I have been working on a series of small paintings based on drawings from my grandchildren. Needless I think these drawings are pure genius. I copy their drawing as accurately as I can and then It delights me to turn them into colourful paintings. I am creating more of these from a little pile of their drawings and encouraging them to draw more.
For me, deep listening begins with meditation; an act of receiving. It is a time when my mind is not so busy broadcasting it’s thoughts and opinions and there is some openness to listen and feel at a deeper level.
This painting is built on my fascination for the act of listening. There is a point where sound crosses over from external to internal. Once it is internal we process through miles of nerves and brain cells and then give it some kind of meaning. Listening is a subjective act, within ourselves.
Connection happens through listening. It is the basis of relationships; family, friends and community. Empathy and compassion are born of listening, then feeling. I sincerely think that deep listening might be our chance at world peace. If leaders, politicians and power brokers understood that their role is to listen, hear each other’s stories and feel the experience of others, there might be a chance of resolving differences. If we really listen, others will be inclined to speak their truth rather than try to manipulate the listener. If we really listen, truth rings clearly and deeply.
So much of our experience of the world comes through this sense; the bird’s song in the morning, the roar of a waterfall or the hum of civilization. The sharing of these sounds connect and shape us.
Deep Listening includes all the acts of listening, taking them deeper in to our consciousness, feeling the sounds and communication, letting it move us and shape us. It expands our world, helping us feel the underlying power and energy of life.
We have some responsibility for the magic that happens in our lives. Most of us in this culture have been given lives that allow us to focus time and energy on pursuits other than survival. We have an opportunity to involve ourselves in activities that can bring growth, love and magic in to our lives ……or not.
One of the many paths that offer us richness in our lives is the arts. As an artist there is an opportunity to experience the passionate fire of creativity. The spirit of creativity fills you, transforms you, burns through you and allows you to feel connected to something much larger and more powerful than yourself. Once we have sensed the possibility of this or have been fortunate enough to experience it, we are drawn to it like moths to the flame.
As we become familiar with this passionate fire and remember it, it makes sense to work at being an artist. As we work, we long to be swept away and transformed by our muse. Our muse becomes our lover. Each day I head to my studio hoping for an affair with this lover, but alas, it seems an unfaithful lover. It seems my muse will not show up today; it may be visiting the artist down the street. At this point I can become the abandoned tortured artist or I can have faith in my experience.
My experience tells me that as long as I work, sincerely putting in my time and effort, my muse will return in its own good time. So I work, plodding away, but growing and slowly making my way. I work at staying receptive and following the clues of my fascinations. When the muse returns and I am swept up in the passionate fire of creativity, I receive it with gratitude. My life is enriched by the longing, the wrestling and the soaring with the muse.
Relationships in Time. A painting out of the archives
This painting is based on a dream image. The strongest impression came from the interlocking lines. I do not analyze my dreams, but I do listen to them. They give me impressions, ideas and thoughts that seem like memories. As I thought about this dream I sensed that relationships are the entwining of timeless threads.
Like any other type of consciousness there is a time when we are aware and having an experience in our lives. If we experience that moment deeply it seems connected to an endless thread or network that moves it’s way through space and time.
As I contemplated and enjoyed these thoughts, I thought about all the relationships we experience. Some relationships bound or tie us to another until we feel very little separation. This can be a lover, a friend, someone we move through an arc of time with. It can also be an animal. Even after the death of an animal or person with whom we have traveled a distance through life; the journey continues. Forever seems a very real concept in a deep relationship.
The Natural Law of Seeking Balance
This is one of the series of paintings that I did in Mexico this winter.
It is about how the laws of consciousness or the deep inner workings of humanity mirror the laws of nature. Nature is always seeking balance. In the natural world when things become extreme life is threatened. The power of life finds ways to neutralize or balance extremes. The gaia principle examines how the earth and it’s living parts act like one large organism seeking health and survival.
When we are aware and listening to our deepest thoughts and feelings we are compelled to touch and share with each other in search of balance. The deepest drive of those who are experiencing darkness, pain or suffering is to seek relief and healing. Those who are experiencing love and light are compelled to reach out to those who are experiencing separation. The essence of this balance is compassion. The place where we touch is love.
In the realm of consciousness none of us can be free while some are imprisoned. A compassionate world is not one where we deny pain and suffering but have the courage to embrace and transform it with our effort, care and love.
Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Worship
This painting is about tolerance, thinking about what helps people live deep, rich and meaningful lives.
Mr. Yum stands in the doorway of his corner store: “ A mosque in our town, Imagine. All of the people in the neighborhood are patching some kind of meaning into their lives; Christians, yogis, thinkers, artists, writers, meditators and who knows what else. Some people are doing their best just not to think about it; just going about their business. Where does it all go; the thoughts, the myths, the beliefs and the hopes? Well as long as everybody is polite, gives the grocery man a smile and doesn’t hurt anybody, it’s alright, I guess.”
-The wind is an agent of change, a transformer.
-Some people let the wind move them, spending time in transformation, opening, feeling and finding new points of view. They can return to their lives richer, working to live more deeply, often finding others who share common language and experience.
-In this painting the wind is full of mythological symbols: spirits, dragons, a white bearded God, angels and birds.
-People fly kites for the pure joy of feeling the power of the wind.
Sunrise in Tulum
I have been home from Mexico for a few weeks, but I find it is still very much on my mind. My overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude for the good fortune and for the privilege of spending my days in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
During my months in Tulum I start each day at the beach in the first hint of the day’s light. After a little yoga I sit, meditate and watch the sky transform in an array of purples, pinks and shafts of light. The beauty and the power of the place effects me every day: the crashing waves, the birds soaring by, the bats returning to their roosts, the wind and the rising sun envelope me.
Sunrise in Tulum is my attempt to express the power of the place. There is a palpable energy from the prolific plant, animal and sea life. The land is permeated with the history and stories from of the Mayan people. The place is transforming and each day I make some effort to notice and allow it to transform me.
This painting is one of the “Cities” series, a group of about 15 paintings that includes cities in a variety of stories and ideas about our species and how we relate to each other and our environment. I plan to have a few exhibitions of this series, starting this summer in Crawford Bay, B.C.
Global What? is a bit of an apocalyptic view of cities in the future. There are a number of stories in the painting but the underlying story is about our ability to ignore or rationalize the obvious. Human beings carry on being human; using, adapting, enjoying and despairing as the earth changes.
The big question is “ Are we bound by laws of nature that allow a successful species to grow until it outgrows its resources? How will nature bring things back into balance? Is it possible for our intelligence and consciousness to find ways to override our base human nature? Will we continue to be successful users or find a way to live within the balance of nature?
This painting was part of a turning point in my life and is the only painting that I have done so far that is not for sale. It hangs in the corner where I meditate every morning.
I have been a sincere meditator for many years and through my practice I was able to avoid much of the pain inherent in a life of personal growth. When things got uncomfortable in relationships or challenging situations I could go to a still, peaceful place inside. It was a good tool and my life was good but I felt an element of harshness and that there may be richer ways to experience life.
I am a musician and after an embarrassingly horrible gig I was awake in the night going over how awful it was. I thought that I could get up and meditate and get to a more peaceful space but I had been reading about the Buddhist practice of Tonglen where you breathe in pain and breathe out compassion. I decided to go into the pain rather than avoid it. I started to understand some of the blessing of experiencing pain. As I connected with that part of myself I felt more connected with others. I experienced some understanding of the pain we all suffer and a door opened to compassion. As my caring nature started to grow I became a little less judgmental of others. I feel like I became more fully human.
Since that time my practice has changed. I invite some of the pain of life and the world into my meditation each morning and into my daily life. I find it is a human experience, rich in opportunity for learning. I do not feel I am in danger of being controlled by pain through this practice; by staying with pain and going deeper it transforms into a powerful experience of my humanity and ability to feel and love. My hope now includes the growth of compassion in myself and in all of us.