Divine Menagerie

None of us created the animals on the earth. Aside from breeding already existing animals, they have come to be here on their own accord. They are our neighbors and in many ways, they are our teachers. Being wild, it is difficult to get into close proximity with a large variety of animals, but I imagine that when people more of the land would encounter animals back in the day, they must have received their messages and teachings. I want to be more of the land again.. 

I wrote the above passage barely a week ago, and–as of this morning– I think my longing has been heard. I’ll explain.

A Divine Visitor

Your meditation spot can be as sacred of a space as you would like to make it. You can sit on a cushion on the floor, light a candle to signal commencement, and choose a time of day that works with your schedule. My meditation spot is a chair in my bedroom facing the open window. I like the early morning like 5 or 5:30am, when it’s often still dark outside, but a hint of something in the air tells you that morning light is on its way. This was exactly the case this morning as I headed towards my meditation spot after doing some stretches in the living room. I returned to the dark bedroom where a subtle twilight glow gave everything a little bluish shimmer. I walked over to my chair by the window, and screamed.

Was it a rodent?! No, it was large and dark feathered, sleeping in the window sill. Well, sitting on top of the netting right outside the window sill–the very netting that had been repaired a couple of weeks ago for the purpose of keeping such feathered friends away. The bird was darkly colored, but I could not tell very well because it was too dark outside. Also, its head happened to be twisted and tucked so deeply into its body in such a way that it looked headless!! I turned the light on and by then, Norm had come over to see what all the fuss was about. For a few moments we stood there in awe of the aliveness of the ruffled dark creature, though it had yet to move. Eventually, Norm left and I decided to try to welcome the energy of this divine visitor into my morning meditation space–after all, I DO love birds. 

So, I sat down in my chair and closed my eyes. …But no matter how I tried to approach the task, something was just too eerie about this bird. This was because it still hadn’t budged an inch since I’d discovered its presence and even screamed in its face. I wanted the satisfaction of seeing it move even just a little. I decided to tap on the window sill with a paint brush *tap tap tap* and then spoke to it. 

“Oh, mister biiiiiiiiiirrd. Are you sleeping here?” I flickered the bedroom lights on and off and tapped all around the window, doing everything but poking at it through the screen. Nothing. 

Ok.. It might be dead. Though I thought I could sense its aliveness, I very quickly could tell myself a story about how the bird was old and tired, came to my window sill, tucked its head in tightly and died in its sleep. It could be very possible for a bird to die in such a way and rigor mortis set in, freezing up its legs while it had been grasping the netting which would explain why the bird looked so solid and upright. 

“Forget it,” I thought to myself. I no longer want to do my morning meditation with this creature in my space–divine or not–dead or not. So, I left to meditate out in the living room. 

I won’t go into too much detail about my meditation, but here are the big bits. Among the energies active in my space was adrenaline and a lot of questioning. So, I flushed those energies out and replenished with fresh Nowness energy. Once I became more centered, I decided to look at the energy of the bird still in my space. Yup, it was still there. Time to take it out of my space–dead or not. Despite all the dizzying early morning excitement, I still could see the bird as a divine visitor and smile about a few things. 

After all, hadn’t I said that I wanted to be more of the land? To feel connected to the wild animals? 

Painting of the extinct Hawaiian bird Po’ouli.

Well, I’m laughing to myself and waking up to the realization that I am having a morning adventure. These are good signs. Meditation lasted about 22 minutes. “Who knows,” I thought to myself, “maybe when I go back to the bedroom later, dead rigor mortis bird will magically be gone.” As I walked down the hallway about to turn into the bathroom, I glanced at the window sill in the bedroom expecting to see that dark headless lump. 

But I didn’t see any darkness. So, I ran into the room right up to the window and was shocked to find that the bird was gone! Not a feather remained. Staring at nothing but net, a burst of awe like a personal energetic super nova of playfulness passed through me. Along with it came realizations. It was never a rigor mortis bird. It WAS a divine visitor! ..and the aliveness I had felt was real. 

After the inner super nova dissipated, I had just one thing to say:

“That is NOT an alert bird.”

__________

Divine Menagerie

Along with this headless rigor mortis bird, there are other divine visitors I will definitely not be forgetting any time soon. Like this albino? gecko that greeted me after a run one morning.

I’ve since seen nothing remotely similar! Once I woke up to a giant moth the size of my hand chilling on the wall of the lanai. It hung around as I wrote a blog post that morning.

I consider animals that show up in my head to be divine visitors as well. In fact, those visitors are sometimes even more mysterious, especially considering the circumstances in which they make their unplanned appearance. 

A little over a year ago, I was sitting in my living room completely spaced out. I had borrowed a book from the library on birds of Hawaii. I recalled the librarian who had helped me check out my books. She informed me I had some late fines to pay, so I gave her what I owed. She dawdled at the cash register for a bit then came back with my change: one quarter. “There’s a sea bird on that quarter,” she said, looking me straight in the eyes. She must have seen that bird book I was borrowing. I took that quarter with the magic dust she’d sprinkled on it and dropped it into my coin pouch. 

It was in this daze of reminiscing in my living room that one by one these cute fluffy birds appeared in my head–flying and bouncing into invisible walls with tiny eyes that were wide open just like that librarian’s eyes had been when she looked straight at me.

Me being me, I instinctively grabbed a paintbrush and painted what I’d seen. As the paint dried, I looked down at my three divine visitors. What fluffy birds in flight; all with such tiny heads. Wherever you guys come from, I’d like to go visit there.

This next divine visitor also appeared in my head. It was around a time recently when I was in the middle of making a big decision. Suddenly, the stoic image of a light brown bunny wearing a red cape blowing in the wind popped into my inner view. Bunnies always look hyper-alert to me. Their noses wiggle as they breathe somewhat nervously, and do they ever even blink their eyes? Yes, bunnies are cute and cuddly looking, but the lesson of the bunny– from what I see –is one of bravery.

Be brave!

It’s the smallest and most fragile of animals that require the most bravery to live alongside large, sharp fanged beasts in the wild. And a bunny in a cape must be that message amplified another notch. Be braver than your normal. Be a more super-you version of you. Ok, red-caped bunny; message received!

Then, there is the lesson of the koala. I grew up knowing very deeply that my grandma loves koalas.. so much that I think a part of me doesn’t draw a very distinct line between the koala and my grandma. (The same can be said about my aunt and hippopotamuses). When a person is drawn so deeply to an animal, it is a really special thing. No one has told me this, I just feel it in my bones. So, when this koala showed up in my head chewing on a eucalyptus leaf, I thought to myself, “Grandma!” 

“Grandma!”

Once upon a time out of the magical void of creation came this super peculiar creature that only eats one thing and sleeps 20 hours a day. Basically, it eats and sleeps. What kind of lesson is this? Why, that sounds like rejuvenation. It also tells me that we should take the time to find the one thing that we need to eat to nourish ourselves. Maybe something is more easily accessible, but as lazy as the koala may seem, it doesn’t just eat whatever is nearby, it knows it must find and eat the one and only thing that can nourish it. That is quite the lesson!! Thank you koala.

Next in my divine menagerie is this long-legged pink fellow. The long-legged part of me relates to the flamingo, except my legs are not as thin. What kind of intelligence must the flamingo store in its legs? Something that lets it feel so secure and in balance that it only really needs one to perch on while it rests.

“Have some fun with what you got!”

Its pinkness is really cheerful and uplifting. Along with so much expression taken from its long black curved beak.. so many parts of this creature can seem awkward to the eye (like that twistable neck!) yet the flamingo looks to have a steady, pleasant outlook. “Find balance and have some fun with what you got.” How you look on the outside to someone else doesn’t have to be how you feel on the inside. And anything that is pink and walks around in life is sure to bring out some amusement in others, don’t you think?  

________________

Adolescent Mo-Chan

My final story is one from my childhood. I have been called Mo-Chan ever since I can remember. So much, that I never felt comfortable being called Maureen. It was as if the name belonged to someone else. There was a lot of plasticity to my identity as a child, that carried into the awkward years as I ripened into an adult. How did we walk that dividing path? With one leg in childhood and one leg in the widening perception of adulthood? What parts of the child did you hold on to? Or did you reluctantly let a lot go? 

For me, on particular days that I felt I needed to be closer to the “real” me, I would put on skunk ears. You know, those furry headbands with ears attached to them that people often wear during Halloween? I had a pair of skunk ears–black furry pointed ears with a nice tuft of white that fluffed out between them.

I never explained to anyone why I would put them on, not even to myself. It was just something that needed to happen sometimes. I’d put them on and sit down to play around on the piano. Or I’d put them on, wrap myself up in a blanket and hobble around the house on the weekend. There was one great picture of me on Easter (I think), in an oversized tie dye shirt, with a quilt wrapped around me like a long skirt, laying on the driveway with my skunk ears on shielding my eyes with one hand from the glare of the sun. My black and white cat Bushy was sniffing at my horizontal self. This was how I really indulged in being Mo-Chan back then. I did and did not know what I was doing. I was just being myself.

Nowadays, I practice sitting with myself and feeling if the skunk ears are on or not. How “me” am I right now? How concerned am I with explaining to others who, what, and the whys of my life? This is an interesting thing to reflect on especially during this time of year when it is normal for many people to dress up in costume. Maybe we assume we are dressing up as something else, but maybe we are letting ourselves embrace a part of us that we don’t “let out” so often in our lives. Express some part of ourselves, no questions asked and with no need for explanation. We get to come together as we are and all play the same game!  

Self-expression–whether you are painting a picture or dressing up in clothing–is about practicing being ourselves. How well can you do it? (Not how nice do other people say you or your painting look.) How close do you get to your authentic self? As I write this, I check to see if the skunk ears are still on..

One easy way for me to know that I am accessing or aligned with my skunk ears-self is when I paint or draw something that EVEN surprises me.

I love being surprised by myself, because I believe in that moment, an assumption we have carried is brought into light. Otherwise, why would we experience surprise?? The assumption might be as simple as, “the world is known to me; I am known to me; there isn’t much else out there.” Then BAM!! You see something (in the physical or not) that brings you a rush of surprise. And when an assumption is brought to light, it is automatically destroyed by the experience of surprise itself. So, if you can be surprised by yourself, you can keep your brain from indulging in too much “I know that already” chatter and maybe even begin to look for surprises–really believe that you don’t know the half of everything.. not even close. 

From Left: Me with Ehu (@ehudog) and her human (my dear friend) Lisa <3
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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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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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