Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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London Calling

London Calling
Yeah, I was there too
An’ you know what they said
Well some of it was true!
London Calling
At the top of the dial
After all this, won’t you give me a smile?
 

-The Clash

We leave for London on Thursday.  We will be visiting the British Museum to take in the First Emperor: China’s Terra Cotta Army Exhibit. The Terra Cotta warriors are life size figures that were discovered in Xi’an, China by a well-digger in the 1920′s. 

The creation of the warriors was commissioned by China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi.  Emperor Qin wished to live forever and in preparation for life eternal he commissioned the creation of an army, chariots with horses, and calvary horses. 

Excavations have been conducted at Emperor Qin’s mausoleum complex since 1974.  Archeologists estimate that over 7,000 soldiers may have been created.  About 1,000 soldiers have been excavated so far.

We may also take in the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, perhaps a theatre show, and certainly a spot or two of tea.

Cheers!


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Kuan Yin

kuanyinpicture.jpgToday is the birthday of Kuan Yin (also spelled Quan Yin, Quan Shi Yin, or Kuanyin.)  In sanskrit, her name is Padma-pani which means “Born of the Lotus.”

Kuan Yin is regarded by the Chinese as the Goddess of Mercy.  Kuan Yin was originally male until the early part of the 12th century.(Avalokitesvara, in sanskirt, her male form, was the Bodhivista of Compassion of Indian Buddhism which was introduced to China in the third century.) 

Several stories exist about Kuan Yin.  She was a Buddhist who, through great love and suffering during life, earned the right to enter Nirvana after death.  While standing before the gates of Paradise, she heard a cry of anguish from the earth below.  Turning back to earth, Kuan Yin renounced her reward of bliss eternal and in its place found immortality in the hearts of the suffering.

Quan  means to inquire or look deeply into. Shi means the world of people or generations.  Yin means cries.  Therefore the Bodhivista of Compassion responds to the suffering cries that come down the generations.

Kuan Yin is portrayed in many forms, each revealing an aspect of her merciful presence.  She is frequently portrayed as a slender female in flowing white robes and carrying in her left hand a white lotus, a symbol of purity.  Her beauty, grace, and compassion have come to represent the ideal of womanhood in the East.

Kuan Yin is also known as the “bestower of children” where she may be portrayed as sitting on a lotus with a child at her feet, on her lap, or in her arms.  Kuan Yin may also be depicted with a thousand arms, and a number of eyes, heads, and hands (sometimes with an eye in the palm of the hand.)  In this depiction she is considered the omnipresent mother, looking in all directions, sensing the affliction of humanity, and extending her arms to alleviate them.

Symbols associated with Kuan Yin include a willow branch which she sprinkles with the divine nectar of life, a precious vase symbolizing the nectar of compassion and wisdom, a dove, a book or scroll of prayers, and a rosary adorning her neck.

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The Core of the Ego: A New Earth Webcast Chapter 3

The New Earth webcast with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle continued its discussion on the ego this past week.  In this segment, Eckhart discussed the core of the ego.

Earlier we were introduced to the ego which was defined as that which we identify with: concepts, our story, our past.

Now it was time to discuss what makes the ego thrive.

A key to what makes the ego thrive is complaining and resentment, reactivity and grievance, faultfinding, wanting to be right, and to feel superior.

Egoic complaining is complaining that serves no purpose because it does not bring about change.  A classic example is receiving cold soup in a restaurant.  If you state the facts, “My soup is cold, may I have hot soup, please” you are stating the facts without negativity, without reaction.

However, if you state “This soup is cold you idiot.  Every time I come in here the soup is cold. Can’t you people make hot soup” you are complaining, reacting, and finding fault.

When we label people (“jerk,” “idiot”), we desensitize ourselves to that person.  When we react with force, it means we need to look within ourselves because what you react to in another, you strengthen in yourself.

When we start to complain, we need to recognize it and become aware of that inner voice.  We need to ask ourselves if this complaint is meant to bring about change or if we are complaining simply for the sake of complaining (and therefore boosting our own ego.)

If we are to be agents of change in this world, something has to change in our state of consciousness, otherwise we contribute to the turmoil.  Meditation, quieting the mind, looking to the inner body, the self and bringing awareness to the present moment are all approaches to take in promoting change within ourselves.

WORRY

Worry is a common emotion that many of us deal with in these days of turmoil.  We worry about situations and project them into the future.  “Oh how dire it will be if this happens and that happens.”  Worry can consume us.

What does it mean to worry?  It is the unconscious mind movement into the future.  You extend the situation into the future and how bad things will be.  Worry pretends to be necessary yet serves no real purpose.  Worry does not bring about change.

To step out of worry, you must ask yourself “what can I do now?”  “How can I BE NOW in this moment?”  Take responsibility for your own life and state of conciousness first.  Be with yourself, be present, and connect with the feeling of aliveness within.

Often we worry about other people.  When you ask yourself whether you can be of help to another human being, ask is there something in you that can bring about change in the conciousness of the other human being.  Can you give the person space?  Sometimes just being there is healing.

Sometimes we are so completely identified with forms that we cannot enjoy them fully because of fear or worry that we will lose them.  When this happens, I am reminded of the following story:

A guru collected tiny glass figurines because they brought him joy.  People knew how much he enjoyed these figurines and he often received them as gifts.  The guru put the figurines on a deep window sil where he could see them and enjoy them.  One day the window was left open and a strong wind came through the window.  It blew the drapes around.  The drapes caught on the figurines and brought them crashing to the ground.  The guru’s students were alarmed and afraid.  What would the guru say?  What would he do? 

As the students cleaned up the broken glass, the guru came into the room.  The students explained what happened.  The guru calmly replied “It is okay.  While the figurines were here, they gave me pleasure and made me happy.  And now they are gone; their purpose fulfilled.  It is okay.”

What you fight, you strengthen and what you resist, persists.  Make peace with whatever it is.  Be as present at you can in every moment, in any life experience or situation.

Recognize the ego in yourself and in other people.  Become aware of the ego and bring that awareness into the world.  If you don’t have a good relationship with the now, you won’t have a good relationship with life because life IS NOW.


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The Urban Playground Movement

In Boston today there was a meet-up of various people who celebrated International Pillow Fight Day.  IPFD states that such as event is a way to redefine public space, “to free it from the endless creep of advertising.”

The Boston event is organized by Banditos Misteriosos.  Banditos also organized The Silent Dance Experiment in February.  At that event 300 people arrived at Faneuil Hall and when the signal was given they started dancing.  (Everyone wore headphones with downloaded music and instructions.)  That event ended with a costumed Moses leading a conga line through Quincy Market.

David Cunningham, Associate Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University states:

“Public space in urban areas has had predictable and routine uses as a way of maintaining order in a chaotic urban environment.  The urban playground movement challenges that.  The idea of play is a sharp critique of the consumerized space that surrounds us, and strips away the commercialization.”

Sounds like fun to me.

Other area groups promoting similar events include Boston Society of Spontaneity and Improv Everywhere (New York.)

 


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Holi: The Festival of Colors

Today is Holi, a major Hindu holiday celebrated on the day after the full moon.  Holi is also known as the Spring Festival which marks the arrival of spring; the season of hope and joy.

Holi also commemorates various events in Hindu mythology, in particular the evil king Hiranyakashipu who forbid his son Prahlad from worshipping Vishnu, but he continued to offer prayers to the god. 

Hiranyakashipu became angry with his son and challenged Prahlad to sit on a pyre with his wicked aunt Holika who was believed to be immune to fire.

Prahlad accepted the challenge and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika was burnt to death, while Prahlad survived without a scar to show for it. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.  According to some accounts, Holika begged Prahlad for forgiveness before her death and he decreed that she would be remembered every year at Holi.

On the first day of Holi, a public bonfire is held commemorating the burning of Holika.  The fire is lit sometime between 10pm and midnight, at the rising of the moon.

A central part of Holi is the throwing and applying of colored water and powders on family and friends (which gives the holiday its common name, “Festival of Colors.”)  This ritual comes from the story of Krishna who asked his mother why he was so dark and Radha so fair.  Krishna’s mother told him to apply colors on Radha’s face to see how her complexion would change.

Holi is spread over two days and is associated with the loosening up of social restrictions associated with caste, sex, age, and status, bridges social gaps and brings people together.  It is also characterized by the loosening of social norms governing polite behavior which results in a lot of merrymaking.

A commonly heard phrase at this time is bura na mano Holi hai which means Don’t feel offended, its Holi.


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Laurie Mika Workshop

Last weekend I had the wonderful experience of taking a mosiac icon workshop with Laurie Mika.  I’ve been intrigued with Laurie’s work ever since I bought her book Mixed Media Mosaics.

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Laurie’s mosiacs.

The workshop took place at Absolutely Everything in Topsfield, MA.  Karen, Judy and I made plans to attend together and make it a girls weekend.

Laurie is delightful; down-to-earth and laid back.  Laurie considers her mosiac work true mixed media because it incorporates polymer clay, glass tiles, rubber stamping, found objects, paint, and paper.  She readily admits this is a good way to incorporate all the stuff in your studio into your art.

lauriemikdemo1blog.jpgOn the first day, Laurie demonstrated multiple ways to create tiles with polymer clay.  She incorporated stamps, mica powders, paints, jewels and charms.  She also showed us her technique for creating niches with copy-right free images. 

And then, we were set free to start making our tiles.  This was harder than I thought.

Prior to the workshop we received a list of materials and the suggestion to think about a theme for our icon.  I chose my colors (purple, blue, green, and zinc yellow) with the intent of creating an icon that would be an ode to spring.  Before I finished packing my supplies, I decided to include some of my favorite Celtic rubberstamps.  A little voice inside me said I should think about expressing my inspiration in my work.

Laurie suggested we create a focal center piece for our icon as the starting point.  I didn’t want to create a niche centerpiece as was demonstrated and decided upon a flat center piece with a jeweled center.

And then I felt a little stuck.  How to proceed next?  I sketched a small diagram for how I thought I wanted the piece to look.  And then that little voice popped up again.  “Just make your tiles, incorporate your Celtic and spirit inspiration, and see what happens.”

It was time to be in the moment; to play and see where the muse would take me.  Laurie is very good at encouraging this type of approach.  She told us that she makes dozens of tiles first and then creates her icons.

At the end of the first day we had created numerous tiles and started putting together an initial layout for our icons.

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My icon in progress.

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Judy’s icon in progress.

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Karen’s icon in progress.

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Kate’s (the owner of AE) icon in progress.

In second day of the workshop, Laurie shared techniques for creating painted tiles and adding the finishing touches with beads and other embellishments. 

This is when the icon truly comes together to tell a story.  This is also when you have to switch back to the left brain and determine the final layout.  It involves a little play, a little viewing of the piece from different angles (try turning your work upside-down and see what happens to perspective), and learning about balance and composition.

We found our rhythms and got back to the art.

Several people did complete their icons by the end of the day.  Some of us (ahem) had our icons mostly intact and would add final touches after the workshop.

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Geri’s icon dedicated to her Grandmother.

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Ginny’s icon.

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My icon is coming along!

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Judy’s icon is almost complete!

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Karen’s icon awaits the final touches.  You can see Karen’s completed icon here.

Kate has started a tradition at AE of asking each guest artist to create a piece of artwork for the workroom wall.  Laurie put together this stunning piece which included tiles from Laurie and all of us.  Kate joked that if she ever moved the store she’d have to cut out pieces of the wall and take the art with her.

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Laurie’s workshop was a wonderful experience.  I enjoyed both Laurie’s approach to teaching and seeing all the wonderful pieces everyone created.  Each icon spoke to that person’s individual spirit, an interest, a memory.

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