We all have the potential to create greatness!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meet Ze Monsta

Spooky Expressive Art Activity #1: Meet Ze Monsta: Go to a quiet, dim place where you will not be disturbed. Begin to breathe deeply, with each inhale and exhale growing longer and slower. Imagine yourself in a safe, joyful environment where you feel empowered. Then, imagine that someone walks into the room. Look closely at them, noticing each and every flaw. Every grotesque nook and cranny, and then try to see what is interesting or intriguing about those grotesque qualities. Beyond intrigue, see what about those qualities you could actually love. Now, it's time to say goodbye to your visitor. Come back to reality, and blacken an entire poster-size sheet of paper with charcoal. (vine-charcoal works best). Now use the end of an eraser to draw your grotesque visitor, using the eraser to pull light and highlight from the shadow of the matter. Keep a journal handy, in case you feel inspired or insightful!

Limbic Resonance and Attunement

Though a majority of Western society values the rational, abstracting, reasoning rationality of our brain’s left hemisphere, a majority of people approach daily life through our sensing, feeling, and emotional mind. Why is there an enduring attachment to right hemispheric action and reaction in a time that seems to demand the concrete, no-nonsense functioning of our left-brain? Though the practices and interests of fast-paced society become increasingly isolating humans, by nature, are communal creatures. We approach our worlds with a forced left-brain to mask the true inclination to identify with others through our right-brain. However, our sensing, feeling selves cannot be squelched or diminished because our right-brain informs us about ourselves in relation to others and is always there, whether or not we decide to acknowledge its presence. Our right-brain informs us of new insights obtained through our pre-logical, intuitive responses to encounters with our surroundings. It sees the glimmer of a gold fleck hidden in the deep color of a blue eye; it delicately brings the pleasure of beauty to our attention. It lightly taps us on the shoulder and whispers non-verbal responses about who we are, how we feel, and how that knowledge is connected to others in our world.

In our logical society, more concerned with thoughts than feelings, there is a disconnect occurring between our actual experience and our perceived experience. The cost of masking our feelings becomes an inability to even access our feeling, and then when we do we no longer know what they are, or how to feel them. The hardest task for a therapist has become getting their clients to describe their feelings rather than the internal verbalizations of their thought process. Many people cannot distinguish the difference between their internal summation of “something”, and the way that “something” makes them feel. People forget that language is the translation of what occurs, not the actual event; much is lost in translation. Many times an experience is beyond words, and the only true way to access the authentic essence is through our sensing, feeling, and intuiting right-brain.

So, how do we get past the concrete wall of words to our truly felt experience? We must utilize the presence of Limbic Resonance. Limbic Resonance mediates our emotional ability to bond with others by tuning us in to another’s internal state. This affords us a reliable avenue to an authentic understanding of another’s emotional state. An alternative method is to pay attention to facial features and body language, but then we would still be neglecting the emotional connection if we do not “tune in” to their felt experience. The limbic activity of others can result in an almost immediate congruence between our felt experience, and that of others in our environment. At one time or another, we have all felt an energetic shift in a room as happiness turns to anger, or vice versa. The ability to read the emotional state of others is as old as time, and when we ignore the most basic and core aspects of our self, then we not only lose our ability to understand the authentic experience of others but the authentic experience, sense, feeling, within ourselves. The Hakomi method Mindfulness is helpful for those who have trouble connecting with their inner experience.

Heart Math

When referring to strong emotions, people are often prone to reference their heart. This is nothing new; throughout various historic cultures the heart has been associated with spiritual influx, wisdom, and emotions as experienced physiologically. Currently, scientific research has been diligently exploring the role of the human heart in the generation of emotional experience, and has found that our physiological heart indeed is linked to and stimulates our emotional “heart.” Your brain and body work together to produce thoughts, perceptions, and emotions; this includes your heart. Research in the budding field of neuro-cardiology has discovered that the heart plays a central role in emotional perception because of cardiac afferent signals generating rhythmic patterns within the body, affecting brain functions which in turn affect cognition and emotional processing. Bearing this in mind, the HeartMath Institute has created heart-centered techniques to lovingly shift emotional consciousness.

HeartMath techniques shift a person’s attention to focus on the area of the heart, while also shifting their intention to the self-induction of positive emotion; most commonly they will focus on the emotion of Appreciation. Appreciation has been found to be “one of the most concrete and easiest of the positive emotions for individuals to self-induce and sustain for longer periods.” By shifting the person’s attention, heart rhythm coherence is increased resulting in a pattern change for the afferent cardiac information which is processed by the emotional and cognitive centers in the brain. The newly organized afferent pattern, paired with positive emotion, naturally conditions the body to correlate the positive emotion with the calmer physiological state. A reciprocal relationship between the emotional and the physical occurs, where the positive emotional state may produce the aforementioned physical state, and the physical experience may induce the positive emotional experience.

Through employing HeartMath techniques, positive emotion-focused heart presence gives individuals the freedom to replace stressful thoughts and feelings with a positively charged reaction in the moment the shift is needed rather than waiting for the long-term process of therapy to take hold. It has also been found that this physical-emotional resonance leads to elevated levels of effective communication, steady decision making, as well as more creativity and improved problem solving. Another lasting effect, if the individual is able to regulate positive mood production, is the ability to uplift them on a regular basis.

One technique which may aid in the positive transformation process is the HeartMath strategy of Freeze-Frame. There are five steps in Freeze-Frame. First, take time out to temporarily disengage from your thoughts and feelings, working to release from stress. Second, shift your focus from your thoughts and feelings to the area of your heart. Once, you are heart-centered, allow your focus to drift to your breath and visualize your breath coming in through your heart, out through your solar plexus. Third, make a concerted effort to induce a positive feeling. Fourth, rely on your internal wisdom to guide you toward an effective attitude that will balance and distress you. Finally, quietly sense any change in perception or emotions, and hold on to it for as long as you are able.

The Freeze-Frame exercise reminds me of a Taoist exercise called the Inner Smile used to induce positive feelings toward yourself and others by taking an external smile into yourself through your heart chakra, down to your root chakra, and circulating the energy back through your system through breath. Many exercises in the Tao which are used to circulate energy for a healing effect, bring energy into or in through the heart chakra because hatred, inability to forgive, and self-loathing are all thought to deplete you Jing energy (life force). So, perhaps neuro-cardiology is just now catching onto what ancient eastern traditions have known for years.

The Hakomi Method and Mindfulness

Descartes made a significant error when he ignited the philosophical revolution of intellectualism as he informed his peers “I think therefore I am.” We are not our thoughts; we may at times be prisoners to our thoughts, but they do not create our state of being. Rather, our thoughts are the descriptive responses to our states of being. There are peaceful moments of thoughtlessness where we still exist. If your mind clears, and no thoughts pervade but you are still present, then obviously you must be more than the product of thinking. Your consciousness, your ability to exist within this moment, your divine spark of life, continues whether or not you fall prey to the manipulative narrator that is your inner dialogue. Even if you grab that chattering little monkey-mind by the tail and duct tape its mouth shut, you are still a human that is being. This state of being that is free of mental banter, allowing us to focus on the non-verbal experience of the “now”, can be achieved through the practice of Mindfulness.

If one reaches a state of peace in the time-space of now, and frees themselves from the imprisonment of being trapped in the displaced experience of “past” and “future” through taming one’s mind, how is that a product of Mindfulness? To understand the outcome, we must understand the tool we are utilizing. There are no bells or whistles swinging from the rafters of Mindfulness; its values and properties are so easy to understand and employ that all human beings have the privilege of accessing them. Mindfulness places emphasis on looking inward while honoring the present moment. While we are in the present moment, pay attention to what is occurring within your body and mind in a receptive, open manner that minimizes your mind’s ability to interfere with the nature of your experience. By being cognizant of our mental activity and participating in our own experience of the present moment, we allow the noise ricocheting through our systems to quiet into a peaceful din of fluidity. Now, our process may proceed with ease rather than with the barbaric bombardment of mental blabber.

In the Hakomi method of Mindfulness, which is usually used in a therapeutic setting, there are principles one employs to aid in the effectiveness of the process. When working with clients, a practitioner must always be aware of their own internal state. As a practitioner applies the Hakomi method of Mindfulness, they must first check in with themselves, and engage in the principle of Beingness. We honor Beingness when we become open, calmly attentive, receptive, accepting, and in contact with both our self and the client. In this state of consciousness, the practitioner goes within and simply observes what is occurring in their being. Remain open to what may arise as you calmly attend to the sensation of existing in the present; be receptive to thoughts, feelings, or senses that may surprise or inform you. Accept your experience of your internal self exactly as it is without complicating its nature through explanation. Lastly, be sure to come into contact with all parts and aspects of yourself that wish to be expressed without forcing the interaction. Above all, just be. Revel in the process of Beingness as you are introduced to your self’s experience of the moment at hand; you may find that your internal wisdom knows you better than you think it does.

This ritual of going within to experience ourselves broadens our perception of where our senses are within the moment of the present. When attending to the present moment, either with ourselves or the client, we must welcome the unpredictable, and not place judgment on the process or the outcome. Through this non-judgmental stance we show compassion for ourselves, and in turn are capable of having authentic compassion for others. In embodying this Beingness, we create a safe environment for others to accept human being rather than human doing. When checking in with yourself, do you find that you can accept your Beingness rather than you compulsion or ability to do?

Once the practitioner is aware of their state, they must review their experience of the client to prevent their interpretation from interfering with the phenomenological experience of the “now.” For this, the practitioner must retain the Hakomi principle of Organicity. Organicity is the belief that organisms have the capability to self-organize and reform in their growth process just as a seedling grows into a plant which renews itself through spreading seeds that grow into new plants. With this principle, the healing and expansion of the client is infinite; the possibility for regeneration and renewal becomes not only possible, but absolute.

As Ron Kurtz says, “Life is its own authority. Life is creative; it tends to jump around and come up with new ways of doing things.” In other words, though a behavior or thought process may appear to have maladaptive properties, in reality there is an immense amount of room for adaptation and reformation. In this interaction between practitioner and client it is imperative that the practitioner hold this belief for the client, even if the client is not yet aware of their own potential. In the way of Organicity, the practitioner is not a leader but a companion on a journey where the client becomes the guide and educator. The principle of Organicity implores the practitioner to trust the inner wisdom and abilities of the client on the path to wellness.

Along with the principle of Organicity, the Hakomi principle of Non-Violence also helps to create and support a safe and self-empowering environment for the client. When utilizing the principle of Non-Violence, the practitioner supports the defenses of the client while allowing the process to flow freely, respecting the clients feelings toward the process. The therapeutic experience is not forced or streamlined, change is not presupposed nor imposed, and the principle of Organicity is honored and observed throughout. The principle of Non-Violence is aptly named because a safe and nurturing environment is created through the willingness to yield to the inclinations and needs of the client.

Now that we’ve established what the Hakomi method of Mindfulness is, and the principles that support effective utilization of the process, how can we be sure that we are being authentic in our Mindfulness? Remember to maintain an internal focus on the present moment; as long as we do not allow our concepts of our past or future selves to dilute our experience of the present, then we remain authentic in the understanding of our self and others. Always observe what is, rather than speculating; so long as we are true to our experience of something without distorting its existence with our own speculation then we are privy to its natural essence and authentic meaning. Welcome the unpredictable; when we open to the unpredictable, we are less likely to shun a valuable learning opportunity by presupposing its nature or meaning. Embody a receptive state, allowing for the expansion of awareness; when the practitioner is an open vessel for knowledge, the client is awarded the freedom to flow in the process of exploration and conveyance. Allow feelings, senses, and information to arise while remaining passive until it subsides; by remaining passive until the entirety of a moment has been experienced allows for a complete or whole acquaintance with that moment. All of these steps lead to the authentic expression of the present moment, creating a safe environment where free expression may openly occur.

Attachment & Loving Presence in the Hakomi Method

Loving Presence is a state of mind which promotes secure attachment reactions that are the core for attaining and maintaining a healthfully emotional lifestyle. Even if someone has a maladaptive or self-limiting attachment style, such as Ambivalent, Disorganized, or Avoidant, Loving Presence provides whatever support the person may feel is absent from their implicit reality because of prior emotional or relational experiences. When we regard others while in a state of Loving Presence, we see them in a way that is nourishing for all parties involved. We honor them by seeking to view their good rather than dwell on negative aspects of self which may be present. Also, in perceiving positive or nourishing aspects of others we hold the space for our own good to arise and greet us. This way of perceiving creates connection through Limbic Resonance that may be felt by the other person, no matter how subtle, allowing them to experience that they are appreciated, respected, and even loved in a spiritual way.

When a person perceives Loving Presence their subconscious allows them to softly open to the possibility of receiving the kind of love and nourishment that they, in particular, are in need of. Each person’s needs are different, but this does not mean that we need to regard one person to the next in a different way other than to experience there uniquely nourishing qualities. Simply by being aware of their uniqueness do we open the space up for an expanded experience of their needs. Their inner wisdom guides them to the answer as we support their unique and nourishing qualities. When we can see others in their wholeness, and perceive the beauty of their humanity, we free them from the shackles of being defined by their traumas, negative experiences, and present state of unrest. By freeing others, we then free ourselves because their Loving Presence was brought to attention by our own; then everyone is limbically resonating in a state of Loving Presence.

So, how does Loving Presence feel to the recipient as well as the giver? For the giver, it is an emotional-heart centered approach to the perception and reception of the person. If you are perceiving and receiving with your feeling, sensing emotional-heart in a state of compassion or grace, then you are approaching each moment in a loving way. Thus, allowing experiences to surprise and inspire you with uniqueness. If you feel that sense of unknowing, that sense of wonder for things that normally you would have judged and categorized into a schema that you’ve already encountered, then you can be sure that you are having the full experience of who the other person is because you are regarding them as fresh individuals in a loving presence, rather than as former experiences of a schema’s stereotyping. Though the giver may now know what their own experience is, the experience of the recipient is very different. The recipient may not even be aware that they feel a loving resonance with the giver; the shift in their attitude or mood sometimes occurs without awareness of how or why. Sometimes it may be as simple as the recipient feeling welcome in the presence of the giver. Other times the presence of the giver may seem to tell the recipient “You are safe in my company. It is more than okay for you to express your authentic feelings here. We are on sacred ground because this is a space of non-judgment.” Often, when the recipient feels safe to express, emote, open, be, or give of themselves freely, they have encountered Loving Presence. This encounter open the recipient’s heart-space up to the ebb and flow or free interaction, leading them into their own state of Loving Presence so that they may then be transformed into the giver as they are also the receiver. Now the exchange of love and acceptance expands both people’s potential for authentic existence; Loving Presence is quite infectious.

School of Seven Bells

This week in meditation, like many other weeks, has been about focusing. There is a song by School of Seven Bells where the chorus repeats the phrase “Allow yourself to be breathing.” Though breathing is automatic, often times my breathing becomes very shallow and hearing those lyrics made me realize that I am barely breathing, and doing so on a regular basis. The aforementioned lyric caused me to wonder if that is my natural rate of breathing or if I am in some way not allowing myself to just “be breathing.”

A couple times during meditation, I made a point of taking the time to inhale as deeply as my lungs would allow me to. While inhaling deeply I focused not on the breath, but on the sensation of the air passing through my nose, into my lungs, and creating expansion. With a deep and filling inhale it is tempting to just release the pressure in a quick and sweeping motion. However, I tried to be as mindful of my exhalation as I had been during my inhalation, paying great attention the way my muscles, tendons, and flesh moved and changed during this process. Focusing so intently on the perpetual motion of your own body can be a bit unsettling.

I have also been trying to concentrate on my breath while also being mindful of my surroundings, which can feel overwhelming if you are outside for a walk. Processing and trying to notice each intricate message being sent to your brain through your sense organs is a large task. Recognizing the extreme amount of information, I started creating my own boundaries by walking with my eyes closed, breathing through my mouth instead of my nose to alleviate smell, and putting my fingers in my ears, so that each sense might have a chance to showcase itself. It probably looked a little strange as I was walking around my neighborhood, but it was an interesting experience. My favorite sensation to notice is the light lapping of wind against my face when I am walking with my eyes closed.
Come join us this Tuesday, and every Tuesday for meditation beginning at 6:15. http://www.centerofsymmetry.com/

The good, the bad, & the ugly...eh, it's all "good" in the end.

In Initiation, Chogyam Trungpa uses the example of an art collector appraising the value of a painting based on the name of its creator, rather than by the aesthetic merit of the piece before them, to demonstrate how an individual’s desire to be initiated into an elite group may transform the potential for development of wisdom into the mimicking of one’s perception of that group’s principles. Had the art collector appraised the value of the painting based on aesthetic components or artistic merit, it would have presented an opportunity for the collector to hone and development their skills of observation and attention to detail. In contrast, the collector chose to base their decision on the popularity of a name which demonstrates a need to be identified with the greatness that others have bestowed upon that name, rather than with the raw beauty and presence of the artwork before them. Trungpa shares that this need to be aligned with “the best,” ever-present in the process of seeking spiritual guidance, is an attempt to and perpetuation of aligning oneself with ideas of “right” and “good.” This approach of participating in a dichotomous relationship to our world and selves actually strengthens one’s ego identity and may stifle spiritual growth which, ironically, is what most individuals are seeking to avoid by searching for “the best,” “the right,” and “the good.”

Trungpa continues to cast light on this idea by casting light on the element of self-deception that is present in such an approach to one’s world. He asserts that self-deception occurs because a person can be so concerned with what they are going to get that they ignore (one of the three poisons) what is actually occurring. He offers the idea of authentic initiation through being truthful in the presentation of oneself to a spiritual community and accepting them as they are also. Authentic initiation, or “meeting of the minds,” cannot occur if we are false in approach and if we are unaware of any grasping that may be present. To aid in the release of grasping tendencies, Trungpa suggests mirroring one’s grasping behavior for them to present what may not have been conscious actions and choices. Once revealed and then recognized, these behaviors will no longer be able to mask themselves. In the Hard Way, Trungpa postulates that to truly be open and achieve authentic presence, one must release the desire to preserve one’s own existence.

In the Open Way, Trungpa reiterates the importance of experiencing self-deception, exactly as it is, in order to completely expose ourselves. Those who hesitate to embrace this “darker” or messier side of them should make note of still grasping to false ideals of what the spiritual path is like. In trying to appear neat, tidy, or perfect in the face of one’s relative experience, clings to an illusion, ignores the teachings, and snubs a monumental chance for growth and revelation of truth. Trungpa states that this struggle is irrelevant because it is ego and once a person is able to give up that struggle, there will be no one left to struggle with; the ego will be gone. John Welwood reminds the reader that our basic openness “allows us to be intelligently tuned to life and grateful for the wonder of existence, it is the basis of sanity and well-being.”

Meditations on Randomness

I swear i will start writing about other forms of expression, just as soon i get this out of my system...

     Jack Engler asserts that self is “evolving developmentally out of our experience of objects and the kinds of interactions we have with them.” I don’t believe you realize just how true this statement is until you are trying to get your mind to be quiet for meditation. First you clear the immediate mind activity thinking, “Okay I have made reference to the large events or issues of the day. I should be able to go back to my breath now with minimal interruption.” Then there is a second tier of not-quite-so-important information that begins to bubble to the surface of your mind, which you acknowledge and then think, “Okay I have made reference to the medium sized events or issues of the day. I should be able to go back to my breath now with minimal interruption.” So on and so forth until you are acknowledging a small purple flower that you may or may not have seen in your periphery at some point in the day, and wondering if that baby you heard crying in the distance has a single or two-parent household and what impact that may have on the infants life in each circumstance. We really do have each of those sense encounters, whether tiny or large, floating around in our awareness. Sometimes it feels like an assault.

     It isn’t always that chaotic, but many times it is. It causes me to wonder how I am possibly registering so many bits of information at one time, and storing that information somewhere. Then, I feel a little angry because I can remember all of these minute things, but then I often have trouble recalling factual, academic information on command. It seems easier for me to recall my experiential memory than any other kind. I know there must be positive aspects to this, but at times it seems to be a nuisance. I can bring myself back to my breath again and again, but I can’t stop wondering if all those little bits of miscellaneous information are helping or hindering my growth on earth. My mind buzzes frequently with seemingly random events; sometimes these events come together in my mind to show synchronicity on earth. That portion of the random information processing gives me hope because it seems to show some sort of connective order in the universe that I don’t always have strong belief in. Other times all that random information just seems to shuffle around like too many decks of playing cards that are missing members of certain suits. Either way, this has been a focus of mine this week, trying to honor the randomness before coming back to my breath.

Spiritual Bypassing...You can't run away from your Self...

Continuing with our meditation theme since we will be having a free Meditation Gathering at Center of Symmetry this coming Tuesday, and every Tuesday thereafter.

Jack Engler reveals the point of convergence between Psychology and Buddhism is the notion “that all psychological growth comes about by being able to renounce outworn, infantile ties to objects and to give up or modify self-representations that have restrictive, maladaptive, or outgrown.” One might then assume that the wise elders of Eastern spiritual traditions would have mastered the process of purging those “outworn” aspects of oneself, with a positive reverence for the renewal and growth that will arrive in its absence. The key word is “assume.” It is an absolute assumption that spiritual leaders and practitioners, who have reached a status within the spiritual community, are completely in touch with their emotions and motives at all times. Attachment to this idea of perfection in spiritual practice can lead a person into bypassing their earthen experience by immersing their self in a completely spiritual domain, for which there may be some consequence.

In fact, as John Wellwood points out, one can be doing good work in many aspects of their spiritual growth and yet use spiritual practice to avoid certain issues that they do not wish to address; he refers to this phenomenon as Spiritual Bypassing. The desire to transcend one’s earthly life, even in the name of enlightenment or ascension, can be nothing more than the next prison if one’s issues are still lurking within. Being diligent in one’s spiritual practice as a means to run away from the experience and lessons of life reflects the three poisons in Buddhism: grasping, rejecting, and ignoring. The each of the three poisons separately leads to illusion and suffering, but combined are an insidious state of being. Though one may be diligent in one’s spiritual practice through meditation, chanting, mindfulness of one’s thoughts and actions, it is still ultimately possible to grasp tightly to the idea of what an enlightened being should be like, then reject an unwholesome aspect of our self that does not comply with that ideal, and ignore that it had ever made itself known. What is happening here is not a large thought process; it can happen in the passing of a single dharma.

The issue here may partially be attributed to the archaic idea that “unwholesome” is equated with “bad.” Whether on the psychological front or in the spiritual realm, being out of alignment with your own ideals causes cognitive dissonance. If one did not realize that their anger had such a deep seed as to still be firmly rooted after years of therapy or mindfulness, then its manifestation will cause a sense of “But I identify myself this particular way, and so you cannot be a part of me. Your manifestation of unwholesomeness is bad for my goal of wellness or enlightenment.” Through the rejection of an unwholesome part of oneself, there is a rejection of learning, growth, and internal communication. If one could open to the possibility of “pain and neuroses contain[ing] their own color and hav[ing] their own strange beauty” as Wellwood sees it, one’s spiritual practice would become more fruitful and wholesome through embracing, honoring, and integrating the aspects of ourselves whose voice we’ve stolen by employing the three poisons.

If one could also recognize Engler’s idea of the constructed self, it may be possible to see the value that our relative experience has when cultivating no-self. To know no-self, one must first understand what we are deeming as self, and since self is constructed by one’s constant encounter with objects in the world, one must address those objects and any responses that also arise toward those objects in order to seek wellness and absolute wisdom. To bypass this aspect of our self would be to bypass wisdom, creating illusion, and ultimately leading to suffering though we have been diligent in our dedication to our spiritual practice.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Drunken Monkey

     In Tantric Buddhism, every state of being is workable and every moment is an opening for practice, even the seemingly irreverent moments. Sometimes I imagine that my mind is a drunken monkey just stumbling around, hiccupping, and breaking things while drinking out of a moonshine jug. The closer it comes to the end of the year, the harder it becomes to focus on anything. The monkey in my mind just seems to get increasingly drunk, increasingly agitated rather than mellowed by his imbibing, and more adamant in its need for my attention. When tending to the drunken monkey of one’s mind, it takes a lot of focus and energy away from more productive endeavors. So, this week has been about sobering up my drunken monkey and trying to teach it to be self sufficient once sober.

     Sitting in meditation, the realization that the end of the year is so near seemed to grab me by the throat and choke me a little. Every turning of a season elicits the same response: fear, excitement, a sense of dread, and just a little panic while exploring some joyful anticipation of what's to come. Trying to meditate around those issues when my drunken monkey keeps sloshing around, waving its arms and trying to signal to me that there are so many other things I should be doing with this time, is a bit challenging. Trying to bring my focus back to the breath wasn’t working, so I started using visualizations that would alleviate the cause of my anxiety over time and aid me in accomplishing my work. If a thought or visual of me being frazzled and not accomplishing a task cropped up, I simply replaced it with the visual of my productivity and accomplishment. If a notion and vision of utter calamity or catastrophe popped up, I would go through the worst case scenario and realize that even the worst was still not quite so “bad,” then move on.

     Once I could get to place of rational understanding, it would become apparent that I would be able to survive even the worst case fallable, clumsy human scenario. However, I will admit that I am still attached to the idea of succeeding in my many endeavors. I’m not sure I want to challenge that attachment too vigorously just yet; that is one aspect of my mind I choose not to experiment with for now. I just want to voice that in my own mind, and in front of all of you, in case my Buddha nature happens to be listening and feeling playful.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Social Artist

The capacity for creativity, in thought and action, is universal among human beings. Depending on many factors such as autonomy, political climate, economic status, and sustainable resources, this capacity may be honored and cultivated, or silenced and repressed. For those whose creative potential is yet to be realized, it is the responsibility of the Social Artist, as envisioned by Jean Houston, to embody the skill, tireless dedication, and unique vision of the artist in the social arena. Through mindful presence, the Social Artist seeks to provide a dynamic balance between inner understanding and outward expression within their community and as a global citizen. The realization of humanity’s potential is possible through the liberation of the “common” people by being present to the basic needs of society, and creating a greater sense of self-governance through the decentralization of resources and knowledge.
         In Art and Artist, Otto Rank asserts that “greatness consists precisely in this reaching out beyond themselves, beyond the ideology which they have themselves fostered.” Change does not need to be invasive or abrupt because transformation of consciousness can be as soft and simple as asking the right question. As Rank points out, if a person’s perspective can be broadened beyond the automatic acceptance of what they know to be true, a revolution of evolution toward the deliberate life participant, rather than the living autopilot, is set into motion. Rank believed that questions had the capacity to allow community members to step outside the prevailing paradigm and ideology, causing reflection on one’s beliefs and assumptions, leading to a shift in consciousness that reframes the knowledge they have acquired. Stepping outside the comfort zone of knowing is likened to the process of the artist in their struggle to shift their perceptions, to transform their view, to see the world in ways that neither they, nor others, have seen before. So too for the Social Artist as they revere the rich heritage of cultural norms while also striving to perceive the emergence of ontological innovation.
         Unleashing the unbridled capabilities for metamorphosis not only benefits those who participate in the endeavor, but also those whom one is in service to, and those who come into contact with the fruit of that labor. Removing obstacles that inhibit the integrity of inward experience being analogous to its outward expression can be as simple as asking “What do you need?” The Social Artist not only wishes to be of service to other’s needs, but seeks to develop a sustainable human development. This does not mean providing for others without question; it means that we provide others with tool and resources that will continue to aid them in our absence and create a strong sense of autonomy. For example, the Buddha has been dead for many years, but his teachings and principles to alleviate suffering still continue on as viable tools for transformation of one’s plight regardless of one’s religious affiliation or ethnic origin.
         Having worked with children to facilitate creative thinking, at a national non-profit organization, has presented me with the challenge of facilitating growth while following and imposing bureaucratic rules and regulations. Though daunting at first, I have realized that even just making one suggestion to one person can create a chain reaction of change and shifts in consciousness. Choosing to use “trash” as a main staple medium in my art room caused many of the children to start seeing the treasure in their so-called waste. An egg carton may actually be a caterpillar; a milk jug and some old newspapers may actually be a ceremonial mask from Uganda. It has also opened the doors of their perception to include “I can do art; I am creative,” rather than “I’m not an artist, so I’m not creative.” Then, having been able to guide them toward perceiving how they are creative in every choice they make throughout the day shows them that creativity is not just attributed to the arts. They are always creative, and never disempowered, because they have the capacity to choose how they will perceive and process their lives. Together, we are all in the process of igniting a strong sense of passion and social responsibility that has the potential to transform lives, in a positive way.

Workshop and Course Offerings

Hip-Gnosis: Developing, recognizing, & maintaining a positive self-image by exploring and honoring the divine femininity that is expressed through the beauty and diversity of our bodies.

Creative Movement For Children or Adults: Playful fitness through various traditions of dance & movement. You will explore fun fitness as we stretch, dance, and play our way through various traditions of wellness from around the globe!

Creative Arts Expression For Children or Adults: Every day is a new chance for self-discovery & expression. With the use of various art mediums, you will be guided through a new project each week that allows you to explore & authentically express yourself in an empowering & enriching environment.

Living Life R.A.W. (Ready And Willing): A workshop focused on removing excuses for why we do not utilize our gifts and talents, and implementing a plan to lead a more daring lifestyle of seizing the moment at hand by offering the best of our skills, talents, and interests in daily life. A normal day, may never seem mundane again!

Moving Through The Chakras: A course of action that honors, soothes, & exercises your mind, body, & spirit by paying particular attention to how our bodies are *trying* to communicate with us. We will implement creative writing/journaling, dream work, private food diary, intuitive movement, chanting and sound exercises, and theatrical dialogue.

Drawing Shadow From The Light: (Exclusively for Wise Woman's Network & Center of Symmetry)

Potential Gatherings: Gather together with your friends, and enjoy an evening of wine, women, art, and song! This is an expressive arts exploration! Gather together with various art modalities and receive guidance through group projects of your choice. Great for bridal showers, bachelorette parties, girls-night-out, and birthdays. We can come to you, or you can some see us; it's all about comfort, relaxation, and fun!

*Private sessions are available upon request. I do ask that at least 48 hours notice be given for private sessions as a courtesy.

Any questions you may have, feel free to call or e-mail me. I am very accessible and look forward to working with you!

Potentially Yours,
Brittany Fluman M.A.