I am so in love with Margriet Smulders‘ work. I want to live in one of her photographs….
A quote from the artist- My life and work are full of contradictions between the mind and the body, between science and intuítion, between dark and light, nirwana and samsara, modesty and voluptousness maybe all brought together by the heart.
You can see a whole world in my flowers. Lush and strangely erotic tableaux entice you into another dimension.
If Shakespeare had a camera instead of quill….Three additional photographs inspired by the bard.
And the sonnet for your enjoyment.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Ever wondered what the music of the cosmos sounds like? You're about to find out. Astrophysicist and TED Senior Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz works on the Kepler mission, looking at a patch of our galaxy to learn about stars and their planets. During an interview at TED2013, she mentioned that she is also an artist and has begun composing music woven from star data, after feeling inspired by the work of Fellows…
Is it more important to make a living or make a life? This treasured writer gives his take:
"Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake.
When I came across the quote above attributed to Ciceroin the surprisingly well written,recently released book, Proof of Heaven, by the neurosurgeon, Eben Alexander, I knew it, not 21 days and counting, would be the title of my next post. (If any of you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and how it did or didn’t affect you.)
It is hard for me to believe that over 3 weeks have passed since I was last able to write anything other than a few journal entries. Even though I got what I needed out of my trip to the mainland, the experience itself took a tremendous physical toll on my already pain riddled, nerve damaged, body. So much so that most of the last few weeks has been spent prone on a mat in the living room, and have been primarily about pain.
Figuring out how to best manage it, while also meeting both my daughter’s day-to-day needs- like sleeping through the night, standing long enough to take a shower and occasionally style my hair, go grocery shopping and cook meals until a friend could come to stay with us. Or worst case scenario, until my mother arrives at the end of March. This is when I’ll return to LA and have the surgery I need for the best possible odds of a full and complete recovery. As you might imagine it has not been easy. No not easy at all. There were times where the pain and lack of function in my back and leg was so intense that I cried and begged/wished for a shot strong enough to put me to sleep until it was time for the operation. My mind was so perturbed from months of unrelenting pain, lack of sleep, anxiety and occasional pharmaceutical medication that meditation was impossible, and I felt like a spinning top unable to come to rest.In other words, I had lost my center and my ability to engage my senses in the Beauty and practices that are my life line.
To find it again, I had to go to ground. In the past that would have meant a combination of meditation, breathing and yoga postures, time spent in nature and writing. Especially writing. But I was beyond the point of being able to recover my-Self through those means. One option did still remain for me and that was art-journaling.
At the beginning of January I participated in a small ritual in which we each chose words to reflect on as the year progressed. My words are patience, calm, passion, comfort, play, and joy. And so, little by little, I created a collage for my journal using some of my words to inspire and remind me of what I want to be and how I wish to live my life.
Below are of the front and back covers, and a small painting, ‘Be loved’, on its inner back flap.
So, while going to LA for medical care thankfully gave me the knowledge and hope I needed–there is an end to the tunnel of misdiagnosis and physical agony that I have endured for more than 3 years. The surgery needed to reach the end of the tunnel and the light beyond is still another 4 weeks away. While waiting, I’m doing my best to “Be the Beauty I Love” and to remember what I already knew, but couldn’t quite recall
“Our truest, deepest self is completely free. It is not crippled or compromised by past actions or concerned with identity or state. It comprehends that it has no need to fear the earthly world, therefore, it has no need to build itself up through fame or wealth or conquest. This is the true spiritual self that all of us are destined someday to recover.” Eben Alexander M.D. To which I say, there is no time like the present.
Aloha Lovely Reader,
“Like a wet washcloth, the mind takes the shape of whatever it rest upon. If you routinely rest your mind on the self-criticism, anger, or anxious rumination, your mind will take a negative shape”
I am in Los Angeles, West Hollywood to be exact, staying in a rented house near Cedars Sinai. I am here to be seen by the wonderfully expert and caring, Dr. Terrance Kim, who first discovered the tumor that was removed from near the base of my spine last year, in the hopes that he can help me recover the full use of my leg, and repair the damaged nerves in my spine. I won’t know anything until next Wednesday. That is when the results of the nerve conduction testing and the MRI are in and I see Dr Kim again. Waiting, and especially not knowing, isn’t easy. It’s bloody hard actually, particularly on the days when I am experiencing a lot of physical pain. The mind, as you know, loves to travel to the past and the future and often to imagine the worst- especially when uncertainty is involved. So when I read the quote above from neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, Rick Hanson, I knew I needed to be more mindful than ever to engage my senses so that my mind took on the shapes of Beauty- not those of fear, anxiety or despair. To that end, I hobbled out to the rather amazing, Trader Joe’s and picked out these plants and flowers to look at and smell (the white Stock has a heavenly scent) during the sometimes long, grey afternoons. (We don’t have a Trader Joe’s in Hawaii, so perhaps I am more easily impressed by the low prices and variety than you lucky mainlanders.
Anyway, I’ve been working on the book as much as physically possible lately, and as such have been compiling a fair bit of research about the power of flowers on mood and well-being. All of which confirms what I know intuitively. They are good medicine! When I am able to walk, my beloved and I saunter slowly around the neighborhood looking at the wide variety of trees, and the architecture of the charming old and modern new houses. We’ve also loved looking at the menus of the local bistros and cafes. So much to choose from and almost all of it sounding delicious. I can’t wait to come back again when I am 100%. Last night we brought home and ate a delicious Paella Marinara, savoring the aroma, color and flavors of the golden saffron infused rice and the fresh seafood. It was the perfect warm and filling meal for the cold, wintery night. I wish I had taken a picture of it to share with you. In the meantime I hope you enjoy these….
“At heart and by nature Engaging the Senses is a spiritual practice.
But you don’t have to believe in anything outside yourself to practice it.”
I hope you have had an abundantly enjoyable and engaging long weekend.
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver …
I’ve been hard at work on various chapters of Engaging the Senses and am hoping to have something to give my editor, the visionary author, John Nelson, at Book Works, before I go to LA for medical care at the end of the month. The title of chapter one, is “No Sense is an Island”. I called it this because while it is necessary to become familiar with the gifts of each sense individually; and to devote a chapter to each of them separately for clarity’s sake (pun intended),it is also essential to understand that this isn’t how they function most of the time.
Our senses are both independent and interdependent.
Our five senses–sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell–seem to operate independently, as five distinct modes of perceiving the world. In reality, however, they work closely together to enable the mind to better understand its surroundings.They regularly collaborate in the brain to provide accurate impressions of the world. Our ability to perceive the emotions of others relies on combinations of cues from sounds, sights and even smells. Therefore, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that activating one sense is likely to activate another sense. (For instance the smell of an old book, and the sound of its thick pages turning, reminds me of afternoons I spent sitting on the dirty carpet of the public library after school as a girl while my parents were at work.) Just as nourishing one sense usually involves nourishing other senses as well. More about that in the book where you’ll find two daily Engaging practices for nourishing all the senses at the same time.
Right now though, I want to stay focused (another bad pun) on our sense of sight. We live in a visually oriented culture, so this tends to be the predominate way in which we take information. Our eyes are constantly being assaulted by images. A lot of this visual litter, like pop-ups and billboards, is merely disturbing, but some is actually damaging. Endless replays of the latest gruesome murder scene on the nightly “news” for instance. This means that being really particular about what we ‘feed’ our sense of sight, and how we actually treat and care for our precious eyes is a must in our quest for a happier, healthier, life.
According to Wired.com a view of biodiversity reduces stress probably because it forces people to actively perceive the present moment, and other newer research by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine has shown that viewing the worlds of Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and other artists more strongly activates the brain’s “reward system” than simply looking at photographs of similar subjects!
What this means is that mindfully engaging our senses and feasting our eyes on images of Beauty in nature and Art is one of the best ways to reclaim and harness the power of our senses and take charge of our lives, while simultaneously foiling those who are attempting to manipulate and use them for their own means and material gain.
Please visit me again later this week. I’ll be posting a few simple hands on practices for giving our eyes some of the tender loving care they need and deserve.
Hope to ‘see’ you then…..XO,
Ok well this Nirvana is actually located at the new renamed Honolulu Museum of Art and is part of the exhibition, A Prayer for the New Birth of Japan. At 3 pm this Friday, Jan 11th 2013, the artist Mayumi Oda will mark the closing of her exhibition with a special ceremony in the Honolulu Museum of Art’s gallery of Buddhist art. Well known Zen Abbot Joan Halifax Roshi of Upaya Zen Center (pictured below with H.H.)and artist Meleanna Meyer will preside over the ceremonies, which will include chanting, but not chairs. I for one intend to be at this standing room only event.
In fact I’m quite excited to be a part of it for a couple of reasons. The first being that a big part of why we shifted our base from the sleepy upcountry idyll of Maui to the big city of Honolulu was to see more art. Especially art that doesn’t include palm tree or tropical fish painted in the kitschy, dayglo style that many of the galleries seem to favor. Colorful and over the sofa ready to hang as it may be, they really don’t do justice to the diversity of art being created here in the Islands. Yes, folks, art with a capital A lives and breathes in Hawaii - especially if you know where to look. I promise to share more of these special spots with you in subsequent posts.
The other being that I have been an admirer of Joan Halifax’s fully engaged style since first meeting her at our mutual friend, poet, Pennywhistle Press Publisher, and impresario, Victor Di Suvero’s home in Teseque, New Mexico oh so many years ago. If you are not familiar with her work, the anthropologist, and author is also Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center, a Buddhist monastery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I used to walk up here from my house on Gonzales (Ski Basin) Road. She has worked in the area of death and dying for over thirty years and is Director of the Project on Being with Dying. And for the past twenty-five years, she has been active in environmental work.A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order, her work and practice for more than three decades has focused on engaged Buddhism.
Of recent, Roshi Joan Halifax is a distinguished invited scholar to the Library of Congress and the only woman and buddhist to be on the Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Foundation. She is also Founder and Director of the Upaya Prison Project that develops programs on meditation for prisoners. She is founder of the Ojai Foundation, was an Honorary Research Fellow at Harvard University, and has taught in many universities, monasteries, and medical centers around the world. Joan’s deep concern and commitment to the environment blends beautifully with the artist’s intentions. Mayumi has been at work for more than a year now, painting her ”thoughts and feelings about the difficult situations that we are now facing: the devastation of the earth, violence, and war. (Her) work is intended as a heartfelt letter to a world that has turned down a dangerous path. The Shintö sun goddess Amaterasu that is one of the subjects of this exhibition is a symbol of our continuing life force; and it is (her) hope that we, as the children of Amaterasu, can transform our beloved earth into a land of love and aloha.” For the past 3 weeks the wind here on the island has been fierce, the surf high and rough. So today, as I finish typing this post while listening to a the calm breeze and looking at the picture postcard tropical blue sky, not very different from the one 2 years ago, when the powerful earth quake rocked Japan and put Hawaii on high Tsunami alert, I am reminded again of the power of Beauty and its essential place in the Arts as a medium and means for transformation and healing. I hope to see you there
OM Shanti and Aloha,
Am using this quote in one of the opening pages of the book. It is an oldie but a goodie.
Thanks to BrainyQuote for illustrating so many wonderful quotes. I hope to do more of that myself.
“Touch has a memory.” John Keats
Each of our senses is associated with an area of the body.
The sense of touch is associated with the heart.
Looking at something that reminds you of how it feels to have an open, loving heart is one of the easiest ways to engage and nourish your Self and your sense of touch.
There is so much out there to see. And what we choose to look at really does matter. More than we may (consciously) realize. (To discover more about why this is true and what you can do about it click here later.)
New research by Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London demonstrates that viewing a beautiful work of art creates the same chemical response as love.
So, let your(wise) heart do the choosing, and you’ll be in good hands. Now (in this too often hurried and harried holiday season), and in the year(s) ahead.
The sweet photo above took me back to when I was a very small girl and had a broken leg. Before I got my crutches, my mom had to push me in a wheel chair on the wintery streets of NYC. As we head down 3rd Ave, there on the dirty, glittering, icy sidewalk, I spotted some silvery coins (dimes and quarters, maybe a dollar in all) that had fallen from someone’s pocket. To my five-year old self, that was a lot of money, and finding it made me feel lucky! My mom picked them up for me and we went into Woolworths, where I bought 5 pieces of Bazooka bubble gum, which was my favorite kind!
Some of my ‘best’ (most touching, heart opening memories) are of being at home with my mom (before economics/fate forced her to have to work full time) as a little girl doing things like snuggling in the big bed she shared with my dad, and making up silly and naughty names for dolls-instead of Betsy Wetsy which I desperately wanted and don’t think I ever got- we invented Veronica Vomit.
What sorts of things touch your heart when you see them? I’d love to know.
Yours in Truth,
After a difficult week and a few false starts this really spoke to me. Hope it speaks to you too.
Happy new moon!
Wishing you every blessing,
ps. Check out the livelifehappy.com for more inspiring quotes
I’ve been reading The New Yorker since before I could ‘read’. My daughter, is a third generation reader (of the cartoons). I hope this ever so clever piece by the talented Bill Barol, makes you laugh out loud. I did. And so did my still totally sharp and witty, 83 year old mother. Vive The New Yorker. Long may they live, make us think, laugh, and publish some of the best poetry and short stories around.
XO, Continue reading
So while we are still on the subject of engaging your senses in your home environment…. Not so keen on the antler coat rack. Love the butterflies, and of course the vintage typewriter… and I’m coveting some air-plants (gosh the Kiwi’s always come up with such great eco-friendly ideas) for the rock walls on my lanai (Hawaiian for patio or deck).
Which are your favorites?
Some keep company, others prefer solace. But what is a restorative space for some, seems like trappings for others.
For those with any fascination in where some of the most influential creative spirits play house, these photos are sure to spark interest. A short peek into the lives of artists at home:
Truman Capote and his kitsch collection
“Home is where you feel at home.