“IMPERMANENCE”: A NEW RELEASE BY WILSON BROS/SHRINK WRAP

 

Last week (see http://artandzentoday.com/?p=5038      ) I posted the first of a series of musical pieces that incorporate “messages” or “lessons” that I would like to incorporate into my life.  The idea is that perhaps these messages will have a greater impact on me if they are embedded  into music that I helped create  ( along with my brother, James).  The newest release deals with a subject that I especially have been resistant to hearing.  I would be interested in hearing from you about how you react to “Impermanence”.

Here again are the suggestions for listening to this series of music.  I would especially recommend the idea of moving while listening.  This may take the form of what we usually call “dancing”, but it may also involve simply swaying your body or tapping your foot as you sit and listen.  There is evidence that this makes the listener a more active participant in the hearing process.

Here are some suggestions for listening:

1) Play the music when you have enough time to mindfully listen without worrying about being distracted by other issues.

2) Use whatever rituals you usually use when preparing  to move out of the  flow of ordinary life.

3) The music was especially created to be heard through headphones.  Try to avoid earplugs, if possible.

4)  As you listen, focus on your bodily reactions (i.e. sensations, feelings, emotions etc., whether positive or negative) rather than the meaning of what you are hearing.

5)  Try listening to the piece more than once be open to having different experiences with each exposure.  Try dancing/moving while you listen!

 

 

RIDE THE SOUND CURRENT: NEW MUSIC FROM SHRINK WRAP

     “Jim Drumming”, Photo by Ann Pirruccello.

Like most people, I am constantly running across written quotes, videos, podcasts etc. that contain ideas that I would like to incorporate into my life.  Often these “lessons” are difficult to hear, let alone embody.  About a year ago, it occurred to me that I might be open to hear these ideas if they were embedded in music that I liked.   And, so I began accumulating spoken messages that seemed to fit those criteria and create music to help make these messages more “hearable” on my part.

Recently it occurred to me that the music I had come up with might be enhanced by including contributions from my brother James, who is an accomplished saxophonist and composer. Collectively we are known as “Wilson Bros/Shrink Wrap”.

The tune introduced below, “Ride the Sound Current”, is the first of a series based on my experiment that will be released at Art and Zen Today.

 Here are some suggestions for listening:

1) Play the music when you have enough time to mindfully listen without worrying about being distracted by other issues.

2) Use whatever rituals you usually use when preparing  to move out of the  flow of ordinary life.

3) The music was especially created to be heard through headphones.  Try to avoid earplugs, if possible.

4)  As you listen, focus on your bodily reactions (i.e. sensations, feelings, emotions etc., whether positive or negative) rather than the meaning of what you are hearing.

5)  If you listen to the piece more than once be open to having different experiences with each exposure.  Try dancing while you listen!

Over time I have become increasingly interested in how listening and sound (and music) have been used in various meditative practices over the ages.  This is no place for an exhaustive review but below the video link, I have included a number of sources below dealing with this topic for those who may be interested in exploring further.

To hear “Ride the Sound Current” click below.

 

BOOKS

Hazrat Inayaat Khan  The Music of Life: The Inner Nature and

Effects of Sound  and The Mysticism of Sound and Music: The Sufi Teaching of Hazaart Inayat Khan.

Joachim-Ernest Berendt,  The World is Sound: Nada Brahama.

 ONLINE SOURCES

3 Reasons to Listen to Music Mindfully

http://www.wildmind.org/background/can-anyone-meditate/music

Mindfulness, Music Appreciation and Empathy

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-groneman/mindfulness-practice_b_3894331.html

Video on Listening Meditation by Stephen Batchelor

http://www.stephenbatchelor.org/index.php/en/guided-meditation-on-listening

 Music, Trance and Mindfulness:  http://artandzentoday.com/?p=4292

Aaron Copeland on Mindful Listening: http://artandzentoday.com/?p=4211

What are You Presently Listening To?  http://artandzentoday.com/?p=4091

Zen Buddhism and Japanese Art: the Inspirational Life of Hakuin Ekaku

 

As you know, most of the posts at Art and Zen Today deal with contemporary art practices.  However, it is helpful to have some understanding of how the various arts have traditionally been connected with various meditative disciplines.  Below is an article that provides a nice look at that connection in Zen.  This article was called to my attention by Jake Roshi, an avid supporter of Art and Zen Today.  If you come across any articles that you think might make a good post on the site, please let me know. Also, we are always looking for “guest editors” so if you have some prose or art work that you think our readers would like, please let me know.
By the way, you may find two previously published articles on Sumi-e painting practice by Beth Moskal Milligan (Esho) to be of interest.  Click on the links below to read these articles.

Zen Buddhism and Japanese Art: the Inspirational Life of Hakuin Ekaku

 Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The holy Buddhist monk Hakuin Ekaku revived the school of Rinzai Buddhism based on taking Zen Buddhism far and wide. Indeed, his upbringing meant that he never lost touch with people at the bottom of the ladder, in terms of wealth. Also, despite Hakuin being outspoken towards other Buddhist sects, he never sought to alter the non-Zen Buddhist ways of people residing in the countryside. Hence, the roots of his early life meant that Hakuin could reach out both culturally and religiously to ordinary people in rural communities.

In other words, many lay people throughout the countryside fused the various aspects of rural Shintoism, Confucianism, and the ways of Buddhism. Hakuin fully understood the rich fusions of ideas that impacted on rural society and the religious – and philosophical dimensions – that remained like a rock during times of hardship.

True to nature, Hakuin declined to serve the most prestigious Buddhist monasteries in Kyoto that impacted greatly on high culture – just like other centers of power including Nara. Instead, Hakuin took the teachings of Rinzai Buddhism to the rural poor and extolled the virtues of Zen Buddhism based on lectures to other classes in society.

Hakuin said, “At the bottom of great doubt lies great awakening. If you doubt fully, you will awaken fully.”

Another saying, close to the heart of Hakuin, was “Contemplation within activity is a million times better than contemplation within stillness.”

In the world of art, calligraphy, and literature related to Zen Buddhism, then Hakuin fused these elements in order to reach out to the masses in multiple ways. Indeed, he wrote with great passion and in haste during the late stages of his life. Similarly, despite Hakuin being deemed one of the greatest Zen Buddhist painters of Japan, he only focused seriously on this area of his life when he was nearing sixty years of age.

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THE ART-MEDITATION CONNECTION

Below I have reprinted an inspiring article sent to me by Jake Roshi.  The article very much supports what Jake has been saying for years; that a mindful commitment to any activity that requires practice can be a “teacher”.  This may include what we traditionally define as “art” but can include any activity (cooking, gardening, accounting etc.) that entails practice with the goal of doing it “artfully”.
Below are links to past articles published in Art and Zen Today that speak directly to this connection between artistic practice and “meditative” practice.  There are many more and I suggest you explore the Archives.
——————————————————————————————–
http://artandzentoday.com/?p=3179   Myths about the nature of “Talent”

http://artandzentoday.com/?p=3121 Art and Mindfulness

http://artandzentoday.com/?p=3121  Improvization in music and Zen.

http://artandzentoday.com/?p=1830  Trumpet practice and Zen  practice  #2

http://artandzentoday.com/?p=1788  Trumpet practice and Zen Practice #1

http://artandzentoday.com/?p=1147 The Art of being present.

http://artandzentoday.com/?p=124  Art, Zen and Creativity

———————————————————————————————-

And now to the article, which was originally printed in The Washington Post.

Why making art is the new meditation

By Maia Gambis August 25, 2015

Photo by iStock

Many of us have heard about the benefits of meditation, but sometimes find it hard to do.  Fewer of us know about the profound benefits of artistic expression. Creating art, however, is another way to access a meditative state of mind and the profound healing it brings. 

“Art is a guarantee to sanity,” said Louise Bourgeois, a French-American artist who died in 2010 at the age of 98. She even went on to add, “…This is the most important thing I have said.” For Bourgeois, art — making art — was a tool for coping with overwhelming emotion. She says she remembers making small sculptures out of bread crumbs at the dinner table when she was a little girl – as a way of dealing with her dominating father. Art was more than an escape – it kept her sane.

Art therapy has a healing effect for a variety of ailments, including depression, trauma and illness. and is effective across age, gender or ethnicity. In a recent study of cancer patients, an art therapy intervention — in conjunction with conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation — not only diminished symptoms typically associated with cancer such as pain, fatigue and anxiety, but also enhanced life expectancy. The study, its authors said, was based on the belief that “the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life-enhancing. It is used to help patients, or their families, increase awareness of self, cope with symptoms, and adapt to stressful and traumatic experiences.” 

Art is not only healing for individuals suffering from severe illness. Here are four reasons why creative activity is such a potent recipe for psychological well-being:

1. Art is a vehicle for meditation and self-connection

Most of us can understand that art provides an escape to a sometimes harsh reality, but where does art’s healing potential come from? It impacts the state of our minds: Enjoying emotional stability is largely about taking responsibility for how we feel.

Research has shown the power of meditation and the science behind it. One of the reasons it is so powerful is that it fosters acceptance. Creating art is a type of meditation, an  active training of the mind that increase awareness and emphasizes acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment and relaxation of body and mind.

Art, like meditation, allows us to create space between our often negative, anxious thoughts and connect with our true selves – as opposed to with the fleeting or false sense of identity we sometimes have when we are caught up in our thoughts and emotions. Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher, writes: “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past… This false self is never happy or fulfilled for long. Its normal state is one of unease, fear, insufficiency, and non-fulfillment.” Creating art is about reaching a state of consciousness and breaking free from the constant debilitating chatter of the mind.

Similarly to meditation, art can help us tap into a deeper and more quiet part of ourselves. We enter into a state of flow and present-moment awareness. “All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness,” Tolle writes. Artists experience that creative activity has the potential to tap into a space of true consciousness of being, void of interpretation. In this space, there can be a sense of having no physical parameters; no body, or form to separate one from the other. 

3. Art allows for true self-expression

The process of making art overrides the need for verbal communication. Creativity is its own language and enables humans to connect with one another — and themselves — on a non-verbal level. In therapy it can be an effective way of saying the unspeakable as is shown through the use of creative therapies with children. This also explains how we can be moved to the core when looking at a work of art, or even listening to music, without necessarily knowing the specifics about its origin. Art exists within its own non-verbal parameter and thus frees us up for unadulterated self-expression.

4. Art helps us become steady and centered

As a plus, it is interesting to note that Bourgeois, when asked to comment on her extensive body of work spanning her entire lifetime, says what impresses her most  “is how constant [I] have been.” Perhaps we need to redefine what we consider to be a storybook happy ending. Happiness may be less a matter of experiencing sharp highs (often followed by deep lows), and more a matter of nurturing a space that provides stability and a constant connection to our true selves.

 

PRESCRIPTION FOR DEPRESSION: SUN, DRUM, DANCE AND COMMUNITY.

There is reason to believe that many people are feeling depressed about the state of the nation and the state of the world.  If you relate to this, you might find the short statement below to be a useful reminder of some rather simple coping mechanisms.

Below is an excerpt from what a Rwandan told Western writer, Andrew Solomon about his experience with Western mental health and depression.  Thanks to Alessandra, a good friend and avid Art and Zen Today reader for calling my attention to this statement, as published on a Blog called “Under The Blue Door”. ( https://underthebluedoor.org/)  By the way, you can learn more about Alessandra by typing her name into the search box at the upper right- just doing that may help with your depression.

The Rwandan Prescription for Depression: Sun, Drum, Dance, Community.

~A Rwandan talking to a western writer, Andrew Solomon, about his experience with western mental health and depression.

“We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave. They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better, there was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again, there was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy, there was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again. Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.”

THE WORLD IS SOUND

I have been exploring the notion that the World is Sound in both my meditation and music practice.  I don’t usually miss the East coast but I sure would like to see this exhibit.  Below is an article I found on “Lion’s Roar”.  At the end of my post is a short promotion video for the Exhibit.

Touching Sound: A visit to the Rubin Museum’s thrilling new exhibit

BY 

 

From The World Is Sound: Milarepa, Central Tibet, 15th – 16th century; Parcel gilt silver with gilt bronze base; 5.12 5″ h. x 4.125″ w. x 4″ d. Long-term loan from the Nyingjei Lam Collection, L2005.9.62 (HAR 68492) 012; Photo courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art.

“The World Is Sound,” at New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art, features the work of Éliane Radigue, Laetitia Sonami, Bob Bielecki, Christine Sun Kim, Hildegard Westerkamp, John Giorno, Pauline Oliveros, and more. Lindsay Kyte takes you there.

The entrance to the Rubin Museum of Art was alive with sights and sounds as their annual block party, this year called “Sounds of the Street,” welcomed visitors with free admission on Sunday, July 16. Revelers danced to live music, children made crafts, families enjoyed tasty treats, and then, it was through the doors to experience The World Is Sound, the Rubin’s newest exhibit that encourages visitors to “learn to listen with your whole body.”

When I got to the exhibit, housed on the sixth floor, at the top of the museum, I saw visitors giggly from the outdoor festivities suddenly stop, lower their eyes, and begin to intently listen. It was unusual, this experience. A museum visit can often be a hands-off, glass-encased, roped-off glimpse into a past and people that seem so far removed from our current state of being. But not this exhibit.

The first piece I encountered was “Four-Armed Avalokiteshvara in His Pure Realm of Potalika,”—pigment on cloth, and framed in glass. Seemed like a typical “look but don’t touch” experience. However, I saw visitors doing strange things. The piece was featured in a little alcove between two walls (as were a lot of other pieces), like this one:

Photo by Filip Wolak, via Rubin Museum of Art.

People were walking up to the glass frame and putting their faces close to the piece, standing still, really seeing it. Or so I thought, until it was my turn.

A sign indicated I should “touch the wall to listen to the mantra.” Tentatively, I did, as I leaned in toward the piece. All of a sudden, inside that alcove, the sound of monks chanting filled my ears. And, with my hand on the wall now feeling the vibrations of the sound, it felt like I had put my hand on the heart of some being, who was now chanting for me the meaning of this piece, to make it come alive for me. This tactile experience of the sound was so unexpected I was nearly moved to tears.

The World Is Sound, according to the Rubin’s description, “employs sound in new ways to animate and intensify the experience of art in the Rubin’s collection. Organized cyclically—from creation to death to rebirth—the exhibition explores different dimensions of sound and listening and its many functions in Tibetan Buddhism. Featuring work by more than 20 artists, The World Is Sound juxtaposes new site-specific commissions and works by prominent contemporary sound artists with historical objects from the museum’s collection of Tibetan Buddhist art to encourage reflection on how we listen and to challenge entrenched ways of thinking.”

The showstopper was the “leg bone trumpet.”

A row of headphones attached to a wall allowed visitors to hear creations by sound artists. A long bench in a white-walled room invited visitors to lie down to listen to a translated Tibetan funerary text, which could only be heard once you were fully lying down:

Photo by Filip Wolak, via Rubin Museum of Art.

A glass case of ritual text with musical notation suddenly came alive with sound as you stepped up to it. And one of the most popular experiences, on the day I visited, was a display wall of glassed-in musical instruments, which looked like a typical museum exhibit. Except when you approached each, suddenly, you heard the sound of it being played:

Photo by Filip Wolak, via Rubin Museum of Art.

The showstopper was the “leg bone trumpet (kang ling),” associated with the Buddhist concept of impermanence, as it is made from a human leg bone retrieved from a Tibetan sky burial. Played as a musical instrument, it elicited a hushed “wow” from myself and the lady next to me. We just stopped, and listened, and looked at each other.

It was then I realized “looking” is often a private experience, but “listening” is often shared, even with strangers, as you try to grapple with the juxtaposition of life outside dancing on the street and a sound that immediately places death in front of you to remind you that this moment is just that—only a moment.

The World Is Sound is on view at the Rubin until January 8, 2018.

 

“REMEMBERING STEPHEN LEVINE”: A TALK BY WILLIAM LESLIE

                                          Stephen and Ondrea Levine

In my last post “An Incantation to Time’s Disintegration of Memory: The Art of Gwyn Henry”, we began to move into the matter of “impermanence” which is a key concept in Buddhist understanding and practice.  In future posts, I  will be exploring impermanence further through my art.  For now, we turn to a lecture,  by artist and philosopher William Leslie which I video taped at at The Vista Zen Center last November.  His talk focuses on the work of Stephen Levine.  For over thirty-two years, Stephen and his wife Ondrea  provided emotional and spiritual support, from a Buddhist perspective, for those who are life-threatened, and for caregivers. They are the authors of numerous books, including Who DiesEmbracing the Beloved, and A Year to Live, among others.

 Stephen Levine died in January 2016 and William’s talk is titled “Remembering Stephen Levine.  You can watch the video of this talk by clicking on the link below.  The talk itself is only about 19 min. long; the remainder of the video captures the discussion that followed.

https://youtu.be/eF-Qhm306w0

William Leslie’s background includes degrees in physics and philosophy.  He served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in India.  Presently, he teaches philosophy at Palomar College in the San Diego area and maintains a small studio in his home producing “Lightsculptures” for homes, restaurants, hospitals, businesses and religious institutions throughout the country. His work can be seen at:

 http://www.papersunlightsculpture.com/

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An Incantation to Time’s Disintegration of Memory: The Art of Gwyn Henry

 

Sudie by Gwyn Henry

I often feature artistists whose work seems to exemplify the perspectives on  art and spirtiual practices that I have developed over the years on this site.  As I have pointed out in previous posts, art practice can often be meditative in nature but it also seems to inevitable bring up “issues” which, if faced fully, can be transformitive.  A good example of this, I think, can be found in the work of Gwyn Henry of Excondido CA.  This post consists of a video, a series of images and a short statement  by Gwyn.  My suggestion is that you watch her short video first and then scroll down to see the still images and her account of how her work has evolved.       http://choctaw44.wixsite.com/gwynart

 

 

 Click on link to see Video by Gwyn Henry:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIKNnFjtKac&feature=youtu.be

 

“An Incantation to Time’s Disintegration of Memory”

                         by Gwyn Henry

When I acquired software that allowed my computer to communicate with an old-school VCR player, I was eager to put my parents’ vintage home movie footage into my film editing application for viewing. The footage was in VHS cassette format, and had been stored for over half a century. Once the frames began to move in front of me, I suddenly became aware of, and shocked by, the way those cherished images of my childhood, were decomposing. They had become a chaos of fragments, like shards from a broken mirror…. a disembodied head here, an arm there, torsos flitting briefly across the sceene. What images were still discernable held striations, static, their colors fading fast, and large sections were already and simply gone.

This disintegration struck me as a profound metaphor for what happens to human memories. In the same way one might discover, years after a loved one dies, calling their face to mind has become strangely impossible; or we have forgotten the ending of one of our life’s important narratives; or have confused one long-ago friend with another…

 

Watching my childhood flicker and sputter before me, it was as if the most fundamental connections to other humans… my parents, grandparents, brother, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins… were literally, before my eyes, saying good by, breaking up & vanishing. More than a few times I reached to touch the screen, as if to stay them, as if I could hold them in my hand to keep them from leaving.

 

Yet even as I experienced this human aversion to the way Nature imposes a time limit on the stuff of this world, I must admit to finding Beauty within that disintegration and vanishment. The nascent Images of my life, preserved by this outmoded technology, reveal an eloquence that speaks to many things: the fading of the history of our lives as it exists in memory, the temporary nature of our lives, the physical decay of the tapes themselves, and just as much, the conceptual worlds of technologies that come and go with the quickness of ephemera: Today’s high-cachet iphone is tomorrow’s rubbish.

Immersed in making video art at the time, I created and produced a “video poem” from the home movie footage, presenting the images as art as well as artifact. The video poem was intended to be an abstraction, or embodiment, of the essential qualities of my discovery of the connection between the loss of memory, and the loss of the vintage tapes. An attempt to show the way I experienced it. It is titled, AN INCANTATION TO

 

TIME’S DISINTEGRATION OF MEMORY.

A few years later, I revisited the video poem, which resulted in me excising single frames, “stills”, from it (perhaps, unknowingly, another attempt to keep the images from disappearing!). After adding more digital effects, then printing and framing them, to my surprise they became icon-like in their stillness, images frozen for contemplation. Like icons, they offer entry to the world of the subject (my family and my childhood).. a world where discovery and revelation can be found and explored.

I have determined that not only traditional religious icons can lead to revelation. A single human life also encompasses its own world of personal iconic images which, if entered, offers a path to deeper knowledge and understanding of that individual world. Those images can allow us to see and feel even more keenly what we have lived.

—Gwyn

NOTE:

Some of the images carry a visual conversation between my inked traces, and the landscape of the image. I found this process to be meditative, and evocative of feelings and impressions that were often beyond words. Each ended with a sense of a completed entirety….something had been brought full circle. –g,

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1) “wow, I felt it as a dissolution of the Self…
thank you for this Steve”  A.

2)

Thanks for that Steve… I don’t often take the time to ponder and reflect regarding where I have been and where I am going as a result of where I have been… Yet, when I do, very much like Gwyn, I am apt to walk through doors which have been closed for years or perhaps doors that I never even stood in front of before – Deep stuff, my man!!! again, thanks for sharing.  S.
3)

I know Gwyn.
Jon

 

RITUAL JOURNEY: THE SHUSO HOSSEN FINALE

Today’s post consists of the last of the segments from my Shuso Hossen Ceremony.  It was lead by Alessandra and William and was a beautiful and fitting closing segment to the Ceremony and my year-long examination of the place of Zen ritual in contemporary society. You can see this segment of the Ceremony at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8a3ypmW7qk

You can see other segments of the Ceremony (which took place in March 2016) and a series of talks on Ritual that led up to the Ceremony at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKjCTdN9J7bhP7QCS16d1sA

 

“MONEY (THAT’S WHAT I WANT)” FEATURING M.C. DONALD TRUMP

Over the past few months I have been using my Digital Audio Workstation to put my personal signature on some of my favorite dance tunes.  In one, ” Money (That’s What I Want)”, I used selections from some Trump speeches to create a “Trump Rap” section. Probably because the Republican Convention began today, I remembered this revamped tune and decided it might be interesting to post it on Youtube.  So I quickly downloaded a bunch of photos and videos that I thought might go with the music.

Here at Art and Zen Today, we tend to try to remain bipartisan or at least bi-polar,  so this is not the usual type of video featured here.  However, I just could not help myself and hope that you enjoy it.  Believe me, it’s huge!!  ”Money” is a great dance tune, so if your going to listen to it, you might as well get up and dance as well. To watch the video, click on the link below:

 

https://youtu.be/sIhXrihI2QQ

 

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