Trying out Ustream…

April 28, 2009

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Story-telling

April 27, 2009

Computer is a great distraction. It is a great tool.

I am thinking about story-telling a lot lately. Went to see what they have on youtube on this subject. Some interesting things to be found, for instance this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzP4FM3WqwY and this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbfjOeyx8qk&NR=1

Story is linear, story is figurative. That is if you translate the story-telling into visual terms. Story is about us, people. And all of this makes the story-telling so close to my heart/art… I like stories. Portraiture is telling a story…

…and a teacher

April 22, 2009

Looking for a structure is linked up with a search for the spiritual teacher. I am looking. Or waiting.

Another thing which was a barrier on my way of accepting the spiritual nature of my search is my association of the word “spiritual” with all sorts of creepy sects, people with mental problems, dancing and chanting in some cellars and then setting themselves collectively on fire or such like… Well, they are out there still, but that’s not what the spirituality is about. Same way as if someone puts a beret on his head and grows a beard and assumes an absent, dreamy look on their face, that doesn’t make them an artist. Seems simple now, but took me long time to sort the things out. I am a naive peasant girl, after all!

And so, I am looking.

It is Wednesday. I feel as some resistance in me is gradually lifting up. I think I allow the destiny to take it course and allow myself to believe, that that course will be the most exciting, happy and beneficial for me and all my people. Now I can see the meaning of the events in the past. The way they each gave me a little glimpse of what I am, what my life is about.

I understand now my preferences in art and what the art is for me. And why. And understanding that gives me the acceptance of my own way. Hurah! I needn’t resist being myself any more! 🙂

So.

The art is not the goal in itself. It doesn’t have any meaning, any value of its own. The art is a tool of telling a story.

We, human beings, are constantly trying to decipher what we are in general, as human beings, and what each of us is, as a unique individual. Each life is like writing up a story. My life is writing up a story. My art is a tool of writing up a story.

I never felt that mad about art, and used to beat myself up for not being passionate enough about it. But it is fine now, no need to be passionate about something as limited as one way of art making. Because the life is much bigger than that, and to write an exciting story of a life, one mustn’t limit one-self to one form of creativity.

No use trying to squeeze myself into the trodden path, to comply, to follow the rules. I am too big for that. That’s what I didn’t realise before! I’ll shape my own path by letting myself to be…

White Shaman

April 21, 2009

21 April 2009

Last weekend I attended an interesting event. A talk on Friday and a one-to-one session on divination on Sunday, given by a Sangoma (Shaman) John Lockley from South Africa. This is his website: http://www.african-shaman.com

During the talk, John told us about himself and his path to becoming a sangoma. He had prophetic dreams about it since his early years. But being a white boy unconnected to the Xhosa or Zulu culture in any way, he didn’t know the meaning of them, or what to do about it. Only after several years of search and having suffered a series of illnesses, he came to the Teacher, who was already aware of him. She in turn had a dream, in which she was told to be prepared to train someone from a different culture to become a sangoma. And when John came to see her, she knew it was her student.

In Africa they call it thwasa – the illness, which afflicts people who are to become healers in order to force them on their spiritual path. I can think of at least couple of other examples in other cultures, where individuals reach their enlightened self only having gone through some nearly fatal experiences. Those kind of stories, along with a few examples of great artists ending up in a mental house, as we figured out on Sunday divination session, created a mental block, which kept me from committing myself fully to art, to spirituality and to life.

I find myself in a continuous mental argument about life, and death, and guilt of not doing enough and not being enough… And the bliss of being dissolved in the Everything, which will come after death.

On Friday’s talk, I asked him about death, what his perception of it was. He said, that he was afraid of the death – he is a human. But his feeling is different from that which people of Western cultures usually share. As far as I understand, there is a fear, but there is an acceptance. More of an acceptance and less of horror, maybe?.. It is difficult to explain without repeating word for word the whole conversation… However, to my words, that I was looking forward to death in a way, his response was, that it seemed, my challenge was to live. To the full. That it was easier for me to die than to live… I thought about it afterwards, and yes, it’s been sometime since I am aware, that I am not committing to something. But what it is I am chickening out of, I don’t know.

On Sunday session, John said that he was going to meditate and make himself available. That was the part of the session, when he attempts to contact the ancestors. I closed my eyes and waited. Nothing happen. None of my ancestors came to claim me. I imagined them sitting in an ante-room, some bored, some chatting, some just busy doing nothing. A receptionist at the communication device speaks up:
– Hey, there is this request here. Anyone has to say anything?
Murmur… Looking at each other,
– Nah.
– Nothing to say. She’ll figure it out for herself.
– Eventually.
– Yeah! Ha-ha. Eventually… Good one…
– Okay. No reply.

In the room where the session takes place, it is very hot. My cheeks are starting to burn. I can hear some rustling and open my eyes. John looks at me and offers to take a sit on the cushion on the floor.
– I’ll throw the bones now, okay?
– Okay.

We sit down opposite each other. Between us he spreads a goat’s skin. Sprinkles some herbs, saying spells in a clicking language. Takes a sack made of a goat’s skin with the things inside, says something onto it and blows. Then it is my turn to hold my hands out, supporting the sack and blow on it three times. Then he shakes the sack, and letting the neck of it loose, throws the things out of it and on to the skin on the floor…

Somewhere in my mind I trail back to when I am 4 or 5, living with my grandparents and an uncle in the countryside in Central Asia. Fortune-telling, was it? Or divination? Something of that sort was a natural part of life. Grandma and I visiting other houses, where women in 2 or 3 would spread the cards, or throw the bones. It never happened in our house though. Why?.. Oh, that would have been because the grandfather wouldn’t allow any religious or otherwise witchcraft in the house of a devoted communist. Sure.
The Things tumble out of the sack, my eyes try to follow them all at once. Some bright Things one wants to touch, some unexpected Things, like a pair of dominoes tied with an elastic ring, some indefinable Things like…
– What is this? – I ask, taking a piece and turning it around.
– Try not to touch it!
– Oh, sorry…
– It is a goat’s hoof.

He looks at the pattern the Things created on the white-haired skin.
– You are an artist.
– Yes, – I say, not knowing weather he knew from Ann, or deducted it from the bones.
– You do well in your art. You sell. You work hard.
– Yes. But I feel I don’t work hard enough. It is all relative.
– Oh, yes, it is relative. In what way do you think, you could improve?
– I don’t know which path to take. It feels to me, that there are two options. One is to discipline myself into working hard in one speciality and that way I will eventually reach some recognition. The other is, to let myself to be creative in any form I feel like at any given moment. Because sometimes I don’t feel like painting, but rather tell a story, or do a photo collage or something… But this is an uncertain way. I don’t know what to chose.
– What does your heart tell you? I don’t know how to live your life. Only you know. What do you think you should do?
– I don’t know. I’d like to risk it. To let myself do what I feel like doing.
– It means being more creative, doesn’t it?
– Yes. I want to be more creative…

– It looks like you are too much in your head. You need to trust your intuition more. Live from your heart, not intellectualise too much.
We talk. He asks me questions, looking at the Things on the skin. I keep glancing at the window, searching for the elusive answers from deep inside.
– Everything is good in the family?
– Yes. It is all fine.
He looks at the rug and seems to be puzzled. He looks up at me and his hand makes a circular movement as if around me,
– I can see some struggle around you. Is there a struggle in you life? Do you feel that way?
He collects the Things back into the sack and closes his hand around the neck of it. Shaking it slightly, he asks me:
– Would you like to ask about anything in particular? Any question? – I don’t know. All is fine in my life, really. But I feel unsettled. Yes. A struggle. I don’t know what my struggle is. What is my struggle?
He repeats the ritual of saying something to the sack and blowing, places the sack on my hands and I blow three times. He throws the bones again. He looks down for a moment or two. Points to a black magma-like lump on the skin and says:
– This is suffering in the centre… It came out again. But you say, everything is fine in the family…
– Yes, it is all great. The girls are great, and…
– Spiritual transformation!
– ?
– You are going through a spiritual transformation. Does it say anything to you?
– Yes… it does, – I start smiling. He starts smiling.
– I couldn’t understand, – he says, and there is excitement in his face. – All this suffering and struggle, but outside everything is fine in your life, so where this struggle comes from, and finally it struck me – spiritual transformation! That’s what you are going through! That’s why the talks about Death, and the tears! Before the butterfly becomes a butterfly it is in the… this thing…
– Cocoon.
– Yes, cocoon. But the cocoon is the death of the worm, no?
– Yes!
– In order to become the next stage, the worm has to die. And it IS suffering, isn’t it? It is painful. But it is a good thing. It is positive. I feel positive. That’s what it is! Does it feel right?
– Oh, yes, it does! – I say, and am surprised at how everything seems so clear and obvious now.
– You are going through the spiritual transformation, but you are not owning up to it.
– And I know exactly why I am not owning up.
– Why?
– Because even remembering what you said about your path, you had to go through a lot of suffering and almost die several times! I don’t want to go through the same! I don’t want the people around me to suffer because of my spiritual way. My life is just fine at the moment, I don’t want to loose it all.
– No, my case is different. Too extreme. Everyone’s path is different. I have a friend who is also a sangoma. She is in her 50-s, and she looks beautiful, much younger. She has three children, a husband who loves her, and she is fine. Her path was different from mine. Not so extreme. She had her own struggle, of course, but that was a different kind of struggle. We all have to face our demons. But it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your family. Not at all!
– You remember I asked you about Death on Friday? And you said, that my challenge was to live. But I am not committing fully. It is the same with art. I am afraid, that if I commit myself fully to the art, I am going to end up in a mental house. And I don’t’ want it! My life is just great, and I don’t want to loose it – my family, my children.
– Why do you think you will end up in a mental house?
– Because all the really good artists did!
– No, they didn’t! If someone did, that’s not because they were good artists, but because they were imbalanced to start with. It doesn’t have to be that way. And this might be your block. You don’t strike me as an imbalanced person. On the contrary, you have children, you have a good relationship with your partner – that will keep you balanced and grounded. You don’t have to loose them, they’ll help you!
– So, you tell me, that I am safe?
– Yes. But now you need to find some spiritual structure, which you could practise regularly. It will give you the energy and the strength to go through your transformation. You see what I mean?
– I can see that.
– Not reading – reading won’t help. You need to practice.
– Yes, I understand, but so far I haven’t found anything I could relate to. There are too many things, rituals… I find it difficult to accept, that there should be a middle man between me and the Spirit.
– You are right, there shouldn’t be. A structure will help you to connect to the Spirit directly.
– I’ll be looking for the structure…

Flow

April 19, 2009

Where tension goes – energy flows.

That was given to me as a common knowledge, but I’ve never heard it before. Sometimes you need most obvious ideas to be formulated for you in order to see them.

From Poetry Chaikhana

April 17, 2009

Story / Koan: Tipping Over a Vase

Posted: 16 Apr 2009 09:34 AM PDT

Koans are riddle-like sayings or short tales used in Zen practice to startle the listener out of the linear mind and into open awareness…

Two of the most famous collections of Zen koans are The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records. Here’s a koan I like from The Gateless Gate:


/ Photo by BotheredByBees /
Tipping Over a Vase

Master Hyakujo decided to found a new monastery, but he had the difficult task of selecting from among his disciples the right person to be the new monastery’s abbot. Then he came upon a solution.

Hyakujo called all his disciples together and told them that the person who best answered his question would be named the new abbot. Hyakujo filled a vase with water and set it on the ground before the assembled monks. “Who can tell me what this is without naming it?” he challenged.

The senior disciple stepped forward and answered accurately, “No one can call it a wooden shoe.”

Then Isan, the lowly cook, stepped forward and knocked the vase over with his foot, and walked out of the room.

Master Hyakujo smiled and declared, “My senior disciple has been bested.” Isan the cook was named the new abbot.

==

What just happened in this story?

One way to understand the meaning of this story is that the water represents Truth or the Dharma. The vase is the vessel that holds that truth, it is the teaching, it is the tradition.

That truth cannot be told, however. Sure, you can use simple words like “Truth” or “Reality,” or you can fill books with complex philosophical explanations. But ultimately those are all words and don’t truly convey what the Truth is. The “water” cannot be named. That is why Master Hyakujo gave this challenge to his disciples.

The lead disciple, clearly a cunning man, sees this as a test of his mental dexterity. If he cannot name the water-filled vessel, he will say what it is not, thus suggesting it by negation. But he has only negated one object in a world of infinite objects. A person can spend a lifetime listing all the things something is not, and never come to the point where only the unnamed thing remains. The lead disciple is trapped on the endless road of the intellect.

But the cook, Isan, understood the situation simply and clearly. He tipped the vase over, emptying the vessel and revealing the water. The truth cannot be told, it can only be shown.

What’s more, the truth cannot be held, it cannot be contained, it can only be poured out. The vase itself, the spiritual tradition, is empty and only has meaning as a vessel to transport the truth. By tipping over the vessel, he is suggesting that we must not worship the tradition itself. Religion, philosophy, spiritual tradition — these are not an end to themselves; they should be respected for their function as a delivery vehicle, but nothing more.

These are the insights that mark one for spiritual authority.

Link to Poetry Chaikhana Blog