Detail: Unmasking: The Deeper We Go, The Higher We Soar
Effulgent bubbling up love comes up and over like a pot come to a boil or a fire bent on over flowing or even just a long slow simmering of flavors and meditations. Mind wide open and alive and sparks from fires and flames all lapping and licking at my feet, my heart, and my hands pushing me inwards, upwards, and onwards.
The deeper we dig, the higher we rise. Digging and finding, searching and wondering, wandering outwards and into the investigation. Find a mask and unmask the mystery til we reach the next layer of interwoven illusions to uncover. Every time a mask is discarded our load gets a bit lighter and, through the course of some lesson, we find a touch more love, an ounce more compassion, a modicum of wisdom to add to the puzzle that continues to spell out what we always find we already knew – that mind loves a riddle to unravel.
There is a vast unfolding all around us… inside my heart and mind there is a… inside every thing, atom and sun, there is a…
a continual reaction.
But all things come to pass, to be used as the fodder for the next sun’s fire. Metaphorical understandings create day dreams that become new inventions inspiring another persons imaginings… and on and on.
I only pray for the grace to get it all done!
To what or whom do I pray? Maybe nothing, maybe everything, maybe whatever it is that ignited this reaction inside of me that, once sparked, seems hell bent on pushing ahead, forging onwards. It jumps and dives and crawls around inside ferreting out the uncomfortable places where ego tries to hide.
Whoa! hey! It throws it’s hands up in the air. Wasn’t me! Wasn’t here!
But we pull it out, get on up the stairs, and get back to the discussion at hand, a little more ease to the dance.
Where were you the night of…
Who were you with on the afternoon of…
What were you distracting yourself with when you should have been…
And on and on and on.
What is the best song to sing?
One that just doesn’t let up. One that just doesn’t let down. It is best to boggle the mind. The mind needs a good boggling every now and again just to put it in it’s place. Just to set the record straight. I’m just a scribe here, I’m just a channel.
It is in those moments that we can ask: who acts? Who is the “doer”, who is the “watcher”. Can the universe, and by universe I mean everything else that is outside of this shell of a body, can it play a guitar? Can the universe hold a paint brush? A pen? A sewing needle? If it could, what would it say? What would it paint? What would it play?
Love. Just love. In all of it’s multifold forms. It would be love in green and love in plaid and love in jeans and love in slacks. It’d be love in the woods and love in the streams and love in the alleys with their stinky smelly steam. It’d paint love in the canyons and in the cracked window panes, love on the fire escapes of the well-boggled brains of all those human beings, running and scurrying and planning and doing in that worlds they’re creating. It’d play love in the songs of the birds in the morning and the crickets who chirp towards the last light of evening. It’d be the entire world without words and it would be the words as well. It would say love in a way that you’d never considered. It’d place itself in ways that you’d always overlooked. It’d whisper in your ear, softly against your neck, touching you, just so, aside the curve of your cheek – listen, don’t give up, I am everything and I too shall pass.
Most of all, though, it’d be well outside the bounds of any form you may have believed to be the object of itself. It’d clothe itself as a breeze, a whimper, a laugh.
It is a very beautiful thing, this existence dance, the loving path.
Today is the birthday of a friend, someone I’ve not seen in quite a long time but a friend none the less – someone who is very close to my heart. I have that little reminder that pops up on the side of my Facebook page to thank for that notification and I have her to thank for lifting a veil, for calling me out, for changing my life.
It was maybe six or seven years ago (how time flies!) when we first met and there was some chemistry there. So we had a thing and I had a thing for her. We spent a bunch of time together all of a sudden, just like that. I was in my usual (at that time) space-surfing-no-home-to-speak-of mode, painting, partying, traveling a bit here, traveling a bit there. She was a painter and pretty focused on a Tibetan Buddhist path. At that time, I think she was in school, I don’t remember exactly. Anyhow, this is all just auxiliary information. The point is: there was a spark, a fire, a reflection, and I respected her.
A conversation one evening went something like this:
“Michael, you smoke a lot of pot. You’re stoned quite a bit.”
This was certainly a fair, inarguable observation. In truth, I would hazard to guess that I’d been stoned for 300 days a year, at the very least, for the previous eight years. Illuminating when you add it up like that. I had, in any case, gotten high at least once a day for those three hundred days. Some of those days – in the midst of the painting binges for instance – were spent in such a haze that there was no in or out, high or low – it was just one long sustain and all I could do, or think of doing, was keep myself there. While I may have felt I was productive in my painting, in retrospect, I wasn’t productive in much else. While I may have been experiencing great highs, I certainly wasn’t integrating much.
“Yes, well… I may smoke a bit in the morning, take a hit or two…” But I knew it was a tough one to argue.
“Well, to be honest, it’s tough to hang out with you because there’s always this veil – this sort of space between you and I. In fact, it’s between you and the world. Really, it seems sort of selfish. You end up forcing everyone to get through this veil and you’re in there but it takes some work to find you. You’re not straight forward with life. You’ve got this veil to hide behind.”
Well, she said that in so many words.
“So, really, I like you a lot but I can’t really deal with the constant stoniness. So it’s either me or the pot. If you want to be with me, you’ve got to give that up.”
So I chose her. I’d like to imagine it was an easy choice but truthfully I don’t remember. I’m generally aware enough, even in the most egocentric times, at weighing choices like that – door number one is a path you know, a habit, a pattern. Door number two holds something new, different – an opportunity for growth, maybe new adventures, some light.
I chose door number two.
The short end of that story is:
Ultimately, it didn’t ‘work out’ between us. But we are where we are when we need to be there. And we came together for the lessons we had to share with each other. Giving up smoking pot broke through all kinds of things – suddenly life was REAL. In fact, it was so very real that I started drinking heavily because all kinds of emotions came up – sadness, depression, loneliness, attachment, wanting, craving, everything! – and they were quite hard to deal with because I’d never actually dealt with anything. I’d lived in my head and my daydreams for so long that screwing my head back onto my body was, in fact, rather disconcerting. I didn’t know how to handle it and I freaked out for a little while. It was sort of a heart wrenching/heart opening time. The drawing above, at the start of this post, was drawn during that time. It is called “The Heart Dance”.
For people who say there is no addiction in marijuana and no withdrawals… Sure maybe for the recreational smoker, this is absolutely true. But, as with object of addiction – whether it be alcohol, drugs, television or hamburgers – if a person finds that it helps to squelch the real emotions that they don’t want to deal with and it works, and it makes them feel good, they’ll keep going back for more. That’s addiction. Take the object of attachment away and everything it was being used to block rears it’s head. That’s when it turns out there are a lot of demons down there. Granted, marijuana likely helped me in many ways – it was a tool that I had at my disposal; a teacher in plant form. But, as with any teacher, as with the parable of using the boat to cross the river: once you’ve made it across the river, it’s best to abandon the boat. For all I know, I’d been lingering on that shoreline for far too long, hanging out with my boat.
So for a little while, all I seemed to be able to do was calm the demons while I learned how to deal with myself, knowing I’d get back to the darkness. So I worked with the tools I had, picking up new tools along the way. I worked on finding a center (and dealing with the urges and cravings that sought to pull me away from that) and figured, however consciously, that I’d get to the darkness. All good things in their own time!
Ultimately, when I got back to painting – by that time it was in Costa Rica – my work was so much more present. I was more efficient and my lines and approach crisper than it’d ever been. To top it all off, I was having these experiences that actually felt like they could be integrated into my being and I began to understand what “Being on the Path” really meant. I’d never realized what I was missing. I’d thought, for a long time had convinced myself, that I ought to be high in order to paint. I’m sure I’m not the first artist to fall prey to this belief. Now I found a deep reservoir of creativity, an endless and boundless spirit, and I found I had the skills to illuminate it. As I passed through these things, so did the emotions rise and fall, rise and fall.
Through that process, as demons have come and gone and challenges have been met, I’ve discovered more than I’ve ever dreamt. I’ve pushed myself and allowed myself to be pushed in ways I’d not imagined possible. And I’ve found something inside, something nameless, shapeless, wordless, some truth, that allows me to participate in this world, through my work and my interactions with others, in a way that is truly enlightening.
This friend helped lay some groundwork for all that came after. She is someone who helped me to step onto my path and be who I am – and admit to myself who I am – without just living a daydream of what I might be. So I say happy birthday to you, my friend. And thank you. May you live long. And prosper.
This one is dedicated to you.
May all beings experience bliss.
I had a conversation with a friend today about separating business from, well, business. She was working on redesigning her design portfolio (as a designer, for websites or otherwise, one is often considering and reconsidering the design of one’s own website). Be that as it may, her website was in need of a facelift and she was doing a fine job at it. She sent me a link to her new design site however and it was vastly different than her art site (she’s a painter as well). It didn’t add up for me and I mentioned that I liked the art site much more – it had such a nicer feel to it. And the design site, well, felt like it was a different person all together. Really, it felt forced.
She said she was felt that maybe the art site was too “psychedelic” for her general design clientele.
But that’s why people go to you, I said, because you’re an artist with a good eye. As long as your site has a clean, well-organized presentation, who cares what your life is like? I mean you’re an artist! A person may be looking for a graphic designer or a website designer and come upon your site and realize that your art is great and want a piece of that on their project. Not your art maybe, but your touch, your vision.
Well, I said that in so many words, anyhow.
The point is though: there is a voice in our heads that holds us back from fully stepping into who we ARE, from allowing us to OWN it. Instead, it compartmentalizes identities and then hides those identities from each other, lest they be like Voltron and unite to be this all powerful being. There is the business face. Maybe there’s the artist face. The mother face. The father face. The buddy-at-the-bar face. It’s tough, it seems, to just embrace all of these different aspects as one whole person and go out into the world like that. This is who I AM.
When I was 21 or so, I’d painted The Three Jewels and it was hanging in a cafe. I thought to myself: Oh, God, now everyone is going to know everything about me. After all, onto that canvas, I’d poured out all my insides in so much fractalized layered madness and exuberance. It was, admittedly, a pretty psychedelic painting. I figured that now everyone was going to know that I’d taken some psychedelics at some point in my life. Including my parents. Including the government. Including, well, everyone. Whoever “everyone” is.
Well, it turn out that my parents were content to turn a blind eye and, when it finally came up at some point or another, I didn’t care so much what they thought. As for the government, well, they could give a shit. As for everyone else: well, the people who think that’s a bad thing aren’t going to get it anyhow and both the people who think it’s a good thing and the people who don’t care – it’s obvious from the get go.
So life went on. I learned to own that piece of me. In doing so, I was able to hold my head a bit higher, walk a bit taller, straighter and not be afraid of standing out when I might stand out.
Later, I started to work with clients. I had clients. This was a new thing at one time. For the self-taught, self-educated computer geek it was pretty novel.
Anyhow, as time went by and I started to work on lots of different projects – websites, flyers, logos, commissioned art – I realized that I should show this stuff somewhere as a portfolio. So I created a website for it, separate from TenThousandVisions.com, my painting website. It was a nice website but nowhere near as nice as my personal site. I realized that I felt fractured like that. There was this one person over here who was busy being a “graphic designer” and this other person over there being a “painter”. And yet, both had a similar task before them: presenting information in an aesthetically pleasing and intuitive manner. Ultimately, the “resumé” of my paintings was, I felt, stronger than anything else I might show. The other stuff is there because I can. The paintings are there because I want to. In my humble opinion, hiring a graphic designer who has an endless creative urge to just create is going to bode better for your project than hiring someone who just creates because they get paid to do so. My two cents, anyhow.
I did realize however that sending my site to someone I’ve never met might throw them off. They might be like – whoa, look at this guys art… and then they might make a judgement. And decide they weren’t interested in hiring me.
And I realized that the person who makes that judgement isn’t someone I’m likely to want to work with. The person who says: this is cool, I want a touch of that on my project – that’s the person I want to work with. We already get each other from the beginning.
Mind you, I have all sorts of clients. Some are very professional to the point of being pretty straight. Others are, well, puppeteers or channelers or what have you. All of them end up feeling the same way: one person who is being who they are in life who is working with another person who is being who they are in life.
So it’s a leap of faith: stepping into who you are because it suits you best. And yet, it’s a leap that you know – if you don’t take it you might as well step aside. I don’t want to present a “business face” only to make a buck. I might as well put on a button up shirt and go sit in a cubicle somewhere if that’s the case. At that point, I’d just be fooling myself.
Listen, it’s best for everyone if you just step into that person who you want to be, who you are and own it. I mean really 100% fully and completely OWN it.
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