Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Karmic Eve

My recent practice has involved applying the methodology of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in particular, that of passing through the Bardos of the wrathful deities. The logic being that if you apply this practice in life, you will make progress here, and be familar with it after dying.

Poetically enough the wrathful deities, like the three wise men, decided to visit me on Christmas Eve. A peaceful evening walking with throngs of Christmas revelers later gave way to a deep sense of anxiety and nightmares.

Toward the deep existential dread that came up, I was able to hold no grudge and remained fairly neutral, understanding it as karmic residue that I could accept as coming from within myself. This was a marked departure from the teaching I received early on that these feelings are evil, and need to be exorcised.

As the experience unfolded, I began to find compassion toward that young child I once was, and also toward those well-meaning, but ultimately ignorant teachers and preachers of my youth. I also found gratitude that my own children are progressing at a much younger age toward wisdom and realization than I was able to.

Through a Christmas night filled with unsettling dreams I ventured, not attaching myself to them, nor pushing them away, but trying just to be present and allow the energy to complete itself.

And so this is my current resolution, to experience the karmic residue of a million existences, and watch as it burns itself out, at its own pace. I couldn't escape the irony that this realization came on the symbolic night of another very celebrated painful birth into this world.

This seems to me like an honest path to liberation.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

among the ruins

the old ways no longer work.

though they still stand, they are incapable of carrying meaning.

those established forms will either evolve, or crumble.

there are new forms emerging, sprouting up from among the ruins.

they will engage new directions, even as the old gives way.

we are in this transitional space already, even though it is not readily apparent.

the old symbols continue to serve a function, that of providing a framework,

even as they are subsumed into the new.

the earth goddess, ancient rome, mithras, each had their time and place.

when they were no longer beneficial, new forms came into being,

born out of and adapting what was useful from the former.

and so it is with the time and place in which we find ourselves, here at the cusp of something new.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vipassana Pop

Vipassana Pop

These are new works on paper I've just finished. The project began as a "tabula rasa", in which I would complete a collage, then paint over it, obliterating the image, and lastly add a final layer to coax something out of the background.

Deni Bleu, Discourse on Emptiness, 1,2,3,4 (Joey)

They were conceived as band posters for a bar in a decrepit alley behind an ancient cathedral.

Been a Son

I place them on the street, some in alleyways, some outside of a club, or by an old railroad trestle, and photographed them in each of these settings.

Pieta Cola, Vipassana Pop, Rockfu

The energetic history of each of these locations interacts vividly with the works. This is a fundamental idea that comes out of my curatorial projects, that of art existing in real world contexts.

Monday, September 6, 2010

notes on (no) self

you are an unruly child,
wielding violence and the cruel, thinking yourself just.

yes, you are right, against
all that is wrong, so maintain your illusion.

and reinforce yourself through concepts,
your faith, your holy book, your flag, your right, my wrong.

and what is it really,
this need to push so hard to justify your existence.

against the fear of emptiness,
of the infinite space that permeates the body.

of connectedness, of bridges
crossing the great spaces of the immaterial.

of the pulse, the flow,
the vibration of your own unsustainable nature.

cease the struggle, resist not,
only then does your illusion give way to the real.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


"I've looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it's clouds illusions I recall, I really don't know clouds at all." - Joni Mitchell, Clouds

"One potent metaphor for the Void, often used in Tibetan art, is the sky. As the sky is the emptiness that offers clouds to our perception, so the Void is the 'space' in which objects appear to us in response to our attachments and longings." - Phillip Rawson, Sacred Tibet

Yesterday evening, I watched a gathering thunderstorm as I walked. Having brought along my camera, I began to take pictures of the clouds, slowly, deliberately. These images became the starting point for an exploration of the processes of the mind, to look at the ways in which it constructs meaning, reinforces its own conditioning, and attempts to justify its own existence.

Later, as rain fell outside, I worked with the images on my computer, cropping and mirroring, using pattern and repetition to create fractal heavy mandalas from the original photos. As I continued, striking images emerged, some humorous, some haunting, all demonstrating 'clouds illusions' quite vividly.

From one image, two faces, framed by large curly locks, stared intently into each others eyes. In another, a pair of devilish skulls guard either side of a dark chasm. In a third, a wrathful Tibetan deity looks out at me with googly eyes.

And then I realize, it's all there...and not. It becomes clear that the mind looks for and sees not only anthropomorphic patterns, but also, and more subtly, connects to and reinforces the layers of memory and interpretation that it has already created.

So my conditioned responses tend to see Dio album covers, Franklin Ajaye in the movie Car Wash, Thangka paintings, angry wolves, and, duh, sexual members both positive and negative in form. Depending on the time and place of your existence, you will see what is particular to that experience.

It was a potent realization of the ways in which we as sentient beings take in essentially neutral phenomena, and project onto them our sense of meaning and identity. 'What you see is what you get', right?

Guess again: that is where the Matrix effect kicks in, as the images metaphorically tumble into cascading 1s and 0s, and reality begins to unfold with more clarity. The constant procession and change of the clouds in a blue sky is equivalent to the ongoing mental processes taking place in the mind.

And this vivid demonstration reveals that the 'I' which sees and experiences all of these things is just that, another formation of changing clouds passing through a clear sky.

So...I...let it go... With awareness I can watch these transitory thoughts and images as they rise and fall, seeing them as temporal chatter unfolding against the backdrop of a larger, undefined reality.

It's all an illusion, not in the sense of being fundamentally unreal, but in its incomplete grasp of that reality. And yes, it's a richly immersive illusion at that, but still nothing to be attached to, or held onto for long.

Yes, it seems that I lost my 'self' in the clouds of last nights thunderstorm.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Broke Down in Amarillo

headin' east, the sun behind,
a trail o' smoke kicks up 'n around.
the breeze it's warm, summer's come,
it's Amarillo, and i'm broke down.

broke down in Amarillo,
i'm here w/nothin', nothin' but now.
broke down in Amarillo,
i'll turn the wheel, get out somehow.

met a young brotha', name o' Kevin,
reads the Qur'an, 'n drives a tow truck.
picked up my ride, let me crash at his place,
said "i been there, been down on my luck."


a fella called Nick, so it says on his shirt,
but his name's not Nick i was told.
he's under the hood, changin' the hoses,
will i get to the next round, or will i fold?


my mind is open, it's free and it's empty,
like water moves in a clear running stream.
where to next, where will the flow take me,
on a hot sunny day, in this waking dream?


Friday, May 21, 2010

i am not (prajnaparamita)

i am not this body, these sensations
neither the pleasure, nor the pain

i am not the tender hug, or the sweet smile on your face
neither the ecstatic embrace, nor the first smile of morning

here, the emptiness always unfolding,
in such proximity, yet always just beyond reach

i am not the numbing fatigue, the half-closed eyes
stumbling, somewhere between waking and sleeping

i am not the laughter after the joke
nor the ringing in my ears

again, a sensing of the all expansive,
yet nowhere to be found, no place, no time, no thing

i am not the dull ache of distance and separation
neither the memories, nor the regrets

i am not the racing thoughts of this mind
not the watering in my mouth, nor the scent of a lilac

here, passing through all these experiences
my true self is revealed through what i am not

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Illusion of Separateness

I just got an e-mail from a close relative entitled "Divorce Agreement". It proposes dividing the country up according to ideology and beliefs because, "this relationship has run its course" (i.e. America). On one level, it is interesting how the language of racism evolves, but always keeps the same motivation, i.e. to define the "other", and to maintain a sense of separation from that "other".

In this context the letter states "you are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism and Shirley Maclaine...we'll keep our Judeo-Christian values...we'll keep the capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart...". It then descends into a thinly veiled screed against "homeless, homeboys, hippies, and illegal aliens".

At least two things stand out here in sharp contrast. The first being that few of us fall sharply into any one camp of belief or lifestyle. There are gay Christians, Darwinian Hummer drivers, and tree hugging NRA members, scattered like leaven throughout this country. So, to enact such a decree would literally mean severing ourselves into pieces, using the wisdom of Solomon.

The second consideration being that ignorance and divisiveness are tools that propagandists use to weaken and divide a potential threat. Who is it, you may ask, that would want to keep a populace divided against itself? Simply ask yourself who stands to benefit by continuing to undermine the concept this country was founded on, i.e. "We the People".

You can find the answer for yourself. And a hint that no, it's not a Republican or Democratic conspiracy to hold the other side down. To think that is to perpetuate the illusion of separateness. What if the world is not so black and white?

Truthfully, my world becomes more gray each day. I find elements of truth in just about any system, as well as faults and corruption. Within my own context of life experiences I am a descendent of Arkansas hillbilly, Oklahoma dugout born native, taught to think for myself, while influenced by Christian, Hindu, Buddhist spirituality, and dancing to soul, funk, deep south field music with tablas and a Krishna beat.

There is no way to separate out all of that cultural mishmash. Not even Solomon, in all of his wisdom could, or would even want to. So next time I'm out and about, I'll see you at the Chaat stand, standing on a crowded D.F. Metro, sitting at the Zen center, listening to AM radio on a country dirt road, or drinking horchata with my homeboys.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

time unto time

lights illuminate a passing landscape
visions, a flood of sensation
a glimpse, a chance, time unto time

i miss you, and have no one to tell
of what was, what is now
and what yet could be

across the desert, the rolling hills
once dunes of an ancient ocean,
dried tears now, endless sunswept plains

there is much still
to work out between us
from lives before on to the next

what little light is fading now
and forms a gradient of
orange to blue to purple to indigo to black

and where are you now
and what are you thinking
and in your heart: love, hate, indifference?

falling now to a dark valley
from end to end without light
but the stars, and endless sky above

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ouroboric Living (Closing the Circle)

I am setting out to deeply explore the cycles of consumption and waste within my own life, using the Ouroboros as a model. The circular image of the serpent devouring it's own tail, ancient symbol of self-contained consciousness, will now be applied to an exploration of the existing cycles of my own activity, in order to raise my awareness, to gain self-suffiency, and to promote a vision of smaller, local, autonomous businesses.

When I consume anything, I want to be aware of where it came from, how it was made, and what it is made of. My goal is to get as close as possible to the source, the method of trade, and what happens when I take it into myself. When I eat an egg, I want it to come, if not directly from under the chicken, then from the farmer who raises the chicken. That way, I can ask them questions about their chickens, and consequently, know more about the egg I'm eating.

To this end, I have begun to read the ingredient lists of everything I consider buying at the store. If there is any ingredient that I don't understand in plain language (i.e. chemical compounds), then I won't buy the product. I look for where the food item is made, in order to buy from local businesses whenever possible.

Some products have moved so far away from their original, natural sources that they are hopelessly entangled in chemical additives. For these, I have begun to make my own versions, from basic ingredients. These include toothpaste, which I now make from baking soda, salt, aloe gel, lemon peel and essential oils, and dish soap, which I have replaced with finely sifted wood ash from my fireplace.

Fresh produce from local farmers is now my first choice when buying fruits and vegetables, and I plan to learn how to garden this spring. When purchasing manufactured goods I look at second-hand options such as craigslist and thrift stores, and want to begin barter exchanges with others. This undercuts the planned obsolescence features that large corporations use to keep us hooked into their cycles of consumption.

Last summer, my son and I furnished our casita completely with good quality finds from the local thrift store for under $150. Our like new sofa came from a neighbor who was moving and didn't want it anymore. The computer I am typing this on (an Apple iBook G4) was purchased from a student for $350 cash.

On the other end, as I consume goods, waste is produced. Although I don't yet know what the city actually does with it, I recycle glass, plastic, metal, and paper, on the hope that it actually is reused. Food waste goes into a compost heap that has begun to provide fertile soil for my plants. Wood and paper scrap that is not recycled goes into the fireplace to help heat our rooms. Then, ash from the fireplace is used to wash the dishes.

Still, there is much that I have not yet addressed. In the area of transportation, I still buy 1-2 tanks of gasoline per month, no doubt produced by a big oil company, for my 1989 Honda Wagovan. I pay my cell phone provider way too much for a service I can probably get for free on the internet. I could find a way to utilize gray water (non-toilet based waste water) from the shower and kitchen sink to water my plants with.

So, this is just a beginning, but where to from here? I envision a world made up of small, independent businesses and individuals, collaborating together in widening circles of trade. A world where disconnected large governmental and corporate structures become irrelevant, because we have quit feeding their endless appetite, and have chosen to do business with real people we can see, know and meet face-to-face. A place where waste products are used and reused to participate again in the wheel of consumption, just as in nature. It is here that the creative cycles of consumption and waste will begin to meet and the circle of the Ouroboros connects.

Monday, March 1, 2010

interconnection (three minutes sitting)

sitting, i am watching my skeleton lying on the ground.
my awareness leaves the skeleton going up to an apple on a tree.
now, i am inside the apple, looking out, a feeling of ripeness about to burst.
and on, inside a pile of fresh fruit at the grocery store.

i move down through the tree to the earth and across its surface.
stopping, inside a blade of young grass, yellow and green,
the warm sun is shining brightly on me.
bursting joyously from the ground, i spring up toward the light.

now i am a cold mountain stream moving rapidly,
over pebbles, rocks, the contours of land.
i see through the eyes of a cow grazing beside the stream.

into the heart of a mountain, solid, metallic stone.
steadiness, time changes and slows in all around me.
whirling in and through the wind now, into and out of many things.

i become a swirling mass of maggots consuming an animal carcass.
gradually, falling to a pile of dirt on the ground, and merging into the earth.
a handful of grass pushes up from this bare spot,
as i transform into buzzing flies, energetically cirling up and around.

the grass becomes a stand of verdant growth beside the stream,
which flows down the mountain, passing beside the apple tree, and on beyond.

Monday, February 1, 2010

moving jake

standing outside the slightly ajar door, i breathed out the crisp morning air. pushing it open i saw jake, tall and skinny, long stringy gray hair like phil spector in a fright wig. "i'd shake your hand if mine wasn't already clean", he said. i got with the other guy, jack, and we loaded the first trunk onto the trailer.

a dozen trunks later, the place was still filled with garbage. i noticed a five dollar bill, two ones and a stack of dark chocolate bars in the pile. "i gotta get outta this town", jake said, "the people here are energy vampires, they'll steal your energy with all their new age bullshit." we loaded some cartons of bottled water next. "i've only drank evian for the last thirty years", he added.

his adobe backed up to the mountain, it's peak almost within reach. i set the trunk down and shivered, hearing a pack of coyotes yelping up in the scrub, so close i could almost feel 'em. my cell phone rang.

"you got a cell phone?," jake yelled. "yeah." "you too jack?" "uh-huh." "goddamn if you knew what those things'll do to ya'. i don't get within three hundred feet of 'em." just then jack said, "i gotta go, another job's waitin' for me."

jake threw his laptop into the corner. "damnedest thing i've ever seen, my mac it crashed, should'a never used the public e-mail. alright here's yer dough."

"call your son up, tell him we got chicks and dope, that'll get him up here." alone now, i shrugged off the suggestion and loaded his rugs in next, egyptian, kazakstan, frayed and crumbling. right on top of the psychedelic fillmore posters in broken frames. wrapping a decrepit wooden chair in a blanket, i threw it in. "that's faye dunaway's barstool", jake quipped, as he wolfed down the thick t-bone steak he had just grilled for himself.

ten hours in cary, the young landlord, walked in. "i'm takin' two hundred dollars outta your deposit for the cleaning crew to come in here, and sixty dollars more for your phone bill." "it's clean, and your mom paid the phone bill last week!", jake yelled, standing in the midst of one dissheveled pile. "we're done, we'll be outta here in two minutes." cary walked out.

"hey, where's that five dollar bill and those chocolate bars, look in the garbage will ya'?"

"jake, can i use your bathroom?", i interrupted. "no i can't stand other people using my toilet. no wait go ahead, it's not mine anymo..." his voice trailed off as i walked outside. hawks circled something high up on the mountain.

stepping out into the yard, i saw the town spreading out across the valley below, blue mountains on the horizon punctuating the bright light of the setting sun. i let out a sigh of relief and pissed on the piñon tree as the last rays of light flickered through the branches.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

dreams @ 7,000 ft. (pt. ii)

(flying around town) late afternoon, i am walking down a sidewalk. suddenly, i realize i can float, and hang a few feet above the ground. spreading my arms like wings, i fly forward at a gradual pace and test my new abilities. moving into a park, i bank left, then right, and upward through the bare branches of a tree.

others are watching, and i realize i must concentrate to be able to fly. moving beyond the park, i drop down to the sidewalk again. i am walking now, in front of my old gallery. the building is run down, and guys are walking in and out, using the abandoned space as a restroom.

i pivot and fly up and around the corner, now through an empty field. a convertible is following me on the dirt road alongside the field. my best friend from high school is in the front seat. jesus, in the form of a black man with long hair flowing in the wind, is in the back seat.

i give jesus a knod and bank off into the distance.


(girls at basketball arena) i'm sitting on the top row at the basketball arena with my mom and dad. the game is going on way below. a few rows down, on the aisle walkway, two girls walk by. one stops and looks up. i smile, catching her eye, and hold it there for a few seconds. she smiles back, and bends down, beginning to reach for something from beneath her dress.

still fully clothed, she pulls out a bra and panties, velvety purple, and throws them up to me. i catch them, then lean down as they start to walk away. i ask her name, and she stops. what's your facebook?, i ask, and she smiles.


(art show improv) i'm walking through the halls of an elementary school with the new gallery director. under my arms i hold the drawings i have made. turning a corner, they fall from my arms onto the ground, and scatter. i bend down to pick them up, and notice an old love note on blue paper, torn to pieces, lying on the ground.

gathering them all, i walk with the director to the gallery, an unwieldy freestanding stucco wall outside the building, punctuated with a window and doorway. not much room to hang art on. he says "how much time do you need for the install? we can start the reception at 12:45, or 1:15 if you prefer." that's an hour from now...

i decide to improvise, and hang my drawings and assemblages, overlaid with pieces of the love note and other past memory ephemera, salon style on the oddly shaped walls. i like this idea, and think "this is gonna be a good show".

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

* footnote to footnote to howl *

holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy!
all existence, connection, and touch,
the tongue, the flower, the flowing waters,
all places, change and being,
each an angel masquerading in time.

the salty cold wet of the east river
the faked in black eye of an aging skaterboy,
dark alleyways, pulquerias, mariachis for hire,
everyone stacked in the back of a van,
barefoot, sneaking in by a south beach backdoor.

an artist crawling by candlelight,
a chord growled from darkness,
a prisoner underground waiting to emerge,
old woman in the elevator asking "do you go down?"
the year of bleeding profusely, of sacred revelations and betrayals.

chaos, liquid form and structure,
dirty dancing with the girls at a gay club,
stories told, retold, and changed along the way,
holy Robert, holy Michael, holy Val, holy Mary, holy Thor,
sing along and change the words.

playing in the night,
eating, drinking, smokey hookahs, secret recipes,
from this night on we are the party,
the sacred intensity of Riley's ink,
backyard yurts and quiet lonely nights.

diving into ice cold pools and shivering
nothing but stars and a moon crossing the sky
the beauty and affliction of John's line,
one long live serenade of truth,
singing along to such glorious insanity, the only way.