Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Insights from Richard Wagamese’s Meditations

May 26, 2020

I’ve been reading Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese. I discovered an excerpt from it on a blog I follow. I had not heard of him and previewed his book online. Inspired by what I saw, I included three profound perspectives on silence, the soul, and his creative process in a blog post I created: Coincidences happened that introduced me to the great Ojibway storyteller Richard Wagamese.

A collection of early morning writings he had posted on his Facebook page, they were later put into an award-winning book by his publisher. I ordered a copy and found similar entries about the silences he experienced outside in nature, and those within—the gaps between thoughts, words, and moments.

To write, he would separate himself from the noises and distractions of everyday life and retreat into “the sound of silence,” then bring it out with him into the world, “the sound of self emerging.” For him, “silence is the stuff of life.” He wrote, “I want to dive into those small bits of silence. They contain the ocean of my being and our togetherness.”

This impressive insight concludes Chapter I: STILLNESS.

I DON’T KNOW the word for it, that space between seconds, but I’ve come to understand for myself that it’s the punctuation of my life. Between each word, each thought, each moment is where the truth of things lies. The more intent I am on hearing it, seeing it, feeling it, incorporating it, the more precise the degree to which I’m focused on my life and the act of living. I want to dive into those bits of silence. They contain the ocean of my being and our togetherness. So if I don’t respond quickly, excuse me. I’m busy allowing the surf of consciousness to break over me so that I can stand on the coast of our unity and be more.

This reminds me of Maharishi’s Vedic Science. He described this silent space or gap as the transcendent, our own inner transcendental consciousness that we tap into during Transcendental Meditation. He said it was also an unbounded reservoir of pure knowledge, the Sounds and Gaps in Veda and Vedic Literature that structure creation in a sequential, self-referral flow. I mention this process in a previous post. He also spoke of ritam bhara pragya, a refined state of consciousness, ‘that intelligence which knows only the truth.’

Those Embers entries indicate an experiential understanding of a deeper inner reality. In a Q&A session that followed a talk Richard Wagemese gave at MacEwan University, he answered a question about how his recent practice of yoga and meditation had impacted his writing. His answer and the video are both included in that blog post referenced in the opening paragraph above.

Here is another significant insight from the book, in Chapter III: TRUST.

MY MOTHER’S PHYSICAL death taught me that I didn’t come here to master devastating situations, circumstances, changes, losses or even my own feelings. I came here to experience them. I came here for soul lessons and spirit teachings so that I could carry on in this wonderful spiritual journey we are all on, this teaching way, this blessing way. So that, in the end, I can, like my mother has done, return to the beauty that I was when I first arrived here.

A similar theme is expressed in Chapter IV: Reverence.

I CAME HERE to inhabit a body that would allow my soul to experience. So I am not my body. I came here to experience the grandest thought. So I am not my mind. I came here to experience the deepest feeling. So I am not my feelings. I am all of it: thought, feeling and experience. That translates to awe, joy and reverence. For all life, for all beings, for all Creation. Knowing this, understanding this, make living the hardest thing of all—but the joy is in the challenge, the gradual day-by-day becoming.

In Chapter V: Persistence, he learns the miraculous power of forgiveness.

I LIVE FOR miracles in my life these days. Not the earth-changing, light-bringing, soul-powering kind. But the ones that carve out a small space of peace where before there was only the jumble of resentment, fear and doubt. The ones that happen from choosing to live the right way. Like coming to understand that forgiveness isn’t about gaining a release from others—it’s about gaining release from me. If I release my hold on what binds me, I can walk free and unencumbered. But I have to embrace the resentment, fear and doubt to gain that. I have to own then, hold them again, so that I can learn to let them go. In that letting go is the miracle.

There are more entries worth sharing, including short dialogues with a wise elder, Old Woman. His questions elicit unexpected pithy replies as she offers wise advice about life. Here’s an example from Chapter V.

ME: You always repeat things three times.

OLD WOMAN: Just the important things.

ME: Why? I hear you the first time.

OLD WOMAN: No. You listen the first time. You hear the second time. And you feel the third time.

ME: I don’t get it.

OLD WOMAN: When you listen, you become aware. That’s for your head. When you hear, you awaken. That’s for your heart. When you feel, it becomes a part of you. That’s for your spirit. Three times. It’s so you learn to listen with your whole being. That’s how you learn.

Advice on Writing

My earlier post shared Richard Wagamese’s reflections on the writing life. In Embers, Chapter III: TRUST, he describes the process of timed free writing and what it can do for us both personally and professionally.

WRITE SPONTANEOUSLY EVERY day for fifteen minutes.

First, get settled. Breathe. Big, deep, full breaths, taken slowly. Clear your mind of words. Be wordless. Then, open your eyes and write whatever comes out of you, and keep writing without taking your hands from the paper or the keyboard for fifteen minutes. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling. Just write. Every day. Fifteen minutes. Regardless. Watch what happens to your level of craft when you work on a project. Why? Because stories live in our bodies and we need to feel our fingers moving in the process of creation every day. Your hands are your interpretive tools. They bring your spirit out in words and language.

In Chapter IV: Reverence, he shares his personal approach to writing.

YOU STOKE THE FIRES of creativity with humility, gratitude and awareness. You need to ask for the gift to be directed. Writing is a spiritual process. To be a creator you need to connect with Creator.

In Chapter VII: JOY, he tells us that writing is a process of self-discovery.

DON’T JUST WRITE what you know. Write what you wish to know. What you reveal to yourself, you reveal to the reader. Storytelling is about discovery.

It was how he wrote Medicine Walk. I included his quote and video link in that earlier blog post about him. He had described this process in that same talk he gave at MacEwan University for their Book of the Year selection—Indian Horse. That book was turned into a film by the same title, which I had recently seen on Netflix but didn’t know it was written by him until I made the coincidental connection.

With reference to spontaneous writing and storytelling, I know what he means. When I first discovered writing and what writers said about it, one of my first poems came out as a result of free-writing practice: Writing—a poem on the writing process.

Around that time I had made up a bedtime story for my kids. It was so magical we did it again the next night and recorded it. After it was done I spontaneously spoke out what that process was like, then wrote those two sentences down as Storytelling—a poem on the storytelling process.

Wagemese concludes by encouraging us to share in the transporting and transforming power of storytelling, advising us to not be didactic, but to inspire others instead to discover the questions for themselves.

TO TELL. TO use the act of breathing to shape air into sounds that take on the context of language that lifts and transports those who hear it, takes them beyond what they think and know and feel and empowers them to think and feel and know even more. We’re all storytellers, really. That’s what we do. That is our power as human beings. Not to tell people how to think and feel and therefore know—but through our stories allow them to discover questions within themselves. Turn off your TV and your devices and talk to each other. Share stories. Be joined, transported and transformed.

It reminds me of what Raner Maria Rilke said in Letters to a Young Poet.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations became a 2017 BC Book Prize Winner. I can see why, now that I own a copy. In addition to Richard Wagamese’s words of wisdom, humility and gratitude, the book cover and content are colorfully laid out with creative photographs, all printed on quality paper. Douglas & McIntyre produced a beautiful work of art.

An enlightening moment transformed into poetry

May 12, 2020

The perception of time is strange. Memories of certain events remain with us long after they’ve gone. They become part of our story. I still remember a unique experience I had over 20 years ago. I found the poem I had written about it trying to understand what was happening at that time. But first, a backgrounder on what led up to it.

Saturn (Shani) was exerting its influence during an Antardasha, or sub-period. I was also in the last third of a ​7.5 years-long period of Shani influencing my Moon (Chandra), which governs the mind and emotions. It is a challenging time known as Sade-Sati in eastern astrology. We go through this transit at least once or twice during our lifetime. The texts say that “persons under this influence are betrayed in their financial, personal, social and marital matters.” I often recalled what Nietzsche said about life’s suffering: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

My life wasn’t that bad, yet I had been been under a lot of different pressures going nowhere. I was given the opportunity to join the Maharishi Purusha Program. It was something I had thought about, but life’s decisions had taken me in other directions. I reconsidered my current situation and decided to give it a try.

At one point the Maharishi Jyotish office offered astrology readings and recommended remedies for what might be coming down the proverbial karmic pipeline. This was something I had always wanted to do but could never afford. Since I was on this special program for single men, the cost for the reading and remedy was more within reach. The main recommendation was to have a double level Maharishi Yagya done for both Shani influences. I decided to go for it, not knowing what to expect.

While an ancient Vedic performance was being conducted in India, I was feeling something in North Carolina! The experience was abstract, yet so real! The only way I could make any sense of it was to put it into words. This poem came out and surprisingly defined the moment for me.

Awake Before The Dawn

Another sun has risen
this morning
not one of light
but of wakefulness
 
I find myself
strangely silent inside
not feeling anything
but lightness
 
So this is what it’s like
to be alive
awake at last
to the Dawning of Eternity
 
Written on Saturday, July 10, 1999
In honor of my Shani Yagya
Ken Chawkin, SCA, Boone, NC

Aside from what Nietzsche said, having that Yagya and being on Purusha helped lighten the karmic load considerably!! Eleven months later I volunteered for a project and found myself in the exotic land of Indonesia. An unusual experience greeted me there early one morning. I woke myself up to write down this Indonesian Mystery Poem.

Interestingly, during that year abroad, I would spend time in 5 different countries: Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, and Australia. I later discovered that when I left Boone to travel to Jakarta, Jupiter (Guru) had started a 13-month transit across my 12th house, which indicated a loss of homeland. Amazing how this all works!

I’m currently undergoing a Maharishi Yagya for an upcoming major Mars period, Mangal Mahadasha. It brought up memories from that time at the Spiritual Center of America where I wrote this poem and the journey that would later unfold. Another incredible story that would take volumes!

Coincidences happened that introduced me to the great Ojibway storyteller Richard Wagamese

April 30, 2020

Discovering Richard Wagamese the Poet

I first discovered this great Canadian aboriginal writer on a blog I follow. I looked into the book she quoted from, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese, and bought it based on this first entry I read in Chapter I: STILLNESS.

I AM MY silence. I am not the busyness of my thoughts or the daily rhythm of my actions. I am not the stuff that constitutes my world. I am not my talk. I am not my actions. I am my silence. I am the consciousness that perceives all these things. When I go to my consciousness, to that great pool of silence that observes the intricacies of my life, I am aware that I am me. I take a little time each day to sit in silence so that I can move outward in balance into the great clamour of living.

These two entries in Chapter II: HARMONY are equally profound. This first one, about the relationship between the soul and the body, reminds me of what the Sufi mystics said about the body and the universe, the microcosm and the macrocosm.

I USED TO believe my body contained my soul. That was fine for a while. But when I started thinking about oneness with Creator, I came to believe that it’s the other way around. My soul contains my body. It is everything that I am. I am never separate from Creator except within my mind. That’s the ultimate truth, and I need to be reminded, to learn again, to learn anew in order to get it. When I do, I know the truth of what my people say: that we are all spirit, we are all energy, joined to everything that is everywhere, all things coming true together.

Interestingly, when the mind forgets this oneness, loses its connection to inner wholeness, the result is what Maharishi calls Pragyāparādha, the mistake of the intellect, which identifies with a changing limited reality instead of our unbounded inner Self. This identification with the world and loss of memory of the Self is the root cause of all of our suffering, the difference between bondage and liberation.

The other entry, about coming under the influence of the muse, reminds me of William Stafford, another poet who would also get up early every morning to write before sunrise. Although similar in theme, but not as profound, his poem, When I Met My Muse, is more lighthearted.

WHEN THE MUSE is full upon you, you move to the chair at your desk as if entranced, and in that ghostly glow against the full dark before sunrise, story becomes a shape-shifter, a presence that cajoles you, tempts you, coaxes words to eke out onto the page, creating worlds and people from the fire deep within you so that this alchemy of creation becomes transcendent, making time lose all its properties. There is just you and the universe and this creative fire moving through your fingers in bold palettes of colour chasing the dark away until you emerge in the sure, calm light of morning and feel like a writer again.

I discovered a similar transcendent experience described by Canadian Realist Painter Sarah McKendry as she paints through the night until sunrise. See my comment and her quote below in the Responses section.

Discovering Richard Wagamese the Storyteller

Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955 – March 10, 2017) was an internationally renowned, award-winning author, newspaper columnist and reporter who had also worked in radio and television. In this CBC interview, Candy Palmater asks Richard how a library helped him become a writer. As a destitute, homeless teenager, he walked into a building for warmth and noticed it was filled with silence and many books. He didn’t know where he was. A kind librarian brought him some food and showed him how to find what he was interested in. Richard had only a grade 9 education and devoured books on a wide range of topics. He taught himself how to become a writer and would copy sentences by hand of the great authors who moved him just to see what it felt like. He tells Candy the role he played in the making of the film based on his book.

Indian Horse, the novel and the film

I had just watched an emotionally-charged film on Netflix called Indian Horse. I checked and found out that the film was based on the award-winning novel Indian Horse written by this same Ojibway author! Clint Eastwood was the executive producer. It tells the tragic, yet hopeful and redemptive story of the main character, Saul Indian Horse. Events unfold during a dark era in Canadian history, when young native Indians were separated from their families (including Wagamese’s parents), and sent to notorious Catholic Residential Schools where they were forced to not speak their language or practice their culture. The nuns and priests tried to “scrape the Indian out of them” violently molding them into Christians, traumatizing them for life.

Despite this, Saul finds salvation in the unlikeliest of places and the most favorite of Canadian pastimes — hockey. Fascinated by the game, he secretly teaches himself how to play, and develops a unique and rare skill. Saul’s talent leads him away from the misery of the Residential School to a Northern Ontario Indigenous league and eventually to the pros – but the terrors of Saul’s past seem to follow him.

Wagamese suffered from second-generational trauma, abused drugs and alcohol, was homeless and landed in prison many times. He would eventually be diagnosed with PTSD, which gave him a better understanding of his helpless situation, and finally sought treatment.

A wise tribal Elder told him his role in life was to become a storyteller. Writing would become a healing redemptive practice for him. Surprisingly, many of his readers felt seen, understood. His stories helped them too in their healing journey, fulfilling his destiny.

People who knew Wagamese said he was the creator, parent and protector of stories. Host of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter and chancellor of the University of Victoria, Shelagh Rogers said of her longtime friend, “Richard really believed everybody had a story.” Listen to Shelagh Rogers’ tribute to Richard Wagamese, a great man who passed away unexpectedly and too soon at the age of 61.

The nature of a writer‘s life

As a writer, Richard Wagamese would win many prestigious awards. On November 3, 2015 in Toronto, the Writers Trust of Canada honored him with the 2015 Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life. In his humble, at times emotional acceptance speech, he beautifully described his early morning rituals followed by sitting for a while in the candle-lit darkness, thinking about what it is that he is about to do, “and you ask for as much guidance and strength from The Creator as possible.” He heads down the hall to a place where he will sit for hours at his computer. “And you sit there and you breathe and you hope and you dream and you close your eyes, and you feel the essence of that gift radiating inside you. And you put your fingers on that keyboard and watch while they emerge out upon the screen.”

I love this part of his speech: “And you wait for that time when you know that that perfect sentence has just occurred. And there‘s a gladdening in your spirit when that happens, and you seek to write another one, just like it, to follow it across the page. And in my experience, that‘s the nature of a writer‘s life. That immaculate sense of solitude, when there‘s just you and the language and the air and the universe and that gift that The Creator downloaded you with free-of-charge…. “

Richard Wagamese 2015 Matt Cohen Award speech

And in my experience, that‘s the nature of a writer‘s life. That immaculate sense of solitude, when there‘s just you and the language and the air and the universe and that gift that The Creator downloaded you with free-of-charge.

Writing for the story’s sake and not your own

In this talk at the University of British Columbia (Nov 27, 2013) on his book tour for Indian Horse, author Wagamese gives some valuable advice for young writers. His years of experience honing his craft as a journalist and a writer for radio and television prepared him to become a successful novelist and poet. “In that way of writing you learn how to be sharp, simple and concise, and learn how to trim the fat from every sentence, and you learn how to say exactly what you mean and to mean what you say.” He emphasized “that conciseness and that brevity that results in perfect clarity really served this novel well.”

He goes on to explain that it wasn’t necessary to be overly dramatic or poetic in his prose. “You harness that, you reign that back in and you learn to work for the story itself. And if there’s any aspiring or perspiring writers in the room, that’s the biggest advice I can give you, that if you work for the story’s sake all the time it will spare you the anxiety and the inner debate about how much you should write or in what way you should write it because you’re writing for the story’s sake and not your own. And again that particular rule served me well in the writing of Indian Horse.”

In a July 4, 2014 Globe and Mail article, we learn where he got that advice from: Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? A: Norval Morrisseau once told me to “work for the story’s sake” and that is the best advice I’ve ever received. When I work for the story’s sake I leave my ego at the door and the energy of the story emerges without my interference. It’s why Indian Horse and Medicine Walk ring so resonant with people – because me and my ego are not in the way of the story pouring outward.

Embrace everything and write what you don’t know

A year later (Nov 18, 2014), Richard Wagamese was invited to read from the MacEwan Book of the Year 2013/14, Indian Horse. It included an on-stage interview with author Richard Van Camp. He read from Indian Horse, answered good questions from the audience, and concluded with a reading from his new book Medicine Walk, a story about a reconciliation between an absent father and his son, something Wagamese had been grappling with in his own life. MacEwan University posted this inspiring event on YouTube.

He offered good advice to hopeful writers and shared his process, how when he goes on long walks, he connects with the land, and thinks about ideas that get triggered. He says them out loud to himself as he develops a story until it’s clearer to him, then returns home to type it up on his computer, offline to avoid distractions. He told them to be open to anything as it could trigger a story. They should open themselves up to and embrace everything as it would impact their writing and keep their readers engaged.

He also touched on the notion that “some courses and programs tell you to write what you know.” I found his take on that advice revealing: “But it’s come to me over the course of the last few books, that if I write what I don’t know, then the process of me discovering the answers to what I don’t know makes the journey of following the story in the book stronger for the reader, because we both get to find the answer together.” (These great writers said the exact same thing.)

But it’s come to me over the course of the last few books, that if I write what I don’t know, then the process of me discovering the answers to what I don’t know makes the journey of following the story in the book stronger for the reader, because we both get to find the answer together.

This final question was very interesting, one that he “was not often asked.” He gave a surprising and impressive answer. He shared how his 16 months of yoga and meditation practice, along with a change in diet had improved his life physically, emotionally, and spiritually. On all these levels, yoga was “informing my sense of myself.” It brought a peace and a quietness within the process “that I’ve been waiting for all my life.” Answering her question specifically he explained, “and so when I turn to the act of writing, I bring that same sense of holism into the process of writing.” He then described the kind of improvements he experienced in his skill as a writer, attributing them to that influence, which, he concluded, created “a big leap forward” that showed up in his new book, Medicine Walk. (A good question that elicited a great answer!)

Learning to become a better person

In her informative and heartfelt obituary (March 24, 2017, updated May 16, 2018): Ojibway author Richard Wagamese found salvation in stories, Globe and Mail journalist Marsha Lederman wrote that “his last book, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations, came out of Mr. Wagamese’s daily Facebook posts. They had a devoted following and Douglas and McIntyre head Howard White proposed publishing them as a collection. On March 7, Embers was nominated for a BC Book Award. Two nights later, Mr. Wagamese went to sleep and didn’t wake up.”

The book actually did win the 2017 Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award. This is the conclusion to her article: In one of Mr. Wagamese’s final Facebook meditations, posted in November, he wrote about starting his day with candlelight, tea and meditation, and what the years had taught him. “Actions born of contemplation are wiser than those made in quiet desperation. If all that’s true, and I feel it is, then I have grown some in these 61 years. I have learned and become a better person. And from that maybe it’s the years ahead that will be the richest of my life. A quiet man moving forward, gladly beyond all expectation.”

Two new posthumously published books by Richard Wagamese

CBC Books posted news of two new posthumously published books by Richard Wagamese: the unfinished novel Starlight (Mar 01, 2018) and One Drum (Nov 06, 2019). This latest book review also includes 3 earlier CBC Radio interviews, 2 of which are referenced in this blog post. You can Read an excerpt from Richard Wagamese’s final book, One Drum.

Newly added: Insights from Richard Wagamese’s Meditations.

Fairfield artist Chad Starling’s Word and Form drawings boggle the mind, belie the imagination

April 30, 2020

Integrating deep reflection with artistic creation

Chad Starling is a Fairfield artist who combines the written word with a visual labyrinthine language into a body of work called Word and Form. He integrates deep reflection with artistic creation. His process of art-making is a meditative practice engaging eye, hand, heart and mind as he repeatedly writes a certain phrase over and over again in a specific pattern while experiencing a steady stillness in action.

I first saw his work featured a few summers ago at Art Fifty Two. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at—a series of repeated hand-written words or phrases from large to extremely small print made into shapes and patterns, some appearing as mandalas. A detailed large work can take up to two years to complete with writing sometimes as small as over 400 letters per square inch. Chad recently told me that he can usually create three pieces per year. The fact that he is dyslexic and can produce such accurate repetitive word drawings belies the imagination!

Chad Starling next to his I AM print expanded to mural size at Art Fifty Two

Here is an example of his work, I AM, which was blown up to a wall size mural for the show. The actual size of the piece is 18 x 24 inches. Dale Stephens created this large size for Chad’s show at his Art Fifty Two. You get a perspective for the size of the mural with Chad standing next to it. Click on the title to see details of the work and closeups on his website.

I marveled at the JAI GURU DEV Mural. It’s amazing! Click on the title, then on the first image to expand it, and the arrow on the right twice to see increasing closeups of it. You will clearly see the words in the 3rd image at the center. Mind-boggling!

Words of Art Documentary

Chad Starling and Ashia Fredeen with their 2019 IMPA Achievement Award

Ashia Fredeen, the daughter of a Canadian couple I know, came to Fairfield to study film making in the Cinematic Arts and New Media Department at MIU. She has a background in stage theater, creative writing, visual arts and music. Ashia helped Dick DeAngelis on his 2nd film of the Fairfield History Series serving as 1st assistant director for the entire length of the 9-month production.

During her 2nd year, inspired by his work, Ashia reached out to Chad Starling to see if he would be open to her making a short documentary on him. The result is this 7-minute film, Words of Art, which captures Chad’s unique process and work. The film won an Award of Achievement at the 2019 Iowa Motion Picture Association Awards. Chad posted it on his Word and Form YouTube channel.

Here are Chad’s artistic statement, artist bio and artwork description. Visit his website for more information and images: chadstarlingart.com.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

Formed by the word, we are the word, creating through the word. There is a story that is being created every moment everywhere, which has neither beginning nor end. If we desire, we can be co-authors of this story on a much larger scale. For this reason I draw my purpose for living. Expressing my heart through abstract form, interpreted through literal meaning. In a steady stillness I repeat a phrase, experiencing it over and over again.

ARTIST BIO / ARTWORK DESCRIPTION

Starling is a contemporary artist using micrographic techniques with an added mental and spiritual dimension. Beyond the beauty of the forms he creates, Starling uses his once perceived handicap, dyslexia, as a tool to make a series of repeated hand-written words into visual mnemonic devices. With degrees in photography, graphic design, and theology, Starling pursues the integration of deep reflection with artistic creation.

Surprising and Amazing Final Performance to @GlblCizn One World #TogetherAtHome Concert

April 19, 2020

This surprising and amazing performance concluded and highlighted Saturday night’s Global Citizen One World Together At Home Concert. The 2-hour show aired in 175 countries, in the US on 3 major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), the BBC, streamed on Twitter, Periscope, then YouTube. The full 8-hour program, One World: Together At Home Special to Celebrate COVID-19 Workers, and individual performances are available on Global Citizen’s YouTube channel. They raised around $128 million!

Two of these amazing artists had previously recorded this song, separately and together on their respective albums. Earlier performances are on YouTube (with lyrics). This more recent one: The Prayer – Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, a duet with David Foster on piano, is from Andrea Bocelli’s album, Concerto, One Night in Central Park.

Wikipedia: The album was recorded September 15, 2011, during a concert at Central Park’s Great Lawn in New York City. Bocelli was accompanied by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by its music director Alan Gilbert, and the Westminster Symphonic Choir. He was joined on stage by singers Celine Dion, Tony Bennett, Bryn Terfel, Ana María Martínez and Pretty Yende, instrumentalists Chris Botti, Andrea Griminelli and Nicola Benedetti, and producer David Foster.

Wikipedia: “The Prayer” is a popular song written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa and Tony Renis. The song was originally recorded in two solo versions for the 1998 film Quest for Camelot, in English by Canadian singer Celine Dion and in Italian by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. A duet between Dion and Bocelli later appeared on their respective studio albums, These Are Special Times (1998) and Sogno (1999), and was released as an airplay single on 1 March 1999. The song won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1999 and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals in 2000.

Global Citizen is a social action platform for a global generation that aims to solve the world’s biggest challenges. On their platform, you can learn about issues, take action on what matters most, and join a community committed to social change. They believe they can end extreme poverty because of the collective actions of Global Citizens across the world. To find out more visit https://www.globalcitizen.org.

Breath and fire in the heart feed each other as essential creative forces in Erica Jong’s poetry

April 11, 2020

I’ll admit my ignorance here. All I remember of Erica Jong was her early 70’s infamous best-selling novel, Fear of Flying. I had no idea that she had become such a prolific award-winning writer. Besides being a famous author, she is also a fine poet. She says, “The poetry is the source of absolutely everything I do.” I discovered some of her impressive poems looking inside Becoming Light: New and Selected Poems, and on poetry websites PoemHunter and Poeticous.

Filled with life and passion, Jong uses breath, air, wind, “prana whistling in the dark;” and fire, “a flame in the heart,” “a living lantern,” as imaginary ways to describe the creative forces within the heart of a poet. They are beautifully expressed in these 3 poems: Alphabet Poem: To the Letter I, Poem to Kabir, and Zen & the Art of Poetry. There may be other poems with these motifs I have yet to discover, but these caught my attention for their shared imagery and theme of being a poet, a writer.

Alphabet Poem: To the Letter I (12th/last stanza, 3rd poem in Becoming Light) 

We are all one poet 
and always 
we have one 
communal name, 
god's name, nameless, 
a flame in the heart, 
a breath, 
a gust of air, 
prana whistling in the dark. 
i dies— 
but the breath 
lingers on 
through the medium 
of the magic 
alphabet 
and in its wake 
death is no more 
than metaphor. 

Poem to Kabir   

Kabir says 
the breath inside the breath 
is God   

& I say to Kabir 
you are the breath inside that breath 
which is not to say 
that the poet is God–   

but only that God 
uses the poet 
as the wind 
uses 
a sail.

Zen & the Art of Poetry
 
Letting the mind go,
letting the pen, the breath,
the movement of images in & out
of the mouth
go calm, go rhythmic
as the rise & fall of waves,
as one sits in the lotus position
over the world,
holding the pen so lightly
that it scarcely stains the page,
holding the breath
in the glowing cage of the ribs,
until the heart
is only a living lantern
fueled by breath,
& the pen writes
what the heart wills
& the whole world goes out,
goes black,
but for the hard, clear stars
below.

In the last section of What You Need to Be a Writer, Jong comes clean, listing her fears, then describes what it really takes to be a writer — having something to say so intensely, that it “burns like a coal in your gut…pounds like a pump in your groin,” and concludes with having “the courage to love like a wound that never heals.” Ah, the human condition.

& then there’s all 
I did not 
say:   

to be
a writer
what you need
is
 
something
to say:
 
something
that burns
like a hot coal
in your gut
 
something
that pounds
like a pump
in your groin
 
& the courage
to love
like a wound
 
that never
heals.

In a Mother’s Day Playboy interview last year, the first question daughter and writer Molly Jong-Fast asks her mother is how she knows things, especially what’s happening to women in the socio-political arena. Jong answers: “I think a writer is someone who lives like a wound that never heals. And if you’re a writer, you feel the rumblings in the air.” It’s interesting how she uses the same metaphor for a writer to love or live like “a wound that never heals.” How she’s been bravely living her life.

I found this beautiful ethereal painting online, Walking Lily, by Vietnamese artist Xuan Loc Xuan

April 1, 2020

I found a beautiful painting on Colossal by Vietnamese freelance illustrator Xuan Loc Xuan. Titled, Walking Lily, it is also posted on her Instagram page. Her work is available at Toi Art Gallery.

“Life creates art while art changes life.” – Xuan Loc Xuan

Xuân Lộc Xuân was born in Vietnam. Her name means “Spring.” She lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Xuan Loc Xuan studied Fine Arts at HCM University, the biggest art school in the south of Vietnam. She’s been working as a freelance illustrator for several years. She uses traditional and digital tools to draw. Her designs tend to be minimalistic and the use of color is a main factor in her artworks. For her, “life creates art while art changes life.”

Independent journalist & editor of The Floating Magazine/TFM Studio, Payal Khandelwal interviewed Xuan via email. She introduces her: Xuan Loc Xuan dresses up melancholy in vibrant colors in most of her artworks, and the results are breathtaking. Having grown up as an introvert child in a large family, Xuan always felt an inherent sense of loneliness and sadness. And the essence of those feelings drips down into most of her work. Her subjects are always shying away from the audience. They are either glancing sideways or have their back to the world, and are always lost in their own thoughts. Most of Xuan’s work also has a very ethereal feel to it. Read the interview: People: Xuan Loc Xuan.

This is a magical, mystical image. I love the various shades of green in the picture, their textures, especially the girl’s dress, the different colored flowers. She appears contemplative, in her own world. This work holds an otherworldly, timeless silence. I found a companion piece, Water Lily, of a boy sleeping among the same water lilies, or lotuses.

Lily could be the girl’s name and/or the lilies, but these are lotuses. Their larger pads and flowers rise high above the water, whereas most water lilies, pads and flowers, float on the water, with some flowers rising a few inches above it. Maybe the word means the same for both in their language, but these are different species.

I learned that distinction over three decades ago in the fall, when a friend and I encountered many tall, large lotus pads and pods at the second Round Prairie Park pond in Fairfield, Iowa. There had been a drought that summer, and many stood high above the lowered water level. She began sketching them, and I attempted to write about the process in a poem as an observer. After several attempts, I gave up, switched perspectives, and surprisingly, the poem wrote itself; we had become the observed! You can read the poem and more about what happened afterwards in Ode to the Artist Sketching Lotus Pads at Round Prairie Park.

I submitted the poem to a poetry competition at Sparrowgrass Poetry Forum and forgot about it. Much to my surprise, on a very special day, I found out by Registered Mail that I had won their Distinguished Poet Award, which included a $100 check! They mailed the plaque separately, published the poem, and sent me a copy of Treasured Poems of America, their anthology, which contained my award-winning poem.

The editor requested a follow-up poem. The only thing I could write about was that mysterious, creative interaction that took place between us and the lotuses. He published Sometimes Poetry Happens in their next issue. Those experiences gave me the confidence to keep writing, and a flood of poems continued to flow from me, for which I was very thankful.

I like Walking Lily so much I ordered a large print of it to hang in my entrance way on the wall above the small antique green cabinet. I was given a 20% discount on my first order and free shipping, a nice surprise!

Another beautiful artwork is of a stunning sunrise or sunset in “A Fjord” painted by Norwegian artist Adelsteen Normann.

@ParadeMagazine asks @meditationbob what makes #TranscendentalMeditation so special

February 22, 2020

This is one of the most informative articles on Transcendental Meditation I’ve read. Nicole Pajer put it together for the February 19, 2020 issue of Parade. I asked Bob Roth about it and he said, “The reporter sent me a bunch of questions and I answered them, thinking she would lift parts of the answers for an article… instead they printed the whole thing!”

What Is Transcendental Meditation, the Practice Beloved by Celebs—and What Makes It So Special?

If you’ve done any research into the meditation, you’ve likely heard of Transcendental Meditation. Just about every celebrity seems to be practicing it these days. Popularized by The Beatles (who originally learned in 1967), it’s now a favorite of Katy Perry, Hugh Jackman, Sheryl Crow and Liv Tyler. After discovering it herself, Oprah even paid for her 400 employees to become trained in the methodology!

But what exactly is TM and how does it differ from the other types of meditation out there? We caught up with Transcendental Meditation expert and CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, Bob Roth, who walked us through the ins and outs of this popular form of meditation.

What is Transcendental Meditation (TM)?

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a mental technique that is practiced for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day, sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. During the technique, the mind and body settle down to a unique state of “restful alertness” where the whole physiology is deeply relaxed while the mind is quiet inside, yet wide awake. Hundreds of published studies show the technique is effective for reducing stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression and at the same time, improving health, focus and performance. TM does not involve religion, philosophy or a change in lifestyle. It has been learned by 10 million people.

How does TM differ from other forms of meditation?

The ocean is a great analogy for understanding different approaches to meditation. Just as the ocean can be turbulent on the surface with innumerable waves and quiet at its depth, so, too, the mind is active on the surface with innumerable thoughts but it is also naturally, profoundly quiet deep within. Other forms of meditation work to bring calm to the mind by stopping or observing thoughts—or visualizing new thoughts. This is like trying to create calm in the ocean by stopping the surface waves. On the other hand, Transcendental Meditation doesn’t mind the surface thoughts, it provides access to deeper levels of the mind, which are already calm and peaceful. For this, TM does not require concentration or control of thoughts, nor does it involve visualization or any type of guided practice.

It requires one-on-one instruction to master.

Unlike other forms of meditation that can be learned from a book or tape, TM is always taught in personal, one-to-one instruction by a certified instructor. That is because the ability to “transcend,” to settle down and access a field of silence that lies deep within the mind, while completely natural, is also a special skill that everyone learns at his or her own unique pace. For this, a teacher is incredibly helpful. The TM teacher instructs you in the skill of how to turn the attention of your mind, which is usually directed outward to the world around us, inward and to experience the deepest, most settled level of the mind where you are peaceful and quiet inside, yet wide awake and alert. For this your teacher will give you a mantra and then teach you how to use the mantra properly.

Transcendental Meditation is taught over four consecutive days, about 60 to 90 minutes each day. During the first session, your teacher will give you a mantra and then teach you how to use it properly. During the following three sessions over consecutive days, you learn addition information to stabilize the correct practice of the technique as well as learn about how the body reduces stress, improves health, and enhances brain functioning as you continue to meditate twice a day over the ensuing weeks, months, and years. Visit TM.org to find a certified TM teacher who offers a course in your area.

The technique is learned from a certified instructor, not from a video or book. That said, there are several videos you can watch that will help answer your questions about the technique and help you decide if you would like to learn:

(1) Transcendental Meditation: A Complete Introduction with Bob Roth

(2) An introduction to Transcendental Meditation by Dr. John Hagelin.

There are also books that will give you more of a background on this type of meditation: Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation by Bob Roth and Super Mind: How to Boost Performance and Live and Richer, Happier Life through Transcendental Meditation by Norman Rosenthal, MD.

Your practice will center around your own personal mantra.

The mantras in TM come from an ancient meditation tradition that is over 5,000 years old. A mantra is a specific word or thought that (1) has no meaning associated with it—because if there was a meaning then the mind would be stuck on the surface trying to it out and (2) the mantra is a soothing sound whose effects are known to be positive and life-supporting. When you learn TM, your teacher will give you a mantra and then equally importantly, will teach you how to use the mantra properly, which means effortlessly, without any concentration or control of the mind.

It’s best performed for 15 to 20 minutes, twice a day.

Once in the morning, before the day begins to give you the energy, resilience, and focus to enjoy the day with less stress and fatigue, and again, in the late afternoon or early evening, to wash off the stress of the day so that you can truly enjoy the evening with family and friends and sleep better at night.

How much does Transcendental Meditation cost?

The initial TM course is four sessions, and a one-time fee—based on income and ranging from $380-$960—is charged to cover the teacher’s salary. There is an option to split these payments over four months, and those who receive federal assistance such as SNAP may be eligible for a partial grant to help cover the fee. After these four sessions there is a lifetime of free follow up offered through any of the more than 200 teaching centers in the U.S. and any of the thousands of teaching centers worldwide.

What is a typical TM session like?

You sit comfortably with your eyes closed and you think the mantra in the easy, effortless way that your teacher has instructed you. There is no need for electronic apps or guided imagery. It is a natural process that is equally natural to practice. No tools, no apps, no videos. Just a comfortable place to sit and close your eyes for 20 minutes is all you need to participate.

Who can learn Transcendental Meditation?

Anyone from the age of 10 years and older can learn TM. Children ages 4-10 can learn a technique that is more appropriate for a youngster. TM is ideal for anyone: skeptic or advocate, experienced with other practices or novice. It is ideal for anyone who has had difficulty with techniques in the past that advocate stopping thoughts, clearing the mind of thoughts, or any form of concentration on the breath, sound, or areas of the body.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t do TM?

TM can be learned by anyone and can benefit everyone. That said, if a person is suffering from PTSD or another form of extreme trauma and is under the care of a physician or therapist it is important to continue those treatments along with the addition of TM practice.

What are the health benefits of Transcendental Meditation?

Research shows that TM is highly effective for giving the body deep rest and reducing stress, fatigue and trauma. At the same time, research also shows that TM can have a positive impact on the 80 to 90 percent of the diseases and disorders that are either caused by stress or exacerbated by stress, which includes reductions in high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, along with improvements in focus, creativity, problems-solving, and overall physical and mental health.

###

Related: Other Parade articles posted on this blog: ‘Dear Prudence’ Bruns in Parade discusses world peace, the ’60s, and why kids love the Beatles and What Transcendental Meditation does for Ringo. Parade also covered Lady Gaga’s appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour. She shared her history of trauma and the pain she’s been dealing with, what she’s doing for it, and how TM has been helping her in a big way. They discovered they had both learned TM from Bob Roth. You can see that part of the interview here.

Bob Roth recently appeared on a Frontiers podcast (S2:E4) by The Upside. In this episode Bob shared his journey to bring Transcendental Meditation to the Frontiers of medicine, education and the workplace. You can also listen to it on Apple Podcasts.

Guest: William T. Hathaway reviews The Supreme Awakening, written & compiled by Craig Pearson

February 16, 2020

Author William Hathaway is a frequent guest blogger. His review of The Supreme Awakening appears in 12 online magazines so far, including Conscious Life News. See previous articles by William Hathaway and Craig Pearson posted here on The Uncarved Blog.

The Supreme Awakening

Reviewed by William T. Hathaway

The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time — And How You Can Cultivate Them is the ultimate guide to higher states of consciousness. This latest book from Craig Pearson presents inspiring experiences from mystics and saints, then shows us how we ourselves can live these states permanently in enlightenment.

A sampling from the anthology:

Social reformer and poet Edward Carpenter (England, 1844-1929) describes the stages of transcendental consciousness: “There comes a time … when the … brain is stilled. It does not cease from its natural and joyful activities. But it ceases from that terrified and joyless quest which was inevitable to it as long as its own existence, its own foundation, its own affiliation to the everlasting Being was in question and in doubt. The Man at last lets Thoughts go: he glides past the feeling into the very identity itself, where a glorious all-consciousness leaves no room for separate self-thoughts or emotions. … [A]nd so there comes to him a sense of absolute repose, a consciousness of immense and universal power, such as completely transforms the world for him. … [y]ou come at length to a region of consciousness below or behind thought … a consciousness of quasi-universal quality, and a realization of an altogether vaster self than that to which we are accustomed. … To experience all this with any degree of fullness, is to know that you have passed through Death: because whatever destruction physical death may bring to your local senses and faculties, you know that it will not affect that deeper Self.”

Author Irina Starr (USA, 1911-2002) writes of her experience of unity: “[I]n some peculiar way my consciousness seemed to have expanded until it was present in a general way, far beyond even this planet. I was aware of no specific details of anywhere beyond my immediate vicinity, but I was a vastness somehow, that in no way contradicted or conflicted with my limited individuality. Subject and object had become one — had fused, in some way. There was the objective world around me … but now … there was a vast ‘plus.’ I was both my individual self and in some greater way, ‘I’ was also everything. Not the personal I, but the greater I AM. There were no longer two, only one, I AM.”

Black Elk (USA, 1863-1950), the Sioux medicine man who helped defeat Custer and was injured in the Wounded Knee Massacre, says: “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the soul of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its Powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka [absolute Being], and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real Peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.”

Other luminaries in the anthology include Emily Dickinson, Wordsworth, Thoreau, Emerson, Rumi, Rita Carter, Goethe, Mary Austin, Meister Eckhart, Dante, Kabir, St. Teresa, Howard Thurman, Whitman, Rabbi Abraham Kook, Helen Keller, and Einstein.

Although these seekers were brilliant, most of them lacked a technique for systematically producing the experiences, which as a result were usually seldom and brief, glimpses of enlightenment treasured for a lifetime. Now, Pearson states, the Transcendental Meditation technique is enabling hundreds of thousands of ordinary people around the world to experience higher states of consciousness, not just occasionally but on a regular basis. Their descriptions match those of the mystics and saints. A sampling of similar reports from TM meditators:

“The experience of bliss consciousness has become more clear, intense, and stable not only during Transcendental Meditation but also during activity. Now I find that a soft but strong feeling of blissful evenness is present most of the time in both mind and body. Physically it is expressed as an extremely delightful liveliness throughout the body.

“This evenness is so deep and stable that it is able to maintain its status even in the face of great activity. Even  when faced with great  problems, this blissful evenness of mind and body continues. Every day it grows stronger and more stable. This evenness cushions one against all possible disruptions and makes all activity easy and enjoyable. Every place is heaven when you feel that evenness. One is completely self-sufficient. Nothing can prevent one from having that fabulous inner mental and physical blissfulness.”

A report of unity consciousness: “Increasingly I experience everything and everyone as nothing other than my own Self. … It seems that Being … is shining and glistening and even smiling at me from the surface of everything. … It’s as if the inner Being, the Self of everything, somehow rises to the surface and makes itself apparent. … With this experience of my own Self in all things, love begins to flow — love without boundaries, without exceptions, without considerations of any sort. Love flows out towards all that I perceive and seems to flow back to me as well.”

A description of permanent enlightenment: ”’Relative life’ is still there, but it is eternally and completely cloaked in, saturated by, and imbued with this indescribable, attributeless softness of one’s own eternal Self. When that is the ultimate reality for you, life is just softer, more filled with those most fundamental qualities of creation: beauty, love, sweetness, and wholeness, in a perfectly integrated way — in their finest, most mist-like, indescribable value. It is lovely beyond words. … One begins to see that one is not the body at all, not the limited personality, but something beyond that — something eternal, unchanging, unbounded, removed from the fray of what we used to consider daily life. … Never before had it been so obvious that I have always been, that there is no end to me.”

Pearson presents scientific research showing Transcendental Meditation effectively and regularly produces higher states of consciousness. It creates a pattern of brain waves, hormonal levels, and metabolic rates significantly different from meditations based on concentration and control, which are mental activities and therefore less effective at reaching the non-active state of samadhi, transcendental consciousness, in which the mind is alert and aware but free of thoughts. TM uses a special method of non-concentrative thinking that takes the mind effortlessly to the deeper, silent, unbounded realms. There it becomes suffused with the energy, intelligence, and happiness at the source of our Being and brings these qualities back into the active, thinking dimension, where they enrich our lives and improve our performance.

The Supreme Awakening first inspires us, then shows us how to make this inspiration a reality by becoming enlightened ourselves. Pearson has given us a practical guide to living an exalted life. Chapters are posted at https://www.amazon.com/-/de/dp/B079K4LSQ1/ref=sr_1_1?__mk_de_DE=%C3%85M%C3%85%C5%BD%C3%95%C3%91&keywords=Supreme+Awakening&qid=1577014849&s=books&sr=1-1.

*

William T. Hathaway’s novel of the climate change, Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness, tells of an old woman and a young man healing nature through techniques of higher consciousness. Chapters are posted at https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/cosmicegg-books/our-books/wellsprings. His peace novel, Summer Snow, is the story of an American warrior falling in love with a Sufi Muslim and learning from her that higher consciousness is more effective than violence. Chapters are posted at http://shattercolors.com/fiction/hathaway_summersnow01.htm.

The Poetry and Color of Love for Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2020

Donna Warwick posted this digital painting on her Instagram artsfusionist: “Happy Valentines Day Everyone ! I Love Hue!”

Good homonym! This is so vibrant, like a beating heart! Can you feel it?

Hope you all enjoyed a Happy Valentine’s Day. Whether you were with someone or by yourself, Love Is Love. I emailed most of this content below for Valentine’s Day and decided to post it afterwards with some additions.

The Poetry of Love

For those alone, here is an uplifting poem reminding us to love ourselves: Love after Love, by Derek Walcott, resonates deeply when you first acknowledge yourself. Includes videos of him reading his poetry.

For those sharing love, [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] by E.E. Cummings is a most beautiful poem about the intimate unity of the lover and the beloved within his heart.

And Emily Dickinson succinctly describes the eternal nature of Love in this short but powerful poem.

Since it was Valentine’s Day, again, I thought I’d mention last year’s post. The audio links have been updated: Dan Fogelberg’s song, Longer, and my 3 love poems complete today’s Valentine’s Day Show. The poems were written for and inspired by my muse and sweetheart Sali. The first two were written earlier in our relationship, the last one after she passed.

The Color of Love

When it comes to art, one artist stands out for me—Marc Chagall. The love for his wife is expressed in his art; his art expresses love in color. He says, “In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of LOVE.”

In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of LOVE. — Marc Chagall

This blog post contains the Canadian documentary film, Marc Chagall: The Colours of Love, and 2 short videos. They cover his life and work, and the love of his life, his muse and wife, Bella. Marc Chagall’s paintings contain beautiful colors of love and a joyful floating lightness of being.

These images are from those films: closeups from an early painting of Chagall’s then fiancée Bella Rosenfeld; of Bella and Marc Chagall in Les Amoureux [Lovers] (1928); and in L’Anniversaire [The Birthday] (1915).

Closeup of Bella Rosenfeld, Marc Chagall’s fiancée
Top section of Les Amoureux (1928)
L’Anniversaire (1915)

The Chagall documentary ends with these words about the poet-artist: “He has painted the unity of the universe in all things. His song of songs is really a song of love, like a bouquet of flowers. Marc Chagall’s light, his message, his life, has been a gift to us all.”

May Love Always Be—within and among us expressed in poetry and art.


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