bright yellow shadows

yellowcanary

Birds Appearing In A Dream

One had feathers like a blood-streaked koi,
another a tail of color-coded wires.
One was a blackbird stretching orchid wings,
another a flicker with a wounded head.

All flew like leaves fluttering to escape,
bright, circulating in burning air,
and all returned when the air cleared.
One was a kingfisher trapped in its bower,

deep in the ground, miles from water.
Everything is real and everything isn’t.
Some had names and some didn’t.
Named and nameless shapes of birds,

at night my hand can touch your feathers
and then I wipe the vernix from your wings,
you who have made bright things from shadows,
you who have crossed the distances to roost in me.

by Michael Collier

 

Land and Water

Land and Water

These are really the thoughts of all men in all

ages and lands, they are not original with me, 

If they are not yours as much as mine they are

nothing, or next to nothing,

If they are not the riddle and the untying of the

riddle they are nothing, 

If they are not just as close as they are distant

they are nothing.

This is the grass that grows wherever the land

is and the water is, This is the common air that

 bathes the globe.

Song of Myself (part17)

by Walt Whitman

home-keeping heart

are we there yet

Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.

Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
To stay at home is best.

Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O’er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.

“Song” by H.W. Longfellow: Keramos and Other Poems 1878

As Longfellow says “to stay at home is best”.  But is it?  It feels great to be in a place that feels safe, protected and predictable. This is the land of  known and previously explored territory.  Home is being on familiar ground.  You know exactly where you are.

The challenge in keeping creative process fresh and alive, is to balance the need to keep things safe, predictable and orderly, with the need to explore unknown, unpredictable and potentially dangerous new territory.

It is relatively easy to imagine yourself standing with one foot in order and one foot in chaos. But maybe this balanced stance is more a place of action or experience that is way more complex than imagined.  That place where there is just enough safety and just enough danger, is a space of surprises.  Strangely, this place needs to be repeatedly found and/or rediscovered anew.  There is no guidebook that consistently works. The entrance way (at least in my own personal creative process) seems to be through tolerating frustration, giving up control and welcoming resistance to new, accidental or unplanned experience. That dark and uncomfortable stuff has to be encountered each time. Maybe as Longfellow says, we need to be

“baffled and beaten and blown about

By the winds of the wilderness of doubt.”

Each voluntary encounter with the unknown builds resilience for the next journey along the creative path.  Maybe that is what is meant by practice.

 

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.

Lion of Amazement

 the lion

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

–Mary Oliver

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.

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.

 

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