Ananda Hum :: I am Bliss

I started back into the meditation series from Deepak Chopra and Oprah. Specifically, I am doing the series from Gratitude. Day 3 inspired the following piece of art. This was the view from when I live in Pacific Palisades, CA with one of my mandalas superimposed on top. Nature inspires gratitude in me and the light right before the sun setting completely is such a magical time of day,

Ananda Hum | Beth Ortman Studio

Ananda Hum | Beth Ortman Studio

The following comes from the supporting text with the meditation series:

This mantra awakens the state of fulfillment that is your true self. Ananda is the inherent bliss, joy, and fulfillment of existence. Ananda Hum aligns your Being with this reality.

Exquisite Detail: Getting Lost in the Repetition

 

Detail of Indra's Net II, in progress|  © Beth Ortman Studio

What exquisite place do we touch when we disappear into our work? I love and am completely inspired by reading and learning about other artists' spaces and work habits. What is it that made them who they are? What are their fears, their doubts, their losses and wins, and break-through moments? I look into the lives of other creatives to look at what shaped them to find some correlation to my own work. Not only from an aesthetic place but more from an acknowledgement that choosing the path to make art is difficult and worth it. Are artists the voices of their generation or maybe the flag holders of a compassionate connection to the self? Making art is all about stripping the layers of the self to zero and then building it back up with a slightly different version, vision and way of seeing. In this scenario, are artists a channel? Is there something working through the artist? When one is compelled to make things that no-one needs for survival, what is behind that drive?

The artwork that I create demands that I am constantly moving into and out from repetition and practice. I read a lot. I look for an idea that stands out or causes me to sketch something. I am always taking notes and sketching little visual connections to whatever series I am exploring. I am always behind what I want to accomplish because the work is tedious and time consuming and the ideas roll faster than I can create - a perfectly awesome state to be in.

"The difference in men does not lie in the size of their hands nor in the perfection of their bodies, but in this one sublime ability of concentration: to throw the weight in one blow, to live eternity in an hour." ~ Elbert Hubbard

I ramble on in this post as I ramble through my artwork. Weaving myths, legends, media and symbolism into new things. What I think this does, or at the very least, what it has done for me is open the conversation of the spiritual. Are we the ones making the art? What is the muse? When a writer, a musician or an artist talk about a great achievement, many will narrate their part of the story and leave a part for something else to weave itself into it. There always seems to linger a legend of not being completely present. It opens a discussion that there is faith that they are a channel. If you show up and do the work, the muse will work through you. Time disappears and when you start bringing yourself back to "the moment" things feel surreal. When you are in intense creation you are in the mode. It is you and your art, your music, words, whatever your medium. So the question gets stripped down a little more to become "What is it to truly come back to the moment?". If time speeds up and slows down all at once, the human moves out of the way, what third mixture comes into play? What is that energy that comes forth?

There is something magical that happens when two things come together to make a third, Hegel refers to it as The Calculus of Fresh Thinking. He described it as the dialectic process whereby one idea - a thesis- truly engaged with another - an antithesis- can yield a third, a new idea - a synthesis - that is born from both but which is wholly neither. This sums up something that I have long ago explored, and even altered some to my own thoughts about the muse and the artwork created. I love the open question "Who really creates a piece of art/music/writing/mathematical formula, etc...?" and I love that it is like a koan that is unanswerable.

~b
 

 

 

 

 

Not Leaning Forward or Backward

 

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Being present, in the moment and not furiously looking at ways to control the future is so much harder than it seems. What if you are asking yourself, "What is next?" or maybe you are trying to define a new path that is different from the one you have been on. All of the external messages reinforce the notion of being present and/or having faith that things will work out. My nature is competitive. I want to move forward and that leads to a state of discontent. Is there a balance for people that believe action gets things done and the wisdom of keying in to the present? How can we take a step into the now without reaching for the future or leaning into the past?

There is a concept in Buddhism named dhuka and it roughly translates to suffering. As a society we are constantly try to numb an ever present dissatisfaction by turning to things around us or craving things we don't have to silence this feeling. But what if we sit with it? Identify if? Maybe we can poke at it like a bruise and not shy away from it. Numbing ourselves in front if the TV or shopping for unnecessary objects are great examples of dhukha. To dive deeper into that a little bit, dhukha causes dhukha; suffering causes suffering. Once our issues or cravings are identified and explored they start to lose their power. Maybe once that inward journey is activated then we can be more fully okay with ourselves, at peace with how things are, right now. The now is not craving. The now is present.

On the flip side is sukha, happiness not shadowed by craving or aversion. It is a state where we are not confusing emotions like desire or nostalgia. This state of balance is considered enlightenment. It is at this point of realization and this defining moment when after his searching and introspection, Siddhartha Gautama became Buddha. He saw in that moment where he no longer craved. He was no longer reaching, searching and exploring, there was no clinging - no aversion or delusion. This led to freedom and with it the knowledge that it is an inherent state of humans.

Ultimately we strive to be a witness to ourselves without passing judgment. When we sit in meditation there are glimpses of this witness. There is no judgment. No thoughts. It just is. In that moment - whether it be on the hiking trail, sitting at our desk or in meditation, things are entirely OK. We experience more of these moments through meditation and going inwards. These moments that are lacking a sense of unsettling thoughts, a lack of judgment become our freedom. They allow a sense of peace to guide our daily thoughts and actions. Quite possibly, these are the moments that open us up to faith if we have felt that missing.

So in the end, and as part of a daily practice I leave with this: catch the judgments, catch the doubts and the over-thinking and striving for perfection. Slowly strip away the constant anxiety inducing pining for a future that does not exist. You are enough right now. Sit with that. Next time you overreach and try to be the funniest or smartest in the room or the better actor or you sit in judgment of someone just remind yourself that you are enough. Right now.

~ b

 

 

Samvega, or my trip to California to get quiet

 

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From June into July 2014, I went to California to do my art. I got quiet.

Right before I left I opened a favorite author's book, "The Wisdom of Yoga" by Stephen Cope and started to read it. I ran into the Buddhist concept of 'Samvega' and it blew my mind. I put the book down and stopped reading it as it was a pretty decent shock to my system. This all happened by page 15 & I needed to process this metaphorical brick wall. Not the most accomplished reading session but I think that discovery will always be a dog-eared moment for what is to come next for me. I went on to pack and left the book behind but brought the concept with me across the states. I needed some percolation to happen. The day after I got the LA, the woman I rented from (now a great friend) showed me the mediation space of the Lake Shrine where I began to feel like making this trip/pilgrimage was right. This place was right and the extreme discomfort I saw myself in was right. Here is why it was like hitting a wall of realization, discomfort and ultimately a soft sigh (content taken from Stephen Cope's book, "The Wisdom of Yoga": 

The Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu describes the state of samvega as: "The oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it's normally lived: a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly: and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle."

The reason I wanted to write about this concept was not only because of the impact that it had on me as I was reading it, but also because I see this happening in our culture, among my friends, situations and people I read about. I think there is an evolution in the human mind happening right now that is part of advancing to another state. I see a growing community affected by the following "symptoms" of samvega:

  • A puzzling failure of previous sources of satisfaction
  • A heightened concern with authenticity
  • A deepening pull toward an intuited interior world
  • A sense of urgency about realizing deeply hidden gifts and talents
  • A global and diffuse sense of internal disorganization - equal parts psychological and spiritual
  • A deeply felt internal imperative to stop business as usual - or to "get quiet"
  • A call to explore a path that might give transcendent meaning to the enigmas of life

The person that left their corporate job to start a micro-brewary because they wanted to create a product of quality and share it with others. The person that wants to make jewelry in a light-filled studio and uphold a sense of authenticity they feel is missing in the mass-market offerings. The person that opens a pop-up store that becomes successful because their customers sense their desire to create a better product, a better brand. These are examples of samvega without having to get into the texts of Patanjali's "Yoga-Sutras". There are a myriad of examples all around us every day that point to this undercurrent of change that is taking place.

Over many nights that I sat in quiet with nature in Topanga, CA, I came to realize that it was time to let go of the control that I thought I had over the future, be okay with the now and viscerally understand the past is where it should be, in the past. I am certain this is a lesson I will grapple with forever but there was a sense of calm, of peace, that came with it. In the end, there is an excitement that comes from this place, in addition to solace, that everything will be okay. With these moments of stillness we find a type of faith - when things do strike us, and they will, we will be better equipped to handle them. In this quiet space, we get to connect to our authentic selves and it opens that thread of faith so that we can follow our own true path.

Samvega opens our intuition up for self-directed reorganization that allows us to become better participants of this life. It is a step in pointing us in the direction of authenticity and hopefully less madness.

~b

The book --> "The Wisdom of Yoga, A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living" by Stephen Cope

In Pacific Palisades, west Los Angeles area, The Lake Shrine Temple is a beautiful place to sit still, no matter your belief system

 

Alchemy and Elusive Desire

 

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When we try to change our reality into desire we lose sight of what treasures we have in the moment. We enter into a fool's quest to turn iron into gold. When we get into those moments of panic, desire, feeling empty or looking for ways to fill a perceived hole, we need to stop, take a deep breath and look around at where we are in the present moment and have faith that things will be ok. This is a hard thing to do, it takes practice and inevitably we will veer into our comfort zones of the way we have always done things in the past. But just breathe into the moment.

In that moment where the deep breath brings us into the presence, we have everything we need. We get in our own way when we constantly push for and construct a future that does not exist or when we live in the past which is at best, fogged through a lens of nostalgia or bitterness. 

One moment. Right now. Tied to breath. This prepares us for what is to come. We can use our past like an intuitive tool set that we reach for to build ourselves into the moment from our subconscious. Just let that concept be and it will stay in the unconscious. If we think of our past and how it should inform our future, we bring it up to the conscious mind which means we are trying influence things that are out of our control. We walk into a wall of desire that can turn into emptiness and longing and feelings of unworthiness. By being present and acknowledging that we are good to go in that moment, the future unfolds naturally. It does not mean that bad things won't happen - but it pushes fear aside which is a construct of our ego as a defense mechanism, and it ensures that when things do come our way, we are mentally prepared to handle them in a more gentle way. Gentle to ourselves and to others.

The gap between reality and perception is where we fall down and cause ourselves anxiety and pain. We can do better for ourselves and in turn for others realizing we have everything we need for whatever is to come next.  When we get trapped into the worry and the fear, we can take a deep breath and look into the present moment knowing that we can just let things be. Our breath is our personal reminder to stay in the moment and be true to ourselves.  

Our own personal alchemy: I create my own reality

~b

Art & Ego: Are they diametrically opposed states?

 

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In reading "The New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle, I ran across this statement: "If you are content with being nobody in particular, content not to stand out, you align yourself with the power of the universe. What looks like weakness to the ego is in fact the only true strength. This spiritual truth is diametrically opposed to the values of our contemporary culture and the way it conditions people to behave."

Ok. I get it. My head gets it, is maybe a better summation. What is hard is that being an artist and working to "get my artwork out there"; it is an odd place to be in. The idea of surrender is a hard thing to get used to since I like a healthy dose of control. And the idea of marketing oneself is also a direct opposition to surrender. Now I will say, the art will get done not matter what. I am compelled to create it. I am also compelled to share it. That is what it is there for. I spend a lot of time doing it, thinking about it, defining its thesis and sharing the ideations that come from all of those exercises. That is the most amazing thing in our current cultural shift of a sharing online community - the ability to put yourself out there.

Does this run against the concept of an ego-less self?

An ego-less state is this sense of quiet. A knowing. Not a place or intent to make others hear you. Or see you. It is Being. And making art is sharing; a loud or a quiet place of 'See Me'. At what point does its creation turn itself into a place 'being in service'? There is a sense of power to make something and bring it into this world - something that did not exist before you made it. And there you have the ego. And if you create something and you do not share it, it falls to the wayside and you are in direct opposition to the muses that offer you a path to the creative spirit. No one wants to shit on that. Your state of nothingness is a tragedy since we are all meant to be here to create. It is not only music or art, it is full creation of being. 

I have no answers here and since I am writing this blog I am obviously participating in the social community and a ego-centric space of sharing. And it feels great to be noticed, to have my art liked, or hated and most importantly - discussed (right behind being bought). The only thing that I know to fall back on is that I do come from a place of curiosity, authenticity and a pure desire to 'make'. That will not change and as I strive to connect to that inner still state, I can at best, keep the ego in check and understand that it is there but it is not ruling.

So show up and create, fail and create some more...

~b