care (full)

care

 

 What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

“Leisure” by Welsh poet W. H. Davies, from Songs Of Joy and Others

published in 1911 by A. C. Fifield

Remember to forget

remember

For me art shouldn’t be a fixed idea that I have before I start making it. I want it to include all the fragility and doubt that I go through the day with. Sometimes I’ll take a walk just to forget whatever good idea I had that day because I like to go into the studio not having any ideas. I want the insecurity of not knowing, like performers feel before a performance. Everything I can remember, and everything I know, I have probably already done, or somebody else has

Robert Rauschenburg (1925-), American artist, quoted by Michael Kimmelman in an article about Rauschenburg, New York Times, “Arts & Leisure” section 2, August 27, 2000, p. 26.

Remembering and forgetting are key parts to the incubation stage of creative process. Images and/or ideas found in the foraging and gathering stage begin to simmer and cook.  In this chaotic broth, knowledge remembered is then forgotten, or let go of.  This alchemical creative process is transformational, allowing something new to emerge.

Once an experience is understood, remembering and forgetting is possible.  This transformative process of memory allows new learning, as well as a flexible and adaptive response to life.

Unsinging Bird

bird

silence

.is
a
looking

bird:the

turn
ing;edge of
life

(inquiry before snow

e.e. cummings

Look up….Look waay Up

giraffe

Head in the clouds. Feet firmly planted on the earth. This is the optimal creative stance. Why?

Groundedness and solid, secure connections provide the safe supports needed for creative exploration and the transformative risks that give life meaning.  Dan Siegel writes about cultivating the ability to become grounded in the tripod of mindsight

Mindsight is a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds. It helps us to be aware of our mental processes without being swept away by them, enables us to get ourselves off the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses, and moves us beyond the reactive emotional loops we all have a tendency to get trapped in…The focusing skills that are part of mindsight make it possible to see what is inside, to accept it, and in the accepting to let it go, and, finally, to transform it (Siegel, 2010)

Being grounded in the tripod of Mindsight involves openness (receptivity to whatever comes into awareness without censorship, which allows clear seeing); observation (cultivating the ability to observe yourself in the midst of reactivity, which creates space); objectivity (developing the ability to remain present without identifying with particular thoughts or feelings and/or being carried away by them) (Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation 2010, New York, NY: Bantam Books).

In the optimal creative stance the feet firmly planted on the earth support a “head in the clouds” creative exploration. A multitude of vantage points, perspectives, options, hopes, dreams, imaginal possibilities and treasures may be found spending time appreciating the awesomeness of clouds.

Here is a short and beautiful meditation on clouds, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, creator of the Cloud Appreciation Society.

holding on-letting go

outside the box

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love

~ e. e. cummings ~

(Complete Poems 1904-1962)

I recently facilitated a parents group where the conversation centered on the idea of taking risks in life.  The group seemed to agree that human curiosity and learning involve different and varying levels of risk and experimentation. We all have different comfort zones for risk taking. For some of us,  starting any type of creative journey feels overwhelming, often making it hard to let go of the familiar in order to enter unknown territory.

“I hate writing; I love having written,”  is a saying attributed to the writer Dorothy Parker.

The creative journey always looks easier in retrospect, after the project is finished.  Why?

Creative process requires the act of showing up and being seen.  It takes courage to put yourself out there and risk failure, feel emotionally exposed and vulnerable to judgements, from both inside and out.  At the same time allowing yourself to stand in this improvisational, authentic and raw place yields incredible rewards.  All plans have dropped away. You are fully engaged in the moment.  You embark on the hero’s journey to claim treasure from the dragon and the whole point is leaving your comfort zone. Research professor Brené Brown believes that vulnerability is the most accurate indicator of courage.    However, there is a paradox revealed in the act of being vulnerable in that it feels like weakness in yourself and appears as courage only in others.  Another paradox to think about is that in order to let go, you have to be holding on.  Weakness and courage, order and chaos are cyclical, dynamic and emergent states.

In the following video Brené Brown explains the ways uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure are essential to a successful creative journey.  I found it inspiring, hope you do too.

Moon in the Water

moon in water

“The moon may be dim or bright, round or crescent shaped,

This imperfection has been going on since the beginning of time.

May we all be blessed with longevity,

Though thousand miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.”

from a poem by Song dynasty poet Su Shi

The Zen metaphor “Moon-in-the-water” speaks to daily living and creative flow while at the same time expresses a mysterious truth.  In his 2011 book, I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World, author James Geary writes

Metaphor is the bridge we fling between the utterly strange and the utterly familiar, between dice and drowned men’s bones, between I and an other [...] Parables and proverbs feature so prominently in folk wisdom and religious scripture because there is no way to convey spiritual truths other than to set them side by side with natural truths.  The numinous is the nitty gritty.  I is an other (Geary, 2011).

We co-create and shape experience both externally (through relations with others) and internally (in relation with our thoughts and feelings). This inter/intra connection is a bi-directional co-creative process.  In the Moon-in-the-Water metaphor, water (subject) is our inner self.  Moon (object) is our external world and relationships.  Moon and water exist in relationship to each other. They co-create each other, and through author Daniel Siegel’s lens remain differentiated, integrated and in harmonic relationship (Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Siegel, 2010). Inner creates outer and outer creates inner simultaneously.  So if the moon does not rise or there is no water, there is no unity or integration, no “Moon-in-the-water”.  Water and moon happen together, they do not wait for each other to exist.  The metaphor holds the insight that we create and shape our experience, just as we shape and are shaped by our creative process.

Sailing on the River of Integration

boat1

In his book The Neurobiology of We (2008), Dr. Daniel Siegel uses the metaphor of a river of integration, flowing between two kinds of banks

“These two banks, if you will, outside of a river, of rigidity on the one hand, and chaos on the other, help us know when something is missing. And that something is called integration. And when we’re integrated, when we link different parts of our internal world and our relationships, we’re in the flow of a river that has the sense of harmony, it’s flexible, it’s adaptive, it has a coherence to it that holds together, and that’s energized and stable. Mindsight is the ability for us to see within ourselves, to dive deeply into the sea inside”.

Immersion in creative process often feels like sailing along a river, navigating the sweet spot between order and chaos. The river can be seen as the zone, or the creative flow state, where we are deeply engaged in creative process.  Sailing along the river we are in the flexible, adaptive and bounded transitional space where creative process and play emerge.  Dr. Siegel (The Mindful Brain, 2007) uses the acronym COAL: the simultaneous state of curiosity, openness, acceptance and love, to describe Mindfulness.  He says that when you have a COAL stance the rest takes care of itself .  Maybe when we are in the space between order (rigidity) and chaos we are sailing on a river of integration, where we are both intra and interconnected  through creative, harmonic and sacred process.

Hope you enjoy his his ideas about Mindsight, integration and harmony.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

newdirections

“…That’s why we have the Museum, Matty, to remind us of how we came, and why: to start fresh, and begin a new place from what we had learned and carried from the old.”  Lois Lowry, Messenger

The transitional space between old and new feels like a shifting energetic pause.  Time is marked by rituals of looking and stepping back, maybe even gathering up and holding on to last years moments. Review, reflect, let go….then into the New, clean slate and fresh start. A re-new cycle begins.

Part of moving forward includes looking back as a way of combining and integrating (hopefully) the best of past with future. The art of knowing where we are, includes knowing where we came from and where we plan to go.  Maybe this “looking in” knowledge is what allows us to stand in the now and direct fresh energy towards a renewed creative cycle.

Wishing you creativity, health and joy in the New Year.

Slowly looking with the Buddhist “good eye”

Slowly looking

Recently I came across the Contemplative Photography movement, which incorporates Buddhist mindfulness practice with Western ways of seeing the world.  Contemplative Photography practice is based on holding an intention of learning to look and see through a lens of nonattachment. Through practice, you begin to trust the gaps in discursive thought where clear seeing and inspiration emerge in your art.

Matthieu Ricard describes Contemplative photography as

seizing the present moment as one would delicately hold a poppy without shedding its petals.  It is about nonattachment; one has nothing to lose and nothing to gain, but everything to offer to the eyes of the viewer (from jacket of The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the world with fresh eyes, written by  Andy Carr and Michael Wood, Shambala, 2011)

Miksang is a Tibetan word which means “Good Eye”. The practice is founded on Shambala  and Dharma Art Teachings of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.  The word “good” relates to uncluttered vision and seizing the present moment.  In the following video “Miksang” practice is explained in a way I hope you find inspiring.

 

Looking into the Open

Looking

The Open

With their whole gaze

animals behold the Open.

Only our eyes

are as though reversed

and set like traps around us,

keeping us inside.

That there is something out there

we know only from the creatures’ countenance.

We turn even the young child around,

making her look backward

at the forms we create,

not outward into the Open.

R.M. Rilke, from the Eighth Duino Elegy

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