Thursday, April 27, 2006

easter thanksgiving

look at this albino peacock! my mom sent me this picture. amazing, ne?

I put a link to my friend Jackie's blog (to the right). please check it out.

So, for Easter, I met Jesse and Claudia at the park for a picnic. Jesse brought plastic Easter eggs and hid them around the sad rusty zoo section of the park. It was a beautiful, sunny, windy day, and I had a really great time. It’s amazing how much fun I had looking for those eggs. Nostalgia. The caged peacocks opened their incredibly large and beautiful feathers, leaving them little room to move, their cages were so small.

I have had a sad week, but also a very joyful one, remembering my professor. Eli pointed me to one of my favorite books, Glimpse after Glimpse, to today’s passage…April 18:
"To contemplate impermanence on its own is not enough: you have to work with it in your life. Let’s try an experiment. Pick up a coin. Imagine that it represents the object at which you are grasping. Hold it tightly clutched in your fist and extend your arm, with the palm of your hand facing the ground. Now if you let go or relax your grip, you will lose what you are clinging on to. That’s why you hold on.
But there's another possibility: you can let go and yet keep hold of it. With your arm still outstretched, turn your hand over so that it faces the sky. Release your hand and the coin still rests on your open palm. You let go. And the coin is still yours, even with all this space around it.
So there is a way in which we can accept impermanence and still relish life, at one and the same time, without grasping."

Saturday I went to an art festival at a rock/garden/sculpture store with my friend Mai, who teachers pottery there. I threw two teacups. Then we went to Tokushima because Mai had to perform there and, sure enough, it was at the same vegan café I went to a month ago. The music rocked and the food rocked and i got to rock out on the drums with other drummers and beautiful people in sandles were dancing and all the food was vegan and people were dancing...with their hands, mostly, but still dancing.

I am now down to one cup of green tea a day.
I have been sleeping really well, remembering many dreams, and meditating daily, watching my thoughts form in the open space of my mind. They really do form like bubbles when they emerge or arise in/as mind, only to pass just as quickly as they came. I love watching my mind think, watching the words and images emerge out of the depths of my presence. At first it was quite odd watching the thoughts emerge, form out of conciousness, but then it began to shine with this truth: all things are made of different forms of light. and, all the light is the shining radiance of awarness. But when i sit and watch the thoughts form, the thinker is taking a break from his job, and the thoughts have no subsance, or are totally transparent, or rather, they self-liberate within themselve, dissolving effortlessly into the next one, or into the space in which they arose, leaving no trace anywhere, like how a bird flying leaves no trace in the sky. And when i think a mantra or sacred sound (like om, or ah, or hoom,) then that suble thought resonates soft, trasparent waves, subtle energy, everywhere, and i can imagine the subtle streams flowing thought my body like a river of sunlight.

I am now reading the third book in the Ender’s Game saga, “Xenocide.” Can’t put it down.

Sunday after zazen at the temple I came up with this analogy about the nature of mind.
Imagine an empty room. Now, imagine all sorts of people coming into
the room, people having conversations, some getting angry,
screaming, the room gets hot, and it becomes a hell in there. Now,
Imagine televisions in the room showing past events, and dreams about
the future. Some birds fly into the room and sing. Everyone falls
asleep except for a dear friend. You hold each other and listen to
the birds, enjoying a quiet rest, maybe kiss, make love. there is some sunlight, a slight
breeze. In the room you both listen to the music of the breath, and
dissolve your attention into the space around you, clear light, heaven, the sound of some birds.
All these things can take place in the room because the room is, from the beginning, empty space.

(The primordial condition of every individual is beyond time, birth and death; the indestructible diamond mind, the limitless spaciouse sky mind, the unstainable mirror mind, the luminous clear light mind, the primordial condition of every individual.)

I pour green tea into my small, rough cup. Steam spins upward from
the lake surface, and an island of bubbles turns round and round in
the middle, slowly gravitating toward the cup's edge, until, suddenly,
it rushes there, clings to the side of the cup, and then bursts out of

I painted all day yesterday.
Here is some of my new work. Even though the show is two months away, ive started building and buying frames. and I still have to finish the paintings!, but dont worry, ill get it done.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

It rained all day today.

One time in class he told us something that scared the shit out of me
yet felt familiar - " Everything is made of wavelengths, different
combinations, different speeds - There is nothing there - no color no
form when we aren't looking at it." -Sam Gray

He always knew when I was lying in my art, when it wasnt totally honest. He knew when it was bullshit even before i did. Looking into my eyes he said, "Work from here." He touched my stomach. "Paint from here and it will always be honest."

Oil Paintings and drawings by Robert Brawley
1. "Portal: Threshold to Within and Without"
2. "Two States of Being" (graphite on paper)
3. "Sacred Geometry: Merkaba"
4. "Realm of Iron"
5. "Murmurs of Deep Time"
6. "Discreet Serenity of the Ordinary"
7. "Mineral Kingdom"
8. "Mezza Notte" (graphite on paper)
9. "The Visitor"

This morning I woke up and finished a drawing I made for a cancer research charity auction I have to mail out on monday. I could hear my old Professor Robert Brawley’s voice telling me to not half-ass technical drawings. "One thing that you are going to be working with is learning to slow the fuck down. Slow down and have the patience to get it right." But even when he reminded me that drawing is not suppost to just be pleasuable but was often hard work, boring, and tedius, he also reminded me that art was first and foremost an exploration of your own limits and stubbornness to let go. “It's actually a spiritual path.” He’d say, “If you have the guts to take it all the way.”

I sprayed the finished drawing with fixative, put on my suit, opened my umbrella and walked to the “life-long learning center” by city hall where I was scheduled to give a speech about my thoughts to a dozen old Japanese ladies. I had a translator. My speech was about my favorite Japanese saying “Junintoiro.” Ten people, ten colors. The entire speech is available upon request.
The ladies, who could all speak English very well, then took me out to lunch and we talked about some of the issues I brought up in my speech; the power of art to transform the states of our minds, similarities between buddhism and catholicism, the importance of forgiveness, and more.

Later in the day, I got home, changed, finished ‘Speaker for the dead” the sequel to ender’s game, which was one of the best books I have ever read in my life, and heard the doorbell ring. It was a deliveryman with a heavy box. My postcards arrived! I had been looking forward to the day my art show announcements would finaly come. The first person I think to send one to is my painting professor, Robert Brawly. I can't wait till he sees my new work.

I check my email. First letter is from an art school friend, “Sad News” in the topic box. I immediately know what it is. I open the mail anyway, slouch over my computer, and cry harder than I ever have. My beloved professor died early Friday from cancer.

Professor Brawley was the only teacher to openly tell me he was going to help destroy my ego. “You need that more than postmodernism.” He singled me out in his Postmodernism class once; told the whole class that "because David here is a meditator and he is probobly the only student that can fully understand this deconstruction stuff, his ego has swelled well over a healthy size and one purpose of this semester is to help him deflate it.” He laughed so hard I thought he was going to cry. I felt humiliated and loved.
He was the only professor I’ve known who had not only practiced Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, TM, Yoga, as well as every other spiritual discipline you can imagine, but whose hobby was reading about modern science, the Holographic theory, Jungian psychology, quantum physics, comparative religions, mystical experiences, postmodernism, and books by Ken Wilber. He read about everyting it seemed. And he always pulled it into his lectures about art. He was my independent studies teacher and talked to me about anything I wanted to talk about, always blowing my mind with his intellegence, humor, honesty, and ability to illuminate. We even talked about integral practice, spiral dynamics, sex, God, UFO’s, psychedelics, pride, death. During a life drawing class once he had the entire class practice “bare seeing” which were moments that lasted only a few seconds where we softened our gaze, focused on the entire room as one whole object, which made everything go a little fuzzy, resulting in a fleeting experince of naked perception, free from any thought. We did this so we could see how our minds, before labeling or defining objects in the room, just take in the bare visual information as a reflection of our conciousness. "Being totally in the now," he called it, used as a way to dissolve the boundary between subject and object. "You must become the image that you draw. Know it subjectively so that you can draw it accurately; by feeling it, not just by seeing it." Then he'd casually add, "you see, in reality you are the image seeing itself through human eyes."

Sometimes he would have us actually touch a human skeleton he brought in, feel the inside of the ribs, run our fingers over the pelvis bone, the hips, and then he'd tell us to feel our own pelvis, ribs, knee caps and elbows and leg muscles, and THEN look at the model. Sometimes we spent hours just scribbling on large sheets of paper, trying not to make a pattern, in order to "build new neuropathways between the two hemispheres in the brain." He told me once that the artist is like a shaman, who must go into places within the human psyche normal people dont want to go, and then come back, become an outcast forced to live outside the society that now fears him, but the society that, nevertheless, visits him whenver they need his honesty, his insights, and his magic.

And his laugh always reminded me a baby being tickled, or like Bert from Sesami Street.
I have a thousand stories to tell about him. I took extensive notes every time he spoke; he was the most fascinating person to listen to. I guess I knew I would write a book one day, and have him be one of the main characters.

but in the mean time, I cried. The world, my world, lost one of its most beloved teachers. I put on the album he gave me, “Healing Music of Zimbabwe," the music he liked to listen to while he worked, and cried some more. I have never felt sorrow like this in my whole life. Brawley often told us that we had to become as fully human as we can, feel life! shy away from nothing, in order to really understand what was going on here and be able to express our experinces with total honesty. "Why the hell would anyone want to hear what you have to say if you have never actually experinced anything?"
I guess this is another lesson, then, this powerful, consuming sadness. He is still teaching me. he is still here, that old pirate. i can still hear him laugh like a baby being tickled. I put on my coat, grab my umbrella, and leave to take a walk in the rain. The whole sky can cry with me this time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Today was warm and rainy. After work Jackie and I went to the secret Zen Garden. It began to pour so that by the time we got there we were soaked, but, as soon as we entered the garden, im not kidding, the sun came out, a rainbow appeared, and the birds began to sing. Wet light left tiny crystals scattered across the garden, pink flower pettles strewn across green moss carpet worlds, and stones and tree trunks reflecting the cloudy sky like silver.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

New Photos

I have created a new blog with some of the photos i have taken over the last 8 months. The link is to the right labled "New Photos." Enjoy!

Saturday, April 7, 2006, Buddha’s Birthday

This morning I woke up and discovered that it was warm enough to sit on my balcony and read with my shirt off. It was that warm. Kieran came over; we did fifty pushups, and then went down to the river to enjoy a picnic under the glorious cherry trees. The blossoms waft a smell of cherries, like cherry syrup, all throughout the river valley. We enjoyed some oranges and raisin nut bread. Afterwards I walked along the cherry trees, noticing all the families and neighborhood picnicking beneath them. And if you can imagine that the pedals fall constantly from the trees and are carried by a gentle breeze. The Blossoms last a week at most; a great teaching: Nothing lasts very long, not the good stuff, or the bad.

I came home, worked on some paintings, and then went to a dinner at my Shorinji kempo teacher’s house. When I arrived I found him waiting outside, a little old man with big glasses, all dressed up in the robes of a monk. Inside I saw these odd but cute dolls that decorated his house; his wife is a doll-making teacher. She gave me a yellow teddy bear. They also had a collection of figurines from all over the world. Can you see the king of pop?

This morning I went to the Zen Temple and saw a huge white elephant sculpture by the front doors, standing next to a tiny sculpture of the baby Buddha in a big bowl of tea. The Japanese tradition is to pour tea over the little Buddha, giving him kind of bath.

The white elephant refers to the dream that Maya, Buddha’s mother, had the night she became pregnant. This is fascinating because it is just like the Christian story. In the Christian version, Mary dreams of a white dove entering her. In the morning she wakes up and is pregnant. In Buddhism, Maya dreams of a white elephant entering her, wakes up pregnant. The White elephant is the symbol for peace in India (a big, powerful, vegetarian animal who harms nothing) and the dove is, of course, the symbol for peace in the western world.

Fascinating, yes? Both stories also involve prophecies that this child will be the “anointed one.”
The birth legend in Buddhism is wonderful: his mother was resting in a beautiful garden. She reached up and grabbed a branch, the tree suddenly burst into bloom, and her baby dove out of her side, ran to a little hill, smiled, pointed one hand to heaven and the other down to earth and yelled “I am the King who has come!”
Interestingly, alongside this great myth is another version far more realistic; he was born normally, his mother soon died, he was raised in a very wealthy palace isolated from everyone. He was miserable and dissatisfied and left the palace one night on a spiritual journey that, after many years, led him to a tree next to a river. He mediated for a week under the tree until early one morning, as he was staring into the vast, glowing sky slowly changing colors, he noticed the morning star Venus remaining as a tiny, unchanging light, and it was then that he discovered his enlightenment. He walked through the forest for two weeks, and then passed a man on the road who was struck by his extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked,” My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?""No," said the Buddha. "Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?" Again the Buddha answered, “No”. “Well, my friend, then what are you?"
The Buddha replied, “I am awake.” (The word Buddha means "one who is awake.")

Buddha taught “the middle way” throughout India and Nepal for about 50 years and then died. His last words were something like "Behold, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain salvation. Do your best. "
Because the Buddha never preached about God, his philosophy was able to spread all over the world, mixing with the already established religions.
In my opinion the major point, or “good news,” that Buddha brought into this world was that each of us has "Buddha Nature": the very nature of our minds is open and awake and free, and we don't recognize this because we are so attached to or entangled in the various objects passing through that open, clear awareness. When we quiet the mind (by controlling our actions), we can discover that clear, spontaneous nature of mind, and awaken to who we really are, our true nature, which results in a profound sigh of relief called Nirvana.

This parallels almost exactly with the “Good News” that the Christ Jesus preached up and down the hills of Israel 500 years later.

I am of course talking about Christ's teachings on the Kingdom of Heaven and how to get there. He did not only talk about the Kingdom of Heaven as some place in another dimension we go after death. No, that was an old belief. He taught that in actuality, “the kingdom of God is within.” (Luke 17:20). The Kingdom of God or Heaven that Jesus preached about is a Kingdom that you and I can find only by going deep within ourselves. Jesus said “Turn away from your mistaken thinking, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’” (Matt 4:17). “At hand” meaning right here, right now, so close, within your own grasp, Behold! Its here right front of your face, or, more accurately, right behind it!

And the goal of Christian spirituality, then, is just like the goal in Buddhism: for each of us to be able to personally see the Kingdom of heaven within. We are to go deep enough within our own beings to find out for ourselves if what Jesus and Buddha preached was true. Then, and only then, can we honestly say, “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:26). Or we can literally experience “putting on the mind which was in Christ Jesus” (Phillip, 2:5). Isnt that the goal of Christian Spirtualty? To follow Jesus into that Kingdom or Christ Conciousness?

And here is where the experimentation comes in. Both teachers, Buddha and Jesus, point a way to the Kingdom of Heaven or Enlightenment: Look within and see what you find. This does not mean necessarily that Heaven or the Enlightened, Fulfilled Self is something you can find or see inside your body or your mind (whatever you can see is not the true Seer). But, by pointing in that direction, you begin to discover the depths an mysteries of your own mind and humanity; you begin to see where you are real and where you are not, and you begin to see how intimately connected you are to others, and to the entire universe "outside." From within you move beyond yourself, into an Awareness not confined to your own mind and body but instead existing in a dimension way beyond space and time. Just try the experiment if you don't believe me.

(Paintings by De Es Schwertberger)

So, after meditation I went to another hanami party in the mountains of Toyo, a neighboring city. I threw a football around with some buddies, which reminded me of the countless hours I spent practicing football in my old neighborhood with Matt Johnson. Some of the greatest times of my life were spent with that guy, great memories, a tidal wave of which filled my mind just from the action of throwing a football. It’s amazing how the simplest things can trigger powerful waves of nostalgia. Our minds are so amazing! And so are these friggn cherry blossoms.

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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