In August of 2022, a big surge of energy rose in me and I responded by grabbing my paints and letting it come through with water and pigment. I titled it, “Breakthrough” as that was the quality of the energy. It felt much like a geyser and I saw it as an electric blue–extremely creative in nature. Then, fast forward a year this energy surged again within. I tapped into a voice that spoke on behalf of people’s shared pain–the kind that comes about naturally in a world with its own level of ‘collective maturity.’
As the poem lines came through, I saw imagery, too.
The tip of my iceberg
Is all that can be seen
These lines came through with the image of a whale’s dorsal fin gliding between worlds—the ocean and above. It was a beautiful metaphor for our pain we carry with us from not being entirely seen. How can we feel whole when only part of us is ever seen and acknowledged? One definition of healing is, “to make whole.” I no longer believe that any of us are not already whole, I see that we are just incredibly invalidated—some even more so than others, yet it’s a pain we all share.
In an era where we hear phrases like, “self care,” “speak your truth,” and “be your authentic self,” I see it as a sign that we are working through some of the big collective growth pains. In order to heal, we have to find and acknowledge the pain. One intense cause of invalidation of the masses, is the pressure to conform to preconceived ideals and rules that don’t bend.
Through this poem, I was exposed to a new paradigm.. one that is becoming more and more accessible to us than ever before. It’s one where being right is not forefront and center. Instead, forgiveness is the go-to lens.
How quickly can you forgive yourself?
How quickly can you shift from ‘mistake’ to ‘experience’ ? And see the lesson?
Where healing our relationship with our Self naturally heals our ability to relate to others. When we can have that breakthrough, the whole world and how we perceive it shifts.
Like a baby whale that has yet to take its first breath, we are squirming underwater sensing our perceptions are limited and feeling the cold. We are of the sea, yet warm blood courses through us and with that, a different more expansive intelligence. We get to live in more than one world, so don’t be confined by all there is right now. When we do that, we limit ourselves to only owning that dorsal fin and not realizing the potential of being a whole whale <3
EQ and Energy Series Part 3: Yin Mind and Yang Mind
Yin and Yang appear to be two, yet are one presence in the universe. Where there is space, Yin and Yang may move about in an elaborate dance. Like how light cannot be distinguished without the contrast of darkness, this is the spiritual science behind the push-and-pull like relationship of Yin and Yang. There are many symbols of these two directional currents of energy in the universe: plus and minus, male and female, giving and receiving, and music itself with sound and silence. To understand one, the other must be considered–Yin and Yang are the embodiment of polarity and dichotomy, existing as two but stemming from the One.
It is commonly understood that our brains are made up of two hemispheres that are very different, but do a great job of creating a cohesive experience of reality and allowing us to survive and thrive in it. These two hemispheres in the brain point to an interesting dichotomy at play in our lives that extends well beyond our physical anatomy. The brain is a tangible organ that can be dissected, whereas what we refer to as the mind is less easily understood as it is not physical in nature. The two sides of the brain can, however, be seen as the physical manifestation of two very different experiences or functions of the mind: the Yin mind and the Yang mind.
The Yin mind features our ability to be yielding, adaptive, and accepting. Whereas the Yang mind is seeking, calculating, and demanding. To understand the essence of these two parts of the whole, we can look at a fundamental life system such as our breath. Yin energy is restorative, it is the inhale that draws rejuvenating air into our lungs and fills us–the self– with life. Yang energy is exhaustive, it is the exhale that is outward bound beyond the self. We all have Yin and Yang energies in us, however, we may not be aware of them let alone how to strike a balance. Another way to view these energies to understand our two minds more deeply, is to look at another illustration of Yin and Yang energies: feminine and masculine energies.
Embodiments of Yin and Yang
From ancient times female and male gender roles divided tasks into two major pillars–tasks related to caregiving and keeping a comfortable home, and tasks related to protection, exploration, and hunting. Feminine energy–Yin–encompasses the maintenance of one’s physical home and inner world harmony, whereas masculine energy–Yang–relates to one’s outer world involvement and activities. In our modern day society, the traditional gender roles have largely collapsed, and the new challenge is to balance both the masculine and feminine energies within ourselves. It’s a touchy subject right now to talk about masculine, male, men or feminine, female, women as those words are undergoing a collective kind of ‘detox.’ However, when we look beyond the connotations and derogatory associations, we can see that this collective ‘detox’ is a result of our desire to redefine new terms that allow each of us to have the masculine and feminine within–to support the duality of our inherent human condition.
Our physical body may house one set of reproductive mechanics, but we no longer have to be limited to the traditional gender roles associated with those mechanics. Now, each of us can play with our masculine and feminine energies–our Yin and Yang energies– and not be defined by them. Once this paradigm of gender and gender roles collapses, in what new and refreshing ways can we witness our Yin and Yang energies dancing in and through us? I believe it is a great time to begin growing our awareness of our Yin mind and Yang mind, and cultivating the ability to shift between the two and recognize when we are falling out of balance. In other words, many of us are ready to approach our own mental wellbeing with more conscious awareness and conscious participation.
The Yang Mind
Labels create separation, categories and division through which we then understand our world. The Yang mind’s special ability is to break things down into smaller and smaller pieces and organize them using labels. What we have yet to awaken more collectively to is that when we send our energy into labels, it creates separation, categories and division within our experience of ourselves in relationship to others. In other words, we experience ourselves as non-integrated and not whole. It is like a beautiful landscape that gets cut into many puzzle pieces and no longer experiences the whole picture, but puzzle pieces where some pieces fit together and others do not–some we like and some we don’t. This is what the analytical thinking mind does. Each time it breaks something down further, it creates a new opportunity to cast further judgment onto whatever it has dissected. It is a tool, but it is not a representation of ALL that we are. It is itself only one aspect of the whole–one piece of us with a unique function that is part of the whole.
When we live predominantly in the Yang mind, we will experience the further breaking down and scattering of our energy as it follows an outward reaching motion of thoughts led by what we often call, ‘curiosity.’ Think how the universe expands and keeps reaching further and further outward. Or imagine after we blow out a candle, two more appear to take its place, then four, and so on like cell division. As we blow them out, we become breathless and tired–our energy becomes depleted. This is often what it can be like to look up something online only to get sucked down all kinds of rabbit holes and go off on all kinds of tangents just following that Yang energy of curiosity. This is the Yang mind. When we let it run rampant, it’s like a small excited child that rules our headspace. Without discipline we can become very scattered and experience ourselves in a less coherent way because we leave our energy in such a variety of places.
Words are also a reflection of the Yang mind’s function of labeling things. The more words we know and use, the more usage we get out of our Yang mind. Another side effect of labeling with words is the cultivation of what many refer to as polarity. If we are to label something as big, we simultaneously create its opposite because labels rely on and are born from observing relationships which are inherently relative. If a tall person stands next to a short person, they remain tall. However, if they stand next to an even taller person, they are the new short. Labels provide us intricate ways to understand all kinds of relationships between the self and all else.
Through the unique feature of the Yang mind, we are able to experience another kind of conceptual playground that we call time. Your physical body is only ever here in the present moment, but energetically, you can be feeding some of your attention into memories and concepts of the past–perhaps reshaping it– or ideas for the future. The Yang mind is able to break down stimuli into more and more complexity and play with it conceptually, again driven by the inherent quality of Yang energy which is curious, seeking, and exhaustive. Are you exhausted from reading about the Yang mind yet? If the Yang mind looks like a hamster wheel that is always turning, creating heat and fire in our minds, then let’s cool it off next with some Yin energy.
The Yin Mind
Yin energy is often illustrated with the water element because of its yielding, adaptive quality. When water hits a boulder in its path, it flows around it and continues on its way. Our Yin mind possesses these same qualities. If you imagine a big empty bubble of space and introduce a thought, it would pass right through the space–in and out the other side. The Yin mind is one that allows things to be as they are–even the most seductive thoughts do not have the power to take us for a ride when we are in our Yin mind. When this aspect of our mind is exercised and strengthened, we possess the ability to simply hold space–be space– and be in a state of neutrality. You can envision this mental bubble of empty space like a womb. The Yin mind is about receptivity and being a receptacle.
We see curiosity and outward motion as an energetic force when we are in our Yang mind, so when we shift into our Yin mind we may be a little surprised at how differently it operates. The Yin mind functions largely through the act of letting go. This enables us to enter a state of incubation where we perceive our mind as being restful or just very present while absent of judgment. We can enter the Yin state while doing familiar repetitive, meditative activities such as washing the dishes, folding clothes, or shredding paper. In this incubation state, we are not shifting into the Yang mind that hops from one thought to the next and likes to dissect. When we are in our Yin mind, we experience ourselves as the powerful receivers that we are. Ideas may appear in pictorial form in our mind’s eye or perhaps as a whisper or inexplicable knowing. Our Yin mind is very creative in how it receives, that we may find ourselves being drawn to a location, person, or thing without being able to articulate why. Particular words jump out at us from signs and papers as if speaking to us. We perceive patterns and connections effortlessly. That beautiful landscape that was broken and scattered into many puzzle pieces by the Yang mind, begins to reassemble itself effortlessly with the Yin mind. There is a kind of intelligence that is effortless–magnetic–and when we are in our Yin mind, we experience things coming to us. For these reasons, the Yin mind can be considered the house of our extrasensory perception.
When we sharpen our ability to recognize and shift between Yin and Yang mind states, we will perceive our reality differently just as the collapse of gender roles is shifting our perception of reality. ‘Doing’ and ‘being’ are two states of mind that we shift in and out of that are neither good nor bad; better or worse. What can be very illuminating, however, is to look at our society and world at large today in these same terms–the balance of Yin and Yang. If you hadn’t guessed already, we are living in a very Yang-dominant, lopsided world. ‘Doing’ is coveted far more than ‘being,’ and productivity is sought and worshiped often at the expense of an individual’s overall health and wellbeing. (A closer look at this in EQ and Energy Part 1). Another pair of words that embody this relationship between Yin and Yang is “giving” and “receiving.” Going back to the wisdom of our breath, we can find in it one of our most profound teachers. If we attempt to give more than we receive, it is the same as attempting to exhale more than we inhale. We will become exhausted, scattered and less effective.
Until we can honestly acknowledge that a balance of these two energies is needed, we will continue to operate in the same way. Sometimes it takes physical sickness or pain to wake us up more to Yin and Yang imbalances–whether of the mind or elsewhere in our lives. I see our ability to work with Yin and Yang as starting with our ability to acknowledge the equal importance of both and not the semi-unconscious limiting beliefs that say activity is better than rest; giving is better than receiving, or that sound is better than silence and so on. When we discover we are feeding such distorted beliefs, we can take strides to introduce more of what energy is lacking. We can also practice feeding our vibration thoughts that disempower these limiting beliefs. (A closer look at this in EQ and Energy Part 2). The lesson of Yin and Yang is about balance and seeing wholeness despite polarity and the perceptions and illusions that stem from it. It is a beautiful lens and useful tool in seeing the world as a dance between two qualities of energy rather than a competition.
Cultivating Yin and Yang Awareness
Imagine a bunch of pens in front of you, each a different color of the rainbow and various tones in between. How do you decide what color pen to use? If we were to tap into our Yang mind–our logic–we might say to ourselves, “My favorite color is blue, so I’ll choose the blue pen.” If we want to tap into our Yin mind–our intuition– we would look and see which color calls to usin that moment and pick it up. Where logic tells us there is an overarching right answer, our intuition tells us there is an aligned choice in any given moment. Intuition is anchored in our inner landscape and is a kind of navigation system that serves us by helping us relate to our external environment. Our intuition operates on a subtle energy level–like a whisper–so to access it, a degree of inner quiet and stillness is very helpful. When our Yang mind is overactive and busily seeking out answers to things, one after the next, it can override and diminish our intuition–the Yin mind. How do we quiet our thoughts so we can experience more of our intuition? We can turn to the raw materials that the Yin mind absorbs like a sponge–colors and pictures.
Pictures and colors have the ability to communicate vibrationally to us in ways that words cannot. Words stem from the analytical mind that breaks whole, integrated things into pieces and plays with them in a kind of conceptual playground. Whereas pictures and colors move us forward in our mind, into the mind’s eye–the screen where we see imagery and use our imagination. We can put up three different colored apples in our mind’s eye right now and just observe them in silence. As we look at each one, the setting may become further embellished, and what we refer to as ‘ideas’ may present themselves in pure visual form there. Or perhaps soon after we put up these three apples, pictures or memories carrying a similar vibration pop up in visual form as well. Maybe we see a memory of cutting up an apple in the kitchen, or seeing one in a cafe. The word for this we often use is, ‘associations’. On the energetic level, like-vibrations light up similar vibrational matches within our experiences, and the Yin mind is the empty space that ‘houses’ these vibrations temporarily, again like a mental womb.
In the previous EQ and Energy posts, we covered what it means to have permission to feel good in our bodies and then explored how thoughts feed our vibration. As we’ve explored two qualities of energy in this post–Yin and Yang– I’d like to build off the previous posts in this series by offering some general suggestions on how to exercise the Yin mind more in our Yang-dominant world.
Shift from a Yang thought to a Yin picture
The next time you find yourself circling in a lower vibrating thought loop, create a picture in your mind’s eye not of what worry or fear you have, but of what condition or outcome you desire. Your Yang mind may be like a wild horse that continues to go rogue, but as often as you can, introduce this Yin picture into your mind’s eye and practice looking at it and feeding the light of your attention to it. The Yang mind quickly picks up speed and snowballs, so by practicing looking deeply into a mental picture of your own creation, you begin to drain the excess heat–Yang–from your mind and cool it off by using the Yin mind.
Reintroduce familiar, repetitive activities back into your daily life
As technology has advanced, we’ve gained access to more and more services and conveniences that eliminate a lot of the repetitive daily activities the lives of our ancestors were full of. Go back into your garden and pull some weeds yourself. Wash some of your dishes by hand. Hang out your laundry. Buy nuts still in their shells and deshell them by hand. Rather than seeing through the Yang mind lens that seeks to be as productive and efficient as possible, find ways to reintroduce some of these repetitive activities back into your daily life and treat them as periods of incubation where you get to shift into your Yin mind. It is a kind of meditative state that we can access as long as we do not feed into the limiting belief that we are being unproductive.
Practice behaving like water
When things come up in life that obstruct your direct path, practice flowing around them like water rather than going into resistance. The Yin mind is a flow state that we step into when we abstain from passing judgment while still keeping our ability to discern and make decisions. Remember, the Yin mind operates with the wisdom that there is an aligned choice in any given moment. Refrain from judgment so that you can experience more of this wisdom and way of being for yourself.
Treat your two minds like a marriage
Begin to create space between your pure conscious awareness and your thoughts by practicing discerning ‘squeezing’ thoughts from ‘blossoming’ ones. A blossoming thought is one that creates more ease and the release of tension in the physical body. When the Yang mind entertains a low vibrating “squeezing” thought, shift into your Yin mind and show it a picture of a squeezed flower blossom. Then communicate back to it by showing it a blossoming flower.
Communicate with yourself more and more with pictures rather than predominantly with thoughts. It can be very challenging to filter our thoughts when they take us for a ride, but it can be very empowering to show yourself a mental picture that is uplifting or calming. Picture a clenched fist loosening and returning to an open face up palm. Create more space between your pure consciousness and your thoughts by placing your attention on your breath. A Yang dominant mind leaves us heated up and breathless, so we can rebalance our minds by focusing our awareness on our breath and away from our thoughts. This is a fundamental concept behind many meditation techniques.
Our bodies are extremely sensitive and influenced by our surroundings. We can use this to our advantage by placing our attention on beautiful nature scenes, or meditate on the energetic quality of various elements such as wind, fire, water, and earth. What we look at, our body reacts to. The body can’t tell the difference between scenery around it or a mental picture of that scenery–it will react to both. So if we want Yin and Yang balance, we can look to Nature to recalibrate us back into more balance.
Living More Consciously
We can learn a lot about ourselves and the balance or lack of balance of Yin and Yang energy within by examining states of being we often fall into. For example, often trying to figure things out, being logic-driven, or self-motivated all demonstrate Yang states of being. Whereas letting your environment speak to you, soaking in a rejuvenating bath, or consciously breathing deeply are all Yin states of being. This ability to witness and identify Yin and Yang energy all around us and within us has been held by many who have come before us. It is a beautiful lens to look at all aspects of ourselves and our external environment in a way that promotes a deeper, more real experience of interconnectedness and oneness. Life does not have to be shaped around the many labels that perpetuate a sense of separation and division. Instead, it can be a conscious dance where our power of discernment is well intact, but does not create an ‘us’ and ‘them’ reality.
Yin and Yang is also a pair of lenses that fits perfectly on our two physical eyes! We are born with two eyes–with the ability to see two sides to everything. When we attain the ability to recognize and adjust the balance of these two energies within ourselves, we naturally will be able to see the balance or imbalance of them in others. Rather than encourage both of our children to work hard, we may discern that one child needs to be encouraged to rest and not be given as much structure. We will learn to see ourselves and others as constantly shifting in a dance with these two energies and no longer label some people as ambitious and others as lazy, or label ourselves as ‘good’ some days and ‘bad’ other days. We can live more consciously in that we can see the balance or imbalance of Yin and Yang in and around us and make choices that are less bound by limiting beliefs or the cultures that have influenced us thus far.
I’d like to leave you with a visual elixir that is very potent in helping to both see and regain balance of the Yin and Yang energies within. Hold your finger out and draw a circle in the air. Regardless of where you begin to draw the circle, you will experience both Yin and Yang by the time you make one full revolution. When you sense you are pushing or going outward, that is Yang. When you experience more effortlessness and a receiving quality, that is Yin. Uphill, downhill. Waxing, waning. Giving, receiving. Speaking, listening. Nature is a phenomenal teacher of this wisdom.
When we learn to recognize which energy is dominant in our mental experience, we can learn how to rebalance ourselves. This is what it means to live more consciously, and not at the mercy of the mood we find ourselves in, the beliefs we inherit, or the thoughts circulating throughout the collective. We have the ability to recognize Yin and Yang energies within ourselves and to dance our way back into balance without falling into judgment and getting stuck there. We can practice being an embodiment of the wisdom of Yin and Yang.
The concept of flight is seen throughout the entire history of human kind. It represents transcendence of struggle and suffering, and is an expression of freedom. Interestingly, I once read about how much a butterfly struggles while trying to exit the cocoon. If you try to intervene and help it by tearing some of the cocoon apart more for it, it actually has the opposite effect. The period of struggle is part of the process leading to the butterfly being able to survive and take flight. When a person intervenes to ‘help’ in this way, the butterfly does not exert the strength and force that is necessary for its body to go through and will never be able to spread its wings let alone take flight. This piece of wisdom from Nature teaches us about struggle and pain.
I see us all as butterflies right now, but most of us not yet knowing how to work both wings harmoniously–the Yin mind and Yang mind. One side of our wings is flapping too hard in a great state of effort, not knowing how to work harmoniously with Yin energy and so not experiencing the freedom of conscious flight. This ability to label and break the whole into smaller parts and see differences is what has given each of us the ability to see ourselves as unique individuated entities compared to others. The sense of individual ‘self’ has been born from this big surge of Yang mind activity. However, the pendulum is approaching its threshold. In mental health terms, this translates as uncontrollable anxiety, fear, sense of isolation, inferiority-superiority complexes, and hopelessness to name a few. How do we learn to fly from here?
I really see that mental turmoil is like the stress that a butterfly coming out of the cocoon faces. It is part of our developmental process. It eventually forces us to go inward and deal with the chaos of thoughts that no longer serve us and perpetuates further this sense of isolation, separation, competition and division among us. We are addicted to labeling–even simply the labels of good and bad; right and wrong. We are trying to shape the flow of life around us into solid and unchanging pieces. Eventually, our Yin mind will rise up from this chaotic way of experiencing ourselves. We are more than the thoughts we have and we do not need to cultivate a sense of self-worth from the thoughts we have. Likewise, the worth or value of others need not rest on them having and expressing certain thoughts that we like. Like the color of our own skin, we can learn not to put so much sense of our identity in the quality or ‘color’ of the thoughts that we have.
This is the kind of flight that we are all preparing for–the transcendence of thought dictating how we perceive reality. We can fly above the vibrational realm of thought-dictated reality and identity, and enter into a new plane where we experience ourselves as something much more vast.
Have a beautiful spring and unique unfolding of your very own~
EQ and Energy Series: Part 2 Thoughts as Food for our Vibration
In part 1 of this series on EQ and Energy, the focus was about becoming more aware of how often we feel good in our bodies as a foundation to building our emotional intelligence. Now, with that growing awareness, we can learn to see energy in one of its most obvious yet elusive forms: thought.
Thought and Vibration
Gone unobserved from a neutral place for a large portion of our lives, our thoughts and thought patterns are often inherited and conditioned by the environments and influences we grow up with. Certain thoughts induce or support certain vibrational states. So, if you want to learn to sustain certain “feel good” vibrations for longer amounts of time, your thoughts need to not betray your intentions.
When you make “feeling good” a higher priority in your life, eventually you may butt heads with energy in your space that doesn’t seem to want to let you feel good. This is what I experienced for myself about five years ago when I began to meditate regularly. I practiced sitting in stillness and watching my thoughts. At first, I could not control the quality of my thoughts or even the number of them, there were just too many. On top of that, many of the thoughts I had told me that I wasn’t doing things right in various aspects of my life–including meditation. Some of my thoughts initially seemed to be growth-promoting, but upon closer observation elicited a feeling of not being good enough just as I was in that very moment. From this self-thought examination practice, I learned a lot about how I was or was not nurturing my own vibration.
What I did not anticipate happening during these meditation experimentations was the strengthening of a muscle that I did not know I even had. I began to notice a space between my thoughts and the observing aspect of myself. As this space grew I began to disidentify with my thoughts– their ability to elicit an immediate reaction from me weakened. For example, I could see the quality of a thought approaching that was going to tell me I needed to do something because it was urgent. However, because the gap had widened so much between my awareness and the thought, I saw I had a lot of inner space to choose how I wanted to respond. I could choose not to have that thought all the way. With this new development, I would no longer immediately feel my body react or my vibration shift in reaction to the thought. The thought was not me, and there was a lot of space inside of me to “see” that.
In the world of energy, this is probably akin to learning your ABCs, but boy was it a powerful milestone. I learned through experimentation that thoughts are like food we feed our energy body, and depending on what thoughts we feed it, our vibration rises or lowers. In other words: thoughts have the power to both influence how good we feel and, when accumulated, can create momentum in our space which directly can affect our perception of reality.
The Energy on Words
Through deeper and consistent examination of my own thoughts both during and outside of meditation, I came to view my own thoughts as tools that I could use to affect my own vibration at any moment throughout any given day. I began to recognize myself getting sucked into that conceptual game of tag between past, present and future selves. I saw more and more the illusion of self in many forms and realized that going into my body and connecting with it in any given moment could bring me back to the present moment. I play with different questions that help me bring my awareness back to my body and my vibration.
“Is something missing from this moment?” (RESISTANCE to this moment.)
“Is something wrong with myself or someone? (Passing JUDGMENT)
“When is the only time that feeling good happens?” (Right now.)
I love to watch my body release tension too, as these personally customized questions help me to settle further into the present moment. The present moment is the only place I experience myself existing. It’s the only place I actually vibrate and am part of the bigger vibrational universe. This is where I can read energy, and where I have free will. The more deeply I choose to accept everything about this present moment, the more resistance (a very physically heavy and draining energy!) I clear from my space. And the less resistance there is, naturally the more flow we experience.
In addition to feeding ourselves thoughts in the form of questions, Sometimes it’s the energy on words themselves that when we hold it in our space for a little too long, can begin to lower our vibration and throw us into a state of subtle resistance to the present moment. For example this is how I experience the shift in my energy field when I try to encourage myself by saying: “I am becoming successful.” I get thrown into the future when I AM successful and thus, my present moment becomes somehow lacking–I am incomplete, and my future self has all the glory. Feeding myself this thought does not actually raise my vibration and allow me to flow in present time.
In this way, as we discover our own blind spots and learn to raise and maintain higher vibrational states, our sensitivity to how others are affected by our words shifts too. The more unique we discover ourselves to really be, the more space we naturally feel inclined to create to allow others to be as they are and at whatever point of their own journey they are on. When we send words in someone’s direction, the vibration of the communication is first held in our own space. Anyone who intends to lower someone else’s vibration actually holds that lower vibration in their own space first. Thus, one of my most favorite side effects of this shift in ability to read energy is experiencing taking things people say to our faces (or not!) less personally.
As one of my teachers in this field puts it so well:
What you think of me is none of my business.
Ignorance as a Uniting Principle
The more emotionally honest I become with myself, the more ignorance I come to notice in my own space and then recognize as naturally occurring in other people’s space. We don’t need to feel shame when we catch a displeasing energy in our space, we can face it, recognize its vibration and not confuse it with who we truly are. Just as our thoughts are not who we are, the energies super active in other people’s spaces need not define them as a human being. At my lowest vibrating point in my life I would not want to be labeled and categorized based on my vibration, so why do that to someone else?
Emotional intelligence includes our ability to see the level of emotional honesty in others. We learn from self-examination that the more emotionally honest we are with ourselves, the more connected we are to our own vibration and ability to feel good in our body. When we see others behaving in ways that show their own lack of emotional honesty with themselves, we see the self-inflicted suffering that comes with it, not because we are “better” than them, but simply because we have seen it in ourselves.
How we all Create
This brings me to one of my most recent and liberating epiphanies: how we all create. Many people say they are not creative and usually end up mentioning they can only draw stick figures. Somehow, a lot of people carry around the picture that creating means making something in the physical. However, this is just not true. There is one thing that we all create all the time, and that is permission.
In part 1 of this series, we touched on how increasing our own permission to feel good naturally leads to deeper levels of emotional intelligence and the ability to read energy. Another powerful kind of permission we can create is the permission for ourselves and others to make mistakes and have accidents. Accidents and mistakes are natural occurrences in life and need not be held onto energetically after the fact. The ability to let go of the accidents and mistakes caused by both ourselves and others returns our energy bodies to higher vibrational states.
Another, perhaps more familiar word for this kind of permission is: forgiveness.
Forgiveness as an Energy Body Experience
Forgiveness is one’s ability to return to a healthy vibration after something happens that causes our vibration to lower.
I love my new understanding of forgiveness because it gives me all the power of my own energy body by making forgiveness about no one else but me. Let me elaborate. Forgiveness is entirely our own responsibility. It is a form of energetic hygiene that clears our space of lower vibrating energies. With my new understanding of forgiveness, I don’t even need to say that I need to, “forgive someone else” because all I am doing is clearing the energy in my own space which has nothing to do with anybody else. The sequence of happenings that led to the lower vibrating energies in my space could have very well involved other people, but the moment I fall into thoughts of blame and injustice is the moment that I let lower vibrations STAY in my space–defeating the whole purpose of forgiveness. Every time I have ever let myself believe that someone else MADE ME FEEL a certain way, and that I need them to do or say something in order for me to raise my vibration back up, I give my power away. In the world of energy and vibration, blame is just another word for avoiding responsibility.
Test your own ability to forgive:
-Maybe someone hit you with their car and they apologized over and over.
-Maybe they hit you with their car and apologized but didn’t really mean it.
-Maybe they hit you with their car and blamed the accident on you.
It is easiest to remove energy from our space and return to a higher vibration when others provide a sincere apology. It is much more challenging when others try to blame us for their own mistakes; but it is not impossible. One more test:
-You slept through your alarm and missed your flight.
-You promised your friend you’d pick up their child from daycare, but didn’t set a reminder and forgot.
-You procrastinated doing something for too long and it led to irreparable damage and the loss of a lot of money.
How quickly can you bounce back from honest mistakes? How about from not so honest mistakes? What causes you to hold on to lower vibrating energy in your space after a mistake has been made? These are questions we can ask ourselves to understand our current limitations when it comes to practicing forgiveness.
It is a practice, but it is very possible to stop vicious cycles of self-criticism or blame when we learn to see energies in our space as being our sole responsibility to handle and under no one else’s control. This not only helps us learn how to self soothe (raise our vibration back up by ourselves), but helps us learn to notice what energies often trigger us and linger in our space. And THIS is exactly what emotional intelligence is.
Cultivating Forgiveness with our Thoughts
Creating permission for ourselves to observe our thoughts as food for our vibration and choosing to feel good over and over again is an extremely powerful act of creating. Here is the progression I see:
-In practicing observing one’s thoughts we naturally disidentify with them as we learn to suspend judgments.
-In practicing observing how certain habitual thoughts elicit various shifts in our vibration, we learn what energies those thoughts carry and we can begin to see some of our blind spots.
-As we see more and more of our own blind spots, our understanding of our own true power increases as well as our ability to have compassion for others who have yet to take more of their own power back. We learn to see ourselves in others without judgment; just heightened awareness and discernment.
-This increased fluency in reading the energy in our own space naturally affects our ability to tune into energy around us and beyond. The way we perceive reality greatly shifts and we experience longer sustained periods of higher vibrations in our space–we begin to really be able to distinguish what is our pure essence energy!
One final food for thought.. (Or thought to feed your vibration =P)
Postulate just for this moment, that happiness and access to your highest vibration is not found outside of yourself, but is already a reality inside of you.. That access is just blocked by a lot of energy in your space that isn’t your essence energy and so lowers your vibration.. That it is possible to call your energy back from the past and the future, back to this present moment.. And that it is possible to learn to tell the difference between your own energy and energy that isn’t you.. So you can let go of all that is not you. What could it possibly feel like to grow energetic boundaries that allow you to keep yourself separated from energy that isn’t you that tries to enter your space? What could it possibly feel like to experience your own energy field and body with only your energy in it.. To be you minus all the blind spots, limiting beliefs, and illusions you’ve inherited from the world, your conditioning and life experiences?
EQ and Energy Series: Part 1 Permission to Feel Good
In honor of the many lessons I have learned and continue to learn from the birds here in Hawaii, I am featuring their awe-inspiring behaviors as captured by my husband and gifted photographer, Norman, in this post.
This past year as Nature guided us inward by limiting our ability to go outward, Norman and I discovered our own way to still find wonder and beauty in our corner of the world through birding. Watching birds just be themselves oddly gave me a lot of permission to do the same in my own life. I noticed that every time I watch birds, I simply start to feel good.
Emotion is described as energy in motion. In order to have emotions and understand them, this requires us to have an energy system through which the energy flows. More and more we are hearing about energy these days and perhaps still feeling somewhat separate from it (because we don’t see it with our physical eyes). Yet, more and more the understanding of ourselves through the lense of energy and having an energy body is resonating with many people.
I see that this is happening because the average person is becoming more aware of their own emotions and, therefore, on a collective scale we are becoming more emotionally intelligent. We do this by not repressing our emotions as much or making excuses for why we should not listen to or allow them. We hear the words “self-care” more and more, and especially since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have been bombarded with questions like, “What is healthy and safe for me?” “Am I allowing others to make their own safety choices?” Our understanding of both compassion and free will have been tested. Regardless of any conclusions each of us have come to, over this past year we have all been studying emotional intelligence.
I see the foundation of emotional intelligence as beginning on the individual level: being able to recognize emotions when they arise inside of us, having realistic expectations of the behavior of emotions (including the ability to accept their presence), and being able to discern for ourselves what feels good in our body and what does not.
When I look at Nature I always feel a little bit of envy at how everything just flows. I’ve never seen a bird sit around being depressed, bathing in self-loathe, or seeming to be on some endless quest to figure something out. I am the most moved when I see a bird just sit and rest on a branch–not singing or looking for something to eat– but resting. Wow. Birds don’t have the same minds as humans, but they listen to their inner rhythm and they even know that feeling good matters. Resting is an act of self-care that allows the body to rejuvenate and helps the mind calm as well which creates a wonderful balance that naturally invites good feelings back into the body.
Up until the pandemic hit, much of the world was fixated on things like progress, productivity, and efficiency. I’ve heard voices out there that say, “I’m going to juice every drop out of life and live it up to the max, yolo! I’ll rest when I die.” The enthusiasm is REAL, but the idea that rest and self-care is not part of the equation is where the idea of living a great life and actually feeling good during our everyday experience of life becomes incongruent.
Also, our idea of resting does not always yield its intended results. Maybe we sit down, pour ourselves a cup of coffee, check our phones and browse the internet. Only half of us (the body) is actually somewhat resting. What is behind this inability to settle the mind? I see that it is often some seductive idea we carry that tells us that doing something is better than doing nothing. We are in many ways addicted to the idea that we need to be productive. In such a society, being productive becomes a primary way for us to feel self-worth. Therefore, no good feelings will come (that are worth our time) by stilling the mind.
This is where experimentation yields us our own answers. Is it just me or do others out there find it difficult to feel gratitude without stilling the mind? I have never observed myself fill up with gratitude and maintain that high vibration WHILE multitasking. A part of me feels it is possible, but when I am honest and observant of my own capabilities I see that I’m not able to do so at present. I can feel a gratitude ‘ping’ that comes and goes like a text message, but is that all I am capable of? Actually, to fill my energetic body with gratitude and just sit in it is still not an easy state for me to achieve despite having kept a regular meditation practice for several years now. This is because I’m still detoxing my belief system of these addictive patterns of multitasking and of continuing to associate being productive with the highest form of feeling good.
Trust me, I enjoy feeling productive, but gratitude feels WAY better both in the body and mind. Enjoying productiveness yields a positive state of mind while the body is in movement or the mind is creatively engaged in something. However, clinging to the feeling of being productive does not go with Nature’s flow, because we ignore our own need for rest and create more permission to work hard often at the expense of our health.
When we are addicted to the energy of being productive, duality sets in and naturally the idea of resting becomes synonymous with being lazy. We create rules for ourselves: “No indulging in rest until you achieve xyz.” “Complete this checklist and then you are allowed to feel good.” Life becomes a waiting game to allow ourselves to feel good and this pushes us further away from the present moment which is the only time we ever actually feel good. These rules make up our own personal equation for allowing ourselves some amount of self worth, but the moment something in life interferes with our ability to be productive (like a pandemic), those feelings of self worth can dwindle away and feeling good can feel far from possible.
There is the conceptual idea of feeling good, and then there is the actual physical and emotional experience of feeling good. When you dive deeper into the study of energy, you eventually are forced to become more emotionally honest with yourself and this means monitoring yourself throughout the day, not just summarizing your idea of how good you think you feel over coffee with a friend on the weekend. This daily self monitoring is a practice that grows one’s inner awareness and its byproduct is more emotional intelligence–more awareness of energy.
Growing Inner Awareness of Feeling Good
Reflecting on just one or two of these kinds of questions daily can deepen our awareness of our own emotions and help us discover our own blind spots.
-What percentage of your day do you feel good in your body?
-What is your idea of feeling good? Is it simply the absence of pain or discomfort?
-How much permission do you have to feel good? Is it something you have to earn?
-How much of the energy that keeps you from feeling good in your body is self-generated?
-Do your thoughts determine your ability to feel good? If so, do you feel like you are a slave to your thoughts? Do you have tools to help you separate from your thoughts?
-Do you believe you have much control over your ability to feel good?
-When you catch yourself feeling good, how long does it usually last? How could it last longer next time?
-Some forms of feeling good come in a big intense rush, do you expect feeling good to always feel THAT good? What expectations do you have about your body’s ability to feel good?
Even as I compose this blog post, I am practicing my awareness of and ability to feel good. As much as I feel in flow and deeply moved by what comes through me and out on paper, I am not WHAT I write. I am not the final written product that I will share. I do not have to buy into those equations of self worth that create imbalance and the inability to find congruent stillness between mind and body. I can practice a higher level of self-care–a truer restful state that isn’t grasping outwardly as if permission to feel good exists only outside myself.
Perhaps it isn’t what we see that matters, but with what mind and heart we see.
The sunset we see the evening we celebrate an anniversary, and the sunset we see the day after a loved one has passed.
Perhaps it isn’t where we go that matters, but with what mind and heart we go.
We go somewhere new to get away from our problems, or we go somewhere new because we feel an inner calling to go there.
Perhaps it isn’t what we create that matters, but with what mind and heart we create.
We might create a product because we believe it will be helpful to others, or we might create a product to prove to others that we have talent.
Perhaps it isn’t what we say that matters, but with what mind and heart we speak.
Telling someone we are happy for them and truly feeling happy for them, or telling someone we are happy for them when inside we want them to fail.
In the dimension of energy, there is the healthy vibration of a truth and the warped vibration of a lie. As humans, we depend a lot on our ability to communicate with words and, therefore, give a lot of our power away to words that come out sounding “good.” However, trusting in words alone is the reason why we experience being lied to. If we could all read the energy behind words, we would always know the quality of the vibration being directed our way. We would never look outside of ourselves for the truth, because we would see it for ourselves. This is the power of energy–emotional intelligence.
Increasing our permission to feel good is a great first step to deepening our emotional intelligence. It takes inner work and practice, but as we further understand our own mind and heart connection, we learn how to manage our emotions rather than ‘become’ them. I am excited to share more insight into this wonderful journey that I’ve embarked on, including how I stumbled into this practice of not only learning about energy in motion, but learning to see it with my inner sight.
Long ago, times were different but the quests of man proved timeless. In every ancient civilization or distant village there was sure to emerge at some point a wise old man.
Once in a remote land, emerged a wise old man. He was discovered sitting under a great big tree outside the bounds of a village. Nobody knew him, yet his ability to offer meaningful, personal messages to any seeker was unparalleled. In fact, word of this wise old man spread like wildfire and before long, groups of pilgrims showed up in the nearby village asking to be led to his whereabouts. Every day, as if by some unspoken agreement, the old man could be found sitting under the same great big tree–silent, yet ready to impart wisdom.
Even though the wise old man would only give out one message per pilgrim, that did not stop a great line from forming, as people could not help but feel a deep curiosity and wonder for this venerable sage.
I was such a man. Upon first hearing word of this mysterious wise man, I had quickly made preparations to set off on what was surely to be a great pilgrimage. After all, I had burning questions that just could not wait.
After arriving in the village, I had spent the next three days in line, trying to get a good glimpse of the old man as he met with each pilgrim. Each meeting would begin in the same fashion. A seeker would approach the wise man who would gesture for him to take a seat in front of him. Then, the old man’s lips would move briefly, followed by a long pause. Sometimes the pause was only a minute; other times it could last 10 minutes. Or in one man’s case, it had taken nearly one hour before the old man spoke again. What had the old man said before the pause? This was a burning question that each one of us pilgrims would soon learn the answer to.
After receiving the wisdom, some would leave solemnly. “Now it all makes sense,” they would say. Some would leave in tears, “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear.” And some would approach the line of waiting pilgrims saying, “He truly is the wisest old man!”
How will I leave? What will I say? I wondered. Slowly, the line moved forward.
Finally, it was my turn. With great anticipation I approached the old man who gestured with his hand for me to sit. Now, I would hear the words before the pause! I thought to myself. Every part of my body felt on high alert. Whatever words were to come, I’d take them in fully and well.
“Match the stillness of this tree,” said the old man.
“What?” I blurted out.
The old man had already closed his eyes. And so I sat bewildered for a moment before closing my eyes, too. I struggled to swallow as a ball of confusion in my throat could not be released.
The stillness of this tree.. match it. How, though? He’s not going to tell me, is he? At first I could not control the scattering of my own thoughts. New ones appeared with the momentum that the previous ones had created. Eventually, I came to the realization that every person who had sat here before me must have been able to cope with the same mysterious instruction, and so I decided to give it a try.
With eyes closed, I began to watch myself go into a deeper inward state. My swirling thoughts remained, but became more distant as if they were children taking their noisy play, further and further away. Soon I was not paying attention at all to the noise of the children, but reaching towards the stillness of the tree in hopes of matching it.
As I sat very still, I began to notice something. It was like a vague presence or a sensing. What is this sense? And just as if I’d spoken the wondering aloud, a reply came.
Sit in this stillness, and you will get all your answers.
No sooner had I received this piece of guidance, then the wise old man bid me farewell. My eyes popped open to see his hand already gesturing for the next pilgrim to be guided forward. Awkwardly, I thanked him and stumbled away, confused.
I felt many eyes on me as I walked past the remaining line of pilgrims, but I was too confused and in a daze to care how they saw me. As I made my way back to the nearby village, a sinking feeling of disappointment grew from my confusion. Had the old man gotten tired during my visit? Is that why he spoke only one sentence? The more I questioned what had happened back there under the shade of that large tree, the deeper I sank into disappointment. Nothing could erase the fact that I had come all this way looking for answers, and I hadn’t gotten any.
The trek back to my own village was a slow and solemn one. My will to seek answers to my questions had suffered from this pilgrimage, and it was with a heavy heart–as if something had died in me– that I approached the familiar place I called home.
I painted a smile on my face as I was greeted by neighbors and friends. Their children pulled at my sleeves to see what gifts I’d brought back. I promised them all the juiciest story about meeting the wisest old man under a great big tree that evening. Seeing their eyes light up in anticipation, my heart began to accept that it had come home again and that all could resume as normal.
Several days passed, and it was on my walk back from collecting kindle wood that I stumbled upon a little girl from the village no more than 8 years old sitting in the shade of a tree. I paused to watch what she was doing, and soon realized that she was sitting completely still. My heart began to move and thump as if trying to speak to me through my chest. A million things became clear to me as it did. A man could walk for days to meet the wisest old man, and come back empty-handed. Yet, a little girl could listen to a story and explore its wisdom by trying to taste it herself.
Overcome with curiosity, I decided to go and ask the little girl if she had gotten any answers.
When I hear the phrase, “information age” I think of turning to the internet for answers. The power that comes with a simple click of a button connecting us to our answers is beyond seductive. However, trouble arises when we rely less and less on our own direct connection to wisdom and life experience and replace it with the belief that something outside of ourselves has our answers. When this delicate balance of looking outward and looking inward is upset, we can unintentionally give our power away to whoever or whatever we view as the “authority.” In doing so, we can also begin the practice of invalidating ourselves by not turning inward and building trust in ourselves. If this continues, we can lose touch with our own power before it has had a chance to really blossom.
When this story came through, I immediately identified with the seeker–the man who went out of his way to meet the wise old man in a distant land. Then, as the story unfolded, I took a step back and observed more quietly in the background. Was the wise old man really wise? Or was he wise only when he matched the stillness of the tree? And when the seeker heard the reply to sit in stillness to get all his answers, had that reply come from the wise old man, or the seeker’s own connection to wisdom? At first I wanted to know, but then I saw the wisdom in not saying either way.
I remember being a little girl and being less conditioned by society as well as still very ignorant to the goings-on of the world. I think I would have loved to hear this story back then. When we are so young and innocent, our connection to Nature is naturally so much stronger. We can listen to a story like this and not for a moment think that wisdom is only for some people depending on their age and or gender. In fact, this story is not a tale about a wise man at all; but a simple demonstration of the wisdom that can be found when we commune with Nature.
My wish today is that, especially during this time of year, the child in each of us can look at this simple act of matching the stillness of a tree and just know there are gifts–perhaps meaningful personal messages for us–waiting in the light for us..
..that just like wisdom, gifts don’t always have to be found outside of ourselves.
No matter who or where a story comes from, moments of movement and moments of stillness can be found embedded within it. This precious balance can be seen in any form of wisdom and it is the fundamental key in the ancient human quest for answers. Even the relationship between the state of questioning and the state of having answers can be simplified into this duality of movement and stillness.
When we sit simmering in our questions, there is great movement within. In matching the stillness of a tree, these questions stop simmering and eventually can become still. In the simple absence of questions, or absence of mental activity we experience while questioning, it is akin to having the answers. We allow ourselves to experience a deeper stillness. Rather than looking for the answers to your questions, what happens when we allow ourselves to stop asking questions? When we practice the stillness that we assume comes after we get our answers?
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?
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.”
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.
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!”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
..that doesn’t sound like power.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 objectitself 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?
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.