Thinking and Being

Being

I sat across from a particular houseplant recalling that it has two common names: Snake Plant, and Mother In-Law’s Tongue. I don’t think either name fits it, so I sat there just letting it be itself without attaching a name to it. Although I find it’s easier to practice doing something like this with things that we are not as familiar with, it is possible to do so with the familiar as well. I remember I used to practice doing this as a young adult when I was more actively learning my second language: Japanese. A part of me somehow felt it was important to be able to see a thing as having another name and for it to feel real enough that I could associate the quality of the sound of that name and any other nuances with the thing.

After a while of doing this, I began to be able not only to see a thing as having two names in two different languages, but I found a space that existed between the things and whatever names were given to them.

I believe that space is the space of being.

Before it had a name, it just was.

It’s a quiet, still space that lets a thing just be. After years of grappling with the headaches of trying to be a balanced hapa (I’m half Japanese and half white), I began to let myself exist in that space, too. Then, I began to see that people around me could exist in that space. You may speak a certain language(s), be from a certain country, call yourself specific titles and names, and have worked hard to create a certain reputation for yourself, but in that space, we lose all the labels and associations. All of the conceptual, mental weight can be released and you can just be. 

Thinking vs Being

Everyone has a unique essence and embodies a great aliveness. The more we practice experiencing our world from this light, still space, the more it becomes obvious that everyone matters. Not that conceptually we all matter (because that is what is collectively deemed fair and just), but a feeling inside us that grows to just embody this wisdom without needing to put words to it. Our actions become an effortless extension of this wisdom, and we are more able to be honest with ourselves and our current level of maturation as a human being–not measured in years lived, but in this sort of cultivated and ripening inner wisdom. I like to think even if I met an alien from another planet one day, that I am well prepared to see them and treat them as existing in this space of being as well.

What’s been confusing in my own journey of accessing the present moment through being, is understanding that we cannot think our way into being. The thinking mind is something we can detach our awareness from and we can little by little sink into stillness and taste what “being” feels like. 

Discovery on a morning walk.

I had tried the gratitude practice of writing things down that I am grateful for, however, I personally found myself not actually glowing in the feeling of gratitude. I was THINKING my way to the feeling, but the feeling never came. Using the thinking mind to try to get to a feeling can backfire if you are like me and mentally bully yourself sometimes >< We might compare our situation to others, or tell ourselves we shouldn’t feel the way we do, instead we should feel THIS way. The next thing you know you are split in two: the part of yourself that simply feels as it feels, and the other part of yourself that is condemning that part of yourself. 

Greater awareness came when I would immerse myself in creative activities. I realized that I would more easily disengage with my thoughts and all my energy became more fluid and cooperative in whatever it was I was doing. Even though I was still doing something, I was thinking less and was flowing more..coming closer to being

Quick value study in chalk pastel.

Unnamed Being

As most of us rely on spoken language as a means to think, then our awareness may become limited to those things which are already established in the language we speak. However, there are no words for many things. That doesn’t mean the thing does not exist, maybe it is just harder to perceive because there is no paved context. Until our awareness is brought to this unnamed thing, we may go a lifetime being blind to its existence. Examples of becoming aware of these blind spots are abundant also when learning another language later in life as I did. 

I remember the day my cousin taught me the meaning of “otsukaresama” in Japanese. We had just spent the whole afternoon shopping for odds and ends that I would need for my new life in Tokyo. “Is it like ‘good job’?” I remember asking. She said it was a feeling that both people involved felt. We both exerted effort in a kind of togetherness while tackling a task. By saying “otsukaresama” we were acknowledging this feeling. These were my first insights into a phrase that I would continue to hear a countless number of times in daily Japanese life. How could a feeling that is so common to an entire country of people, not even exist in my mother tongue? It was only one of MANY examples of words and phrases that acknowledge situations and feelings that were completely new to me. 

“Otsukaresama.” Read more of these examples in my post, “Hidden Japanese Treasures.”

Of course, you don’t have to learn a second language to have this experience, it is the mindfulness practice behind the experience that enables the shift.

In the “being” state, we may sense many “sights” and occurrences that we don’t have to put into words. We can have other personal “languages” or modes of expression we can funnel the “sights” through. I think music or fine art are examples of such personal languages. 

When I was a teenager learning the piano on my own, I remember imagining being blind and wondering how that could heighten a person’s sensitivity to energy. I didn’t call it “energy” back then, but I knew there was subtle information that a blind person was better at receiving and interpreting in the presence of someone or something. I imagined a blind street musician who you could walk up to and after a moment of reading your energy, they would create music as a means of expressing what they interpreted in that energy–their own unique language expressing your unique energy! 

When you practice using and developing a personal language, there’s a kind of satisfaction that comes with increased fluency over time. The satisfaction may be silent and personal. No matter how much we want others to feel or taste our satisfaction, it may come in a completely different form for another person. This illustrates the futility in attempting to critique each other’s art forms. With mastery over time–meaning a steadfast dedication to becoming fluent in our own unique language(s)–heads may turn and see that quality of our essence shining through whatever apparent sensory experience we have woven. However, I don’t think it is the product itself that touches another person, but the undeniable essence of one’s heart and soul emanating from their work. 

Memory Play

“Mangoscape”

I have painted the same thing three times now. Each time I base it off of one highly charged positive memory from the past. What I’ve discovered is that each version is quite unlike the one before it. How could it be the same positive memory then? Each time I recall the memory and channel it through me into the form of a visual image, it looks completely different. 

After examining the nature of memories a little, I am inclined to view them as a sort of working canvas. A memory does not have to be defined or set in stone. The actual experience that the memory represents is a portrayal of the past that we carry with us, but we can learn to build and layer thought and emotion onto it in a way that helps us move forward with more ease. We do not have to feel that our pasts define us.

In other words, we do not have to give our power now to our pasts.

In my case, the memory that I say I recreated for the third time is more of a representation of my current self than my past self. The current self is the one who expressed itself. No one is still the person they were in the past, although some people can get stuck reliving their pasts–good or bad.

The past is like the language of yesterday. There is always a new language we can be receptive to, today.. right now. The intention behind each of these three paintings was always to depict one seemingly frozen experience from the past, except that since I was predominantly painting a re-creation of the feeling of the joy and magic I had felt then (more so than a realistic image of a thing), my current self was only able to access its current experience of joy and magic because that is where those states of being truly exists: in this present moment. The memory itself has become a trigger for experiencing joy, but that joy is the joy of now– it is not the joy I felt then. Both memories and thoughts can trigger emotion in this way.

When our nervous system is out of balance, we may find that memories and thoughts trigger more emotion than actual present moment experiences. For example, we may be looking at a beautiful sunset or night sky, but the colors are not reaching deeply into us, and the noise in our head and disruption in our hearts and gut may feel more real than what is right in front of us. 

Red Aurora Borealis

Physically, I am here, but as my thoughts and emotions are tied up with some ongoing sense of unfinished business that needs to be dealt with conceptually, I am postponing my access to the present moment. I am not fully present. I am THINKING, not BEING. My awareness– my energy– is scattered.

The JOY and BEING connection

What is more important than joy? I’ve written about the inner smile previously and shared my personal experience of a short moment in time when the most overwhelming amount of joy I’ve ever felt in my life thus far, seeped into every available nook and cranny of my being. It was perhaps overwhelming because my energy was not split. No thoughts or emotions trespassed on that moment. I was more fully present than I’d ever been before with all my awareness just drinking in that glorious sense of peace and well-being.

I was taught a lot by that experience. One lesson was that I had access to a kind of calm and inclusive positive pervading energy that could be experienced without the need to prove anything to anyone else, including my own self. I recognized some of my own conditioning: to seek validation and to seek permission from others to feel good. I think I did that (we do that) because we have experienced gaining the understanding and acceptance granted to us by others that feels wonderful. However, to my great surprise, other people do not need to be a variable in our experience of or access to feeling complete. Joy found me that day and there was no reason for it, I did not somehow deserve it extra that day.  

Joy Bird

There is nothing to prove to myself or others so that I may deserve to feel good in any moment. My body has a wisdom that my mind lacks. A body-mind able to feel joy and pleasure is the mark of true health and well-being. Life is really over complicated when we give our power away to others, by needing them to validate, understand, or accept us as we are. We even bully ourselves, convincing ourselves that because we see an aspect of our self or lifestyle that could use improvement, that joy comes AFTER we fix it. Thus, fixing or improving something becomes a prerequisite to feeling good. 

What is the feeling that safety and support brings? What is the feeling behind getting all our basic needs met? What is the feeling behind the idea of good health? What is the feeling behind having a good reputation, good status, and good merit? Being included? What is the feeling behind being good at something? What is the feeling behind being with a beloved pet? What is the feeling behind freedom and no time constraints?

I think on that particular day, I felt the feeling that all those above questions point to but don’t actually guarantee. To say it simply, we all want to feel inner wellness. However, in creating mental traps that keep us feeding into the idea that we cannot experience certain feelings–be it joy, gratitude, or peace–unless a laundry list of conditions are met, we sabotage our access to the present moment where those authentic real states of being are experienced. We perpetually THINK our way down many rabbit holes believing the answer and the joy is somewhere ahead of us, when really if we learned to stop thinking and just sit in stillness, the peace can find us. 

A practice isn’t always about learning to do something. A practice can be learning to stop doing something. 
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Logic of Felt Senses

“Rakkyo”

One of the great wonders of being an individual experiencing the human condition is having a physical body. Generally speaking, a lot of focus and effort in our culture is placed on the outward enhancement of our physical bodies through fitness, fashion, grooming, cosmetics and the like. There is a common desire in us all to maintain a certain level of physical attractiveness to ourselves and to others. Actually, our desires reach beyond our outer appearance touching as many aspects of our lives as we allow. Wherever there is freedom of choice, there is an opportunity to express the uniqueness of the self.

So far, I seem to enjoy painting while standing better than sitting.
I like to place different plants on the table while I write.

How do we know that we are expressing our own uniqueness and not copying someone else’s authentic voice? My current answer is: the less we know of ourselves, the more we may copy others or conform. This is not a bad thing, in fact, I think it is completely natural. It has been my experience that we are largely unknown to ourselves, even into so-called adulthood. 

How will I paint the experience of seeing/being with this flower?
First RD I tried some new colors, but it was too cold and not “me.”

We are born knowing we are as deep as any ocean, but helpless throughout infancy and babyhood, relying on others just to stay afloat. By time we are capable of fending for ourselves, we will have forgotten a lot about our original state. Everything in the shallows is illuminated for all to see. It’s the depths that remain unknown to us and only are revealed through a certain degree of maturation and the ability to turn inward. Loving attention warms us, and all faces of cold adversity waters us. This happens differently and in varying degrees and speeds for every individual. Even so, in life we all get to feel the grace and awe of the occasional sudden revelation. The physical body looks the same on the outside, but inside we have grown– more space becomes available. 

One way to think of revelations is as a natural feeling response to inner growth. The feeling is a phenomenon we can take guidance and assurance from. After all, revelations feel great! That being said, not all inner guidance is as easy to recognize.

I get a kind of “revelation” feeling when I find the color I am after.

Tiny Inner Bells

Some inner guidance is so faint, like a whisper, but not in the form of sound. There are tiny felt senses that can easily go unrecognized and, thus, unacknowledged. Sometimes inner guidance isn’t a specific message, rather a physical response like that which accompanies a revelation. The powerful feeling lets us know something is very relevant to us beyond just our conceptual understanding of it. In this case, a liberating piece of wisdom feels particularly attractive because it causes something that is already inside of us to resonate.  At times it can be something in our unknown depths that surfaces.

When we read words that ring true or inspire us, we can feel a great sense of validation– like a “yes!” experienced by one’s entire body. We might see a color that stops us in our tracks because it “feels good.” In what way does it feel good? Like the word “resonate” suggests, it can feel like a whole bunch of tiny inner bells ringing in harmonious agreement. 

You could say that just as dolphins and whales use echolocation to discover the position of another sea creature in relation to themselves, humans possess a kind of echoinference mechanism. Except instead of using an echo to locate something outside of ourselves, we experience the echo as a resonating inner feeling which allows us to discover more about our deeper selves through that which resonates and draws our attention. 

The Desire Spectrum

What is your banana ripeness preference?

When I use the word desire, like many things in life, it can shift in meaning depending on intensity, subtleties and nuances. For these reasons, I see “desire” as having a spectrum. On one end is the kind of desire that overwhelms us with its power. It is obsession, fanaticism, a persistent wanting that makes it hard for us to concentrate on other things. Basically, on the extreme end it is a “heavy” consuming feeling– an addiction. Then, on the other end, desire can feel much lighter–more like a preference. We think to ourselves, “I’d prefer to eat a banana that is still slightly under ripe, but if it is a day or two riper, I’ll still eat it and find enjoyment. It’s just not my preference.” This is the realm of desire I want to explore here more in regards to each unique individual’s natural constitution.

A little green on my banana please~

There are biological-related desires like being thirsty or hungry that we cycle through so often, we know very well what we need and want. Then, there are other desires that lurk inside us that are less of a circular nature, and more of an artistic or aesthetic nature. They are lighter little tugs and pulls inside that we wouldn’t maybe associate with desire immediately upon registering their presence. I might describe them as gentle preferences that surface. Or soft yearnings. When I paint, I follow these tiny tugs and pulls. I’ve referred to them before as “breadcrumbs” that only appear in the moment at hand, and require our mind to be open.. (empty?) so we can be guided.

When it comes to being a creator, we want our own unique voice to shine through. When we use our imagination, we want to be able to envision things that genuinely excite us and make the tiny inner bells ring. Being in touch with our own personal preferences is the gateway to true individuality and unique self-expression. These gentle preferences are part of a larger inner guidance system that, in a way, is binary like a computer. Everyone experiences a natural response to any given input. In general, there’s positive stimulus and everything else. As I’ve mentioned before, anything that pulls at you from the inside is a breadcrumb on your path.  

I don’t paint with black, so imagining signing my name with black didn’t feel right. “Rakkyo” is the first painting I felt moved to sign.

Too much eccentricity without respect and care for others can prevent us from connecting in a meaningful way with others, yet too much accommodating or pleasing can mute our desires and prevent us from knowing ourselves more deeply. The way I approach maintaining a balance is largely through self observation. The “deeper” I know myself, the deeper other people become as well. For me, “Know thyself” implies some degree of respect for other people and what makes them unique. It is with this sentiment that I indulge more in learning about my own preferences both on and off the canvas. It’s also the unspoken message behind my every creative act. 

Take time to learn about yourself and to see yourself with more discerning eyes rather than judgmental eyes. This creates space so our attention can branch outward to others with the same caring and accepting heart we possess towards our Self.

-Inner guidance <3

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Inner Smile

Recently, I read a passage about the first flower that ever existed reaching towards the sky and blooming. Suddenly one day, the earth may have erupted into thousands of blossoming flowers each displaying vivid colors and spreading a sweet fragrance. The earth would know colors captured in a lively stillness difficult for us to imagine. There were no cameras back then, or people (that we know of). I like to think that in its own way, the creative spirit found a way to capture colors and fragrance as if in a photograph for itself. The creative spirit in humans loves to do the same–capture a feeling through colors, shapes, and anything else available to us. Like a flower, that which we create does not last forever, but the creative spirit continues to move us to create and express itself again and again. 

Third painting of Bird of Paradise

I am learning very gradually what kind of power I have–all of us have. There is a very elementary state of mind that sees a flower and then smiles at its beauty. The mind is used to being stimulated by the outside. When you are born with a blueprint like mine, however, I don’t just want to see a flower and smile, I want to (need to??) create flowers that no one has seen before. It’s as if there are flowers inside of me (or that come through me??) that I myself am blind to, but I just KNOW they are there and it’s my duty to bring them into our lives. Not just flowers, but other forms, colors and nuances.. anything I can learn to manipulate in order to elicit very specific positive feelings in others. 

If you can relate in your own way to the feeling of wanting to create the flowers, then you must also see how this elementary state of mind–alone– is not really sufficient for a life of creation. If I can only smile when something MAKES me smile, then I’m living a life largely dependent on everyone and everything else around me being uplifting, beautiful, and kind. 

Wait though..       

..that doesn’t sound like power. 

Work in progress.

That would mean I’d be limited to feeling good only when looking at a completed painting. (Or completed house renovation, or successful review of a completed work project, or validation from others that we are a good parent, partner, or human being.) ..that I can only feel good around other people who feel good.

Still a work in progress.

The big puzzle –or practice as I like to think of it– is learning how to smile at a blank canvas and each unfinished step along the way.. even during missteps, accidents, and the occasional inner conflict.

I’ve seen the word “alchemy” all over the place these days. For many of us at this moment in our lives, we are facing the task of inner alchemy– to learn what kind of power we truly have over our selves, lives and realities. One transformative concept I continue to practice in my life both on canvas and off is: acceptance.

Acceptance–like forgiveness–isn’t about condoning the behavior and choices of others, it is about detaching your energy and emotion from that which you have no control over.. in other words, it’s about letting go of resistance to what is. Spending energy and attention on that which you do not have control over, usually doesn’t suddenly wield you control later on. We all know this from experience. The subtle emotion may differ and result in different word choices like “worrying” or “anger,” but energetically speaking, what we are doing–spending energy and attention on that which we do not have control over– is generally the same. 

So then, HOW do we learn to summon an inner smile without it being a reaction to outside stimulus?

The paradox: If you don’t believe in it, you won’t see it. If you don’t see it, you won’t believe in it. 

I’ve read that we don’t “create” love or peace, that they are states of being. We don’t create these states of being, we learn to access them. If this is the case, then maybe we can seek to summon an inner smile in the same way. 

Every human is different so the way to make space for an inner smile likely is not the same for everyone. One human tool I can think of to help with this, is learning to use our memories so that they serve us. 

When were you the most at peace with yourself, and surroundings?

When have you experienced the deepest sense of well-being?

For me, these yellow leaves are associated with a strong positive memory.

Ultimately, what I’m calling an inner smile, is a feeling like peace and well-being. We can practice isolating the inner smile, and reprogramming ourselves to see how EVERY human “deserves” to experience the inner smile, and that THAT is truly what feeds the energetic aspects of us just as food feeds our physical bodies. 

My answers to the above questions, surprisingly, had nothing to do with painting. The deepest feeling of peace and well-being I’ve ever felt was when I was practicing stillness and acceptance. I had sat alone and did not ask anything of myself. This experience has since become my personal reference point for growing compassion towards others. There is nothing anyone MUST do to deserve to feel that deep peace and well-being. It felt like an inner “home” that I imagine we all have. You don’t create it, or will it into being, or think it into existence. It’s already there. 

We DO, however, need to be careful about what beliefs we carry around with us. Beliefs become the mental roads available to us. If they are too narrow and rigid, or deny us access to the tools we need to progress in life, then they can sabotage our good intentions and block us from accessing important states of being. It’s a touchy subject, but I’m going to go there briefly: Love. 

In a collective society, a human is taught to “show” love, and naturally, it can become a cultural practice where we have to do certain things to “prove” our love. We’ve made love relational– existing only between certain people. We’ve made it reserved for only those of us who can behave accordingly; often it is only to be exchanged by people of similar proficiency in it. Humans have–as they seem to do best– made sure that love is NOT for everyone. Like a currency, we can even choose to retract love or funnel it elsewhere simply by choosing different behaviors and attitudes. The word “love” now implies far more complexity and intelligence than is even possible for all humans to grasp and definitely leaves love out of reach for other lesser intelligent forms of life in nature. 

My point is: Perhaps it’s actually us humans who have over complicated love.  

Practicing shodo–Japanese calligraphy– allows us to start a fresh new slate MANY times during practice

So, for a moment, let’s strip love of its letters, in fact, let’s start a fresh new slate all together. Any beauty, fuzzy warm feeling, inspiring happening, or generic positive feeling–all of it–let’s call an “inner smile.” And when we smile so big on the inside, naturally, it finds its way to reflect on our outer body in the form of a smile on our face. (Not a forced one, but the kind of smile that happens when we are all alone immersed in pleasantries). 

Learning to reserve a space for that feeling inside is a prerequisite to calling on it at will. I don’t have all the answers, but what I sense is that the way to reserve a space for that feeling inside is to practice acceptance regularly. I’ve mentioned in previous writings how watercolor painting has very much become a kind of meditation for me. The meaning or purpose of meditation may not be something everyone can agree on, however, you could also call it “compassion practice” or “self-observation without judgment,” or “being in the moment.” The main key thing is to suspend judgments of a criticizing nature. 

Practicing something regularly is a great opportunity for inner self-talk examination

Resistance creates tension in the body, so another way to practice acceptance is to work backwards from the pain and tension in the body. Spend some time listening to your body to find the points of tension and then gently stretch them out. As your tension loosens, just pay attention to how much better you feel. Don’t ask anything more of yourself. Relearn what feeling better feels like. 

It sounds silly to say that, but I think it is something a lot of people are out of touch with. Many cultures encourage hard work and sacrifice without realizing just how deeply some people take the message. Another message of recent times is to be optimal, productive, and efficient. None of these messages encourage the kind of stillness, mindfulness, and patience required to cultivate a healthy and happy aligned heart and mind. There is a balance and unity that humans have with Nature that is not being emphasized. 

All we have to do is look around at nature to see so much beauty and awe. Flowers are our ancestors. Their lives are so effortless and yet they bring so much joy. Because we are creative beings, we should look deeper than simply what the world shows us in order to access our power. 

So what power do we have? Perhaps about as much power as a flower.

“Rise” a 10 frame story to celebrate Intnl. Women’s Day https://www.instagram.com/mobearsart/

A vivid green sprout blooming through the cracks of a thick cement wall..

A single pink blossom daring to open in the morning sun on a bloodied battlefield..

A lotus with unfolding petals untouched by the thick mud from which it has risen above.. 

We can embody the wisdom of a flower that does not wilt itself to mirror an onlooker’s feelings, but remains radiant and, therefore, uplifts naturally. If this reality and this life is actually not about what you see, but what you CAN see and come to know looking inward, then each of us has all the power we will ever need.

It is easiest to know love by others showing it to us. But even when they don’t, love is there. It does not belong to anyone, it is a life pulse.. an intelligent one that passes through us when we create the inner space for it. It was there back when the first bud bloomed–like a smile dressed in form, color and scent–and it is still here finding its way through each of us as we learn how to smile from the inside.

You ever wonder what came first, the chicken or the egg? I think neither. I think an inner smile came first. =) 
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Behind Color

When I was a junior in highschool, I was lucky enough to get accepted into an artist apprenticeship program. During the summer, several other students and I worked under the guidance of a professional artist and painted a large mural of a fish jumping out of a hole in a concrete wall. Our days began with loading up various paint brushes, rags, and many tubs of acrylic paint into a truck to drive out to the the mural site. We’d swing from the bars on the three-leveled scaffolding like monkeys, climbing up and down to mix more paint and look at our brush strokes and the contrast of value from a distance. It was summer, but luckily we were shaded under a large road above the walking path the mural faced. However, we still needed to keep spray bottles full of water handy to keep our paints moist as we mixed and color-matched.

It was this hands-on experience with a mentor that taught me how to mix colors, see and recreate values of a colored object–light, medium, and dark. We used large brushes, like the kind you paint a house with, and it goes without saying we got paint all over ourselves in the process. I knew back then as a teenager that I was extremely lucky to have been a part of that art program. I learned each day outside surrounded by nature (the walkway followed a winding creek) and around an abundance of painting supplies and passionate artists. 

Real colorful tree bark! 2013 Dole Plantation, Oahu, HI

It was my second summer in the program when I remember suddenly “growing” new eyes. Perhaps it was the many hours of mixing paint that led to my new pair of eyes, I’m not sure. I just remember one day looking at the bark of a tree and seeing every color in it. In that moment I remember it felt like the colors were speaking to me. I had learned to approach Nature as if she were a companion– someone capable of telling me things. I can recall that moment vividly because I’d never seen color in that way before. 

Many years later I still paint, although with a new favored medium– watercolor. When I was younger, I did a lot of replications and painting from a reference picture. Whereas, in more recent years I have been struck with impulses to paint things more loosely inspired by a variety of input. It doesn’t suffice to paint things that closely resemble how they are. There is a steady drive in me to paint and create based on the experience of being a companion to what it is I see. 

Inspired by a white hanging flower

Colors don’t speak to me in words (at least they have not as of yet!). When my mind is behaving well enough, I’ll experience a lot of beauty, wonder, and awe in Nature. In more recent years, I’ll notice an “aliveness” in things that makes me feel closer to them. Not unlike the experience of growing new eyes while looking at tree bark as a teenager. I laughed at myself as I wrote that, and laughed again the other day when I spontaneously admitted aloud that I’m suddenly into birding. Am I opening up to the world, or is the world opening up to me? Whatever the underworkings may be, I just know I now feel a stronger kinship with Nature than I used to. And as a painter, it feels like I’ve been gifted an abundance of kindlewood to keep the inner creative flame burning strong. 

Painting from memories of childhood

So, what is behind color? 


Allow me a Tangent 

Ok, so maybe watching my mother give birth to my little brother is not exactly an “everyday life experience,” but it illustrates the state of mind I want to convey. Watching a human who was not here, “arrive” and make the transition from womb to the same breathing space was a heightened experience. Being with animals, like a pet cat or dog, can bring on the same state of mind–a living companion or other animated visitor that connects with you on some fundamental level. Another example of an ordinary experience that brings on this particular state of mind, is the feeling of floating on water. We can attune to the sense of the water’s surface tension as well as enjoy temporary relief from the every day–every moment– firm pull of gravity.

What is behind these personal examples of heightened experience, is like what I came to notice in or behind color all around me. Perhaps this has something to do with my desire to translate feelings or states of mind using color. 

When one color sits next to another color, and their differing values create movement, it can be so beautiful.. at the very least it is an experience encapsulated in an image. Your eyes start somewhere, move around, and end somewhere. The image may inspire the viewer or stir up associations or general feelings.

This is the work of art.

For a split second, maybe it can make you feel like you are watching a baby come into the world, or that you are sitting with a pet animal, or floating on water. 

We all smile through our eyes. I love to observe smiling alpacas because their eyes are so big!!

I wonder if the state of mind I’m trying to convey is getting through here? I imagine people have their own unique equivalent experiences. I guess trying to paint a picture in words is not so different from trying to paint a picture using paint. Both are a medium that we use to express something of a more direct nature. Creativity and the desire for self-expression in some form must play a key role in that which makes us human. That invisible energy that pervades everything yet only hints at its existence through everything. 

I keep a small notebook for color mixing

One last note on color for today. Like the moon, we experience light and the perception of color due to the reflection of sunlight. This tells me that we are beings of the sun in that much of our experience of life is largely dictated by and relative to the sun. What this also tells me is that there is more to life that we do not see because we are “blinded” by the sun. It is ironic that that which is the foundation for our experience of sight–the sun’s light–is also one thing that we cannot (should not) attempt to witness directly. Our eyes can be damaged by looking straight into the sun. So, sight is largely an experience of a second-degree, indirect nature. 

We believe in the moon, and can see moonlight, yet it is actually only reflected sunlight that we see. We believe in colors and see that objects appear to have colors, yet science teaches us that color exists as it does because sunlight bounces off objects and the wavelengths of reflected light determines the color we see. It’s so crazy to think that something as colossal as vision is to the human experience is of a second-degree, indirect nature. 

What would it be like to see light that is not reflected light from the sun, but light that is emitted by an object itself not in relation to the sun? Like a burning fire flame or glow of fireflies, but from ALL objects. So, when we look at color around us, perhaps we can view it like moonlight, as a kind of hint.. It is second-degree seeing. Does that mean that we can not sense anything deeper and more direct? 

A pair of glowing heart-warmers

To me, the work of art –its function– is to alter our state of mind and state of being so that we can experience companionship and kinship with what is behind color. It’s a quiet presence that our basic five senses lack the precision to experience directly (as of yet). To me, it’s like hearing a purr but never seeing the cat. We can feel the vibration tingle every cell all the way to our center.

Perhaps it’s this purring presence that I first sensed that day when I saw every color in the tree bark. 


「和訳」

色彩の裏

私が高校2年生の時、運よくアーティストの見習いプログラムに受け入れられました。夏休みの間、何人かの生徒と一緒にプロのアーティストの指導で大きな壁画を描くことになりました。壊れかけたコンクリートの壁の穴を飛び越えてくる、でかい魚と小川のイメージでした。私たちは、毎日、まず作業の第一ステップとして色んな筆や、ぼろきれなど、たくさんの絵の具をトラックに載せて、壁画の現場へ向かっていました。3階建ての足場の鉄棒からサルのようにぶら下がってよじ登ったり、降りたりして、ペンキの取り混ぜはもちろん、壁画との距離を作ることで筆力や、色彩の明度の確認もしていました。夏の暑い日々でしたが、壁画に面した道の上に大きな道路があったため、都合好く私たちはだいぶ日陰に入っていました。それでも色整合とペンキの取り混ぜのために、ペンキの水分がなくならないように水の入ったスプレー瓶がとても欠かせないものでした。

アートの指導者とこの実践学習の体験を通して、どうやってある色を取り混ぜられるか、そして物の色彩明度を(ライト・ミディアム・ダーク)再現できるようになりました。家にペンキを塗るのと同じ大きさの塗装用のブラシを使って、私たちは体全身ペンキだらけの毎日を楽しく過ごしていました。

その時、ティーンエイジャーだった私でも、そのアーティストの見習いプログラムに参加できて、ものすごくラッキーだとよく分かっていました。毎日、自然に囲まれたところで(壁画は小川沿いの道に面した)たくさんの絵の具で、ほかの熱心なアーティストたちと一緒に芸術を習っている特別な日々でした。

そのプログラムの二年目の夏、ある日に私には「新たな目」が生えてきました。それまで何時間も色彩を取り混ぜたおかげだったでしょうか、よく分かりません。ただ、その時に見た木の皮にすべての色が見えたという、くっきりした記憶があります。木の皮の色彩が私の心に強く訴えかけてきたことを覚えています。まるで大自然は人生を共にして、ものを伝えられる力を持つ「相手」となってきたようです。言い換えると、大自然は私にとって抽象的な存在から、もうちょっと人間性に似たような、いきいきとした特性を持つようになりました。私はこの思い出がよく覚えているのは、こうやって普通のものにあんなにたくさんの色が見えたことがそれまでになかったからです。

あれから20年以上が経っていますが、私はまだまだ絵を描きます。ただ、好みのペンキ性がアクリルから水彩へと変わって来ただけです。もっと若いときは、有名な画家の作品を再現したり、写真を参考にして絵を描いたりすることが多かったです。しかし、近年こうして写実的な絵を描くよりも、触発された瞬間に出来心で、印象に基づく絵をどうしても描きたくなっています。ものの外見をそのまま描いて、本物そっくりに見えても満足できなくなりました。

――色彩の裏にある、目に見えない「何か」を描いてみたくなりました。

色彩は言葉で私にものごとを伝えるわけじゃありません(少なくとも今のところ!)私は心が穏やかな時、大自然の美しさや、不思議や、畏怖の念などに打たれます。近年、万物にいきいきとした特性が宿っていることに気づくようになって、より大自然との親しみを感じています。これはたぶん、ティーンエイジャーの私が木の皮にすべての色が見えて、自分に「新たな目」が生えてきた経験に似ているのではないでしょうか。←こんなことを書いたら自分でも笑ってしまいます。先日、「野鳥観察が好きだ」と自分で初めて気づいて、世界に打ち明けるように声に出したときもくすくす笑いました。

たとえ大自然の神秘が何はともあれ、私が自然との絆をより強く感じるようになったのは確かです。そして、画家として、心にある想像力のとろ火を大きくするための木材いっぱいプレゼントされたかのようにも感じます。

少し話は飛びますが・・・

私は、母親が弟を生むのを見た経験を取り上げたいと思います。その日までいなかった人が一瞬生まれてくるのをじっと観察することによって、いつもの心境とは違いました。あなたも似たような経験はありませんか?私のと違う「形」かもしれないけど、目に見えない「何か」を感じたことを思い出せますか。私はまた犬や、猫などのペットと一緒にいることによって、この特別な心境が引き起こされます。森羅万象と根底で繋がっている気持ちをさせる日常的な経験は、誰でもあるはずだと私は思います。

個人的な例がもう一つ頭に浮かんできます。それは水の表面に浮くことです。人間は誰でも絶えず、毎日重力という力に縛られています。でも、水の表面に浮くと、体そして心が無重力のブランケットに包まれているように感じます。水の中にいるから、音があまりよく聞こえなくなることと共に意識を高めることがあります。水と互いに一致して、重力から解放されることができて、独特な気持ちになります。色彩の裏をはじめ、こういった様々な経験の裏には、ある「何か」の存在があるように私は感じます。だからこそ、私は言葉で表わしにくいこの「何か」を人に感じさせたくて、紙に向かって絵を描きます。

ある色が別の色のとなりに置かれると違った明度によって動きが感じ取れて、美しいです。人は絵を見るときは、一か所からスタートして、ぐるぐる見回して、そしてそのうちに目が焦点に止まるでしょう。目の動きと共に、個人的なことを連想したり、気持ちも影響されることがあります。これこそがアートの「働き」でしょう。ほんの一瞬の間、赤ちゃんが生まれてくるのを見ている気分にさせられるかもしれないし、ペットと一緒にいる時の心境に戻るかもしれないし、水の表面に浮いて重力から解放されたときの気持ちが思い出されるかもしれません。

私が言葉で表そうとしている心境は通じているかしら。人それぞれは個人的な経験を持って、人によって同じような心境でも、違う「形」で覚えているのではないでしょうか。だから、みんなは紙や、舞台や、パソコンや、教壇などに立ち向かうでしょう。

最後に、色彩について言いたいことがもう一つあります。私たちは、月が見えるのと同じく、光や、物の色などが見えるのは、太陽の光が輝いているからです。物自体には色がありません。すべての物は太陽の光を反射しているだけです。それによって、人間の目と脳の働きで、「色」が見えます。私はこんなことを深く考えたら、我々人間は実に太陽の子供のような存在で、太陽の性質や、きまりでしか人生を味わえないということに改めて気付きました。つまり、私たちが5種の感覚で感じ取れることが限られているに違いないです。ある意味では、太陽の光に目が眩んでいます。そして皮肉なことに、肉眼で太陽を直接見ることは安全じゃありません。人間の視覚というのは、第2度のような間接的な機能です。

昔の人たちは月の存在を知ったのは、月光が見えたからでしょう。でも、月の光がなかったら、(つまり、もし月が太陽の光を反射しなかったら)月の存在を知るにはどれくらいの時間がかかったでしょうか。

ちなみに、太陽に関係ない光が目に見えたら、それはどんな感じの光でしょう。燃え上がる炎に見えるでしょうか、またはホタルの光のように輝くのでしょう。もしすべての物には、太陽と関係ない光が輝いていたら、どんな感じの光で、人の心にどんな気持ちを起こさせるのでしょう。

私にとって、アートの主な働きは、人の心境や、気持ちに影響させることで、色彩の裏にある「何か」との馴染みと親しみをはぐくむことです。色彩の裏にあるその「何か」は、人の普通の5種の感覚で感じ取りにくい静かな存在です。私が想像するのは、まるでごろごろ喉を鳴らす見えない猫の存在のようです。体の細胞を一つ一つぞくぞくさせながら、心までこのごろごろの振動を深く感じられます。

もしかして10代の私があの時に木の皮に初めて見たすべての色の裏には、このごろごろ鳴らす静かな「存在」に初めて気づいたのではないでしょうか。







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White Shadows

A shadow is an indication of a presence in the physical world. When something visible casts a shadow, the shadow is also visible, though its appearance alters depending on the light source. Assuming that there are things that go unseen by us, wouldn’t they, too, cast a shadow? 

“Emerge”

In the spirit of spontaneity, there is a mix of chaos and genius. I feel like inside peoples’ minds this is also true of the whirlwind of thoughts that chug through. Where do all those thoughts come from anyway? The mind is always trying to make sense of all the stimuli its being fed. To make things more complicated, it’s not just stimuli in the present moment, but recreations of the past and all kinds of variations of futures-some minutes away, others decades away. Does the mind take the time to assess responsibility for the source of each incoming thought? 

Somewhat accurate recreation of  past occurrence 

Less accurate recreation of a past occurrence (less uncomfortable than above version)

Incoming bodily sensation (itchy nose)

A worry about how the near future might unfold (undesirable outcome)

Inspiration

Inspiration. I love it. I live for it. I try to be mindful of it so that when I notice it, I can let the energy color whatever my current experience is.

My “moveable” workspace. I set up wherever has the best lighting. I like corners =)

It is in this way that I haven’t changed that much from when I was a child. Do you remember that aspect of being a child? When something bugged you, you got over it relatively quickly and there you were again enthralled in some imaginary scene you played out with rocks and sticks. Someone would tell you that the rock wasn’t what you said it was, and instead of listening to them, you knew it was your responsibility to show them what you were seeing so that they could see it too (because it was so cool!).. unless of course their idea was even better, then you’d enthusiastically go with that.   

I have never thought of myself as a spontaneous or impulsive person. However, when it comes to painting (with watercolor especially), it is an entire meditation on acting in the moment on impulse! It pulls me out of my thinking head, all those thoughts are not important, it’s just noise, and the only way I know that for sure is because of how inspiration feels.

View from my corner spot

Physical existence loses some of its grip on me.. if I were to express this with art, I’d make the lines of our bodies dotted, or let more of the sky or nature in the background seep into and mingle with the wet paint of the person. We are less “solid” and “defined” when we are in a creative state. More of that which is usually perceived as being outside of us, enters us and mingles with our essence.

Spontaneous painting in one color

As I paint I get to a certain state where I am noticing “suggestions” that seem to appear in the moment. I follow impulse after impulse, each arising from the previous brush stroke or from some general sense of something missing. Each impulse is a breadcrumb that only appears in that very moment, so I have to focus my attention to be receptive in the moment. This particular variety of breadcrumb-present moment appearing breadcrumb- does not leave a trail where you can look ahead or look back.. it forces you to stay in the present moment.. where the white shadows are. 

A whisper of guidance is never far, always reminding me that I am not what I paint, but the heart and mind with which I paint.  It just so happens that my most recent inspirations have been painting focused on negative space and lifting paint out of the painting. Sometimes there is paint on my brush, and sometimes it’s just loaded with water. Sometimes in order to create the thing you envision, you leave it empty. What a strange approach. As I experiment, I discover more about the creative process and it becomes less about learning new techniques or trial and error as it is about observing the quality of the mind that holds the brush. 

Eventually, as a painting emerges from the blank canvas, something else also emerges. The realization of being in a deeper state of awareness. This mindful way of painting focused in the present, and attuning to impulses and spontaneous “suggestions” that arise, has become a kind of meditation that seems to suit me very well. 

More white shadows

It’s as if watercolor painting was a secret practice that the universe hid in this world for me to find. To rise above thoughts and merge with inspiration and stay present in the moment with an open receptive heart and mind is not an easy thing to practice, but somehow it feels like very little else matters in the grand scheme of things. We value the cleanliness of the body, but who talks about the regular cleansing of the heart and mind and how to go about doing that?

The depth of an individual’s uniqueness is immeasurable. In fact, I am pretty convinced that the universe has hidden secret practices for everyone. They are all tailor made to your exact specifications to such a degree that no one but you would know it until you’ve experienced it. You don’t believe me? Maybe, you just haven’t found one of yours yet. 

Or, maybe you have a better idea? Let’s hear it =)  


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The Art of Questioning

Is your mind in a state conducive to seeing anew? To seeing what it did not see maybe just moments ago?

We use the word “open-minded” to describe a person who is often able to entertain new ideas without so much emphasis on needing to be “right.” The jury can be out-judgement suspended indefinitely- even uncomfortable ideas that threaten aspects of ourselves can rest in the spaciousness of an open mind. 

What if more of us could find ways to enter this open-minded state more often? To have a loose and relaxed stillness about us that is receptive to the gentle fluttering of incoming ideas?

What I think is not who I am. These words and ideas I write do not belong to me. I have control and lack control. I know and do not know. 

This is the space that exists within each of us. We are capable of a surreal level of inner flexibility. 


Swallowed by the Whale

Early in the morning, I turned on a less favored laptop and the start screen reflected an inaccurate time considering it was early morning. Later, after writing for some time, I got up for a break and walked to the kitchen to see the oven clock reflecting the same inaccurate time I’d seen earlier. There is a lot of humor and entertainment for me in these sorts of occurrences. I like not trusting time. When we can genuinely find ourselves questioning a mechanism that as a collective we have learned to let guide our mental processes, it shakes the ground we walk on a little. It’s a way to elicit a more open-minded state of being that is highly conducive to experiencing creativity.

If I can’t trust time, then where the heck am I? Who and what am I? 

*Poof!* Your mind awakens a little and realizes that you had long before been swallowed by a whale and have been living inside of it. You stand up and though you are blind to what’s outside of the whale, you empty your mind and feel for answers. How is it that despite being there all along, you only just feel the ground beneath you shaking for the first time, now?? 

You were part of something bigger.

Self-imposed Earthquakes

When you question yourself, your experiences and beliefs, you are questioning past conditioning that has been integral in shaping your current perception of reality. You are in effect creating an earthquake in your being. 

“Earthquake 1/3”
(“Maybe I do not know what I’m talking about.”)

Living life with an open mind is like living life balancing on one leg. With two legs planted, time stands still and we feel safety and security in our firm rooted stance. However, we are not moving forward-we are not growing. When we achieve the state of an open mind, we are in effect lifting one of those planted legs as if to say, “Maybe I do not know what I’m talking about.” A lot of the attitude towards the process of growth boils down to this question: Do you see yourself wobbling as a sign of weakness and, therefore, something to be avoided? In other words, are you not able to see past your immediate feelings of discomfort in the moment? Or do you see your instability as the flexibility needed in order for you to take the next step to expand your world? 

What if we asked a question, and then loosened up on our expectations of an answer. Maybe the answer will come, and maybe it won’t. Maybe soon, maybe not. Maybe before the answer comes, we will cease to ask that particular question. This idea, alone, tells me that there is an art to asking questions. There can be beauty, acceptance, and a great wonder in the asking. Maybe even growth itself is mostly achieved in the asking, rather than in the answering. 

This being said, a mind active in constant questioning leaves little room for else. A lot of critical thinking skills we learn in compulsory education encourages positing questions and following through until we reach the answers. What if we built upon this ability by further training the mind to:

1) Be more mindful of the intensity and tone in which we ask ourselves questions

2) Stop asking questions when we decide to; and 

3) Not ask questions expecting (or feeling a sense of entitlement to) an answer more often. 

In other words, what if we practiced wondering?

“Wondering” is a less intense version of questioning. It is not as disruptive or distracting. It also doesn’t consume our full attention with the kind of urgency that often accompanies many questions we may have. “Wondering” feels like a peaceful, gentler way of approaching uncertainty. 

I don’t have the answers, and sometimes I’ll observe myself in the act of questioning not actually expecting to ever get answers to the questions. I ask particular questions to get myself to a slightly different space.. to shift the ground I walk on purposely. My mind is able to wander as I engage in wondering. 


The Birth of Surrealism

Surrealism was born when our minds awoke enough to perceive and give attention to imagery that we’d been conditioned to ignore. It wasn’t invented, it was merely perceived and validated by enough people for the first time. 

“Earthquake 2/3”
(“Seeing anew.”)

It makes me wonder about how the validation of something by the masses occurs. Before anything can be validated, it needs to gain mass awareness first. Surrealism has been described as a movement in the arts in the 1920s in which artists strove to unite their conscious and unconscious realms of experience.* I can imagine that it was embraced by many artists of the time since it was about getting in touch with the sleeping parts of ourselves which hold the key to much of our creative powers.

Intuitively, I can relate to this idea as I have a collection of my own unique experiences with creativity. When I am communing with creative forces, I feel a fluidity in my being-a kind of openness and receptivity. It is no longer a weird idea for me to admit that being an artist is like being an instrument. Whether I am writing or painting, a part of me has learned that it must step aside and kind of melt into the background. I might illustrate this as taking a mask off, or putting a new one on. Either way, the ground that I find a sense of security in, metaphorically speaking, shifts and I experience a wobbling in what I believe to be real. The experience of creativity happens in that surreal wonder-land that the mind awakens into.

Art and the Receptive State of Mind

The art of questioning (the act of asking questions in a certain non-demanding manner) can be a gateway to a more expansive and receptive state of mind. It is ostensibly the act of self reflection and self observation, but with significant creativity-enhancing undertones.

Are you chasing external things that you have put your trust in to give you that deep rooted happiness you sense is possible? Or are you chasing the state of mind you have experienced from time to time, that lets joy in? On that same note, are you the body that experiences sensory input in this world? Or are you the consciousness that perceives the sensory input? If you are the consciousness, then are you the consciousness that is here in waking life reading this? Or the consciousness that strips itself of the body and bathes in a dreamy surreal world each night? Is it possible to be both? ..Or even more than the sum of our realized parts?

Don’t think too hard, just wonder about it with me. Let’s stand on one foot together calmly, in no rush to plant the other foot down. 

“Earthquake 3/3”
Are you the body that experiences sensory input in this world? Or are you the expanding consciousness that perceives the sensory input? Is it possible to be both, and more? 

*https://www.britannica.com/art/Surrealism

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Raw Creativity

Very little excites me these days as much as the experience of raw creativity.

I would have described myself as having hermit-like tendencies before. I’d prefer not to be in social situations too much, or in crowded places. I like living in apartments at least high enough away from the ground that I feel I’m safe in a nest in a nice tall tree.

However, the surreal experience of creativity in more recent years has drawn out a new “need” from within. I want to meet others who keep at least one foot in that creative space. I want to talk about it.. as I’m sure each person’s experience of creativity is unique in many aspects. It’s such a large development-like an entire language-you acquire from the inside out and although creativity is accessible to all, some people are more “fluent” than others. It’s a world within the world that remains largely uncharted-well at least for me.

It can feel subtle and both familiar and unfamiliar.. It’s like a direct link.. an eyeball that functions without refraction-an inner eye with endless scope. We can bypass our normal clumsy way of navigating the space our bodies take up with our two hands and feet, and we can sense and see fragments of that which defies all we thought there was and all we thought we were.

Sometimes when we act from the heart-that warm place-it’s as if our arms and hands extend from that center space in our chest. Similarly, when our sensory perception sharpens, little shadows of inner whispers become more detectable.. like tiny inner tugs, pulls, and tingles. Our original arms and hands no longer suffice in visually depicting the creative process we can find ourselves a part of.

There is something else there..

“OctoMoChan”

Maybe you are thinking, “Mo-Chan, are you on drugs??” Nope.. not unless the creative substance of the ether counts, because I’ll admit I actively and regularly circulate that through my vessel-we all do to some degree.

I can’t tell you where you can find it, because I don’t think it works the same for everyone. But I will gladly share with you where I can find it in my own life. It happens in the early morning as the sky sheds its dark night color and for moments is a beautiful piercing deep purplish blue. It happens in the company of great big trees-the older the better. It happens in high places with scenic views-where the raw expansiveness is like a mental elixir-a full system upgrade and reset all in one. In general, it also happens in the presence of things that make you smile deeply from joy.

Happily, no one is immune to quiet joy. That being said, what is also apparent is that no one is immune to the ability to get in one’s own way. I have been in beautiful places and not been able to let joy bubble up from the inside. I have been amongst what would be sacred, yet an impatience and weak mental state aggravates me into a dizzy, irritable restlessness. And I have felt numbness at a scene where others were melting in emotion. We all get in our own way sometimes.


Now, I’d like to share a recent dream I had.

In the dream I was in my aunt’s room in her old house-the most magical room in any house I’d ever been in as a child. There were stuffed animal hippos hung from the ceiling, and a large fish tank sat near the foot of her enormous waterbed-the waterbed that had real hippos living inside, so she swore.

An important note to include about my aunt is that her mission in life has been to rescue wild animals who have been injured by humans or just need help getting back on their feet. In the dream, she was cradling her most recent rescue in her arms: a large bobcat.

Once the bobcat felt more comfortable, it left her side to walk around the room and explore a bit. The next thing we knew, it had perched itself atop the fish tank and was scooping out fish with the intent to eat them. We both dashed around trying to put the fish that had flopped to the floor back into the tank.. but there were so many. In real life, my aunt only had two large creepy-looking fish: “Freddy” and “Krueger.” In the dream, however, there were tons of fish, the most beautiful and magical I’ve ever seen. They had bulbous shaped bodies, and a presence that felt so alive and of a kindred nature-as if they were fellow human beings.

I looked into the eyes of the many fish that were waiting for dear life to be scooped back into the tank, and I felt a strong bursting feeling in me. This feeling is what I’m supposed to remember.


I know we all have these moments. There are things in our lives we have never articulated in words, yet they have been reinforced time and time again by simply reoccurring, or being somehow attached to our inner self by some great attraction. As our experiences build and we find opportunities to reflect and articulate these happenings, we find we have begun some existential process of self-translation.. all these happenings are filled with personal meaning that become evidence or data in this self-translation process. The greater the fluency, the greater the comprehension of the self.

So, back to those places and situations that I have found creativity in. Those sources of quiet joy and awe not only inspire, but reveal to me who I am in “yes” form.  It’s the comfortable way of learning, but by itself, it is insufficient. The other great teacher in life is adversity, and it teaches us in “no” form- through discomfort, stress, and the awakening of inner resistance.  

I’m thankful for the bobcat and fish dream. It was very powerful and I feel strength in walking forward today, with the guidance of that feeling it brought to my awareness. I wonder what feeling is guiding those of you reading this, today? Do you feel you are being guided in life, even if you may not know what is guiding you? How do you experience creativity?

Is something else there for you, too?    

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The Gift Exchange

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The Gift Exchange

A year ago in November, as I was walking back from the library under a long line of monkey pod trees on Kapiolani Blvd, a story popped into my head. It entered quite effortlessly although a bit jumbled-like a folder full of disorganized files. After I got home, I sketched it out and “file” by “file” every small element made its meaningfulness known to me in the flow of the process.

The main character looked like my little sister Suki from childhood wearing the same light blue nightgown and having distinct shaped hair. Her posture-unsure of herself-wasn’t an accident and wasn’t just her posture, it was my posture, and was to represent the struggle shared by many souls in this world trying to awaken and step fully into their truth. Every step is unfamiliar, you are unsure, and you have a thirst for a kind of support and reassurance that the world cannot quench.

Due to personal circumstances at that time of my life, I was made ready to step more fully into my own truth: that I am an artist. Why was it so hard to get here? Why is it so hard to come alive? To really wake up? I don’t know. But there is an overflowing amount of joy that seems to self-generate simply by my living my truth. The world is my ball of clay to fiddle with. And it’s not about the end result, it’s about the joy you feel holding that ball of clay and entering into the creative process.

In life we have roles, and I was always playing out numerous ones like daughter, sister, wife, teacher, and friend, but in the midst of all that I wasn’t living my truth. It’s a very spiritual feeling that is difficult to describe aside from the special kind of “knowing” you just experience directly from the heart. It’s not like I’d never heard the saying that you should “follow your heart.” I think a lot of us do. However, I now feel a kind of pull that suggests that true authenticity means aligning one’s choices and actions more fully with the heart. It isn’t enough to follow it in its general directional pull, we can aspire to merge with it to really “satisfy” our unique nature and constitution. What that looks like for me-an artist and storyteller-is always going to be different from what it looks like for others on different paths, but what is the same is the bravery it takes for us to hold fast to our respective truths in a hyper-stimulating world of endless influences.

Line by line as I scrambled to illustrate this story in time for Suki’s birthday last December, I held tight to that truth and watched myself really surrender to the creative process for perhaps the first time. It used to be about working hard, but now it’s about working hard to surrender. We are not our thoughts, or emotions. We are our nature: the language of the heart and soul. We need to listen to that language and become fluent in order to really grasp the capacity we all have to give of ourselves in the most meaningful way. It is my intention for the “If souls could talk” visual narrative series to attempt to touch on some of the universal symbolism of that language.

We are now in the midst of the “season of giving.” It can be a synonymous time with feeling that we aren’t giving enough, and sensing that the amount we really want to give is sadly beyond our capacity. This year, let’s not feel that way. May we all find joy and thanks in being ourselves and knowing that that is enough <3

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ROAMoChan: Paris

It’s 3:29 AM and I’m up communing with my favorite early morning sky. I did so in Paris as well, only those times I was perched on top of the toilet seat with the bathroom door sealed so as not to wake Suki. As mothers get up at all hours for their infants, so too do creatives make themselves present to incoming inspiration =P

One of my quiet internal simmering hopes for this Paris trip was to be exposed to the lives and works of creatives from the past. More than just seeing a painting of theirs, I wanted to see artists’ studios, gathering commons, and walk the streets that inspired Chopin, Fitzgerald, Monet, Van Gogh, and more! So many artists found themselves living in the “City of Art” even for just a brief period of their lives, and here I had the chance to go with my artist sister to see what kinds of inspiration still lurked on those old streets.

However, upon meeting up with Suki in Paris, our own little shared world  came into being and those simmering hopes took a backseat. Suki and I entertained each other with plenty of goofiness as seems to be the trend in our sisterhood. Plus, being greeted multiple times daily, “Bonjour madame,” gave me happy goosebumps, as did many run-ins with street musicians using their gifts to spread the love. Actually, among my siblings I am known to burst into original song when the mood is right.. and the mood was often right in our Paris world.

The last portion of one phrase from such a jingle: “Someone’s a Little Crazy and That’s Ok with Me,” became very useful in processing all the foreign encounters we had. For example:

“Oh, you gotta open these train doors yourself.. (and that’s ok with me)

“French people don’t readily smile so much..” (and that’s ok with me)

“This museum directory is inaccurate..” (and that’s ok with me)

“Hmm, this towel wasn’t clean..” (and that’s ok with me)

“It appears we bought the wrong train ticket..” (and that’s ok with me)

“The hot water ran out..” (and that’s ok with me)

“Oops, we missed our stop..” (and that’s ok with me)

“I don’t know how to say…” (and that’s ok with me)

“Wow, it costs a whole euro to use this tiny toilet..” (and that’s ok with me)

Paris, like any travel destination, was an opportunity to practice life.

♦♦♦

One thing I’ve come to love deeply about watercolor painting is that it asks the painter to take joy in spontaneity by remaining in the present moment being a creator in a state of receptivity. It is like keeping one’s composure whilst navigating through a large moving crowd of people. Little openings reveal themselves only when you are already there in that very moment looking for what is next. Somehow you can harness its unique properties to blend and flow where other media would not, and create an atmosphere like a memory or fragments of thoughts. It asks you not to premeditate too much, and bring a flexible open heart to the blank paper..with a willingness to go with the flow.

Eventually, there is a ‘final product’ and you put the brush down. But as a mentor artist from my teenage years said, “The real art is not the finished painting, it is the process. When you are done painting, the art is over.” Now, through watercolor, I finally understand what he meant. The message is no different from those who have said that one’s life is a work of art. With what mind do you wake up at 3:30 AM from a loud neighborhood rooster’s crow? When impatience besieges you when the many lines you stand in each day move slower than usual? When other people want to share their perceived problems with you?

As with watercolor, in life we are all co-creators. As the day unfolds, no matter how tightly we’ve constructed our schedule and repeated our intentions, something greater unfolds that we are merely a part of. To cultivate the flexibility and willingness to roll with life’s punches and learn to see the little openings that appear out of the apparent chaos is real life magic. The end product is always just a shadow indicating the real presence: the heart and mind behind the action.

All an artist really is, is a finder of this magic.

I am deeply thankful for the many opportunities to roam the globe this year and learn to see my perceived world through watercolors. Also, I am grateful to have shared these roamings with very special people. This entry concludes my ROAMoChan 2018 travels (I think).

I don’t know what I will paint next.. and that’s ok with me~

Boat on Monet’s lily pond; Giverny,  October 2018

“La Pie” (The Magpie) by Claude Monet; Musee d’Orsay, Paris

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ROAMoChan: Stockton

My husband and his family immigrated from a small village near Canton, China when he was just a toddler. They settled in Stockton, California and soon put their green thumbs to work.

Every time we come for a visit, we step into his parents’ world of mysterious child-size hanging squashes, medicinal herbal soups, and more than a handful of surreal happenings. The answer to a not-quite-formulated internal question might fall as an object in the closet. Or as you sit and drink your morning coffee, the bitter melon vines in the backyard might call to you from a homemade apparatus held together by old internet cables. “Hmm, I think I need to go outside,” is the magnetic message you receive daily.

Dreams of my high school orchestra days are induced by an eccentric night-owl neighbor tossing a baton and playing the French horn on his front lawn.  And on a morning jog right as I think of how the subtleties from those dreams spawn and intermingle with more subtleties, I pass by the street sign “Inspiration Dr.”

This place is not just any old random place.. there is so much going on. The pile of freshly cut cucumbers and loofahs that greet us on the kitchen counter each morning is evidence of this. This place is like a library for the avid reader and writer. But instead of books, there are tiny surreal happenings that occur right before your eyes during the unfolding of each day.

Like when I walked under the peach tree days after all the peaches had been picked, wondering if one or two had been missed. I did this a few times, to no avail. And then as if Nature wanted to impress me, today I found one almost in plain sight-perfect in size and shape; untouched by bird and bug.

After getting older, no one ever asks what kind of magic power I would like to have anymore. So I hadn’t thought about it much. I think I’d like to make fruit appear in a meaningful way for people. Like, after they wake up and go into their kitchen they suddenly notice a large mango sitting in the middle of the table. Or on a seemingly unremarkable day, they open the refrigerator door and are greeted by a bowl of delicious lychees that wasn’t there the night before. And in either case, they feel like how I felt when I found that peach.. a startling gift that shifts the ground you walk on just a little bit.

I feel as though it’s like a Narnia kind of existence for me here. The closet opens for me (and even answers my unasked questions). Fruit materializes with a mind of its own, and large dangling squash are encapsulated bundles of light-you can’t help but feel their divine presence. There is a different sort of gravity here.. and of course it’s very fitting to have discovered this right in the family’s backyard!

Inside a delicious ripe fig~ Stockton, August 2018

 

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