"In a recent study out of Stanford... they defined awe as an experience of such perceptual expansion, such perceptual vastness that you literally have to reconfigure, upgrade your mental schemata just to accommodate, just to take in the scale of the experience."
"Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand."
— Aldous Huxley
A friend of mine , Alex Lightman, once asked me why I never set goals. I said it was because I didn't ever want to be disappointed in the lack of outcome.
I've realized over the last few months that in fact I had the wrong definition of 'goal' in my mind.... I based the idea on unrealistic mental requests for control of situations I had no control over. I'd heard of the term S.M.A.R.T. Goal before but it didn't crystalize for me until recently when I realized that all my significant successes were based on simple, measured, ambitious, realistic, time-bound ideas.
For example, I had declared to myself and those around me that I would have my first big art show after completing 50 pieces. The big art show is coming up at the beginning of next month and I have completed 50 pieces.
I was challenged by Alex to climb the equivalent of Mt. Killamanjaro (36 miles at 10% incline) on my treadmill desk in the month of June. I came within 1.5 miles of completion and would have completed it if we weren't off to Tofino for a week on the 28th. This month it is Mt. Everest (55 miles at 10% incline). Apparently the space station would be 2300 miles at 10% incline. Break it down in to quantifiable amounts and I'll get there too. :-)
The point is, setting goals and then working at them consistently results in massive achievements that never would have been possible without some guidelines; specifically SMART goals. Now that I have my head fully wrapped around this significant tool just about anything seems possible. Try it out. Something simple. Every day. Keep going. Get there. Do it again. It is the foundation of just about every success on this planet.
“The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory, the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think they know how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination.” ~ Joseph Campbell
By Lisa Citore
If you want to change the world… love a woman-really love her.
Find the one who calls to your soul, who doesn’t make sense.
Throw away your check list and put your ear to her heart and listen.
Hear the names, the prayers, the songs of every living thing-
every winged one, every furry and scaled one,
every underground and underwater one, every green and flowering one,
every not yet born and dying one…
Hear their melancholy praises back to the One who gave them life.
If you haven’t heard your own name yet, you haven’t listened long enough.
If your eyes aren’t filled with tears, if you aren’t bowing at her feet,
you haven’t ever grieved having almost lost her.
If you want to change the world… love a woman-one woman
beyond yourself, beyond desire and reason,
beyond your male preferences for youth, beauty and variety
and all your superficial concepts of freedom.
We have given ourselves so many choices
we have forgotten that true liberation
comes from standing in the middle of the soul’s fire
and burning through our resistance to Love.
There is only one Goddess.
Look into Her eyes and see-really see
if she is the one to bring the axe to your head.
If not, walk away. Right now.
Don’t waste time “trying.”
Know that your decision has nothing to do with her
because ultimately it’s not with who,
but when we choose to surrender.
If you want to change the world… love a woman.
Love her for life-beyond your fear of death,
beyond your fear of being manipulated
by the Mother inside your head.
Don’t tell her you’re willing to die for her.
Say you’re willing to LIVE with her,
plant trees with her and watch them grow.
Be her hero by telling her how beautiful she is in her vulnerable majesty,
by helping her to remember every day that she IS Goddess
through your adoration and devotion.
If you want to change the world… love a woman
in all her faces, through all her seasons
and she will heal you of your schizophrenia-
your double-mindedness and half-heartedness
which keeps your Spirit and body separate-
which keeps you alone and always looking outside your Self
for something to make your life worth living.
There will always be another woman.
Soon the new shiny one will become the old dull one
and you’ll grow restless again, trading in women like cars,
trading in the Goddess for the latest object of your desire.
Man doesn’t need any more choices.
What man needs is Woman, the Way of the Feminine,
of Patience and Compassion, non-seeking, non-doing,
of breathing in one place and sinking deep intertwining roots
strong enough to hold the Earth together
while she shakes off the cement and steel from her skin.
If you want to change the world… love a woman, just one woman .
Love and protect her as if she is the last holy vessel.
Love her through her fear of abandonment
which she has been holding for all of humanity.
No, the wound is not hers to heal alone.
No, she is not weak in her codependence.
If you want to change the world… love a woman
all the way through
until she believes you,
until her instincts, her visions, her voice, her art, her passion,
her wildness have returned to her-
until she is a force of love more powerful
than all the political media demons who seek to devalue and destroy her.
If you want to change the world,
lay down your causes, your guns and protest signs.
Lay down your inner war, your righteous anger
and love a woman…
beyond all of your striving for greatness,
beyond your tenacious quest for enlightenment.
The holy grail stands before you
if you would only take her in your arms
and let go of searching for something beyond this intimacy.
What if peace is a dream which can only be re-membered
through the heart of Woman?
What if a man’s love for Woman, the Way of the Feminine
is the key to opening Her heart?
If you want to change the world…love a woman
to the depths of your shadow,
to the highest reaches of your Being,
back to the Garden where you first met her,
to the gateway of the rainbow realm
where you walk through together as Light as One,
to the point of no return,
to the ends and the beginning of a new Earth.
This is a donation piece for the HUB at Cowichan Station. It is a decommissioned elementary school that is being turned in to a community hub with the classrooms & gym being transformed in to meeting areas and multi-purpose rooms. It is set in a beautiful area and is surrounded by magnificent cedars and local farms. There are a number of windows that have been boarded up so this piece will be replacing one of the regular pieces of plywood and it is one of many that have been donated. I'm really excited about having this new community gathering place; it has so much potential.
My wife's grandmother passed away just before I began this piece and with a consistancy I've come to expect, but never remember to expect, the painting speaks for the power of the moment. Laura was a lovely woman who, under some awful circumstances, managed to always maintain the strength of her role as a mother and grandmother. She rolled with the punches and was a very special person in my wife's world. During one conversation with my wife about the loss of her grandmother I said: "You know, death is a real asshole." And it is. I'm angry with death because it is so ridiculously final. The door gets shut, never to physically be openened again. NEVER. I hate that.
This painting seems to reflect this attitude, but clearly with part of me trying to explain that this is the natural progression of life and that wonderment, diversity, change & growth in life could never happen without death. It is why so many of our past, and some of our present cultures give such honour to the process and assign symbols and ultra potent beings to represent its inevitability and power.
I recently engaged as a staff member in a new warrior weekend as part of the Mankind Project. Its roots are in the initiation of males in to manhood, regardless of age. It's about helping men to take an honest look at their shadows and embrace their true power in the world as protectors, creators, lovers & warriors for that which makes it a better place. It is a fantastic process and one that I can't begin to describe the brilliance of. Every weekend completed is a weekend that makes the world a little bit safer and a little more honest.
Part of the processes involves intense work and the creation of space for the release of deep hurts. As a staff member, no matter how much of a 'shield' I put up, there is always the residue of other men's pain, shame, sadness, joy, love, hatred, guilt, confusion and anger. It's like a minute scarring of my spirit from the weekend's work that I embrace and wear as a badge of honour for doing the work that I do. It is the wound of battles hard fought and won to make our world a better place.
Every day we have the opportunity to embark on a hero's journey; often we do and don't realize it. Sometimes that journey can occur in a matter of hours, sometimes it spans the years. If you ever find yourself in dark places, confused and afraid, unsure if you are worthy, know that you have been gifted with your own journey; look for the signs, accept the help, embrace the ordeal because upon your rebirth, upon your transformation and atonement you will have a gift for yourself, and through you, a gift for the world.
When I consider deeply the process of my imagination as a child I get a feeling of digging deep in to its physicality, injecting it with my creation and being bounced back out in the blink of an eye. Little ugly doll wrestlers are all of a sudden in a battle royale. The stick is now a rifle. The undercover agents are going to pull off a coup. The secret spy cave base is only navigable by its operatives. My feet as they land underwater and throw up clouds of sand are the feet of a giant tramping over an alien world. The currents of the river are the currents of the wind and I am flying through a vast canyon.
These worlds were beautiful and precious and timeless and my windows in to them seemed so short. This piece reminds me.... of the essence and simplicity of the creative act. How everything gets so complicated but at its root it is just the flow. Dive in, jump out. Play.
A number of years ago when I worked for one of the major camp and catering companies in the BC & AB oilfields I was sent on a mission to deliver an envelope containing 'condolences' for a recently deceased chief of what I think was the Dene-Thah native band.
I was unclear on protocol and was simply told to go find a particular band member, give him the envelope and leave. I felt that at the very least I should try to pay some authentic respect to the man who died and his family as well so I stepped in to a line where I thought I could do this. I'd never seen a dead body before and much to my discomfort this particular funeral was the wake-style Catholic version. I soon came face to face with a man who's spirit had long since left his body behind. I kept wondering if he was going to wake up, open his eyes. He looked a little pale but nothing drastic, mostly he looked like he was in a deep sleep. I think my eyes tried to play tricks on me when I saw his chest move. Before I could completely melt down in some maudlin hollywood psychosis I was moved along by the flow of the line to pay my respect to the family. I felt malice and spite from them. Who are you and what right do you have to be here was in their eyes. I felt fear and shame.
There was a small area where music was being played. It was somber and sad and out of tune. The leader of this musical group stood out for me; he had the eyes of a zealot. Gaunt & haunted; I couldn't help but think his atonement was regular self flagellation. He strummed the guitar with barest effort and sang in somber tones about the forgiveness of the lord and prayers for the lost souls around him.
I left feeling hollow. I greased a palm for the financial benefit of a corporation that was clearly masked by the concept of sorrow and concern. I bore witness for the first time in my life to the truth of death. I felt torn in the conflict between christianity and indigenous tribal & spiritual process. It was truly discomforting
This was formerly "Landscape". The first painting I did in 2011. If you find the description of it in '2011 works', you'll see that I was thoroughly confused by its meaning and wasn't sure "who it was for".
Like "All the Rage" being recycled and rebirthed in to "Rage", a much more distilled and honest variation of the initial expression, I believe "Landscape" becoming "Vulnerability" is in the same vein; that at the time of initial creation I could only catch a ghost of future understanding.
'Vulnerability' is absolutely about its namesake. I take tentative steps in to the world with the intention of doing so unarmed, giving up the weapons of racial privilege, sexual privilege, economic privilege; knowing that I AM ENOUGH. It is terrifying to be exposed like this but I know I must be the change I want to see in the world.
I hold an image of my relationship which has given me the strength to get this far. Encouraged by my partner's work, encouraged by her own explorations and her courage to bring a torch in to her shadow world and look these beasts in the eye. Encouraged by her love and support; knowing she's got my back, knowing that to her, I AM ENOUGH.
This is truly one of the most evocative, scathing, humourous articles I've had the pleasure of reading:
"So where you see a world in which males dominate the boards of the Fortune 500, and own Congress, and sit at the head of all but a handful of the world's nations, men see themselves as utterly helpless. Because all of those powerful people only became powerful because they heard that women like power.
This is really the heart of it, right here. This is why no amount of male domination will ever be enough, why no level of control or privilege or female submission will ever satisfy us. We can put you under a burqa, we can force you out of the workplace -- it won't matter. You're still all we think about, and that gives you power over us. And we resent you for it."
I came within an inch of painting over this piece in the beginning. It was making me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Thankfully, one of the skills I've been developing is if a situation, conversation, music or image makes me uncomfortable, guaranteed it will lead to an enlightenment if I can just bare to follow the feelings through to their source.
Once I made the decision not to fight, the wall dropped and the flow began and I was able to clearly identify the forms and colours. In choosing to not fight, to only accept and give vent to that which needed venting I was able to witness my shame, my darkness, my dishonesty, my deviousness, my gluttony, my inadequacy. As I brought each one out a little release happened. At one point while I was working I started to bark like a monkey in complete satisfaction. Seriously!
It gave me great joy to have found the courage to declare these shadows. Too many times they have simmered like a volcano and eventually exploded if I didn't give them vent. How many times have I sabotaged myself and others in this desperate pursuit of denial?
Not this time.
There were a number of posts recently for International Women's Day and one in particular really stands out for me. It was a dating guide for women that was put out in 1938. Essentially it was a series of instructions on how to be as lifeless, innocuous and unexceptional as possible. One of the pieces of advice that I kept thinking about after I realized what the foundation of this piece was going to be was: "Don't be sentimental or try to get him to say something he doesn't want to by working on his emotions".
As men we are taught to suppress our emotions, to not feel because it is somehow a sign of weakness and I am realizing that the weakness is not the showing of emotions, it is the passionate desire to not show them. We express our weakness and our inability to deal in the emotional realm by first supressing them in ourselves, then suppressing them in other men and finally in subverting them in women. That way, we don't have to deal and we can blindly maintain this legacy of cowardice.
Well, screw that. As a man who wishes to be in his power, all of his power, I stand at the chasm of fear, anger, joy, sadness and shame and I leap with my whole heart.
Men, if you think life is hard now, try joining me. It may become like a rollercoaster that you will beg to get off of because you don't know yet what your inner world has waiting. The outcome can be (and no, that is not a promise) that the rewards will be equal to the risk.
One of the intriguing parts of my creative process is I don't always paint 'right side up'. There are often times when I will lay the foundation for a piece and have to turn it 90 or 180 degrees in order to find the image that needs to be worked on; such was the case for this piece.
A shrew dominates the upper left hand side of the piece, they tend to be ferociously protective of their territory. A lovebird is on the right, they are most commonly known for their tendency to choose a mate for life. Underneath these two is an aquatic scene with a spawned salmon, egg & a creature I can't quite figure out.
It's almost eerie how this scene reflects a moment that occurred when I was first painting this piece. My wife had tried to get my attention while I was in the initial 'zone' of foundation building and I bristled and closed up and wanted her to go away so I didn't break my flow. She had no idea what was going on and thought I was mad for something else. If you look at me as the shrew and my wife as the lovebird, it all makes perfect sense!
This talk had me in tears at the end. Tears of identification and acknowledgment of truth. Tears of sorrow for the fragile human container who bears the burden of creativity on their own. Well done, Elizabeth, you are a soft inspiration, hopeful artist, beautifully wise. Thank you.
Once again I stood at the canvas convinced I had nothing to say; feeling in a mediocre mood. Expecting mediocre work. I took a deep breath asked for guidance, focused on the canvas, waited a few moments and then like someone else had grabbed my hand the brush hit the surface like the cut of a sword and it was on.
It poured out of me. I knew exactly what to do each step of the way; as I was finishing one colour I would get a brain snap that was clear as day what the next colour should be and before I knew it (well, not quite that easily, I had to do three layers of pyrrole red for lack of opacity ;-) it was done.
I sat down and looked at it and felt great joy that I had channeled something pure. Honest. And as I lauded my accomplishment, I can describe it in no other way than it frowned at me and the magic I felt started to disappear and I realized it was calling me out. I was calling me out. Humbled, I put my feet back on the ground and felt gratitude to have created such a great mirror for my inner world.