's Heath Crisis call center at the start of the AIDS crisis in the 80s. His work has changed the face of health care not only for people living with HIV and dying from AIDS, but for people dying from other diseases and for their care givers as well.  I didn't know this about him when he walked into my opening even though I had read his name in several books and had had my hands on his guide for care givers earlier in my life. But my friend who owned the gallery did. She had known him when she lived in NYC. And their connection was instant. I'm glad that he stayed because of her.  I got to know him because of her.
I talked to my dad the week I was in T or C. He knew who Rodger was because, as it turns out, he was on the season of a reality show - the name currently escapes me - where they follow teams of runners on these really difficult and dangerous runs in amazing places all over the world. Rodger's season had won an Emmy.  My dad thought he was a cool guy just from TV.

I found myself intimidated by him and in awe of the fact he was interested in me and in my work. This was Dec. 2008. I'm not the same person now that I was then. Confidence was not something that I had much of, so I did a lot of listening. I know things about the AIDS crisis now that I try and share with my students when we talk about 80s and 90s art. Those conversations changed my understanding and way of thinking in huge ways. They brought new levels of compassion and a new way of understanding of what happened with the AIDS crisis in my home town (small and southern but still touched by this in big ways) and how to process my middle school experience of it.

And then there are just those little moments that mean more than anyone's reputation or status in the world - those moments that just made him my friend. The emails and FB exchanges (I have yet to unfriend him, delete his email, or erase his number from my phone.) On his visit to Tucson, he greeted my by putting his big hands on my cheeks, bent down and kissing me on the forehead, and said "Hey Sugar, it's good to see you." That visit he also gave  me a copy of Larry Kramer's "The Trouble with Today's Gays" with an essay at the end that he wrote. It was signed. And as he handed it to me, he gave me that big smile and said, "Now. Where's your book, bitch?"

That visit would be the last time I would see him.

And then there was that phone call six months after meeting him saying that he had taken his own life in an isolated spot in the Elephant Butte State Park outside of T or C. At first we didn't know what he had done. But then we learned that he had driven his big black jeep up to an area where people target shoot, had fired a few practice rounds to blend in to the expected, pinned an note on his shirt apologizing for the mess and trauma that he would cause the person who found him, and then he shot himself.

The grief that comes after a suicide is different than any other grief.  It just is. It is profound. It is devastating. It is angry. It is cunning, baffling, and powerful to borrow that phrase. And only other folks who have lost people to suicide really understand. I'm grateful my friends and to the SOS group here in Tucson for helping me wander through this. Especially when there were only two other people in my life who actually knew Rodger.  I grieved with people I only met once. A year later at his memorial service in NYC, I smiled as his best friend dropped his box of ashes on the ground and kicked it. She said, "Now if anyone else wants to cuss at him, here's your chance. Oh and I guess if you have nice things to say, you can do that too." It was utterly fitting.

I tell you all of this to share with you what happened to me after. It is hard for me to admit this in a public form, but here I go. I have an eating disorder that I've struggled with my entire life. Food addiction and the issues that come with that are real and every bit as life stunting and difficult as other addictions. And my way of coping with Rodger's death, and, if I'm honest, grief over a lot of other losses that I chose to stuff and ignore until I could no longer hold it in, was to binge eat and to write and make artwork. Two things came out of that - the first is the pitiful and incomprehisible demoralization that comes with being an addict who has hit bottom, and the second is a poetry manuscript and set of drawings.  The first sent me to a 12 step program that has utterly changed my life for the better and continues to do so. I learned that recovery is possible! The second influenced the work that I made after it for years both visually and written.

And now that body of work is finally going off to find a publisher. It's strange to see this grieving and angsty work after having done so much work to move past it. I had to have this loss to get my butt into the 12 step rooms. I had to have the 12 step rooms to be able to grow and change beyond the sad, angry person that I was five years ago. And it would seem that I had to have Rodger, the 12 steps, and the life I have built since work on me before I was ready to release this work to the life it may have away from my head, my laptop, and the originals in my studio.

So I want to share a little bit from that manuscript with you.

The manuscript is called reciprocity failure. It's dedicated to Rodger McFarlane.

you were there; i heard it

in a radio interview
i heard it
in your laugh

                        in a kitchen
                        next to beets
                        i saw it in your smile

“oh, he knows
he’s  a consummate

                        in the waiting
                        you were there too

dropping pennies

inhaling smoke
from the wall
chewing ice and
bending straws

echoing circular
a truth
                           a drawing
                                                     in the dirt
                                                                        near tire tracks

                                 that aren’t yours
                                 but could be.

my exhale
becomes your inhale
someone else’s

by serendipity
a privilege

and then

an act
          of forceful
                                       bringing chance
                                                                       to its knees

                                                   and mute
                                          and no sleep
                                 and porches
                            in four states

             how many rows
        of gutted
acts of contrition

to the center
of my
pretend ok


And so . . .
Here comes my book, bitch.

A little more about Rodger if you are curious:
And please watch the documentary Outrage if you haven't. It's streamable on Netflix.

Monday, June 30, 2014

important does not mean urgent

I will start with an over share. (Is that redundant in a blog?) 

I talked to my therapist last week about fear of art making. Having that conversation with her provided me with some discernment that I have been lacking. It isn't fear of my inability to make work or fear of making the work that keeps me in what feels like a static place in my studio.  It's about having a sense of urgency in producing, yet needing to take my time because of the impact of the work on me and it's importance to me. She said to me: "Important does not mean urgent." Whoa.

She also said, as we were talking about grad school: "You may need to take time to detox from grad school. Sometimes that takes a lifetime." I laughed. Grad school was wonderful for me. But as I'm walking onto what feels more and more like my intended artistic path, I get what she means. Deadlines for other people need to go. The crushing sense that if I'm not showing every second I'm not successful or at least not showing in  the "right" places or to "important" people then I'm not successful has to go. The idea that if people aren't writing about my work, and it isn't being published somewhere means I'm not successful also has to go.  The idea that the folks I was in grad school to learn from knew everything has to go.  The idea that all of those folks would be key in steering my art career (though some of them truly are), and if they don't value me or my work, that I'm not being successful also has to go.

The reality is that I get to define who is important. I get to figure out what showing and sharing the work means to me. I get to define what success is. And I get to figure out how fast I need to move. Again, whoa.

In True Perception by Chogyam Trungpa, he talks about art working through the Great Eastern Sun principle. He says that this principle is that "Great, East, and Sun are categories of awakening or arising. . .the idea of Great Eastern Sun is to be fully confident and fully developed, full speed ahead. The Buddhist analogy is that buddha nature exists in you, fully developed. You don't have to try to bring buddha nature into you, but you are already fully awake, on the spot." And tapping into this is the challenge.

The buddhist teachers that I've had experience with all joke that Buddhism loves lists. It's little wonder that I am starting to feel at home with this philosophy. Trungpa goes on to say that the Great Eastern Sun principle also has three categories beyond these categories of awakening. (See, lists. Maybe Buddha was a Virgo?)  The first is peace or non-aggression.  I have thought about what it means to push your ideas and that art can be very aggressive. He says that dharma art strives to get away from any sort of aggressiveness. He says that fear, competition, making work that is about profit or fame, all of these are ways that aggression shows up in art and that these thing all block creativity and awareness. It doesn't mean that people can't have these in the work, but when that stuff becomes the focus, the spiritual sense of the artist and the work gets lost.  He adds that meditation is a way to move beyond these things and bring the artist back to work that is about "showing the path." It's the idea of responding to first thought, right thought  or "to that thought which is fresh and free." Trungpa also whole-heartedly believes that art is the key creating an enlightened society.  I like that idea. It's not some wild western since of utopia (which frankly always seemed like stuff churned up by overly privileged white folks) but is about creating awakening and connection between artist, viewer,  and community as a whole.

He also talks about meditation as as way of opening up the artist and keeping creating at a more spontaneous and aware space. Over planning (which I am well trained in) results in never actually meeting the blank paper or canvas for it's blankness and never giving the artist a chance to just explore and connect with art making and creative spirit without judgement. I stuck my toe in the waters of trying to find a sense of this after meditation last week. My camera is where I disconnect from judgement in the moment the best and just connect with what's around me and with what I'm making.  I made these images walking from meditation to my next destination. It was a part of a street that I otherwise would have ignored or never thought to make images in. These feel important in the experience of making them. There was nothing urgent about them. It was a joy to walk along and discover with my camera in this way.