Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I'm on holiday! 

So this is my last entry of 2014. 

I want to thank everyone who has supported me this year by buying a copy of Wise At Any Age, ordering a custom pair of shoes, working with me to design a logo and offering words of encouragement and appreciation on my Facebook Page and this here blog. 

My exhibition is on in Calgary until 31 December and I'll be at Oolong teahouse this Sunday so please do drop-in for the 'Meet the Artists' event! 

Thank you again! 

Entries will resume as usual on Tuesdays and Thursday come January. 

May you have an incredible holiday season full of love, joy and appreciation. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

No Time To Lose - A Book Review!

It's been a while since I've done a book review and in light of my exhibition of dharma-inspired artwork at the Oolong Tea House in Calgary this month I thought it would be suitable to review a bit of dharma* that has hugely influenced my life. 

My first forays into Buddhism began when I started seeing my psychologist. As someone involved in the Shambhala community she had a lovely balance of psychological expertise and common sense in Buddhist packaging. In many of our sessions she referred to Pema Chodron and told me that a lot of what I said and how I thought fit with her teachings. Eventually I caved and bought a Pema book: Start Where You Are. 

Reading Pema made me realise that I was a Buddhist, through and through. Her teaching style is clear and easily understood even without extensive knowledge of Buddhism. It really is common sense and she presents it in such an accessible way that I was soon hooked. 

I moved on to read The Places That Scare You and When Things Fall Apart and then I purchased this book:

I was fully prepared for more of the same, so imagine my surprise as I began reading and realised this book was not Pema's usual pithy instructions, but a commentary on a famous Buddhist text written in 700A.D.: The Way of the Bodhisattva. 

This was dharma - deep, profound teachings on Buddhism and how to be an effective, authentic, genuine human being. 

At the time I'd only been meditating for a few months. My grasp of Buddhism was weak although I was already aware of an unwavering enthusiasm I had for it. Here was a practice that asks us to work with our own minds, empowers us to be our own greatest teacher and teaches that the most difficult moments in our lives are the best for having a lasting transformative effect. 

But 'The Way of the Bodhisattva' is not exactly beginners Buddhism text. 

My first reading of it was a bit of a slog. I struggled through it but stoically stuck to it because at the time Pema's books were acting as a life-line. As long as I had a book of Pema's to read I felt like I could control my anxiety, keep an even keel and maintain a sense of sanity I desperately needed. 

Looking back I'm both proud of and amused by my efforts. I was seeking comfort in her writing and instead I was confronted with a scholarly text composed twelve centuries ago that asked me to do the work. 

This didn't phase me. In fact, as soon as I finished reading it I flipped back to the introduction and began again. I wanted to understand the words because I had found comfort in reading them - but not for the reasons I'd found comfort in reading Pema's other writing. 

There was something about how applicable The Way of the Bodhisattva was to my own life at that time, even though it was over a thousand years old and had been composed for a very different audience. I think this must have been my first glimpse of having an understanding of the four noble truths: 
Life is suffering. Suffering is due to attachment. Attachment can be over come. There is a path to do this. 

I began to see them beyond the simplistic Western view of 'Life's a Bitch' and understood that they were pointing at the fundamental ambiguity of being human: Life changes, inevitably, constantly, and this terrifies us. It has always terrified us. As human beings we really don't like the idea that we and everyone we know are impermanent so we scramble for something to hold onto in an attempt to feel better about the fact that we'll get sick, grow old and die. 

The Way of the Bodhisattva is teaching us how to live well by flipping our habitual patterns on their head. Rather than scrambling for ground, it's asking us to experiment with what might happen if we opened up to, accepted, and embraced this groundlessness. 

What would our lives be like if we didn't resist our experience? What would life be like if happiness was more than getting what we want and not getting what we don't want? What would life be like if we let go of an idea of how it 'should' be? 

I'm now reading No Time To Lose for the fourth time. It's been years since my third reading of it and my practice has deepened significantly since then. Now as I read it there is a familiarity with the language I lacked upon my first, second and even third reading. 

I've come to really value re-visiting teachings because with each new experience I have the way I work with my mind and the way I live in the world transforms, so each time I come back to dharma I've read or listened to before I get something different from it. I'm excited to see what I get out of this commentary now, after over a year of daily meditation, completing the first five levels of the Shambhala training and daily consumption of Buddhist talks and books. 

Even if you're not a Buddhist, this text in particular does hold some incredibly profound and pithy instructions. I recommend it very highly. Regardless of what your understanding of Buddhism is, it offers so much to make us see how every situation is workable and everything we experience has value. 

*Dharma is the word for the traditional Buddhist teachings/text. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014


24X36in acrylic on canvas
Exhibiting at the Oolong Teahouse in Calgary December 1 - 31
I've been studying Buddhism for seven years now - ever since I discovered the very eloquent and clear teachings of Pema Chodron. In the last year and a half my practice has become significantly deeper as I've taken my understanding of the various techniques and actually started applying them in my life. 

As my dear spiritual companion described it, "It's like I've been tilling the soil and now things are starting to grow." 

The growing experience is so astounding to me because I'll have heard a teachings dozens of times before it clicks. But when it clicks the experience is transformative. It's the difference between intellectually 'getting it' because it makes sense versus having an actual lived experience of something. A moment when the words I've read or listened to match my personal experience of the world. 

Avalokiteshvara is the bodhisattva of compassion and known by many different names depending on the lineage. But the essence is always the same - to love fully and compassionately. 

I'm a huge advocate of this and can honestly say that my experience has shown again and again that it is much better for everyone involved to show love and kindness than anger or aggression. In fact, I've often felt like I'm just not an aggressive person so all these teachings about working with aggression didn't really apply to me. 

But here's one of those moments when I have listened to a teaching and heard it differently: 

I was listening to a talk by Khandro Rinpoche. She was talking about this sense of compassion and embracing basic goodness and being kind. She began to describe our emotional turmoil as aggression and made a list: "Anger is aggression. Fear is aggression. Sadness is aggression." 

I considered what she was saying and it was like feeling puzzle pieces of so many teachings before sliding into place in my mind. I suddenly realised that when the teachings are talking about working with our aggression they don't mean 'don't be angry' or 'work with your anger' - they mean aggression is a fundamental resistance to our experience. 

In short, resistance to the fundamental ambiguity of being human is aggressive. 

It can manifest as anxiety, fear, sadness, depression - but it's all based on wanting to get away from what is, rather than embracing and working with whatever arises. 

Suddenly I realised I'm incredibly aggressive! My anxiety has always communicated my resistance, my shutting down around an experience. And now I can see it, I can work with it. Having had this realisation the way I'm working with my mind now has shifted significantly. 

Avalokiteshvara reminds us to be gentle with ourselves as well as with others. We can only have compassion for others if we have it for ourselves because it's based on understanding shared human experience. 

My understanding shifted considerably as I realised that I was no less aggressive than anyone else. That the term 'aggression' is not being used in relation to anger or rage but in relation to this resistance we all have to the unpredictability of life. 

How liberating. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The power of an open mind

The first time I published my Manjushri piece I wrote about the power of questioning and how this piece was an exploration of that. 

(I also spelled it with the more traditional Tibetan spelling but apparently you can spell it with out without the 'h' - Fun fact!) 

But I digress. 

The Dharma is something to be constantly explored, applied and revisited. As Chogyam Trungpa said, "Live life as an experiment." 

To me this means adjust your hypothesis, try things again, change the control group, never assume and always, always be willing to change your mind. A flexible mind is one that knows nothing can be pinned down. 

A print of this piece is currently being exhibited at Oolong Tea House in Calgary, along with most of the rest of my Dharma series. The original is hanging on my bedroom wall (But available for purchase, if anyone is interested) and therefore the object of regular contemplation for me. 

I continually visit the final line of text in the piece, along with the strong imagery representing the importance of cutting through the ideas we think we have of the world. 

When we look at things as being just one way it causes a lot of grief. An example I like to use for this is eating in our favourite restaurant. 

Say there's a restaurant that we love, that we've gone to dozens, possibly even a hundred times. We enjoy it immensely but one day we go and we get food poisoning. Suddenly we write the restaurant off. We can't go back because we had a single bad experience. Regardless of the high percentage of great experiences, because we had a single negative one, and because that negative experience was our last experience, we may never return again. 

But the restaurant was never 'perfect' to begin with. It couldn't have been. Because it wasn't everyone's favourite restaurant and because not everyone might like the food they serve. Regardless of food poisoning, some people just might hate the cuisine so much they'd never consider it to be a nice place to eat. 

The value we put on things is a projection of our mind based on experience and understanding of the world. But when we think we 'know' something (or someone) we put a box around it. We stop being able to see it from different angles, different points of view. 

Using a restaurant is a rather safe example and one I feel confident in using to communicate my thoughts on the subject, but this applies to everything. No human being, no ideology, political structure, religion - is ever just one way. 

When we can see this it liberates us because it means we're getting closer to seeing things as they are and letting the fluidity of the world we live in touch us. It means we're able to experience the richness and fullness of life. 

To purchase a print or the original piece visit: 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Prints! The art formally known as an original.

While my Dharma series is on exhibit at the Oolong Tea House in Calgary I don't want those not in snowy Canadia to miss out. If you'd like to order a print of any of these pieces you can do so through my website:

I promise to do my damndest to get them delivered to you in time for Christmas!

You can click on the images to be taken straight to them on my website:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Art prints? What a great gift idea!

It's happening right now! You can pop down to Oolong to take a look at my Dharma series along with Lyn's contemplative photography! 

If you don't happen to live in Calgary you can always buy a print of one of the pieces through my website:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sketch to Lens exhibition opens next week!

From Monday my Dharma series and a selection of contemplative photography by Lyn Langille will be available for viewing at the Oolong Teahouse in Calgary, Alberta! 

Oolong is a fabulous little teahouse where I used to set-up shop to work on Faunawolf Creations promotions when I still lived in Canada. They have a great selection of teas and have always had brilliant artwork on the walls. I'm so excited to be exhibiting my work there and hope those of you in Calgary will have a chance to drop by. 

Originals are available to purchase and you can order prints through my website:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bearing Witness - A Book Review

A few weeks back a co-worker brought in 'The Kite Runner' for me to read. I'd heard of it but I didn't know what it was about. I ended up reading that and two other books by Khaled Hosseini in three weeks and it was the third one I read which really struck me the most. 

First of all I'll say that as far as his way of writing goes - it's not always fantastic. He delivers analogies and metaphor in a rather heavy-handed way and his characters recap things mentioned in previous chapters in more detail than is necessary. But it wasn't the way it was written that struck me. 

It was the intensity of the stories. 

I realise this is fiction but it's a fictional account of actual historic events - of a Communist occupation, militia warfare and Taliban rule. 

I've recently come to realise that I'm hugely ignorant about the politics of the Middle-East and even most of Asia, to be honest. In school we were bombarded with the World Wars but always the Canadian, British and American side of it and always just what occurred in Europe. 

In the past I would avoid books like this because they were just too intense for me. Even in the fictional context, I found the stories too difficult to bear. I've always been a bit high-strung when it comes to violence. Graphic violence in horror films cause me to pass out. 

But recently I've had a shift in my experience and started doing what Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel refers to as 'bearing witness'. This is a practice that allows us to open up to the world as it is. 

It's not about being passive but about acknowledging the truth of the human condition - which is that life can be incredibly painful and brutal at times. In the case of Afghanistan this has been a stark reality for decades. War tore through the country leaving destruction, chaos, and death. The rule of the Taliban saw half the population so oppressed they may as well have been dead and indeed, many people took that as their only way out. 

It's a painful thing to face up to - especially living in the West where we are largely sheltered form such things or easily become numb to what we see in the news. 

I used to refuse to watch the news because I found it depressing. I said it was always the same so why bother? All it did was perpetuate a sense of negativity and gloom. 

Since discovering Elizabeth's teachings and her practice of Bearing Witness this has changed for me. I now watch the news so that I can learn and become a more effective human being. 

The only way to create lasting, effective change, is if we understand the fullness of any given situation. Something like war is incredibly complex and while old age, sickness and death can never be stopped, war can be. But only when we take a holistic view of it. It can't be prevented or stopped if we think we 'know' what must be done of feel there is a single definitive 'answer'. There can't be an Us Vs. Them approach. It must be something that we address as a human problem - not a problem of a politic view or a particular country or group of individuals. 

Reading these books and particularly 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', has been a bearing witness practice for me, a way of furthering the understanding I have about the importance of developing compassion, discriminating awareness and seeing clearly what can be done to be effective human beings on the planet. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Less There is of Me

As you probably know I've got an exhibition coming up next month, for the entire month, at the Oolong Teahouse in Calgary, Alberta. 

When I first began planning this exhibition way back in August I had intended to include this triptych but when I partnered with a photographer for the exhibition I decided against it. 

I did this piece very early on this year - in February I believe. It's a series of photos I took as I shaved my head, removing my then blue and pink hair. 

From the age of fourteen until I was 24 I regularly dyed my hair various colours. It was blue for nearly four years straight and then as I entered the working world and could afford to, I did it rainbow for Pride and kept it that way for at least a month. I dabbled in other colours - green for Hallowe'en, pink and blue for the fun of the contrast of it, and blue as the general default. 

My hair was very much part of my identity. I have had various nicknames and many of them had something to do with my hair: Blue meanie, Kool-aid, Rainbow Bright, Peacock... 

When I moved to the UK I knew I was going to be in a distinctly more conservative culture. While looking for work I felt it was important that I gave a good first impression as I know the assumptions people can make when they see brightly coloured hair or tattoos. So I grew my hair out and made sure I was as presentable as possible. I figured, once I'd secured a job and proven myself to be the highly productive employee that I am, I'd then be able to dye my hair again. 

This didn't end up happening though. Partially because the CEO where I first worked in the UK asked me not to and partially because I was sort of enjoying the freedom of having natural hair. Dyed hair requires a lot of work and upkeep and moving to a new country, adjusting to a different culture, starting a new job and also cultivating a new relationship were all very time-consuming things. 

For nearly four years my hair remained uncoloured until late last year when I found myself working somewhere that absolutely embraced and encouraged my creativity. I'd always associated my brightly coloured hair with this creativity and I decided I'd give it another go. I was eager, absolutely and entirely, to have my 'natural' look back. The look I'd identified with so strongly for most of my teenager and young adult years. 

But as soon as I rinsed my hair and saw the colour in the mirror I felt a pang in my chest and a sense of disconnect. I realised that the colour of my hair said nothing about who I was as a person. It was not a statement of my personality or energy. My external presentation may in some ways reflect that but it was not definitive of it. 

And then I had an incredible moment where a lot of the Dharma teachings I'd read and studied about ego and what that means clicked with my experience. 

I suddenly appreciated that a sense of 'me' was actually very artificial and that when I thought in terms of 'this is who I am' in relation to something physical I was limiting myself. I was forming an idea about who I was based on the appearance I chose to put out there. When I didn't have such ideas I felt a great freedom and flexibility. I felt a chance to grow and change and be different every day because every day I am different based on experience. 

It was liberating! Incredibly so! And suddenly something I'd once heard as a quote attributed to Leonard Cohen made a lot of sense to me: 
The less there is of me, the happier I am. 

Because when we think: 'This is Me' we put a lot of importance in it. We give it meaning and if it has meaning we think it really matters. But a lot of time the stuff we apply this meaning to doesn't actually matter at all. But we take ourselves too seriously and then we hold on to things best let go. 

We cling to an idea that people won't know who we are, or that we won't know who we are, if we don't have brightly coloured hair or we don't smoke or we don't dress in a particular way or we don't meditate a certain amount. 

But we were never one way to begin with (This is one of my mantras) and when we realise that it's incredibly liberating. 

It's a paradox as well - people change, people never change. Both are equally true. But what we realise is the things that change can be very superficial and the things that never change are inherent in our nature, our personality. But even these things change because they can deepen or weaken depending on how we choose to live our lives. 

By not clinging to an idea of who we are or who we want people to see us as (no one can truly know another person anyway) we allow ourselves to just be, as we are, in the present moment. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

To Build a Home - Kait's Mixtape

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Buddhist monk who lives and teaches in France. He's attributed with inventing the word 'Interbeing' - which is a way he relates the interconnectedness and cause and conditions of all things.

He has many ways of explaining this but my favourite is his meditation on a tree. He describes how beautiful it is to look at a tree because you can see the entire Universe in a tree. When you look at a tree you can see the sun because without the sun, there is no tree. You can see the clouds because without clouds there is no rain and therefore, no tree. You can see the Earth because without the minerals in the Earth, there is no tree.

When I first heard this meditation it brought tears to my eyes and I instantly thought of the video that went viral a few years back where Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked to share what he felt was the most astounding fact in the Universe. This song was used for that video and as I listened to the tree meditation I was so delighted by the idea that Thich Nhat Hanh and Neil DeGrasse Tyson were talking about the same thing.

I find myself in wonder more and more often because when we really stop and look at the world - look at the way the leaves change or the way ice crystals hang in the air or watch a bird doing something as incredible as flying - we are seeing the very wonder and magic of the universe. We are seeing the result of an explosion billions of years ago.

And we're part of that. 

The entire Universe started with a bang. A bang that's been expanding in chaos ever since. And all that chaos lead to a molton rock cooling just enough for there to be life. And that life has flourished for billions of years and eventually, you came into being.

Because there was a big bang you are here now.

That is the essence of interbeing and that is the essence of life itself.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

One Day... - Kait's Mixtape

 "If death is certain and the time until death is uncertain, what's the most important thing?"

This blog entry is going to revisit a topic I wrote about often when I first moved to London. At that time I felt a lot like I was making up for lost time. I'd been in a stagnant situation for three years prior and I was kick-starting my life with this move to a new city.

I used to be able to tell you exactly what I'd be doing year on year to the day simply because I always did what I'd always done. I was bored of this, I needed change, I needed to completely change my situation.

The thing I said the most at that time was, "I'd rather look back on my life and regret having done something than wonder what might have happened if I had." 

One of the latest revelations I've had from all this meditation practice I get up to is that we don't figure something out and then put it aside. Wisdom is incremental and it gets deeper with practice. We will revisit the same thing again and again and each time - because of experience, new ways of thinking, knowing our minds better than before - we will get something new out of it.

Death doesn't scare me. I told my mum it did when I was little and she said that simply wasn't true because if it was I'd never do anything. I'd stay up in my room and avoid any situation that might be remotely dangerous.

I remember this as the first time I encountered the idea of living life to the fullest. I've come back to it again and again and each time it shifts and my understanding gains more depth.

When I first moved to London I wanted new experiences because I was terrified of not doing enough with my life. I've often remarked that I'm allergic to procrastination because I feel a bit sick if I put off that which I can do now.

Well, that's changed quite a bit recently. Not because I do put stuff off now, I certainly don't. I actually seem to be doing more now than ever - but the feeling sick bit happens less and less.

There was a frantic energy to a lot of what I did. A sense of striving and getting things done so that eventually I'd get everything done and then maybe, maybe I could relax. 

It wasn't very comfortable. It's a strong habit though and one I'm still working with. But now the frantic energy has gone out of it because the present is just a single moment and in a single moment, we can only accomplish so much anyway. I take it as it comes, and I carry out a single task with great care and mindfulness before moving to the next.

Interestingly I seem to get a lot more done, in a calmer fashion, and it gives me more time to do absolutely nothing beyond being - which is helpful since I love meditating so much.

The less I try to 'do' the more I can 'be' and the more I can be the more I appreciate the time I have. Less and less of what I do is about getting somewhere or finishing something or ticking off a list. Now it's about experiencing the moment, enjoying the process, and waiting for what comes next patiently, without forcing it or driving for it. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sketch to Lens - December Exhibition in Calgary, Alberta

It's official! From the 1st to the 31st of December, 2014 my Dharma series sketches and Lyn Langille's contemplative photography will be on display at the Oolong Tea House in Calgary, Alberta. 

On the 21st of December you're invited to 'Meet the Artists' from 3:00pm to 8:00pm

My pieces that will be on display can be viewed through the Faunawolf Creations Facebook page. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Well, here it is in all its glory! The bits I've shared over the last month of wings and mask-making come together in one fabulous Pixie King costume. 

Thanks to my brother for some helpful photography capturing the entire outfit. 

The finished mask - did a little selfie. 

Do not mess with the Pixie King.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Hallowe'en!

Tomorrow is Hallowe'en!

As a Canadian this holiday is a significant on in my social calendar. If I were in Canada I would most definitely be attending a party - possibly two - and decorating wherever I lived with all the fake cobwebs and Jack o'Lanterns I could afford.

This year I've got a few commitments that came up so my day will be less about the holiday and more about collecting people from the airport, feeding them and seeing off a dear friend at their leaving do.

I will almost definitely be wearing one of these:


Cut out...



Add details...


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Am Mountain

I came across a review of an app called 'Mountain' several weeks back. The general idea is that it generates a mindfulness reminder in the form of a mountain that sits on your phone or tablet. The reviewer seemed a bit confused by the whole concept but I thought I'd give it a whirl given that I'm an enthusiastic Buddhist practitioner, so new tools are always fun to have at hand. Practice in the digital age! 

I downloaded the app and went through the series of questions given to me to determine what shape my mountain would take. 

There are several fun things right away about this app which really entertained me. For example, as it's loading when you first open it the words 'patience' are on the screen. I love this. So much. It reminds me of a practice I do when I'm waiting for something. I call it my 'waiting practice' - to keep things simple.  

I focus on my breath while I'm waiting, wherever I'm waiting. For the doctor, in a queue, for the train to arrive at the station - these are all fabulous chances to just be. 

It was a real challenge for me when I started because the compulsion to look at my phone was so strong. I hadn't realised how much I turned to it for entertainment or distraction. Or how much I used it to feel 'busy' when I had nothing else to do or something was taking longer than I'd expected. 
I still feel the compulsion but it's much easier to just sit with that and experience it. Examine it like, "Oh, that's what's going on now" instead of acting on it. 

Anyway - this app starts with 'patience' instead of telling us to wait, and that's pretty cool and a very good indication of what's to come. 

My mountain...

After the first time it loads you are never asked questions again. You get your mountain and it rotates slowly on the screen. There are clouds and stars come out at night. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it snows. The trees change colour and occasionally there's something random imbedded in it - but the mountain remains largely the same. 

I showed it to a colleague and was promptly met with the question, "But what are you supposed to DO with it?" 

Well - nothing. It's not about doing. It's an app about being. And I find it extremely effective. For example, one morning I was eating my breakfast and trying to read a book. My mind was all over the place though and I couldn't seem to concentrate on the words. So I thought, "I'll check out my mountain for a bit." 

I loaded it up - patiently - and sat eating my breakfast and just watching the mountain slowly turn. My brain almost instantly calmed down. It was just focused on my mountain. The clouds got thick and it began to snow, which was actually really exciting because I'd seen rain on the mountain before but not snow! 

And then some words popped up on the screen. I AM BEAUTY. That was great. Just - something else to contemplate in my day and in that moment as I sat there with my liquid breakfast in hand. 

I have to say - this is probably one of the coolest apps on my phone and a brilliant example of functional design. The creator has managed to successfully capture the essence of mindfulness practice in a digital format.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Art, art, art... - Berlin journal

My time in Berlin was largely spent in museums. We went to the Pergamon, the Altes, the Neues, Topography of Terror, Deutsches Historisches museum and the Gemaldegalerie. Never mind that the city itself is a historic lesson as bullet riddled buildings and statues as well as chunks of the Wall are to be found in every area. 

I absorbed so much while I was there and am still processing a lot of it. The museums are immense and the collections varied. I could share so much of the art I found there but have selected a few of the things which stopped my mind. 

A bust of Athena.
This was stunning to look at and I marvelled at it for quite a while. 

I looked at this in passing at first. My travel companion,
a history master specializing in Greek history, then explained to me that
this was a representation of the perfect male form according to the Greeks.
This set the first impossible standard of beauty.
Throughout the rest of my time in Berlin I saw how this form influenced so many statues
and sculptures throughout the city. 

This is a ceiling made of wood.
I could have lain on the floor and stared at it for hours. 

I first discovered Carlo Crivelli at the National Gallery, London.
I love the intensity of his paintings - the hyper realism and expressiveness of the people in them.
I also love finding the strange little additions he included in his work.
Can you find the pickle? 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The value of questioning

Last year, nearly exactly a year ago, actually - I attended a retreat in New York to see Pema Chodron teach. She has been one of the greatest influences of my practice and I appreciate her teachings so much.

Also teaching with her was Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel. The talk she gave at the retreat resonated with me in a profound way and changed and continues to change my life significantly.

She has written a book called The Power of an Open Question and has a blog where she invites people to post questions to her. I wrote her a question about a month ago and upon my return from Berlin there was an email from her secretary letting me know that Elizabeth has composed a response (She doesn't believe in answers as answers imply that you 'know' something. I have tested this and totally agree. Questions allow us to remain open, answers lead to closed minds).

Well, the response is published on her site now!

I'm absolutely over the moon to have someone I so admire engage in communication with me. Her response is wonderfully articulate and you can read it here:

If you haven't time to read it one of the key things that I love about her response (because she has given me words I was struggling to find on my own but had a very strong felt sense of) is:
"To say that someone does not deserve compassion lacks the humility and understanding that we actually don’t know anything or anyone in a determinate way. We don’t see the fullness and complexity of any situation. To think that someone is limited to the idea you have of him\her is not in accord with the way things are. It is extremely myopic and narrow."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Street Art - Berlin journal!

 Berlin was mind-blowing, mind-stopping, mind-expanding. I was travelling with one of my dearest friends who also happened to be a history major and general history nerd, which was great for expanding my mind.

My appreciation of art and history is rather indiscriminate. I know what I like and if I like it I will absorb it, gaze at it, just be in awe with it.

I appreciate a broad range of styles and mediums so Berlin is a perfect cornucopia of art for someone like me.

I've long been a follower of street art, especially since moving to London where I encounter Stik and Banksy on a regular basis. Going to Berlin was like going to the Florence of street art. The city is peppered with it, especially the East side and obviously, the East Side Gallery - an expanse of the wall left standing which has some of the most iconic street art every made on display.

This was at the start of the East Side gallery - a more modern contribution.
I love this particular classic style of street art. Vivid colours, bold shapes and lines, a bit surreal.
Like something from an album cover. 

I find this more detailed work is always lovely to encounter if only because it's so rarely seen. 

My mum is a big Pink Floyd fan. I loved the Wall tribute to their classic album artwork.
I mean, come on, it's The Wall illustrated on THE Wall. 

Leaning against history...

This was across the road from the East Side Gallery.
Gorgeous Art Nouveau inspired work. 

Wandering down to a food market the buildings along the way were peppered with artwork.
I particularly liked this one. Reminds me of the many lions sculpted into the older buildings of Berlin. 

Old meets new...

This is, by far, one of my favourite pieces of street art I've ever found.
It was on a building near where I stayed in Berlin. I could have sat and marvelled at it for hours.