Shifting “Me” to “We”

Shifting “Me” to “We”

In St. Paul, Minnesota the news estimated that 100,000 folks came together on January 21st, 2017 to march for human rights, equality, stopping bigotry, etc. It was an amazing sight and filled my heart with love for us all and for our planet. And, at the same time, I saw that what “we” have to do is enormous given the current governing body, it seemed almost overwhelming. I noticed a strong energy of “me” becoming exhausting as I stood with others.

As a way of working with my feelings, I scribbled some images on the back of an envelope I found. When I noticed that heavy sense of self, with breath awareness, I dropped it. I could breathe in knowing how we are all connected to a wise and living energy that can carry us all if we just continue to work together.

At the end of the day, that sense of “me” could rest on a sense of “we”. Within us, we are all the earth, the earth is us, and we will work together to protest oppression and injustice.

Let us transform fear into peaceful resistance, let our fire and anger turn into loving and strong solutions and skillful action together!

The Canvas of Life

The Canvas of Life

Recently, I was given a gift to attend a two-day workshop with a master painter, Jeffrey T. Larson, who paints in a realistic style.

He started out by instructing us to “first hit the precise high and low notes”, match colors with the strongest or weakest elements in the image, then work the gradients in between. This breaks down the painting into pixels making it less likely to get lost in the small details to begin with.

The discussion he presented also flowed along with his understanding that he will never be able to capture the exact image. His painting will always be a series of unique gestures or “mistakes” as he said.

How often whatever is seen is already changing, I thought. The next thing he mentioned was the fact that the skylight overhead was already presenting a new reflection as the day passes.

We watched as he started with a blank canvas, adding bright colors and alternating with the darkest areas. It appeared to me his notes were perfect, his vision excellent. I innocently asked him, “Do you have perfect vision?” Everyone laughed. I was thinking about how I have glasses and bifocals and he did not wear glasses and appeared to have perfect vision for his task.

It occurred to me as I sat there aware of the breath, breathing in and out, that the high notes or low points in the body are also being understood and that with awareness the gradients of feeling or leaning in any direction are happily understood. Each stroke is like each breath as one tunes into the rising or falling of the abdomen.

Jeff continued to gently repeat, “just hit the main notes, then you can move on later.” This clarity of purpose is also clear in the first jhana: just focus on the breath, then when you have ascertained what is mind and what is body, you will see cause and effect, and on and on.

Our assignment was to paint a turnip. Using a small case of old paints I picked up twenty years ago at an estate sale for a dollar, I selected primary colors, mixing them to match the purple note, the shadow gray, etc. My palate became full of various spots of mixed colors. I wondered as I stirred: what is the right note? I glanced back and forth from the sitting turnip to my canvas. Hmm, I compared the turnip color to the colors on my palate trying many times to match the color.

Jeff came along at the end of the day, and gently picked up my brush, and in a few minutes put each high point and each low point on the canvas. He put bare white right where it needed to be, dark purple, a mustard yellow, and jet black on the bottom. He quietly handed my brush back to me, and I humbly understood him.

I’ve followed instructions in meditation, but wasn’t getting how to paint until he showed me: First things first.

After working all afternoon, I could see what a skill it is to understand color, mix colors, and stand there all day putting dabs of paint on a canvass. How does one learn this except by practice? Can one allow the information to pass through and see clearly? Yes, but the stirring and mixing takes time and practice. The application of the brush stroke and how to blend precisely takes experience.

It was much simpler to sit back and look around the room at all of the people painting in silence and see the changing colors in each person bending toward their palate, squinting, and leaning toward their canvass dabbing on a small spec of paint.

I pulled up a chair and sat watching. The eye organ meets light and it passes through a tiny place inside the head, which separates it out into gradients. How wonderful. The empty canvas of the eye organ meeting with awareness already paints everything in total perfection. With that noticing, equanimity arises and there is just seeing the hand, the knee, all the colors in perfect flowing union.

The entire world is a canvas.

Sham Not Shame

Does your marriage or relationship feel like a sham? Yes. Then, it is a sham. And, it is not a shame.

Knowing that it is false is seeing the truth of the thing. Knowing you want to end it, and now ending it is being responsible and adult for what you are unwilling to participate in any longer. This is honesty. And, remember it is not a shame. It served you for a long time, it got you through and helped you (and possibly your children) to survive when you didn’t know any better. You may have started it out with some false ideas, and now those ideas are being shown the light of day, are coming out of the closet and being seen as unhelpful and false, shame filled ideas, silly childish ideas really.

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