Found Sculpture

I saw this beautiful roll of chicken wire in the Enid Haupt garden when I was walking back to the office after a quick visit to see the Gods of Angkor exhibit at the Sackler Gallery (sorry about the absence of links; blogging from the BB).

I was first introduced to the idea of “found poetry” in junior high school and have developed a life-long habit of photographing words to change, enhance, and/or question their meaning and hidden beauty by the act of extracting them from their original place and presenting them as a photograph. Marcel Duchamp and others did what poets and photographers were doing with words with ordinary objects by presenting them as sculpture.

Here, where I have photographed the chicken wire roll, is the art a sculpture (because I could treat it as such) of which I have taken a photograph–the photograph being mere documentation? Is the art the photograph of what I have seen to the extent I am offering it as a vision and a dialogue generated by what I saw? Or is the photograph merely a snapshot taken with a hand-held computer device documenting an object that happened to be sitting there–not art at all? If it were not for artists such as Duchamp, could I or would I even be able to ask this question?

I think that analogous types of questions have been and can be asked about the variety of religious and mystical experience. Is there a particular way they must be experienced? Do such experiences have to fit within a prescribed framework to be valid? When are such experiences madness or delusion and when are they the voice of the spirit? Who gets to decide? Does it depend on the era and the culture in which the experiencer lives? Does the answer to any of these questions matter if the experiences lead one to a more loving, compassionate, and beauty-filled life?


The Sky Is Just As Big Wherever You Are

The sky was luminous and beautiful early this morning when I headed out to teach. The air was scrubbed clear by the cold front that passed through in the night, leaving behind fluffy clouds to highlight the luminousity of the sun rising.

As I enjoyed looking at the clouds and light in the sky on my walk to Union Station to catch the metro to go teach, I thought about seeing the sky in Arizona next week. When I am there, I always feel a keen delight when I look at the sky. Then I thought that the sky is just as lovely here. It is that things on the land are bigger and farther apart out west that make the sky seem bigger.

When life is easeful and we are feeling spacious, then the inner place of meditation can feel more luminous than when we are struggling through the day. But just as the sky is just as big wherever we are on the planet, the inner space of meditation is just as vast and luminous no matter what is going on in our lives. The more we remember that and the more we look, the more we will have the opportunity to be lit up from the inside.


Found Exhortation (Core Value of the Month: Discipline)

What if we were to cease to think of discipline as constraint, as punishment, as something confining and unattainably rigorous, something satisfying only in having suffered for gain?  What if we were to understand it, as Swami Chidvilasananda, suggests as discipleship, a cleaving to the path out of the exquisitely blissful yearning for the light?  Such discipline is, I think, what is the true practice of brahmacharya — aligning with the divine.

It was such a beautiful day that I spent as much time as possible walking in the neighborhood.  That walking is “good for me” was just an incidental benefit.


Waiting for the Bus

Is it benign multitasking or a sign of being too attached to social media that I am writing while I am waiting for the bus home? I have taken my moment to appreciate the beauty of the Dome.

Tonight, I think it is the former. I have twelve minutes to spare. Writing now means that I will not even be tempted to turn on the computer when I get home. I will pet the cats and wash and sit for meditation before getting ready for bed.

I can pause, here, thinking about the synchronicity of the centering Batya used at the beginning of class I took tonight (level 4 at Willow Street, Takoma Park). She told us of a story she had heard on a podcast about a woman who described having a stroke as freeing her mind from its incessant chatter when the language center of the brain was temporarily immobilized. That quiet is, in part, what comes from a deep and consistent meditation practice. The synchronicity was that I am reading Ram Das’s “Be Love Now” (hot off the press), which is inevitably leading me to think about the interconnection between yoga practice and facing a stroke. It is not something I think of often.

The more we are open and aware, though, the more we will see connections and synchronicities. The more consistently we practice, the more likely we are to experience the good in even the greatest of challenges.

And now, the bus is here, and I am on my way home.