Monday, January 15, 2007

The Uni-Verse

It seems to me that music is either what this is all about, or is at least mirroring what it is all about. The universe is a big play, a dance, a song. It IS a song, and follows the same rules and rhythms of music. Music, in its nonsensical shouting and drumming, is somehow supposed to be mimicking or reflecting the cosmic impulse to play, to dance, or to music.

Also, music is, and always has been, very spiritual, "spiritual" in that it is universal and cross cultural, and therefore is something very true to the human spirit. From the beginning it seems we have been dancing, drumming, and singing. Look at babies.

As Elliot Pees says: All music is in the center
Perhaps he means that when we are with music, all of it, is becomes the center of our awareness.

Music is an attractive river dissolving the contractions and separations believed to be in the folds of who we are.

As a cure for the separated-self sense, music pulls our attention out of our minds and into our bodies, as well as into the air, for we often close our eyes and imagine the notes swimming like whales and angles in a sea above our heads.

I am usually thought of as a painter, but I consider myself more of a musician. And I'm using colors and marks to produce an inward sound more subtle, and I am heard by a quieter part of the soul.

I’ve often been told that my paintings produce a kind of sound, and that they sort of shimmer with an inward rhythm. When I relax and deeply gaze into one of my paintings I can sometimes hear them in the same way I can hear the light reflected off snow, or the moonlight dancing atop water. Or the way I can hear light gray singing next to yellow-green. It’s a silent song, but its there singing nonetheless.

Painters build layers of different rhythms and textures creating a symphonic atmosphere of silent, colorful hums inside the viewer’s mind, and therefore inside the mind of the world. Musicians do the same, but with a bit more sound, and not as much light. But exactly the same amount of mind or creative emptiness.

To me, Music is the proof of the existence of a Divine Power. Music as Beauty is formless Beauty made of subtle, inter-mixing waves so luminous and attractive I feel like worshipping the ground they walk on—and what ground does music walk on? Well, namely, my mind; the ground mind across which music forever waves and washes and gestures playfully the wetness of the Divine: the Self.

Music is divine (what isn’t, though, really?), and painting is a kind of music. If you have ever stood in front of a Monet or van Gogh and stared into it for a long time—and I mean really relaxed into the surface of the painting, you know that you can see the order of the strokes, starting from the back and moving to the surface. You can see the dance of strokes shoot here and there across the canvas. And you can see the mixing of the colors. And you begin to feel in inward buzz, as your mind races across images, trying to take them in, like the wind trying to swallow a cluster of bees, your mind takes in the painting. And yet, at the same time, the painting holds completely still for you. The painting then amplifies internal movement and also internal silence, anchoring attention more lucidly in both, and in doing so, intensifying the quality of life.

Heavy with time
Paintings, like music, hold time and history. You can actually feel the time resonate like a weight within paintings that seem to have “taken more time." Literally. These time-consuming paintings possess (or ingest) lots of time. They are heavier with presence, heavier with depth. "Depth" because they contain more marks, and thus, more of the universe.

I think it is important to remember that the artist’s ideas and marks are rooted in a body, and that body is rooted in an environment and culture, which is rooted in a language, and an earth, embedded within a universe. It is valuable to see that those deeper structures of the individual artist are also at play on the canvas.

You’ve probably heard the postmodernist saying “Language is speaking us.” Well, it is at least speaking through us; our meaty tongues and lips become its drums and flutes, and our minds become hypnotized by its language. And to everyone, not only the painters don’t forget that the universe is painting aspects of itself though your particular nervous system. The culture is manifesting images through your dreams and visions. The archetypes are alive solely due to your awareness of them. You are like a vessel, and your fierce need to communicate your love is in fact the Oneness loving itself through your own particularly nervous system, your own subjectivity, your incarnation. Carl Jung: Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purpose through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is "man" in a higher sense--he is "collective man"--one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic life of mankind. To perform this difficult office it is sometimes necessary for him to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being..."

Dig deeper, see farther, and be more honest than ever before. And to do that, special courage is required. One that can embrace all emotions and experiences freely and fully and fearlessly. "Fearless" not meaning having no fear, but embracing all fear, (and anxiety, doubt, etc).

And as Brawley taught us, drugs or state changers are useful only because they can introduce you to various perspectives and views of experience. But dont let them become a crutch. Dont use them in the studio. They may "open the eyes and heart to the marvelous," but they should be understood for what they are, and what kind of relationship they have with your art. All states are fleeting, nothing real or lasting.

If you enter fully into a relationship with your art, your masterpiece, your life, you can read its contours and feel its behavior and discover how is continually speaks to you about the passion, the dance, the radiance, and the spontaneity/creativity of the Universe, or the Life, or the Experience that you are being.

The power of thought and vision
When I draw a picture of the mother goddess, she comes into existence a little bit fuller as a shared dimension, dream, and potential. She, or her image, is a powerful force indeed. And with the miracle of mutual understanding, we can then talk about her image and what it represents, and in doing so, project wisdom and compassion into that image, building more of those structures within our own minds, lives, and actions.

Our own minds co-create our worldview, and thus our world. So any images and experiences presented to us are incorporated somehow into the world we live within and dream up (and then project our dream-selves into!)

So, we intuit potentials and deep structures/connections within our being-in-the-world, and project those dreamy qualities onto visualized deities and archetypes, and by, for example, visualizing the mind of Christ—infinitely one with God, infinitely one with all of us, infinitely wise and compassionate—our own minds grow into that visualized state, Our own minds begin to take on those characteristics. Those cognitive or spiritual structures of consciousness begin to be built, and we begin to inhabit those new structures like houses or parks. Or, as Wilber might say: the visualized (or trained) state eventually becomes a realized trait.

Or, it could also be said that the imagined image of Jesus and his state of consciousness pull us like a magnet into our deeper potentials and most filling futures.

The power of vision.

Every Revolution beings with a vision. One individual has it, and then spreads it. (And sometimes, in order to keep spreading that individual’s teaching, their vision must be institutionalized, and we get religion in some form of another.)

Vision is another word for dream. And the revolutionaries have very good dreams of utopias and harmonious countries, and as the great teachers remind me: dreams are not just hallucinations. When Dr. King said, “I have a dream” he was talking about an actual world he saw. Or an actual state of being or state of mind existing in a woldspace we might call today pluralistic or multicultural. In a way, his dream saw into the future. Not any details, but saw the overall mood or social attitude that at first only formed in rare and isolated cases, but which then grew into the common norm or pattern of thought.

When you envision a perfect worldview, feeling compassion for all beings and acting altruistically for the benefit of all beings, your vision actually helps build that future, (within you and without). And you know that potential altruism is possible because you know it is inside yourself. It exists, and has been expressed by countless saints and sages and ordinary people all throughout human history. And the artists are painting picture of its beauty and perspectives, and the musicians are playing its music. And the mystics are mirroring it into anyone looking.

And the mystics are all saying ‘”Look within; the kingdom of heaven is within.”
And, to really drill in the point, by visualizing the kingdom of heaven and what a “god’s—eye view” of the world would be, you actually build those structures within your mind and therefore within the world.

I love to tell the story my postmodern philosophy professor told our class. One of his friends (who is a Neuroscience Professor), helped researchers study the minds of long-term meditators—monks and nuns who had been meditating for over 25 years—and what they discovered was (and is) extremely interesting. And maybe also extremely scary.

They hooked a dozen meditators up to EEG machines and asked them to enter into the trained meditative state of nirvikalpa samadhi, where one rests as the witness without any thoughts in the mind, and nearly all mental activity stops. Within seconds all the EEG machines fell silent. All the minds were still. Then, one of the meditators, who was chosen in private, began to recite a mantra silently to herself, a mantra being the subtlest form of thought we can produce. (because it is a thought of a meaningless sound). The instant she began thinking the mantra, all the other minds in the room began to produce movement. It’s as if we are all connected by a unified field, and out of it's silent ocean bubbles up our thoughts, and at a very subtle level, our thoughts actually exist in the minds of others’, and effect what they think about and thus how they speak and act. We have a very subtle influence on others, subtle not being weak but being the most powerful, for it is the closest to the source, and spreads its energy or ripples across the largest distance or span (your thoughts actually rippling inside other peoples minds—and their thoughts inside of your own! We all have felt the negative energy from someone who was probably thinking bad thoughts about us. And you know the saying, “If your nose itches is means someone is thinking about you.” Well, that might end up being scientifically proven.

I often tell the story I saw on TV about a study done on identical twins. They, the scientists, put the twins in separate buildings, monitoring both their minds and bodies, and they’d pop a balloon by one twin to startle her and the other twin’s body would be startled too.

We are all connected, and what we think about is just as important and influential as how we speak or how we act towards others.

This is one reason why “Right View” comes before “Right speech” “Right action” and “Right livelihood,” in the Buddha’s Eight Fold Path. It even comes before “Right Meditation.” Right View (or "Perfect View") is the very first spoke on the Weel of Dharma the Buddha began turning at Deer Park over 2,500 years ago, which is actually quite meaningless because the whole path is a weel anyway, with every spoke running into each other in the middle, (another meaning of the Middle Way?)

Well, regardless, Right View is the first on the list, and without Right View we would not benifit from the perspective of others, nor could we develop tolerance or compassion/understanding, nor would we have the right view about emptiness/form, nonduality, and karma; and thus we would not be able to produce right thought, or right action, or right speech, right meditation, etc. And, again, as Wilber reminds us in “Integral Spirituality,” right View actualy equates to the form of our own enlightenment. And this is one reason why Mahayana Buddhism maintains that while the realization of nirvana or emptiness is important, there is a deeper realization, where nirvana and samsara, or Emptiness and the entire world of Form, are “not-two.” In Ken's own words (and notes from the book): (The following is a lot of buddhist philosophy. beware.)

As the most famous sutra on this topic—The Heart Sutra—puts it: “That which is Emptiness is not other than Form, that which is Form is not other than Emptiness.” This realization of Nonduality is the cornerstone of both Mahayana (“Great Vehicle”) and Vajrayana (“Diamond Vehicle”) Buddhism.

When it comes to the nature of enlightenment or realization, this means that a complete, full, or nondual realization has two components: absolute (emptiness) and relative (form). The “nonconceptual mind” gives us the former, and the “conceptual mind” gives us the latter. Put it this way: when you come out of nonconceptual meditation, what conceptual forms will you embrace? If you are going to enter the manifest realm—if you are going to embrace not just nonconceptual nirvana but also conceptual samsara—then what conceptual forms will you use? By definition, a nondual realization demands both “no views” in emptiness and “views” in the world of form. Meditation in particular is designed to plunge us into the world of emptiness; and what is designed to give us “correct form”? That is, what conceptual view or framework does nondual Buddhism recommend?

[Traleg Kyadgon Rinpoche, from his book Mind as Ease]:
“Correct views have the ability to lead us to liberation, while incorrect views increase the delusions of our mind….That is why we need a proper orientation or correct view when we embark on the path. Correct view is in fact our spiritual vehicle, the transport we use to journey from the bondage of samsara to the liberation of nirvana…There is no separation between the vehicle that transports us to our spiritual destination and the views that we hold in our mind… The correct and noble view is to cultivated with diligence.”

What is this “correct and noble view?” Well, if you are a Buddhist, the correct view is simply the Buddhist view itself, or the central ideas, concepts, and framework that is Buddhism, counting its basic philosophy and psychology—including the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Twelvefold Chain of Dependent Origination, the central recognition of Emptiness, the Nonduality of absolute Emptiness and relative Form, the luminous identity of unqualifiable or empty Spirit and all of its manifest Forms in a radiant, natural, spontaneously present display, and the central linkage of: right ethics and right views > leading to right meditation (dhyana) > leading to right awareness (prajna) > leading to right compassion (karuna) > leading to right action and skillful means (upaya) on behalf of all sentient beings.

For those not familiar with Buddhism, it might be put this way, in a very free and liberal summary, if I were asked to put it in one (long) paragraph:

Life as normally lived is one of fragmentation and suffering. The cause of this suffering is the attachment and grasping of the separate-self sense. We can overcome suffering by overcoming this grasping and identification with the separate self. There is a way, a path, that can overcome the separate-self sense and issue in complete liberation. This path includes right view, right meditation, and right awareness. Right view is something like the view being expressed in this paragraph. Right meditation includes focused concentration and insight training, which leads to right awareness. Right Awareness is nondual awareness, which unites subject and object, emptiness and form. Repeated exposure to nondual awareness leads my identity to “deconstruct” and shift from gross forms (Nirmanakaya) to subtle forms (Sambhogakaya) to causal formlessness (Dharmakaya), a pure emptiness that can be referred to as a “no self Self” or a “no-mind Big Mind”—no small mind, but all-encompassing Big Mind or nondual awareness, which finally undoes the separate-self sense and releases it in infinite openness. My identity then freely embraces gross (Nirmanakaya) and subtle (Sambhagakaya) and causal (Dharamakaya) realms in a fully integrated fashion (Svabhavikakaya)—a nondual realization that is the ground, path, and fruition of the way. Desire and thoughts and perception can (and do) still arise, but they instantaneously self-liberate in the vast emptiness and spaciousness that is their true nature. Because emptiness and form are not-two, then not only is desire not an impediment to realization, it is a vehicle to realization; not only is intellectual thought not an impediment to realization, it is a vehicle to realization; not only is action not an impediment to realization, it is a vehicle to realization. Fundamental nondual awareness therefore involves nothing less than a joyous playing with the union of emptiness and luminous form, realizing the countless ways that the world of form, just as it is, is the Great Perfection in all its wonderment, and that the nature of the ordinary mind, just as it is, is the fully enlightened Buddha-mind. Hence simply resting in this ever-present, natural, effortless, easy, and spontaneously present aware emptiness, which is not other than the entire world of luminous form, is the Buddha’s unsurpassed way. Because this nondual awareness embraces the entire world of thought and desire and form, this nondual awareness leads to right compassion for all sentient beings. Right compassion leads to skillful means in helping all sentient beings. Skillful means, like all relative action, is completely paradoxical: just as I vow to gain realization, even though there is no realization (or even though I am already realized), skillful means recognizes that there are no others to liberate, therefore I vow to liberate them all. Buddhist nondual realization accordingly leads to a radiantly joyous embrace of the entire world of form, a deep compassion for all sentient beings, and a skillful means for helping all beings cross the ocean of suffering to the shore of ever-present and never-lost liberation.

…Which brings us back to where we began: there is emptiness (and the formless mind), and there is the manifest world (and the conceptual mind), and so the question is: what form in the mind will help both realize and express emptiness? Some form or view is there, like it or not, and so Correct View has always been maintained as absolutely necessary for enlightenment. As Traleg says, it is the vehicle of realization, without which even meditation is blind.

But, as Traleg indicated, it’s even more than that. The deepest Buddhist teachings—Mahamudra and Dzogchen—maintain that the nature of the mind is not in any way different from the forms arising in it. It is not just that there is Emptiness and View, but that Emptiness and View are not-two—exactly as The Heart Sutra maintained, when Form now means Forms in the mind, or View: That which is Emptiness is not other than View; that which is View is not other than Emptiness.

Therefore, choose your view carefully. And make your View or Framework as comprehensive or integral as possible, because your View—your cognitive system, your co-gnosis, your conceptual understanding, your implicit or explicit Framework—will help determine the very form of your enlightenment.

Wilber also says that if Enlightenment is uniting with everything in your universe, then you don't want your enlightenment to be partial and only full of a fraction of what kind of universe is possible. Very integral, tolerant, loving and embracing minds (and thus world-views/worlds) are available to be united with.

1 comment:

elamb said...

Awesome pictures, man.

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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