Accuracy and Precision

As I mentioned in the previous post, I am interested in the principles of Shambhala Art. This blog begins to clarify my understanding of these teachings, specifically on the point of directness. I hope this writing will be of some benefit to others also investigating these principles.

Page one of True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art describes dharma art as art that springs from

“…an attitude of directness and unself-conciousness in one’s creative work.”

I readily understand what is meant by “attitude”. My attitude refers to my thoughts; my thoughts establish my attitude toward experience and activity.

The term “directness” is not immediately clear to me except as a tautology. But I reread the section on Great Eastern Sun and can understand directness to be the Eastern direction or “the place you see when you can open your eyes and look fearlessly ahead of you.”

I understand directness to be characterized as precise, as concerned with what is pertinent, and as not entertaining extraneous thoughts. Directness also implies accuracy, being able to […]

Art and Teaching as Nonaggression

In a public talk about dharma art, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche described how the ruling monasteries in Tibet were funded before the Chinese took over. He refutes the assertion that peasants were flogged and forced to work for the monks. Instead, he says that land and resources were set aside to support certain festivals enjoyed by monastics and lay persons alike. The purpose of his economic digression during an art lecture was to raise the basic question: How are we to organize our life so that we can afford to produce beautiful things, not at the expense or suffering of others? ?

I have chosen a funding model typical among artists and writers I know; I am an educator. Teaching seems to be the common method for artists to support themselves so that they may continue to practice their craft, not at the expense or suffering of others ?. While this isn’t ideal, the alternatives are no more attractive. I would not enjoy being subject to the whim of a wealthy patron or working within […]

New Year’s Resolution

In a 2007 Stronach Memorial Lecture, Peter Sacks explores the trope of the dolphin in poetry from Homeric to modern poets. An evocative and empowering image, the dolphin continually shows up in poetry as a surprise and as a mystic escort. As 2010 ends, I find the dolphin a fitting image of the soul in transit.

In past years I have made New Year resolutions, and they are often effective. I set specific goals using strategies I’ve learned as a professional: specific, attainable, timely goals whose outcomes can be measured. But this year I’m interested in what Sacks calls the dolphin’s turn, a metaphor for a process to realize outcomes that can’t be measured.

In the Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo, a dolphin intervenes with merchants on route to a trade city. The dolphin forces the sailors to turn their ship and sail to another coast, an unknown coast, and another life. Sacks draws a connection between the dolphin’s transformative veering ? and the transport system of poetry ?. As the dolphin leaps between two […]

What a Story Does Part 2: Response to Umberto Eco’s Richard Ellman Lecture Series 2008

In his lecture, “Advantages of Fiction for Life and Death”, Eco compares the ontological truth-value of fictional truth and historical truth. He concludes that fiction holds both interior and exterior truths, and is at least as valid as historical truth.

Furthermore, he suggests that fictional truth may be more substantial than historical truth. As an example, he says that we know it to be true that Superman is Clark Kent. This is a fictional truth of which there is no doubt. He compares Superman’s identity to the historical truth that Hitler died in a bunker in Germany, of which there is some possible doubt.

Although he doesn’t discuss other forms of truth I think it is important to include the truth of experience in the comparison. Unlike historical truth, which is a statement about the past, truth of experience would be determined by what we experience in the present moment. I believe that what makes fictional truth more substantial than either of these other truths is that it shares qualities of both.

Eco says that […]

What a Story Does Part 1: Response to Umberto Eco’s Richard Ellman Lecture Series 2008d

The Richard Ellman Lecture series comes every two years at Emory University, and the next one coming is Margaret Atwood in October this year. Umberto Eco’s lectures are available on iTunesU, so hopefully Atwood’s will be too.

I’ve never read Eco’s books, but am aware of him as a famous author and intellectual. I’ve read books that refer to him. And I saw Name of the Rose with Sean Connery, but I don’t think that counts for much. Despite all that, his lectures were very provocative and interesting.

In the first lecture, How I Write ?, Eco reveals much of his writing process, how his ideas are formed and how he works out his novels. He also talks about how he came to be a writer. I like to hear authors give autobiographical accounts of how they started writing and how they sustain themselves. The other day I listened to an interview with Michael Bracken on Reading and Writing podcast. Bracken says he became a writer when he was 14, seriously. He decided he wanted […]

NYC: Imagine

Yesterday afternoon I arrived in New York. The plane ride was nice and quick. I had a chance to listen to a couple of dharma talks by Gil Fronsdal on loving kindness ? or metta. I’ve practiced metta mediation a few times before, but as I step into the world of New York public education I’m going to make metta part of my regular meditation practice.

I was welcomed by my dear friend Isha and will be staying at her place for a week or so. She gave me a hug, helped me with my bags, and offered me juice. We talked a while, then she said she wanted to take me somewhere special.

After a short walk through Spanish Harlem and a ride on the 2-train, we met her brother Sanjog near Central Park. She took both of […]

Modern Art as Buddhist Practice

I’ve been listening to a lecture series recently that has me inspired/excited about writing. The speaker is Joan DePaoli, author of Transparent Thread. Her talk is Buddhist Art as Buddhist Practice, but I think it would more aptly be called Modern Art as Buddhist Practice.

The first two lectures give an overview of 2500 years of dharma art history. When the Buddha was alive he told his followers not to make any art with his image. For the first few hundred years his instructions were followed and Buddhist art were primarily meditation sites, like stupas. Then things changed and people started to make statues of the Buddha. DePaoli discusses this change and other changes as Buddhism spread into various cultures.

This discussion was interesting and informative. But in the third and fourth lecture, she begins talking about western art. […]

Fancy Broccoli

Since I’ve been working as a house painter I’ve been able to listen to hours of interesting podcasts daily, everything from lectures on the Brothers Karamazov to fanboys talking about comic books.

Last week while listening to I came across a new podcast that is worth sharing. The Fancy Broccoli Show combines music and discussion of prison reform. So far I listened to the Ron Hayes interview from 2007. I was very moved by his story, dedication, and wisdom.

One of the important things Mr. Hayes is working on concerns PTSD among people in US prisons. He talks about the link between PTSD and drug use (aka self-medication). And near the end he reads some of his own poetry.


Why do Buddhists hate stories?

In the past couple of years I’ve noticed many people interested in meditation using the word story ? as if it was a bad thing. This came up more than once during my Shambhala Training weekends. I also remember talking with some Buddhist students at Naropa Boulder about what we would be without a story ?. And this week I was listening to one of my favorite dharma podcasts where a participant spoke very dismissively about his story ?.

I’m not sure most people understand what story ? really means.

For me this is very troubling and not just because I’m a writer of stories. But also because I believe that stories are essential for living as a human being.

From websters the word story is

Consciousness, Creativity, and the Brain

podcast of David Lynch at UC Berkely

In this hour and forty-minute podcast, filmmaker David Lynch answers questions from the audience and talks about meditation. Many of the questions concern Lynch’s film making. While I am not a big David-Lynch-fan (I missed the whole Twin Peaks craze), I did think Blue Velvet was cool and appreciate him as a skilled story-teller. Before listening to this talk, I had no idea that Lynch practiced mediation regular and says that many of his creative ideas come directly out of his mediation practice.

The meditation that Lynch has been doing for 30+ years is transcendental meditation, which he says expands his consciousness and grows his intuition. […]