Sunday, June 16, 2019

What Is Art?




"Art is a place where you can ask a lot of questions." - Rirkrit Tiravanija
"Art is a wound turned into light." - Georges Braque

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Real

Editor's Note: Originally written April 2016

The Real

You ask, what is Real?

I ask, do you have the courage to find out?

Do you have the relentlessness?

If you plunge your head in a river,
holding your breath, burning your lungs,
Do you want to know as badly
As you want that breath of air?

Can you tell what is Real?

Is it monkeys pounding on the metal roof,
Or the throbbing fear stalking from your limbs?

Will you find it below the defilements,
peeling back layer after layer,
like a snake molting its skin?

Do your nightmares not make you startled?

Do your fantasies not make you aroused?

Can you tell what is Real?

Restlessness or relaxation
Agitation or perseverance
Pain or purification

To know what will prevail,
Understand what is Real
And what is not

Sunday, April 21, 2019

No Mind

Editor's Note: Originally written April 2018, this poem was partially inspired by this classic movie scene

No Mind

Too many minds
Mind on relations
Mind on work
Mind on fear
Mind on pleasure
Too many minds

Not every thought the mind serves is worth something

Why is thought-ful the status quo?
Why counter thought with thought?
When feeling small, remember you're vast, unique
When feeling big, remember you're a universal speck
Too much thought

I have another way:
No mind

It's existence, not merely dwelling in existence
Not watching a swimmer in a vast clear blue ocean
It's plunging in yourself

No internal dialog
No evaluation
Just being with a capital B
No mind

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Drop Into Reality

Drop Into Reality

Drop into reality,
Join the fray
Leave your baggage
Release your stories
Don't fuss about the spade,
Just start tilling!

Join the fray,
Any time

Sensations are impersonal
Sensations are a-senseless
Don't bring your calendar,
Your time is a fear
A silly sail
In the vast ocean of Consciousness
Where karmic waves
Connect countless lifetimes

Drop in,
Right now

Saturday, September 15, 2018

#MomStories

My mother is a very warm, gentle, and caring soul. She continuously and naturally does things, large and small, that reflect these qualities.

Last month I was with Mom for a week and noticed a few of these extra-ordinary acts of love that she does as a matter of course. I felt moved to capture them as #MomStories. I hope that decades from now I will read these stories and it will invoke the essence of Mom and make her spirit alive and close.

Clothespins

I was taking a load of laundry out to our backyard where we have a long clothesline for drying. There was a previous load of clothes on the lines that Mom had hung, a mix of her's and others'. We have a bunch of clothespins there to attach articles so they don't get blown away by the wind and get dirty, which happens from time to time. The load on the line was big, so there weren't enough pins for all the clothes so some hung unpinned.

I noticed that all the unpinned clothes belonged to Mom. She had made sure that in case clothes got dirty, they would be hers. It was a remarkable gesture because it was so invisible; no one would ever notice it; maybe Mom wasn't even conscious of what she did. She puts others before herself in a completely effortless way.

Prayer Stick

I received a very special gift from a few very special people: Pavi, Viral, and Big John Malloy. It is a Hopi prayer stick. It doesn't look like much, a wooden pencil-like stick with a turkey feather attached to an end with string, but the stick is very sacred and created with a great amount of care and skill by chosen people infused with sacred spirit. It was sitting on my desk when Mom came up and saw it. She piked it up immediately and asked about it. I explained the significance behind the stick, how it represents connectivity to God and about the Hopi people whose culture is oriented around water. Mom listened patiently while holding the stick in her hand. She immediately related and understood that this rather strange and foreign looking object was something to be honored. She turned it over in her hand delicately and reverently and offered her interpretation of the feather and stick, as a symbol of reaching out to God.

Mom is very sensitive to spirit and sacred matters. She infuses that spirit into her everyday life and connects with people through a lens of curiosity, humility, and brotherhood. In a few moments, the Hopi people, whom she previously knew nothing about, were transformed into kin.

Mabel 

Mom is the only person I know who actively engages strangers in conversation on a regular basis. As in she will be on a walk in our neighborhood, see someone she has never met, approach them, introduce herself, and makes friends. Lot of times the other person also desires to connect but is held back by timidity or feeling it's imposing or bothering. Especially in America where individualism is king. But Mom fearlessly breaks the ice and introduces herself to young and old alike, and has made many lasting friendships through these cold calls.

I was at the park near our house with Mom when she introduced me to a friend she had met on one of her walks, Mabel. Mabel is a widow from Bangalore who now lives with one of her daughters in the neighborhood, and is about Mom's age. Mom cold-friended her and they clicked right away. When I met Mabel, the first thing she said was how wonderful Mom is. I could see gratitude in her eyes for Mom, a good friend she unexpectedly received in a foreign land. Mabel said in a short time, she feels like she has known Mom for years. I told her that is a feeling people commonly have for Mom; she is one of those people gifted in making anyone feel very cared for and connected with almost immediately.

I salute my Mom for the person she is and how she lives, and continue to be inspired by her.

What are your #MomStories?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Human Blossom

Sunday Grocery Gang members. Suryakanta Ba in the middle
For the past several years, I have been taking Ba and some of her friends for grocery shopping trips on Sundays. This Sunday we had the car packed with Ba, Hansoiya Ba, Kanta Ba, and first timer 91-year Suryaakanta Ba. Suryakanta Ba is the oldest of all, and she may be the sweetest. She is very cheerful,  always upbeat, sensitive, regularly wears a warm and friendly smile, and is always happy to give blessings.

We were in the grocery store and as she was picking vegetables she accidentally swiped Ba’s face with her hand, knocking off her glasses. I didn’t see it, but when I came over to them Suryakanta Ba was very gently stroking Ba and asking her repeatedly if she was alright and cursing herself for being so careless. I asked what happened, and she explained she accidentally hit her and it was a very wrong thing to do. Then, in the sweetest way, with tears welling up in her eyes and throat, in English she said “sorry” to Ba. It was the gentlest, sweetest thing I had every witnessed an old person do. It felt monumental for such an old person to so humbly apologize for anything. Even the stranger next to us, who also was startled by the sweetness, looked over and smiled at the exchange.


When you witness a beautiful flower in bloom, it can feel like all the beauty of the world has been funneled in and poured into that single moment. Or into a sunset or starry night. To me this moment felt like a human blossom. For a moment I forgot everything else and was reminded how beautiful the world can be.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sleep

I was talking with Pavi last month and she was sharing about an Ayurvedic master named Shunyaji who runs a world-renowned Institute in the Bay Area. In one of the courses where she trains students to teach Ayurveda, she started the first class by saying: You are going to learn a lot of things in this course and cover topics in great depth. You may not remember most and practice even less. But if you forget everything else I say, remember these two things and practice them for a lifetime of good health:
  1. Get enough sleep and sleep on time
  2. Avoid snacking
I found it fascinating that a teacher steeped so deeply in this ancient science began her course and essentialized the teachings into these two points.

Pavi and I talked more about the impact of good sleep and it inspired me to commit to sleeping on time and in greater quantity. Ayurveda says that the body gets peak rest during 11am-3am, so sleeping by 10:30pm is important. I was normally sleeping between 11-12am, and it would be a significant shift to get to bed by 10:30. But I told Pavi my goal would be to at least get to bed before 11pm regularly.

I have been putting it into practice for about a month and, though I'm still not there yet consistently, am finding it really beneficial. I'm not sure if it's directly caused by sleeping early, but I feel more at ease, less anxious in my day-to-day. I have been dealing with anxiety in the mornings and stress throughout the day for a couple years now so this has been a welcome change.

Earlier sleep means a bigger change in my routine, most notably it means I have to exercise in the mornings rather than evenings. Since I was sleeping earlier, I have been waking up earlier so this became a possibility. Morning workouts has been a happy side effect of the sleep shift and I've been really loving it. It's forced me to go to the gym less, so less heavy weight workouts but I've anyway been trying to move more towards flexibility and mobility through yoga and gymnastics-style training (after listening to an incredible interview with the former US Gymnastics coach Chris Sommer). Shifting away from the gym has brought in more variety in exercise as well, I rotate between 7-minute workout (from Nimo), 8-minute abs (from Hash), the Bear (a routine with dumbbell I learned from Denny, a 70+ year-old personal trainer I met in Florida that's built like a tank), pushups, kettlebell, etc. I do wind sprints on the riverfront instead of on the treadmill, which is better for the knees and probably for the body.

The sleep change causing ripple effects on the rest of life reminds me of an interview Naval Ravikant gave where he said the simple decision to work out every morning changed his whole life, because it meant he had to go to sleep early, which meant he couldn't stay out late, which meant he stopped drinking because he stopped going out with friends at night to bars. Stopping drinking in turn had many other positive mental and physical benefits. It's all connected and one discipline you bring in can have a positive ripple effect across many aspects of life. 

I started keeping a sleep log to track my sleep and motivate the behavior change, so far so good!