Archive for May, 2009

Get Art Smart

“I think too much when I paint, and I don’t enjoy that,” complains a retired artist at the Prescott Phippen Museum’s 35th Annual Western Art Show on Memorial Day weekend.

Photo Credit: The Phippen Museum

Photo Credit: The Phippen Museum

She walks with me into a folk art booth and stares for a while at a painting representing nature and animals.

“I wonder what that means,” she says, feeling the frame and staring into the details of the art.

 Her friend Linda stands by enjoying an intricate painting of a tree with many branches and advises her to stop thinking, “Just feel the art,” she says.

The retired artist laughs and agrees. She tells of how she quit painting because she was thinking too much about her themes, getting frustrated and not feeling inspired.

 I too agree that there is a special magic in feeling rather than thinking.

Feeling the art and beauty in life is so much more enjoyable than thinking and analyzing about it. So, to get art smart or to get the best out of your art experience- Feel; don’t think!


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Watch and Witness

 I was flipping through a 2008 issue of “The Writer,” and I came across an article advising writers on ways to find new ideas and characters for their novels. I thought it was interesting that the writer Michele Acker suggested simply: Hanging out.
Hanging out at Starbucks. Practice observing without reaction For instance, she advised sitting at a coffee shop like Starbucks and observing the way people move, laugh, interact and behave.

This made me reflect on the state of watching or rather witnessing the environment around without getting involved.
Imagine sitting next to a loud group at a coffee shop. A writer like a witness may observe the group’s loud bursts of laughter or constant chatter, but a person who is not a witness may feel offended by the rude behavior or be agitated. Such a person reacts.
To witness a situation, without personal reaction to it, is a helpful quality. Whether one is stuck in an airline ticket line or in a traffic jam, the quality of witnessing will come in handy.
If you witness, you do not react, and thus learn to enjoy your own state of silence. A person stuck in a traffic jam may get irritated, yell and swear (although that won’t get the traffic moving). In fact, the yelling will only give the person a headache or a bad day.
I find regular meditation practice helpful in developing a witness state.

So, whether you’re at a coffee shop or on the road, try chilling-out by witnessing.

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Navajo country

A friend and I (wearing cap) at the Monument Valley

A friend and I (wearing cap) at the Monument Valley

The very earth at Monument Valley in northern Arizona felt sacred. Silence overwhelmed my being as I watched the early rays of the February sun reach the tallest of the red sculptures.

It is certainly worthwhile to wake up early and catch the sunrise there. I wasn’t dressed for the cold morning temperatures, but the light and shade play on the monoliths made up for my discomfort. Strong winds, desert sands and icy temperatures made me wonder how the ancient natives survived in that region.

As I drove along the dusty red road, I couldn’t help admire the mighty hand behind the magnificence of the Monument Valley. I meditated with the nature for a short while before heading back on a six-hour drive to Phoenix.

I stayed at the Hampton Inn (about $70 a night) although you can stay at the View hotel overlooking the Monument Valley (winter rates are around $95 a night; summer rates double).

This youtube video gives a glimpse into the beauty of the Valley.

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Oil Massage

One day not long ago, while driving home I notice a new store where I soon discover a magical hair oil, which is named “Navratna” because it contains 9 herbs. oil
I purchase the hair oil, for under $4 and head home. I pour almost a handful of the red oil into my hair and massage the scalp. Within a few minutes I feel the soothing effects like a fountain of cool air over the head.
“Just what I need for the long desert summer!” I think to myself quite content with my find.

Massaging the scalp with natural hair oil is considered very nourishing. The natural herbs in the oil prevents scalp problems and hair loss and strengthens the roots.
Not only is it good for the hair, it also soothes an over-heated or over-thinking brain. When the brain is cool, our meditation goes deeper. There are many ways in Sahaja Yoga to cool one’s right-side or planning/thinking side, and an oil massage is just one of them. 

I’d recommend that you massage your head with this oil at least once a week in the night and then wash it off the next morning. 

If you’re in Phoenix, this will be useful. The store where I found the special oil is called “Shah-ji,” and is located near 32nd Street and Greenway.

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The Taliban Trance

Taliban conditioning

Click to view

Priests, pundits, experts and fundamentalists may all know something about the mind. In religion we are trained from childhood to think a certain way and believe that our religion is the best. These days fundamentalists like the Taliban are at the top when it comes to conditioning people to think a certain way.
In this video we get a glimpse of Taliban mind conditioning or brain-washing.

Conditioning/brain-washing comes from past training. In meditation we learn that many things that comes from the past are heavy on the left channel and problematic. They disconnect us from our inner self.

You may imagine that there are three channels of energy within ourselves known as the left (past), right(future) and center (present). Anything that takes us away from the center channel leads us out of balance.
Meditators learn to live in the present, without reaction, ego or conditioning.
Unfortunately, terrorists live too much in their conditioning or left channel and then swing to the planning right channel without ever stopping in the present or center to introspect within.
The video is an example of extreme conditioning built-up in the left channel. It is also a reminder for us to introspect on how we may be conditioned to believing that we belong to a religion or country just because we were born in it and raised that way.
Let’s just stop for a moment and “de-brand” ourselves. Try answering “no” to the following questions:
Am I Christian, Muslim, Jew or Hindu? No
Am I American etc.? No
Am I a liberal, conservative, neither? No
Am I a teacher, accountant, entrepreneur etc.? No
Keep going. The answer will simplify perhaps like this:
“I am just a human being.” You may even go one step further and say “I am not the body, conditionings, mind or ego, but I am the pure spirit.”
The inner spirit is the one that inspires, comforts and gives joy. It’s what we really are. So really there should be no question of fighting and so on. Just meditate and feel the spirit within.

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