Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

True Colors

4 months. 5,000 photos. No digital effects. Take a gander at stop-motion done unbelievably awesome.

This film, full of color, reminded me of an excerpt from a lovely teacher who I recently I took a workshop with, Lorin Roche.

Celebrating the Doors of Perception, Lorin Roche, Ph.D.

“I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it,” says Shug in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. God wants to “share a good thing.” Scientists who study human vision say we have been given a great capacity to share in God’s good thing – our eyes are capable of distinguishing about ten million different colors. If that is true, then our eyes can perceive hundreds of thousands of different hues just of the color purple. We can walk through fields and see subtly different colors every day for a lifetime. To me, this is a great miracle and mystery – that we can perceive the beauty of the world through our senses.

Music for Today:  Ghostwriter, RJD2 (Deadringer, 2002)

This will make you smile a little smile

“Your secret” is a movie about you.

Something quite different as compared to Jean-Sebastien Monzani’s other works, this short movie evokes a complicity between the spectator and the narrator. Something cheerful, something mysterious, something simple, something that hopefully maybe brightens your day.

Hope you like it.

Song of the Day: Lost Cause, Beck (Sea Change, 2002)

The Architecture of Happiness

The Architecture of Happiness is a dazzling and generously illustrated journey through the philosophy and psychology of architecture and the indelible connection between our identities and our locations. One of the great but often unmentioned causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kinds of walls, chairs, buildings and streets that surround us. And yet a concern for architecture is too often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent. Alain de Botton starts from the idea that where we are heavily influences who we can be, and argues that it is architecture’s task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential.

He describes why style, a beautiful house or exquisitely designed teacup, can bring such joy and why a gloomy hotel room can make us question the meaning of life. In a collection of essays he challenges us to take a look at our surroundings to see how they shape us and how we shape them. Does a home filled with dolls and teddy bears, he wonders, reflect a wish to escape from a harsh and cruel world? Can a love of white, spare and minimal spaces be an attempt to fight a sense of chaos and disorder? He questions the notion that aesthetic issues are shallow and argues that if we look a little deeper, our furniture, our houses, and our public buildings will speak to us in distinct personalities.

This is not to say that we only derive happiness from physical objects or settings. However, we cannot forget that we are physical beings. We react, relate to and engage with physical objects, people and environments on a daily basis. I think the point is that our physical environments influence us on more than just a physical level. They influence emotions, mindsets and they influence how we choose to engage with ourselves and others on a daily basis – whether in a positive, negative or even neutral way.

For example, think about religious buildings. These buildings really teach us a very basic lesson, which is that we don’t think the same way wherever we are, that there are certain buildings that put us in certain frames of mind. A well-decorated, a beautiful church will put us into a mindset where we’re more receptive to dwelling on certain issues. And a grocery store will direct our thoughts in other ways. And that’s why religions have, perhaps more than any other entity, been very aware of the power of architecture – because we’re not the same people wherever we are.

Having said this, I do not believe that we can architect our happiness entirely with physical objects – at least in the sense that achieving an end goal of some sort is the definition of happiness or if we put the “right furniture” or “right people” in our life that we will achieve happiness – but I do believe we can gain more clarity about ourselves by understanding how we react in our physical environment. I can’t help but stumble onto the idea of obliquity.

Obliquity is the notion that complex goals are often best achieved indirectly. Happiness is the product of fulfillment in work and private life, not the repetition of pleasurable actions; therefore, happiness is not achieved only by pursuing it. We find out about the real nature of our goals and complexities of personal relationships in the process of accomplishing them. We not only do not know what the future will hold but cannot anticipate even the range of possible events which might occur. Yes, the physical world in which we operate changes partly as a result of our actions, but happy people achieve happiness along the way. The paradox of obliquity is all around us.

So finding happiness is more than just designing physical environments that are pleasing to us. It’s more than surrounding ourselves with people we enjoy. It’s more about the process of taking the time to think about how we react in different environments and why we react in certain ways – whether positive, negative or neutral. At a certain point, it may not be the environment that needs to change – we may need to take a deeper look at why we act in a certain way and decide whether the environment needs to change or if we are the ones who need adjusting.

The process of learning and understanding is key. Maybe the gloomy hotel room is temporarily a necessity in the process of understanding. Maybe you just like white, spare and minimal spaces without it being a larger symbol of your mental state. Maybe it’s less about trying to understand what to change or how to change and purely more about cultivating a higher level of awareness of our surroundings and how they influence us and how in turn, we influence them.

In essence, what works of design and architecture talk to us about is the kind of life that would most appropriately unfold within and around them. They tell us of certain moods that they seek to encourage and sustain in their inhabitants. While keeping us warm and helping us in mechanical ways, they simultaneously hold out an invitation for us to be specific sorts of people. They speak of visions of happiness.

Music for Today:  Fresh Feeling, Eels (Souljacker, 2002)

What does being “home” mean?

I have been thinking about the idea of “home” a lot recently. Writers, particularly novelists, are linked to place – or “home”. It’s impossible to think of Charles Dickens and not to think of Dickens’ London; impossible to think of James Joyce and not to think of Joyce’s Dublin; and so with Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, Willa Cather, William Faulkner— each is inextricably linked to a region, as to a language-dialect of particular sharpness, vividness or idiosyncrasy. We are all regionalists in our origins, however “universal” our themes and characters, and without our cherished hometowns and childhood landscapes to nourish us, we would be like plants set in shallow soil. Our souls must take root — almost literally.

For this reason, “home” isn’t a street address or a residence, or, in Robert Frost’s cryptic words, the place where, “when you go there, they have to let you in” — but home is where you find your most cherished relationships. Anyone’s idea of home takes a beating when he or she moves, disconnects with people or changes careers. But anyone’s home is also beautifully defined by the relationships he or she sustains with family and friends. These loving relationships are home. Therefore, home is not a location or physical space but a commitment to the ones you love.

Thinking of being “home” brings definitive happiness to me. And to me, happiness is a product of the sustained practice of love – that is, demonstrating love in all intimate relationships whether familial, friendly or romantic.

Instead of trying to summarize, I am pulling straight from a book I have currently been reading by Georg Feuerstein.  The following passage speaks to how achieving happiness is a product of a sustained practice of love – and in my eyes, sustaining a practice of love with those we cherish is what cultivates the state of being that is “feeling at home”.

Love is not a temporary high or feeling of elation. It must be cultivated as a continuous disposition. As tough as it may be, we must love even when we feel slighted, hurt, angered, bored or depressed. Happiness is a steady application of our capacity in all life situations. Even in our worst moments we must extend our love, or fundamental respect, to others. Even though life consists of peaks and valleys, our overall commitment must be to what is revealed in our brief spells on the peaks. This is not to say that that we cannot feel sorrow – because we can. Even in sorrow there is an undercurrent of bliss and happiness that is accessible if we so choose to be aware of it.

So how do we extend love at all times to achieve happiness and to feel at home? Well, Love is not merely benign or a kind thought. Love is demonstrated in action. We have every right to distrust a person who continually assures us of his or her love but fails to express or manifest it to us and to others. To distrust someone, however, does not mean to reject him or her or to be otherwise unloving to ourselves.

Yes, love is demonstrated in action.  But more than being demonstrated in action, love is action. We can sit in our room for an entire lifetime and think loving thoughts about other people but if we never express our love to them, if we never actively share our love with them, we will not have loved.

The fact is that we are not incapable of love but are only afraid to love. For our love not to crumble under the onslaught of the lovelessness around us, it must be in surplus and it must be a steady force. Who can deny the lovelessness that surrounds us? It shows itself in a thoughtless remark, an inappropriate silence, a tasteless joke, an aggressive move, turning away from another’s pain, the failure to really listen, the pursuit of orgasm at the expense of caring – all the many ways we hurt one another out of ignorance, inattention or sheer unwillingness to make a relational gesture.

We must try to understand the robotic ways in which we block out love. We must become sensitive to our own habitual lovelessness so that love can become an attractive force in our lives. We must love concretely. That is to say that we must give our love to specific beings. And we might as well start with those closest to us. What we will find is that loving them is easy and at other times it is the hardest thing imaginable. To really love is a great discipline because we must love stably and consistently and regardless of whether or not our love is returned. In other words, we must love despite or likes and dislikes. We must simply allow love to be a transformative force in our lives. Allowing is the key.

Love is not something we can “do”. Love, much like feeling at “home”, is a state of being. By dedicating ourselves to loving experiences and relationships we not only achieve happiness but we also establish a sense of place, or “home”.  Ultimately, we create a framework from which everything revolved (past), revolves (present) or will revolve (future). In essence, sustaining love, or at least genuinely dedicating ourselves to attempting to do so, creates the personal reference point of an individual’s existence.

Since I’m in a loving mood, Twofer Tuesdays for the Song of the Day

Music for Today: Home, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (Up from Below, 2009)

Music for Today:  Fire, Augustana (Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt, 2008)

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action. – Mother Teresa

Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other.  It is the place of confidence.  It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts.  It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule. – Frederick W. Robertson

Simply Start Where You Are

One of the fundamental principles of yoga is that you simply start where you are. How easily that principle extends to life. Or at least how easily it can if we so choose.

In the first Yoga Sutra, I.1, Patanjali begins with the word atha. Often translated as “now,” atha can also mean a blessing, turning point, or commitment. It implies that regardless of what we were doing before, now we are making a decision to practice – or maybe to proceed in life in a certain way. Practicing yoga or making a decision to proceed can meet us and serve us right where we are, whatever our age, interest, situation or perceived ability.

So once we choose to practice yoga or to proceed in a certain direction in life, how do we evolve? How do we start from where we are but actually go somewhere? How do we make the decision to practice or proceed a prudent one?

Imagination—our ability to create images not available to the sensory system—is arguably our greatest faculty for evolving human consciousness. Maybe in order to transform ourselves, we need to be able to leap out of the familiar and into the unknown. Find a way to imagine a future different from the past, a self-sense different from the one we have now. Of course, we are shaped by our memories, our karma and the patterns woven into our bodies. Undeniably, we’re also influenced by culture and physical circumstances. Some of these factors are hard to change. But the imagination can help us begin to replace our internal patterns, especially the ones that keep us limited and stuck. If we can reimagine our sense of who we are, we can change our experience of life. Yoga (and life) is all about what happens when we recognize this truth. If you can imagine yourself, say, free of suffering, you’ve taken the first step toward that freedom.

In The Biology of Transcendence, Joseph Chilton Pearce writes: “Rather than the senses impacting the mind with imagery, as in ordinary seeing, through imagination the mind impacts the senses with imagery.” Acts of imagination can connect us to that place where insight and inspiration arrive unbidden—as an out-of-the-box idea, the first line of a poem, or a direct recognition of who we are beyond our ordinary self-definition. Imagination links us to infinite possibility, the realm from which all genuine creative insights arise. Imaginative constructions work because they encourage us to identify ourselves with a higher truth, and then to feel how that affects our inner experience, our body, and our sense of self.

Yoga at its heart is a practice for evolutionary spiritual growth—growth into our own highest possibilities. Imagination lets us find our way into those possibilities. By training the imagination, harnessing its power, we can use it for creating beauty and truth. Then our acts of transformative imagination become genuine acts of power. They can change our inner state, influence how we extend ourselves to one another and enable us to evolve in a genuine way.

Imagine that. 😉

Inspiration from articles found on Yoga Journal by Sally Kempton and Kate Holcombe.

Music for Today:  Into Dust, Mazzy Star (So Tonight that I Might See, 2009)

Finding Serenity – Check Out This Documentary on The Buddha

On Wednesday, April 7, 2010, at 8:00 p.m. ET, PBS will bring to life Siddhartha and his journey in THE BUDDHA, a two-hour documentary directed by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin.

“Buddhism is growing more and more popular in America,” said David Grubin. “But the Buddha himself remains a mysterious, exotic figure, the founder of a religion in a different key. The Buddha never claimed to be God, or his emissary on earth. He said only that in a world of unavoidable pain and suffering, he had found a serenity which others could find too. In our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion, the Buddha’s teachings have particular relevance.”

The Buddha – Documentary Overview

This documentary for PBS by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere, tells the story of the Buddha’s life, a journey especially relevant to our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion. It features the work of some of the world’s greatest artists and sculptors, who across two millennia, have depicted the Buddha’s life in art rich in beauty and complexity.

Hear insights into the ancient narrative by contemporary Buddhists, including Pulitzer Prize winning poet W.S. Merwin and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Join the conversation and learn more about meditation, the history of Buddhism, and how to incorporate the Buddha’s teachings on compassion and mindfulness into daily life.

Two-thousand-five-hundred years ago in northern India, Prince Siddhartha left his palace where he had spent twenty-nine years indulging in pleasures. He was determined to comprehend the nature of human suffering. After a grueling spiritual quest that lasted six years, he at last attained enlightenment meditating under a fig tree. He became the Buddha, the “awakened one,” and devoted the rest of his life to teaching the way to enlightenment that he himself had found, giving birth to one of the world’s great religions.

The film, narrated by actor Richard Gere, is undertaken in conjunction with Asia Society Museum, which has organized an exhibition entitled Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art, the first-ever exhibition examining artistic production inspired by sacred sites and the practice of Buddhist pilgrimage in Asia.

Grubin, who directed the critically acclaimed series of films on American presidents including “LBJ,” “FDR” and “Truman” as well as other award-winning series such as THE JEWISH AMERICANS, THE SECRET LIFE OF THE BRAIN and NAPOLEON, tells the story of the Buddha through ancient artwork that depicts the various stages of Siddhartha’s journey, contemporary animation that vividly portrays the legends surrounding the Buddha and contemporary footage of northern India, where many of the religious rituals from the Buddha’s time are still practiced today.

Experts on the Buddha, representing a variety of disciplines, relate the key episodes of the Buddha’s life and reflect on what his journey means for us today. They include His Holiness the Dalai Lama; poets Jane Hirshfield and W.S. Merwin; scholars Robert Thurman, Kevin Trainor and Dr. Max Moerman; astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan; and psychiatrist Mark Epstein, as well as practicing Buddhist monastics.

“By continuing our exploration of the world’s religions, we are delighted to participate in broadening people’s understanding of Buddhism today with David Grubin’s moving portrait of the life of the Buddha,” said John F. Wilson, PBS senior vice president and chief TV programming executive. “This film exposes not just the man, but also his rich teachings, which we hope will spark a larger conversation about religion and spirituality.”

Music for Today:  Edge of the Ocean (featuring Ivy), Ivy (The Best of Chillout Past and Present, 2004)

Happy Palindrome Day – A Day Late ;)

Music for today:  She Wolf, Shakira (She Wolf, 2009)