Sunday, September 24, 2017
I hope your week was magical. Mine was certainly eventful with my normal classes, monthly meditation, a public talk, and the quarterly drumming I've been staying occupied. Right now I have a kiln cooling, fired on the equinox so hopefully the work will be a turning point for me.
The equinoxes and solstices are the turning spokes on the wheel of the year, marking the edges and midpoints of seasons. The earth's rhythm and our own are joined. This past year has been one of many changes for both myself and others. There are some rough waters ahead, but there are also many opportunities to change course and take part in more fulfilling adventures. Lately I've been discovering the distinction between being grateful and settling.
Now if you are reading this I am sure you have something to be grateful for. Accepting things as they come is a wonderful skill to develop. However going with the flow has been a source of great disillusionment. What if the flow is wrong? Think of the energy in a mob. Herd instinct can sing us into complacency. Our tendency is to accept our circumstances until they become unbearable. Going against the flow is not easy, so we'll just try and ride it out. In my life I have settled for less, because I've been afraid to ask for more. I mean I'm doing okay, not great but okay. Who am I to ask for more? Still there is a longing in me, and it isn't being filled.
This is not to say I am not grateful for what I have, I am. I also realize that I must strive a bit or I'll never be anywhere but where I am. So striking a balance between striving and accepting, gratitude for what I have, and the desire for something better, isn't easy. The good things in life take work. Whether that is career, relationships, or family, they all require effort. This applies to the energy work I do too. It took me years to get to a place of awareness and skill to do it in a way that looks effortless. When I don't make it harder than it has to be, it generally is, but it wasn't always. Knowing when to paddle and when to float is probably one of the most valuable lessons you can learn. (If you learn it please tell me the secret, I'm still guessing).
When I struggle to maintain balance I am lucky to know certain practices centered around re balancing myself. One of my favorites is Despacho ceremony. The pictures above are from this week's Equinox celebration. Besides the usual drumming I had the opportunity to do Despacho. It is all about showing our gratitude to Spirit and Mother Earth, and asking for what we need in our lives. It is about reciprocity, giving our thanks and our best efforts, and receiving blessings. It is a cycle that moves throughout our lives and the lives of all beings. I like it because it balances that need to honor what we have going for us with the desire to improve our lives. Plus they're pretty, and there is generally leftover chocolate.
So why am I telling you this. Well as we reach turning points in the year and our lives, we should take stock. We can remember what we have to be grateful for, and simultaneously strive to make our lives better. What about you? Are you counting your blessings? Are you simply going about your day to day on autopilot? Are you afraid to ask for what you truly want? I invite you to the great work of balancing gratitude and desire.
Peace and Blessings,
Sunday, September 17, 2017
I hope you had a delightful week. Mine has been more problem centric in a way. I got to experience the deep fury I usually keep chained up in the basement. So fun times right?
As a child I had very intense emotions. I remember being 4 or 5 and being so overcome by my feelings I'd bite my own fist. I never did (to my recollection) bite other people, much to my parents' relief. However, I was often alone in my room when these intense feelings would overtake me. I also had quite a temper, although to this day my mother swears that neither I nor my siblings ever threw tantrums. I just don't see how that could be possible, personally I think she just chose to forget those experiences. My point is that I worked hard to cage the rage or emotional turmoil I possessed. I am like many men afraid of the rage that we carry within us.
Now when I tell people about my rage they generally begin to giggle. I am considered soft spoken (if you don't count the swear words), gentle, and calm. Well I work very hard at remaining calm. I've seen what happens when I lose my temper. Stuff tends to break without me even touching it. I react rather than respond when I let the red rage rule me. In short, I don't make sound decisions from a long term strategy perspective when I operate from anger. On the other hand, when I neuter my anger people often think they are in a consequence free zone in their interactions with me.
This week, since I had a day that I couldn't work in the studio I decided to tackle a problem I've had with my website. For at least the past six months, whenever you google my name you'd get an error message on the search where my homepage occurs. The link worked. The page was operating, but it was as if it wasn't there on google. Now Bing had me show up just fine, but nobody uses Bing. I mean Google is not just a name it is now also a verb. So I called my web host not once but about ten times in total to see if we could fix this (The first three calls were placed over the summer). It turned out I knew more than the tech support people. When I complained I got stonewalled. They couldn't help me fix it (they blamed google), but they wouldn't refund me any money for my invisible site. Well I lost it. I am proud to say I ruined the day for about six people on Wednesday. That is not quite accurate, they ruined their day by not honoring their contractual obligations to me and my insistence that they should. I was shaking I was so angry with them. If I could have force choked them through the phone I would have, while saying, "I find your lack of technical expertise disturbing."
So I used my words. Now I have somehow repaired the problem on my own. Unfortunately I had to strip my site down to the most boring minimum. At least I appear when people search me. Still I am unsatisfied with those folks who helped feed my rage beast. I mean he almost broke the chains. Anger is a sticky emotion. We can't live without it, but finding a good way to live with it is tricky. I've had it save my life once or twice. I've certainly had it change my life on multiple occasions, sometimes for better and other times for worse. The problem that I had was that there was nowhere for this energy to go. It wasn't solving my problem it was just pointing out I was dealing with jackasses. I felt trapped by it, as there were no solutions and I couldn't kill the jackasses. (Not that I would actually kill them....just hurt them real bad...this is why I keep the rage beast caged). This is why I don't have rocket launchers on my car, because let's face it I'd use them. Most of us would. I mean you've seen how some asshats drive.
Recently someone suggested I look into writing for Elephant Journal. I was sort of intrigued. I was skeptical that my more racy or explicit posts (search for the 'Healing Power of Fuck Off' as an example) would be acceptable material. I like my voice. I like that I can scream explicit swear words on this blog. I am trying to remain honest with my writing. Honesty seems to lull the rage beast into slumber. Do I want him gone, absolutely not. He is necessary. I want him as an option if I or a loved is in danger, so I can scream, "RELEASE THE KRAKEN!" Anger is a part of the spectrum of emotions if we lose him (or her) all the other emotions just get that much more muted. Joy would be less intense and who wants to live in a faded world? Besides that anger is great fuel for getting you out of your funk. You just have to be very careful that you let it fuel you and not rule you. Those brain chemicals energize us but they aren't meant for long term usage I felt pretty bad after being angry all day. I can only imagine what people who live in that state must feel like.
So why am I telling you this? Well I was pissed off and wanted to vent a bit for sure, but beyond that this experience really held up a mirror to show just how much further I have to go on the emotional maturity spectrum. Dealing with emotions particularly the stickier ones like anger or fear really determine how much we can enjoy our lives. Emotions underpin everything. They color how we see ourselves. They define our relationships. How well we navigate them governs how well we deal with our successes and challenges. Our education system is very concerned with literacy and mathematical ability, but we barely scratch the surface of emotional literacy. So this week I invite you to tune into your emotions, especially those that you keep locked away. I'm not saying you should let all your emotions out to roam the village freely, but you should at least check in to see if they have all the necessities. If you don't do that occasionally there will be a larger mess to clean up. Acknowledge what you feel even if it is just to yourself. Emotions, even the darker ones give meaning and context to life. Schopenhauer once said, "Life without pain has no meaning." Well ladies and gentlemen I have good news, if that is true, your lives will certainly have plenty of meaning.
Peace and Blessings,
Monday, September 11, 2017
Yes this post is late. I was at the point of sleep when I remembered I hadn't posted it, but at that moment the pillow's call was stronger than the keyboard's. Sleep and dreams have a gravitational effect on us, and for me at least a seasonal one as well.
The weather has turned cool here the past two weeks. There is a slight briskness in the air, and the scent of fall is upon us. Although the real indication for me was the shift in my dreaming of late. My dreams seem to be more fleeting and distant in the summer months. Autumn begins the deepening of dreams in my life. This is not to say I can't have detailed or meaningful dreams at other points in the year's tapestry of weather, but the remembered occurrences are higher in the fall and winter. The psyche at its most unconscious level is in sync with the earth's rhythms.
Dreams often are dismissed by serious minded people. Adults in our society don't have time to muss over the implications of our night wanderings. I find this attitude very damaging to our wholeness. For me, dreams offer a chance to operate without the stranglehold of the ego filtering my perceptions. My agenda is not often considered and I get to peak beneath the hood of my personality to see what is really driving the car. I have made decisions and changed my mind on topics because of dreams. I give them weight, and in return they give me insight.
Why am I telling you this? Well so often we're in such a rush to start the day, we don't consider the second life of our dreams. The nurse from Romeo and Juliet said, "Seek happy nights for happy days." Now while she wasn't referring to dreams her advice has merit. If we've been suppressing a need or ignoring a problem, odds are it is going to show up in the nightly light show. Beyond that, we may get to see bits of information that were filtered out of everyday perceptions. Those bits can give a greater understanding of the motives of ourselves and others. Dreams can also show you where you are at odds with yourself. They are a goldmine of inspiration and information.
So are you minding your dream life? Do you notice shifts in it across the seasons? Do you notice how changes in your life affect it? What could richer dreams be trying to tell you? As the autumn mists roll in and the space between waking and sleep grows thin, pay attention. Hold onto the wisps of story as you wake. They may bring you a gift.
Peace and Blessings,
Monday, September 4, 2017
I hope you are doing well. The hour is late here. I fell asleep before writing and now I am racing the sunrise. It's been a weird week for me. The tail end of the summer always brings with it a great deal of nostalgia. The school year begins and for someone who spent so many years in academia I still find it odd to not be involved in it.
So you may be wondering what's up with the mug? Well I got accepted into a juried art show, and yes I did make that mug. For those of you who are new readers I am also an artist. It is part of my profession that has been on the back burner for a few years. You see I'd hit a wall with my art. Well actually I hit several walls, repeatedly, or rather constantly. After I graduated back in 05, I didn't have the equipment I needed to make work. Then I worked as a studio assistant in exchange for equipment use. That went well for about a year or so and then that studio closed. I then helped someone set up their home studio in exchange for firings. They backed out of the deal after I finished all the heavy work for them. So I finally got my own kiln and equipment, but then I couldn't get the glazes to work. After much frustration, I got a few colors the way I wanted them, but was kept out of a national show by a former professor. About three years ago I got into a small gallery in Gatlinburg. This for me was a godsend as I had run out of shelf space and couldn't make anymore work. Unfortunately, the gallery sold my work then neglected to pay me and tried to make off with over a thousand dollars of my work. The final straw came as I found out that the clay I had stored had dried out into brick hard material. I literally broke my body trying to make the clay work. To sum it up for more than 13 years I have hit nothing but setbacks and disappointments. The good news is that I'm stubborn.
As I look back on what I just wrote I realize how much I needed an outlet for my frustration. I didn't mean to go into such detail. In fact I missed the one piece of information I meant to convey. I've been working in porcelain since about 2004, and it has been kicking my butt the entire time. Porcelain was once valued up there with precious metals in the west, and after working with it for so long I can see why. As pretty as it is, it is quite the diva to work with. This week I switched to a different clay body. I basically got tired of the abusive relationship it has had with me. It seems to think I am beneath it, and do I really want to hang around with something that has such a low opinion of myself? Now it certainly didn't cause all of the problems stated above, but I can tell you that working with material that insists on fighting you every step of the way is exhausting and demoralizing. So imagine my surprise when I opened a fresh bag of new clay and started prepping it for wheel work and finding that it didn't push back at me. I set it on the wheel and had it centered in thirty seconds as opposed to five to ten minutes. It responded to my touch like an ardent lover. Now I am grateful to porcelain for making me a better artist, but I consider this blog post as my Dear John letter to porcelain. I'm not sorry it's over, I'm only sorry it took me this long to figure out that you are not long term relationship material.
So why am I telling you in intrinsic detail about my feud with self important clay? Well I imagine that many of us have something in our life where we keep banging our heads against the wall. Perhaps we think it is all due to our own failings, but maybe it is just the circumstances. Maybe we think we don't have options. I am amazed that changing this one thing has opened up the horizon. We can get fixed into an approach in our heads that keeps us from trying something else. For you it may not be clay it could be a job, a town, or even a relationship. Stop trying to make something work that isn't going to. It is okay to occasionally admit defeat and move onto something else. I stayed in my dysfunctional relationship with a material because it looked so beautiful, particularly in my mind. It is easy to idealize how things should be and what the "right" way is to get to our goals. I'm telling you now save yourself the pain, snap out of the delusion. There is no right way to go about your life. Stop trying to squeeze yourself into something that is not a fit for you. Look for what works for you because, you're a much better master to your life than anything or anyone else.
Peace and Blessings,
Sunday, August 27, 2017
It has been an exciting week. We started off with a nation spanning total solar eclipse. I myself was just out of the path of totality. Had I not had two classes to teach that day I would have traveled the few hours to see it. Lucky for me there is another one in just seven years, and I have glasses that will last that long.
I watched with family members from my backyard and driveway. We passed around the eclipse glasses. At one point I practiced Tai Chi, just to have the experience under the odd light. In my area, the eclipse got to 96 percent coverage. What struck me the most was just how bright only 4 percent of the sun's light was. There was a noticeable temperature change, the wind picked up, but on the whole I was expecting it to be much darker. It looked more like late afternoon than midday. The shadows were odd, as the gaps in the tree canopy showed the thin crescent of light of the sun overhead. The sun waned and waxed like the moon, changing their roles in the sky.
There has been much written on the symbolism of the eclipse, astrologically and energetically. For me personally I found it to be a very emotional event. The fact that only the smallest sliver of sun still had the power to light up our world was the biggest thing I took away from it. In a way it gives me hope. In dark times no matter how small the source of light may be it still has the power to push back the darkness.
As I look back on my many failures I wonder if they matter. If only a small amount of what I attempt succeeds it may be enough to make a big impact. So this week as you think about your life, decisions, regrets, and your occasional accomplishments be a bit more mindful of how a small shaft of light can make all the difference in your world.
Peace and Blessings,
Sunday, August 20, 2017
This week I've been mulling over the kinds of stories we tell in our culture. I've noticed a trend, and I think it says a lot about us.
The classic tales of the past often see our hero (or heroine) begin in their home. They are then forced by circumstances to leave and travel out into the greater world. They encounter both allies and obstacles. At some point they find power either in an object, an ability, or a piece of knowledge. They then return home to set things right and settle back into their community. This is not all tales, but it is the template for many of them. The uniting factor is the return home.
Modern tales often concern people's struggle to get out and escape from their origins to make it big in the larger world. These tales don't focus on the return home or to community, only the exit strategy. The change here is of course the belief in the rugged individual, and exceptional qualities that our would be heroes possess. In the old stories the return revitalizes the community and lifts them up and the hero becomes enmeshed in the continuity of society.
As we look around our world the state of many of our communities are in disarray. No matter where we live there is always "that part of town" or county where you steer clear if you are smart. Every city has the place where the homeless gather, where the junkies hide out, where the working girls ply their trade, and the place where the gangs run the streets. It's no wonder that so many of our stories focus on making it out and making it big. I wonder though that in making that the focus of our stories if we haven't ensured that those dark places will continue to thrive and consume those of us not lucky enough to make it out. Some places are predatory, they feed on the hopes and dreams of people consuming them a bit day by day. It is natural to want to run from the lions, but not many will ever out run them.
In escaping we save ourselves, but lose our community. I wonder if the stories changed again back to themes of returning home to save it if our attitude would change. If the focus became less on our heroes and more on the relationships that drove them on and back to where they began would that change society? It is easy for me to write this, I've been blessed in my point of origin. Still I see the damage that occurs when the individual is taken out of community. That damage works both ways, the loss of emotional support to the individual, and the loss of skills, drive, and care taking to the community.
So why am I telling you this? Well there is so much pressure to be a personal success, to be an individual. There is quite a bit less on being a good community member. As I observe the events of the world I become more convinced that our tunnel vision concerning our lives as individuals is at the root of many problems. When our communities break down that affects our families, and when our families break down it affects each person. That effect is then recycled back into our community creating deeper fissures. Then the idea of being on your own becomes more than an idea, it becomes the shared reality. When people are on their own they are much easier to manage and control by larger societal forces. It is also easier to sell them on half truths, or to use scapegoats. If you don't have connections with the "other" it is easy to believe what you are told about them.
I don't have answers. I work with individuals or very small groups. I'm not a big social person. I tend to be wary of communities as I have been for most of my life a convenient scapegoat. I do however see the need for community, and the damage the lack of it creates. So I start small trying to build relationships a bit at a time. I try to create value where I am, because there is very little in this world that cannot be solved by people coming together. We may have to go out into the world and fight our dragons, but eventually we all long to come home. For you I wish that the road blesses you with good companions and that you find a way to bring what you have gained on your travels back to your point of origin to share. Communities outlive individuals, skills like stories can be passed down. So I hope your story brings you safely home.
Peace and Blessings,
Sunday, August 13, 2017
I hope you've had a blessed week. I'm still reintegrating into my life from the peak experiences on my travels. I'm doing my best to bring those insights into my daily existence and embody them. An old saying goes, "Enlightenment is not found on the mountaintop, but rather in the marketplace." Meaning, it is easy to be all grand and wise when you're all alone in your meditation hut, but society is where the test of your training will be.
Unlike many people on vacation I bought very little on my trip. The little figurine above was one of the exceptions. She was one of several in a gallery my friend Jodi and I walked into. For some reason when we're together we shop. We just find the coolest things when we go anywhere. The little statuette is titled 'Self Blessing'. I bought her as a reminder to be good to myself. Too often I am rushing about getting things done, using my talents to help others, while neglecting to channel my own energies in service to my needs. Taking time to renew my own resources has been viewed as selfish or indulgent. Time away from the rush and my normal environment has shown me that it is a necessity.
When I left on my trip I was in pain. I was exhausted. I was pretty much done with people. I had nothing left to give. This was entirely my fault. I let myself get pushed into that pattern. Now that I have returned I am pushing back. So even if it is just a minute I am taking the time to bless myself. I am putting myself first in prayers for that moment. I had forgotten there was a difference between being of service and being a servant. So now I am committed to giving myself a good turn when I can. If I don't treat myself well how can I expect anyone else to?
Why am I telling you this? Well, self care can be hard to come by in our society of productivity and the competing demands of multitasking. A quiet moment has been made into a luxury that we best not take because we've been told we're replaceable. I say fuck that. Yes we have obligations, and we should honor them. However, never confuse another person's comfort with their needs. We cannot live up to everyone's expectations, and shortchanging our health and sanity to try is foolish. So I suggest you begin blessing yourself each day, maybe more than once. Say no to what you have to in order to really take care of yourself. Will you always be able to do that, probably not, but I am quite sure you don't avail yourself of your personal veto power anywhere near often enough. In the meantime, bless yourself before you wreck yourself on the rack of societal expectations.
Peace and Blessings,