Thursday, May 29, 2008
This video contains clips from the movie "My Neighbor Totoro" by Miyazaki Hayao. Hayao is famous for portraying the essence of the Japanese culture and land in his films (remember this spring break I went to the island that contains the Princess Mononoke Forest, and in my prefecture is the public bath house used as the model for the one in Spirited Away.)
Miyazaki's most famous, and arguably most beautiful in displaying/co-creating the Japanese hyper-real nostalgia, is My Neighbor Totoro. I'm posting the clips because this short video is a great tour around landscapes that literally come right out of my immediate surroundings.(The rice fields are now all planted). For all you people coming to Ehime soon, this video is a great preview. No doubt, all of Japan looks like this movie. But Ehime does in particular I think.
The music is by Tryo, a band I learned about years ago from one of my french exchange students in high school. I remember he only had one working lung. hmm. And interestingly, one of my students over here, who I turned onto Tryo, (he now has all of their albums), is the one who sent me this video. So, thanks be to him. And to one-lunged french exchange students, and to Tryo, and thanks be to Totoro, the cutest forest god in the world.
The story is about a family who moves to the country and the children discover the actual Spirit of the Forest living in their backyard.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I put another layer into this painting today.
The Japanese word for galaxy is “ginga” (銀河) which means, “silver river.” Awesome, right? We live in a silver river, a flowing mirror. The Milky Way in Japanese is "Amanogawa" (天の川), heaven's river. So cool. Maybe I should call this painting one of those.
Some of you might have noticed that there are two different Japanese characters meaning "river": 河 and 川。The former looks like it has a mouth and dam inside; the water coming in from the left, see it? feeding the mouth. Japanese characters are always tiny pictures, you know, beautifully composed in a square format, each one. Reading a page of these tiny pictures can be like visiting a modern art museum. And they are a great fun to write.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I am moving into a new, debilitating, belligerent love with our Family, our fucking beautiful Family of souls. Every encounter we have, we change. The We changes. and the "we" gets wider.
And on top of that, our time here is so limited. It's precious. I must keep in mind that as I talk to someone, they are dying.
And so am I.
The Japanese have a very popular saying: "ichi-go, ichi-e," ( 一期一会）which is best translated as "every meeting is a once-in-a -lifetime chance." They use it often as a slogan for the Tea Ceremony. I think ichi-go ichi-e is an altered, positively angelic state of consciousness, one that is thick with the moment, filled with the feelings in the body, totally open to connections and relationships, totally open to love, and painfully pregnant with appreciation. It is "enlightened" consciousness precisely because it is satisfied with whatever is present, embracing what is present like a mirror its objects. It's consciousness pugged into the "cherishing-state". (感謝の状態), and so it is one of my favorite Japanese sayings.
I'm sunburned a bit on the shoulders and nose because today I went to a hippy/eco/music festival called "Live Earth" on my island. There were beautiful hippy Japanese people everywhere! I saw the band "Dewachen" perform, from Osaka. "Dewachen" is the name of Amida Buddha's heaven, or "Pure Land."(see footnote) The lead singer, about 35, chanted like a Tibetan monk on top of a sitar, bass, djimbe, didj, and bells. The music made everyone high. I met him after the show and asked who his teacher was and he said, in perfect English "Actually, I'm going to Italy next week to visit him. Namkhai Norbu. Do you know him?"
"Yes I do!" I replied. "I try to read everything he writes. I love the guy."
Chogyal Namkai Norbu is a highly respected teacher who writes books about Dzogchen and Dream Yoga. I like this quote from Dzogchen: The Self Perfected State:
"Duality is the real root of our suffering and all our conflicts. All our concepts and beliefs, no matter how profound they may seem, are like nets which trap us in dualism. When we discover our limitations we have to try and overcome them, untying ourselves from whatever type of religious, political, or social conviction may condition us. We have to abandon such concepts as “enlightenment,” “the nature of the mind,” and so on, until we no longer neglect to integrate our knowledge with our actual existence."
Footnote: Everyone knows that if you can develop the habit of prayer, then at death, in the midsts of all the confusion, you might spontaneously start praying and find yourself invoking the mind-states of the angels. And then from that space of infinite love and infinite light, you die (and are reborn).
This is one reason why Buddhists also use certain mantras at death. For example, in Pure Land Buddhism, the most popular form in Japan, at death one prays “namo amida butsu” which is best translated as “Hello Amida Buddha!” and suddenly Amida arrives, just as they imagined he would, to take the mind away to the heavenly realm Dewachen, where a river of infinite light and infinite life flow into a crystal clear lake growing lotus buds, each bud incubating a baby boddhisatva. You curl up inside one of those warm flower buds, beneath a soft blanket of light coming in through the petals, and then from there, in infant pose, you die (and are reborn.)
Or, if you practice Tibetan Phowa, at the moment of death you imagine yourself as a tiny ball of consciousness floating in your dying body's heart space, and with your last breath you, as that tiny star, you soar upwards, up and up and out the top of your head when instantaneously, just like a grain of salt jumping into the ocean, you dissolve and are released into the nondual mirror mind of All Space, Dewachen. And then from there, you die (and are reborn).
Or you pray for Jesus to come. And then for your children, and your lover. And then for your Mother. And then you think of how lonely you are, and how this is the end, and you don't want to say goodbye to music, and to mountains, and to your children. And why does it have to hurt so much, and oh god I wasted it, I wasted my life, and oh no, how horrible, and then, from there, you die (and are reborn).
Not to say you can’t have a mixture of all these kinds of deaths. I personally believe (with my Elisabeth Kübler-Ross books behind me) that we will all go through those stages of grief. Frightened thoughts and confusion will color the mind at death, as naturally as the changing colors in the leaves during fall; grief and confusion are just natural indicators that the brain is starting to die.
But I also believe that if you are lucid enough to stay awake and free as the conscious space in which those thoughts and feelings and confusions arise, then you can have enough peace of mind to also, alongside the stages of grief, experience the stages of enlightenment.
And this is where dream yoga , my primary practice, comes in. I won't talk about that right now; I really just wanted to help define “Dewachen.”
Dewachen is Infinite Light's (Amida’s) “Pure Land,” like I said. And some say it is literally just “pure land,” or pure earth, pure form, pure emptiness as form, and "pure" here means irreducible, but it also means fresh and innocent and new, ichi-go ichi-e, so we can say it’s Amida’s "New Land," or New Earth, which is what Jesus spoke about, the New Heaven and the New Earth. And he maintained that the New Earth arises before us continuously because life is not like the sea but like a river of "transparent glass" that never stays the same. This Pure Earth of Amida, whose name means “Infinite Light” is at hand and at heart and you can feel it if you look deeply enough into the very center of reality, past all the ideas about reality, and into the actual nitty, gritty, empty, experiential transparent heart of it. This is "integrating our knowledge (life) with our actual existence (life)." Infinite Light and Infinite Life, making love with each other forever and ever. "Hello Amida Buddha!" The Kingdom of Heaven is Within, and Without, and Withyou, and Withme, and at hand. "At hand" can also mean that it can be called for at any time, just like Amida, as well as the ichi-go ichi-e consciousness, to bring it all around. If you open the door, it's always right there, at hand.
Ichi-go, ichi-e consciousness and Infinite Light's New Earth. What have I done?
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I just finished listening to an interview with Ken Wilber and Jim Garrison, and then i watched these two videos. This is a blurb about the interview from Integral Naked: "Taking this sort of evolutionary view can actually be a great source of solace for those who might feel somewhat overwhelmed in the face of our current global crises, as feelings of hopelessness and desperation begin to seep in through the cracks of disillusionment. If evolution has shown us anything at all, it is a silent yet unyielding current that tirelessly flows toward ever-greater depth, complexity, and emergence—like a mighty river that patiently but relentlessly carves through anything in it's path, there is nothing that can stop this extraordinary force. Evolution has never taken a U-turn—even when the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs struck the earth, it only cleared the path for mammals to inherit the planet, marking a critical leap forward for the evolution of life. We are not separate from this evolutionary process—indeed, humanity itself is the vehicle through which evolution is slowly becoming self-aware. And by recognizing this fact we can consciously bear the responsibility of our extraordinary heritage, billions of years in the making, and continue to breathe life and light into a long-slumbering universe. We are evolution—all of our beauty, brilliance, and blemishes—and that is itself a tremendous source of faith, guidance, and inspiration.
From this evolutionary perspective, the question seems to shift from the detached and disempowered "can we make it through this?," to the much more positive and pragmatic "how is this going to go down, and how can I help?" One thing is clear: we are dealing with an entirely new set of global challenges, the likes of which are absolutely unprecedented, and which will require nothing less than an Integral perspective to even begin to address. Our problems are so inextricably interwoven, that none of them can be addressed individually without making the others worse—our environmental crises, our economic crises, our energy crises, our culture-wars crises, and nearly every other crisis we are currently facing all need to be addressed simultaneously, or else our very best intentions incur disastrous results.
An immediate example of this can be seen in America's efforts to invest in biofuel technologies, which is made from food crops such as corn and sugar cane, in reaction to oil prices approaching $100 per barrel. 25% of the country's corn supply is currently being dedicated to developing viable ethanol-based alternatives to fossil fuels, which is in turn raising the costs of corn in the global food market, exacerbating the already horrific food crisis the world is currently experiencing. If we are not careful, and do not approach these problems with the level of sophistication that they demand, our very best intentions will likely incur devastating effects upon many of the vulnerable populations of our world.
Add to that the fact that it requires a fairly advanced cognitive capacity to even be able to recognize many of these global crises, and a similarly-advanced moral intelligence to care enough to do anything about it, and things might begin to seem dire indeed—especially since the people with this level of cognitive and moral sophistication form a painful minority in the world, and their voices are often lost in the white noise of our increasingly lowest-common-denominator focused media.
So if that's the bad news of our current predicament—that all these problems are really massive, really tangled, and people are dying right now because it is so damned difficult to untangle—what, then, is the good news? As Jim and Ken mention, we already have everything we need to solve the majority of these problems, in terms of the technological means that are required. We are not short on technological solutions, we are short on will. As Ken says in the interview: "Nobody on this planet goes to bed at night hungry because of lack of food. They go to bed at night hungry because of lack of political ideas, and the lack of political systems to get them the food." Adding to our previous example, we are currently in the midst of a horrific food crisis, as food costs continue to skyrocket around the world, and millions of men, women, and children are forced to starve to death—and yet, this crisis does not stem from any sort of real food shortage. In fact, many economists claim that we currently have a global food surplus—and though what exactly "food surplus" means remains a highly debated topic, it suggests exactly the sorts of politically systemic problems we are actually struggling with.
There is more good news—we are currently witnessing the evolutionary rise of a new stage of psychological development, the only one properly equipped with the right tools to make sense of our tangled web of a world. A new generation of Integral thinkers are beginning to emerge, just as our world begins to cry for an Integral response. It is happening around the globe, on both elite and grassroots levels of influence—and make no mistake about it, they are the future of this world, if a future is to be had. As Jim mentions, "everything we're doing now is happening within the context of a grand historical denouement that is not too distant down the trail...."—and only the rise of Integral consciousness allows for the sort of synthesis between spiritual realization and civic duty that we so desperately need. And you, assuming you have any interest at all in such Integral topics as these, are part of this evolutionary wave, and by simply acknowledging this fact you vow not to remain an idle spectator to the world, but an evolutionary agent within it.
So, finally, we come to the all-important question: "what now?" As Integral thinkers, practitioners, leaders, artists, and activists, it is essential that we live up to a new standard of global citizenship, in which some sort of civic engagement becomes as intrinsic to our personal practice as any meditation, study, or physical exercise. These inner-focused practices must be allowed to come to fruition and find full expression in the world, or else we begin to swallow our own light, rather than sharing it with those who need it most."
and then I watched this great example of vangard jazz and dance art.
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