Friday, December 17, 2010

Here's That Christmas Pig You Asked For!

Merry Merry! from the airbrushed Paper Moon days...these days though, we keep it vegetarian!

Tales: Too Much, Not Enough?

We are all subject to the increasing speed with which "material consciousness" floods into our life plane. It can be confusing, disorienting. How can anyone expect to know so much new information so quickly? Depending upon the media that creates this flood for guidance in the face of it all is like asking for a drink of water from a tsunami. The intent is to submerge you, to convince you that all this buffeting you is your connection to life; and that you are not keeping up with the pace required to stay afloat on this sea of information and access to material success. You are supposed to feel like you've fallen behind. That way, you'll have to buy stuff to catch up. More technology. The latest fashion. Political propaganda. Controlling the media message is an occult art - and there are some very effective artists around these days...

Of course it's probably true that this week there are a couple new programs on the market that have rendered your expertise obsolete. There are always people younger than you somewhere out there, hungry for your job, who know these new programs already. That's possibly all true. But would it surprise you to know that life in our Western Culture has always felt this way? (It's starting to feel like that in The East too- our gift to the world)

Merchants in ancient Rome suffered from increased "global" competition. At the time of the Industrial Revolution, thousands and thousands of craftsmen and laborers lost their life's work. So how does that knowledge help you in the face of impending disaster? Here the simple, positive, life-affirming solution; the strategy for dealing with this onslaught:

Stop paying attention to it! Put away your checkbook! It's only a disaster in the path of that tidal wave of "material consciousness." In the surrounding, underlying, enfolding, energizing sea of "Spiritual Consciousness" that all Life exists in, it's only Change - the most predictable, and inevitable part of Life. If you simply just switch the consciousness that you live in, from "Material" to "Spiritual," then you will immediately become aware that good things come with Change. Just turn off the TV and talk radio, close up the online news site, focus on yourself for a moment, and feel Life surging through you. Experience the joy of Love that provides a real energizing direction in your life any time you choose to pay attention to it! Don't worry about not knowing all the latest programs, and your intuitive spiritual intelligence will direct you to whatever you need to get by with ease. Gracefully. It's a completely different type of success than having a lot of apps on your I-Pad, or a job working for a soulless corporation. More profound. More lasting.

But could it really be that easy? Of course not - it requires a sort of vigilance. You have to live by the highest principles you can possibly muster. You have to try your best not to do anything you know to be wrong in your heart. It doesn't happen overnight. It's a little hard work at times, but the payoff is huge.

Aim high. Show up. Be kind. Be generous with your time and resources. Help others. Everything will begin to work in your Life in a way that "keeping up with the I-Joneses" could never allow. You'll find your real connection and purpose. And once you're living that way, you won't have to be trying to get somewhere else. You can "make the road home be home."

Check out this wonderful little talk about why we need to believe in each other by Viktor Frankl, the author of "Man's Search for Meaning." When you aim high, you have to take into account the speed of the wind, and the rotation of the Earth, but even if you're a little off, you'll land much closer to where you want to be.

"Why do you wash the outside of the cup?

Do you not understand that

the one who made the outside

also made the inside?"

The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 89

"Clay is molded to form a cup

yet only the space within

allows the cup to hold water."

The Tao te Ching, 11

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Toto Mes Heroes"

I recently found this illo promo from '94 picturing all my heroes. I have a lot more heroes now including women of course, but these are still good. Notice no Yeshua, Buddha, Lao Tzu... Back then, you couldn't find a picture of Heinz Edelmann...I've added one in memorium. Click on the key below for legibility.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tales: A Look at Looking

Let's start by looking at a bunch of quotes...

The great Tao flows everywhere

It fills everything to the left

and to the right

All things owe their existence to it

and it cannot deny any one of them

Tao te Ching, 34

"I am the light that shines on everyone

I am the All.

The All came forth from me

and the All came into me.

Split the wood and I am there.

Turn over the stone,

and you will find me."

The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 77

"I am ever present to those who have realized me

in every creature. Seeing all life as my manifestation,

they are never separated from me. They worship me

in the hearts of all, and all their actions proceed from me.

Wherever they live, they abide in me."

The Bhagavad Gita, 6:30-31

"To God belongs the East and the West;

and wherever you turn,

there is the face of God."

The Qu'ran, Surah 2

Surfaces create a great many of this world's problems, with the suggestions that they are the most important and compelling part of life, being the most visible, and what we interact with the most; none of which is true. You can neither tell a book by it's cover, nor the content of a person's heart from the clothes they wear. It's impossible for our eyes to see into the whirring masses of sub-atomic particles all dancing inside our supposedly "solid" world. There is an exponential relationship of the outside to the inside of everything.

When we are confronted by surfaces: appearances, behaviors, "final results," we can't compare our insides to those outsides, but only what we don't know of the insides of each. By what we can identify with.

This occupation by spirit is as mysterious as it is miraculous, and it is the most important, the most evident, interactive, and compelling whether we can see past the surface or not. We can see that dance plainly, if we allow ourselves to. So pay as little attention to the surface as possible. Practice seeing the spirit arising as often as you can manage.

All of these quotes from all of these wisdom sources are saying the same thing, aren't they? We display our ignorance by relying on some visible affirmation, when we know that every surface changes, that the mystery within alone remains Eternal. And everything we witness with our minds, and our eyes, and our hearts is actually the proof of our shared composition, the substance of our source and ineffable connection. The "Face of God."

It's just a matter of perception. Of allowing yourself to look past the surface by looking with a vision that's free of judgment and comparison, and so fully engaged by compassion. Here, a couple more quotes, that say the same thing:

"A human being is part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Albert Einstein

"The disciples asked him:

'When will the Kingdom come?'

Yeshua answered:

It will not come by watching for it...

The spread out over the whole earth,

and people do not have eyes to see it."

The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 113

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's a Bearchucker!

I ran across this funny weapon from Codename: Kids Next Door, and thought I'd better put it up. It would make a great Xmas gift, I think...good for a holiday hug!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Website Update

This is to announce that I've just completed an update of my website, with the help of Mike Perkins at Setstatic. Aside from a new palette, there's lots of new material to see in Animation Design & Art Direction - with a whole new Development Art & Design page (featuring three new projects); a bunch of new Word World, Season Three; and an all-new Online Design page. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks, Mike.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Here's how that red firetruck turned out...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A little late for Halloween, but still in time for a scare - a dark and spooky boiler room for a PBS Kids project...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tales: Backtrack to Aurobindo on Meditation

Backtracking a little bit to the earlier posts concerning meditation, I came across these quotes from the Super-Guru, Sri Aurobindo. Have you ever heard of him? This Aurobindo Wiki entry is a good introduction, but needless to say, he seemed to know just about everything about everything. He wrote prolifically about it with such amazing acuity, insight, wisdom, and supreme knowledge, that one wonders whether one might possibly overcome his propensity for sentences that run-on in the extreme, in a prosaic style which could only be described as dated, beyond what any reasonable reader may be willing to continue concentrating upon, or even caring about, so that one may eventually have to give up to the simple fact, arising from the intricate convolutions of his grammatical style and intensely profound and esoteric subject matter, that one has forgotten what he (being The Super-Guru Aurobindo) was talking about in the first place. 

Kind of like that. But bear with him and you'll find he really did know everything about everything. It's probably best to tackle his small, edited collections first, like: The Future Evolution of Man, and Bases of Yoga.

Now what was I talking about again? Oh yeah – Aurobindo"s observations on meditation. He really had a way of directly addressing the heart of meditation, it's problems and purposes. Notice how concise and enlightening these bits about it are, from Bases of Yoga:

"A quiet mind does not mean that there will be no thoughts or mental movements at all, but that these will be on the surface and you will feel your true being within separate from them, observing but not carried away, able to watch and judge them and reject all that has to be rejected and accept and keep to all that is true consciousness and true experience."

"...but I do not mean by quietness of mind entire silence. I mean a mind free from disturbance and trouble, steady, light and glad so as to open it to the Force that will change the nature. The important thing is to get rid of the habit of the invasion of troubling thoughts, wrong feelings, confusion of ideas, unhappy movements. These disturb the nature and cloud it and make it difficult for the Force to work; when the mind is quiet and at peace, the Force can work more easily. It should be possible to see things that have to be changed in you without being upset or depressed; the change is then more easily done."

He continues on (and on) in the generous and helpful manner that was his trademark. His teachings on the spiritual evolution of humankind are truly profound and essential. As you see from the above quote, he was a big influence on everyone from George Lucas to Ram Dass, Sri Chinmoy, and Michael Murphy, founder of the Esalen Institute.

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Location That Can Come to Life

After all the "wordstuff"coming to life in Word World, I thought I'd revisit this Aztec Temple miniature golf hole that comes to life as a dangerous 'bot. I would have loved to do the tranformation stages, but unfortunately, this show for Disney didn't get quite that far...

Reading Things and Places...

Earlier, I showed what it's like to build readable lower case characters for Word World, like with the cat and the pelican. Here's a legible place, and a couple of things built out of the letters that spell what they are, like everything has to do "where words come alive."

Friday, October 8, 2010

From WordWorld Season Three: The legible Mr. Fox. For most of the first, and some of the second season, everything in WordWorld was made out of capital letters, not so Season Three, when lower case took over. For a show called, I think, "X Marks the Spot."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Little High and Outside...

Sometimes, a show pitch gets really close. This is one of those that deserved to get on the air, but didn't quite make it (yet!). Done for the great creative team of Diane Kredensor, Jeff Buckland, and Jack Spillum at Tricycle. Shows have gotta have a look: "brand" forms, and a palette that can be spotted by a kid flying past a station, or an app, on a hand-held something, or at a store shelf. There's too much spiky generic design out there- good feeling makes the brand. This is a sort of fairy tale "Colorforms" world, with a touch of UPA, hopefully a lot of fun, and a sweet kind of softness that makes Math -the show's subject- seem not so hard. ( At least I thought it was hard when I was a kid...)

Here's the world where it takes place in rough form (pardon my blurred text). It helps to know where you are all the time...and solves a lot of problems for potential virtual versions.

A background (very) rough that didn't make it to color this time...with tiny versions of Diane's super cute characters. Development happens so fast these days, your first pass is usually all you get.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tales: Meditation Tips. Or, Which Way Was That to Nirvana Again? Part 2 of 2

Here's the second part of the previous post, start down there- it's the second and third methods of meditating that have helped me with what to think about when I'm not supposed to be thinking of anything...

Devotional Meditation

For many of us, it's very helpful to "go to a peaceful place" in our mind when we meditate. Guided meditations can be great for this. When we meditate quietly by ourselves, we can call up a thought and feeling of a divine environment, or inspirational spiritual figure. In this form of meditation, it's important to feel, to expand from our hearts, as well as witnessing the workings in our heads. We might think of a heavenly dimension, a sacred location, a perfect summer day; or of a prophet, saint, or catalyst of personal transformation, like Yeshua (Jesus), Teresa of Avila, Mahatma Gandhi, or The Buddha.

We might focus on our personal concept of God: The Heavenly Father, The Feminine Divine, the Loving and Miraculous Universe. Or we might focus our meditative thoughts and feelings on Love. On the love of our family; on the love of our pet (or of all living things); on the joy of Being that is the love of this life. On gratitude for the gifts we receive each day. The beautiful opportunities we have for sharing our joys and sorrows with one another, and the world. The remarkable flow of Love through our lives. Or on how everyone and everything deserves Love.

Our internal dialogue while meditating might go something like this, for example: "Thank you God, Divine Mother, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna (insert your favorite...), angels and ancestors, family and friends, for the Love in my life. Make me a pure channel of Love and Peace. Let Love surround me and flow through me. Let me sit in a place of Love and light. Let me be Love."
Of course, you can replace God with Love, or Love with God, or mom, or get the point. The subject of your purest spiritual devotion.

You may pray, or chant to focus the connection of your meditation. Like the sacred word OM, open "ahhh," then out and rounded "O," and ending with a deep mmmmmm. The Lord's Prayer, or the St. Francis Prayer, or a mantra, like Om mani padme hum, Buddha's Mantra of Love and Great Compassion. We call on the spirits of light and Love that surround us, or invoke the beautiful power of the Universe that makes the flowers bloom. We single-pointedly focus on that same power that makes us bloom into Love.

With this devotional focus, we forget ourselves, and the troubled thoughts manufactured by our unconscious, and connect to our true selves. To the beauty and mystery of Being in unified consciousness. We recognize ourselves as being one with everybody and everything, and transform our daily lives beyond mundane fears and superficial demands. We arrest our thinking at the level of the Ego, and transcend it with expanding heart energy. Like that.
In Hinduism, this corresponds to Bhakti Yoga, The Yoga of Devotion, and can be seen practiced to something of an extreme by Hare Krishnas

Experiential Meditation

What do you see when you have your eyes closed. It's not pure blackness, is it? In fact, there's a kind of field of waving, effervescent light there inside your eyelids. Dim, vibrating, alive. There's a sort of dance of particles. The lack of light, or the remains of light, creating fields of color, of energy, that erupt and move across your inner vision. It's a kind of process, perhaps at an electrochemical level, that you can actually witness with your eyes closed. It's not just dark.

What makes you breath, and makes your heart beat? It's involuntary. We could say that it's the same power that's behind the heartbeat of the Universe- the pulsing evidence of the very moment of creation. While the best efforts of our intellect to describe it only lead us to Frankenstein, if you just sit quietly and concentrate on your breathing, you are immediately grounded in the inexplicable mechanical process of Being.
You breathe in, the breath makes it's cycle, and you breathe out. A small space, and you breathe in again. This happens whether you focus on it or not, but if you do, you'll notice that little else enters your internal dialogue, which might go something like this: "I breathe in slowly through my nose, my breath turns the corner, and I breathe out slowly through my mouth. In through my nose, out through my mouth. I breathe in again from my stomach drawing in the sky, and breathe out down through my hips, anchoring to the earth. I breathe in the pain all around me, and breathe out loving kindness."

Now try the same kind of focus on your heartbeat, which you really don't beat it- it beats you. Like the taut membrane of a drum. Feel the tension and flow of your circulation out to your hands and feet. Filling your face. Tingling through your body in perfect unison with your breath. Focus your perception inward on these automatic mechanisms of Life that we normally pay so little attention to; that connect us directly with all consciousness in the Universe.

Look behind your closed eyes to that point in the center between your brows that a swami calls your "third eye," or Sixth Chakra. Enter into that center of internal illumination, if you can, with practice, feel the energy course through you following the solid rhythm of your breath, in and out. "Pull" the string at the top of your head to straighten your spine- sometimes your vertebrae will 'pop' in succession, releasing more inner flow and awareness.
In this state, externally oriented thinking is suspended as we enter unified consciousness.

Now just sit, and focus, and watch, and be, and as you get used to practicing these three methods, you'll find that they merge together, as they should. Elements of Analytical Meditation enter your inner dialogue, and you can direct these 'thought packages' towards objects of your devotion- towards Love, as you sustain the underlying foundational thought: "...breathe in receiving, breathe out giving..." for example. Watch the energy cascade across your inner screen, and realize a surrender into the power beyond "normal" consciousness. An energy that enfolds, supports, and animates All. Now sit and listen, not to your thoughts, but in between them, because what questions we ask in prayer, are answered in meditation.

I hope that these techniques are helpful- they're the best I can do to describe what has worked for me. And what is that, what have they done? To paraphrase, when Buddha was asked "What have you gained from all your meditation?"
"Nothing at all."
"Then what good is it?"
"Let me tell you what I lost through meditation: sickness, anger, depression, insecurity, the burden of old age, the fear of death. That is the good of meditation, which leads to nirvana."

Start this two-part "Tips for Meditation" with Part One...

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tales: Meditation Tips. Or, What to Think About When You're Not Supposed To Be Thinking At All. Part 1 of 2

Recently I've had a number of requests for tips on meditation techniques, so I'm going to take a shot at simplifying the means by which a meditator-to-be might find their way down the path to clear-minded joy, serenity, and focus.
There are as many ways to meditate as there are meditators, and just a simple search of the topic will quickly reveal lots of good advice on how to go about it (here is a really excellent site). I always recommend Chapter Six of The Bhagavad Gita. It's a four or five thousand year-old how-to that's pretty hard to beat. In Teachings of the Buddha, edited by Jack Kornfield, you'll find Zen Master Dogen's "Practice of Meditation," which is a very simple and direct suggestion for how to meditate. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali detail the paths and purposes of meditation. In Eknath Easwaran's translation of The Dhammapada, there's a great description of the four dhyanas, or Buddha's stages of meditation leading to his enlightenment. It gives a very comprehensive idea or what we're going for in it's ultimate form.
If you get to the fourth dhyana your first time out, let's just say you're a real natural. Maybe you could give me some lessons?
Here are my personal suggestions:


Be comfortable, but not too comfortable. The object is simple, relaxed unity, not unconsciousness. Sitting in a chair is okay, and is good practice for meditating on a train, a plane, or a bus, but making like a real swami, and sitting cross-legged in a half-lotus (if possible), is best. Obviously, it's best to never be preoccupied by any kind of pain. You can do a simple image search to get the idea on optimum positions.
Sit on a cushion or folded blanket, and on a slight slope is good too -where your feet naturally settle a bit lower than the base of your spine. Imagine that "golden string" pulling straight up your spine, tying to the crown of your head, and drawing straight up towards heaven. Relax your neck, and let your shoulders hang from your spine like a rack.
Sit in peaceful nature, if possible, but if not, burn sage or mild incense, and play recorded nature sounds, or these recommended cds: Healing Ragas, Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, Shamanic Dream, The Ultimate Om. All are favorites of mine -not too melodically involving. Vocal guided meditations can be very helpful, but are different from what I'm going to be addressing, which is: how do I just sit alone and make the "magic" happen?

The goals of meditation are twofold: 1) to become a witness to our thoughts, and separate our true inner-self from thinking's imaginary fears and demands 2) to unite our true inner self with all Being, Love, and Life in the Universe. No problem, right?
The problem often starts when we sit down to clear our mind, and it doesn't just clear. We can't just turn off our thoughts and go straight to that calm, peaceful nirvana that meditation can and will lead us into, if we practice, practice, practice. Like how you get to Carnegie Hall.
So here are three ways to deal with the challenge of a noisy mind, culled from my experience, that I hope you'll find helpful. Nothing official - I pulled these categories out of the air, so they may be used elsewhere with a similar intention. They basically concern: what do we think about when we meditate, and how can it lead us to a serene and focused place?

Analytical Meditation

Thinking is an overlying process that demands movement. Our minds can be relentless, hopping from subject to subject. Stringing together seemingly unrelated topics, or often dragging us unwittingly into difficult and upsetting areas, like the antics of an Ex, or the politics of the office, or the world.
In what I call Analytical Meditation, the object is to observe our thoughts. You might begin by saying to yourself: "I'm going to sit and quietly think about my thinking." Just watch how your thoughts form and come onto the internal stage in your mind. How they connect to each other, and where they lead you to. Are there certain feelings associated with certain thoughts, that invariably inspire more thoughts and more feelings in the same direction? Does the process demand that your mind make an entire, often familiar loop through a whole set of strung-together thoughts, leading you back to some non-resolved state where you can begin all over -or start on some fresh, similarly inspired "thought package?"
This might take form as an internal dialogue that sounds something like this: "I'm going to sit here and meditate and relax my mind...but I've got to pay that overdue bill before my credit rating crashes! How can I "relax" my thoughts when I've really got some seriously bad stuff that's about to...wait a minute...that's my "I Have To Pay My Bills" thought-package. I recognize that one, and I don't want to go there right now. I don't need to. I'll avoid that thought-loop for the time being, and go back to that calm, comfortable place in my mind between thought-packages. Thank you."
The more you witness your thought processes this way, the easier it becomes to avoid certain thought-loops. We've all said to ourselves, "I don't even want to think about it..." So in meditation, we become aware. We witness that thinking arise, the form it takes, and re-focus (or unfocus) away from it. It can be a good starting place to sit and softly keep this one small thought: "I only have this one small thought...I only have this one small thought...I only have this one small thought..."
So let's get analytical. If I am not that demanding thought-stream, if I can watch it, change it's direction, re-focus it, if I can observe it, then who am I? Who is doing the witnessing?
It's my true inner-self, that's who. It's the Me that's connected to everything in a place of calm reason and being. That's what we're after -that calm space between thought-packets where we can rest and find our true serene and reasonable self. That's the whole, calm, connected place called "unified consciousness."
Of course, our default wants us to snap back to "reality" in a thought-stream that defines us by what we're thinking, so Analytical Meditation requires a sort of vigilance, a dissociation from who we "normally" are. But the more you practice, the easier it gets, and the easier your whole life will begin to feel, because you are no longer pulled around helplessly by your thought-stream, like a wagon with a runaway team of horses.
In Hinduism, the birthplace of meditation, this relates to Raja Yoga, The Royal Path; and Gnana Yoga, The Yoga of Wisdom.

"The doorway to Divinity is...available as a direct experience in the exact split second of 'now' which is discernable between two thoughts.
Dr. David Hawkins

continued next post…

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is now available everywhere, but ask for it it at your local bookstore! 

Virtually Sporty

Between animation gigs, I recently created a virtual sports world for ModoSports with Pileated Pictures. Here's the very first concept sketch for the football world, the map of the world, and a couple rough locations. Note: we changed the iso angle after the football world. The rough location finals were CG rendered.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 20: Becoming A Whole Koko...

With Ruth, who finally helped him become whole...

"Yeshua said: Blessed is the lion which becomes human when consumed by a human. Cursed is the man who is consumed by the lion, and becomes the lion."

Logion 7, The Gospel of Thomas

In the dream he had become the Koko Lion, that is to say he had emerged from his battered chrysalis - broken through the exoskeleton of damaged Ego-Self and stood now a fresh and fragile unknown, but whole man. He was in a place that time had long ago covered over for him - in the downstairs of his father's house, on the rocky hillside overlooking the canyons. Time was opened up and still. Everything was exactly as it had been in his childhood. He was there in a reality underneath and concurrent to this one.

He looked down the long hallway that led to the rooms he and his brother shared, at the farthest end of the house. Diffuse light glowed through the bathroom louvered windows at the end of the hall, inviting him to enter the past. As he walked, he noticed every little thing, just as it had always been. A linoleum square with a tiny chipped corner. The cabinet door ajar (it never would close right). On his left was the door to his brother's room. On his right, the door outside, to the patio and through the oleanders into the canyon, the rusty dirt and granite rocks covered with lichen, surrounded by foxtails and sage and scrub.

Past his brother's door was the door to his room, a little bit open. He sensed someone inside, someone he was meant to visit. He pushed the door open and looked in, and there, sitting cross-legged on the floor was a little boy, ten or eleven. He was drawing intently, but it seemed as though he were putting together a jigsaw puzzle, searching for the little piece that would fit, that would make the whole thing make sense. But it wasn't there. He was trying to draw a picture of it, of that jigsaw piece, like a little island somewhere in a turquoise sea, that he could go away to. The Island of Lost Boys.

"Hello," said Koko. The little boy looked up, with recognition and a little fear in his eyes. "May I come in?" The boy said nothing, but Koko recognized him almost immediately. Koko walked in behind him, and bent down onto one knee. The boy had stopped drawing and put his pencil down and was just sitting in his private world, it's pieces drawn on the paper before him, and all around him on the olive brown carpet. Koko put his hand on the little boy's shoulder, and turned him slightly to face him more.

"There's something I want to tell you," he said softly, comfortingly. The voice that came out of him was a surprise, a voice like a man should sound; like a father, or big brother. He looked into the boy's sad eyes. The boy looked up at him expectantly, like he wasn't going to believe any solution this strangely familiar man had to offer.

"It's not your fault," said Koko. "You were only born here. There's nothing that you've done wrong." The boy looked sad, like he was going to cry. "These people have to do the things they're doing. You're not to blame for any of it.. Know that in your heart, and persevere." Tears welled up in the little boy's eyes. Koko hugged him, and the boy pressed his face into his middle. "I know it's a tall order for a little boy, but I'm always here for you, and there are others you can ask...."

Koko knew the little boy wouldn't, would never ask for help, not until he absolutely had to. Not for many years, until his jigsaw world finally fell apart completely and he was covered over by a scar tissue chrysalis of his own, that his ancestors and Angels and Love would have to help him break through. He couldn't tell the boy the whole path he had before him, the way to manage it, to survive it. He was still so freshly emerged, that he didn't know yet himself. He could only hope that he helped.

The dream ended there, like that, though Koko wanted it to go on, so that he could protect the boy. So that he could try it again, and grow up with the little boy, and give him the hope and the sense of all things being possible that he was just beginning to learn himself. But he would, they each would, have to find the faith to make that realization on their own. To find the forgiveness that reaches right through time, that lives and brings life in every moment.

"Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other, thus should we do, for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World."

Black Elk

Friday, August 13, 2010

The value of a mentor, standing behind you. The ritual of sealing a friend in your heart. Thank you Don, Cha Cha, John, Barbara, Wayne, Petrula, mi guapo hermano, Tom. And most of all to our friend, Rick. From the top of the Wasatch, to the big, blue Pacific...

The Third Power of Maya

The earlier posts on the Maya of Individuality, of Religion, and of Science and Media explored two of the main powers of maya, but only touched on the third...

The Maya of Individuality; the belief that we are separate from everyone and everything around us, is an example of the veiling, or concealing power of Maya. This is the power that prevents us from seeing the true nature and character of things—the simple fact that all life, all consciousness in our universe is connected and interdepen-dent. In this sense we are everyone and everything, and everyone is us. It's only our Ego identification with this form: body, name, feelings, and the like, that creates the false sense of separateness. These concealing aspects of our selves, like everything else in the world, are always in flux, always changing like moving targets, and so they make it difficult for us to connect to one another. Only our core of authentic Being, our Eternal Self, is constant, and constantly connected.

Everything I put out there will impact on me and those around me; everything manifested in the world affects me and everything around it. I may not live near an environmental disaster, but the trauma of it on Nature affects me directly. I may walk away from treating someone badly, but it reflects in the heart of the world. The false belief that I am separate leads me to behave in ways that further separate me—to misperceive my own true experience of Life and create an imaginary (usually self-defensive or self-enhancing) story, to describe my misperceptions.

My being is interdependent on many factors, beyond the micro-cosm of my form. I am part of everything, something we all know intuitively, but the Veiling Power of Maya prevents us from seeing.

" invisible and subtle essence is the Spirit of the whole universe. That is Reality. That is Atman. Thou art That."           Chandogya Upanishad , 6.12

The Maya of Religion, and of Science and Media – our self-defining associations with a set of cultural beliefs – are examples of the Projecting Power of Maya. It's the Ego-force that projects comparisons and judgments, definitions and labels, with their associated desires, identifications, and diversions. It hangs a defining filter over the world we perceive.

We identify ourselves as this or that: as Jew or Christian; as Conservative or Liberal; as a product of Intelligent Design or one of sheer random chemistry; when all these definitions are simply shifting projections of the individual and collective Ego. The truth is that we are all pretty much exactly the same thing. Yet we identify with concepts of "knowledge," of "logic," with dogma, and with cultural imperatives, and in doing so, lose sight of the unchanging Akashic Field that unifies the consciousness we share with the Earth and all it's manifestations. We can't see the living, breathing forest, for how we choose to name (and use) the trees. This is the Projecting Power of Maya.

"Though it is hidden in all things, the Self shines not forth."
Katha Upanishad, 3.12

But inherent in these realizations is hidden a third, transcendent power — the Revealing Power of Maya.

Through inward, meditative exploration, through Art, and through Nature, the true qualities of being beyond the limitations of our form and the obstacles of our Ego, become constantly apparent. It works like this: When observed on it's surface, a person or occurrence may activate mental processes that begin to label and differentiate the observed as separate from the observer – the concealing power. As those thoughts lead to judgments and opinions, they activate feelings (often fears). That's the projecting power.

However, if we simply allow people and circumstances to be what they are (without getting our panties in a bunch) – the confluence of causes and events that form them – we begin to see their inner truth revealed. We begin to see them as fluid, ever-changing mani-festations of Source – just like we are ourselves. Just like everything. The radiance of Being begins to shine through, through every person, through every event. This is helped along a great deal by turning our attention inward in meditation. Then, the revelations begin. 

 A crow caws. A truck rumbles on the Interstate. A man shouts in the distance. A fish jumps with a splash. A girlfriend unceremoniously dumps you. A forgotten relative leaves you a great deal of money. Your candidate loses the election. A cat sits in your lap, purring. All are right. All are Source. At all times, everything you witness, you are becoming through your attention. Through your intention. The energy of Being is shining through, engaging every part of you. And so you become, not just as yourself, but as all you witness, a real contributing part of all Being – fully connected and interdependent. Your thoughts, actions, and intentions influencing The All. Awareness of the concealing and projecting engages the revealing.

As well, real Art, not art as ego, suspends the processes of our intellect, our preconceived labels and judgments, and forces us to experience Being. It breaks through our "real" context, and forces us into a moment of graceful suspension. Into the moment, where we instantly perceive our connection to something greater than ourselves. this is the revelation that tied Art to ritual at it's earliest inception. The Revealing Power of Maya.

And in Nature... well, in Nature there's nothing but the Revealing Power of Maya. The membrane between our form and The Divine (our form as Nature) is just too thin not to experience the awesome connection of it all. Look at a duck. I dare you. Or a tree, or a stream, or a wildflower, growing through the crack in the parking lot asphalt…

"The All came forth from me, and the All came into me. Split a piece of wood, and I Am there. turn over a stone, and you will find me."
The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 77

The book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyondbased on lessons (learned the hard way) by a three time near death survivor is now available everywhere – but ask for it it at your local bookstore! How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying) is due out early 2018, from Llewellyn Worldwide.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. A surgeon. My old schoolchum, Howard Kotler, wanted to be a surgeon too. We both did a "premed" program in highschool, and Howard helped get me a gig as a gurney boy in an emergency room. But when a motorcycle crash victim came in the door, the blood went out of my face. A doctor had to escort me to the cafeteria for a banana and a chocolate milk. I decided I'd better do something else with my hands, so I kept drawing pictures like I always had.

Dr. Howard Kotler contacted me recently to see if I'd be interested in helping with some artwork for a project he and some other doctors have been heading for a few years, Operation Sunrise, a non-profit mission that provides reconstructive surgery to kids with cleft lips and palates in medically under-served countries.

Their work is amazing and life-changing for the kids who receive their expert care. Howard does something with his hands, too. His work gives kids a new beginning, so it was all I could do to give them a new image. It isn't much in comparison, but I faint at the sight of blood.

Please visit the Operation Sunrise website, and help out if you can.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tales of the Koko Lion, Part 19: Matt Dillon, Flash Gordon, and the Synchronicitous Magic Act

"An unexpected content which is directly or indirectly connected with some objective external event coincides with the ordinary psychic state: this is what I call synchronicity..."

"...experience has shown that under certain conditions space and time can be reduced almost to zero, causality disappears along with them..."
Dr. Carl Jung, Synchronicity, An Acausal Connecting Principle

Koko was not at all himself that evening, even though it was his birthday, a day when one hopes for a bit more self-awareness than the day before. It was either 1990 or 1991, which made him either thirty-four or thirty-five. It mattered little at the time, as he was living in a state of relative detachment from what most people would consider reality, and had been for some time.
Pamela was shimmying into a tiny black cocktail dress, into his eternity, pulling the hem down to where there was little room left for the imagination. She was like a clear-eyed lioness, slightly bent by substances, with legs up to his chin and a drop-hammer temper–and she was funny. Get her on a roll, and she could really entertain.
 They were getting ready to go out, to celebrate, so naturally he didn't notice that Time and Space were collapsing.

"What am I supposed to get you for your birthday when you already have all the tequila you can drink? She asked wittily.
"There's a new book out, a collection of comic strips by Alex Raymond, you could..."
"Write it down! Whattaya expect me to remember whatever his name is...jeez, can't you see I'm trying to get ready?" She was like that: passive/agressive with a vengeance (which made it just plain aggressive.) Besides, he didn't really expect her to know one of the great comic strip artists of the ages, Alex Raymond, the genius draughtsman responsible for Flash Gordon and Agent X-9. He wrote the name, Alex Raymond, on a small piece of paper and handed it to her.
"Do you see anyplace that I can put that?" He looked at her in her dress, a bare twist of black, barely painted on her slender body, like the girls in her own stylish urban illustrations. He concurred. She did not have a single place to put it.
"Put it in your own pocket, and give it to me later." He folded it up, and put it in his breast pocket. He often found life easier if he just did what she told him to do.

They settled into the bar at Merchants, the trendy saloon across the street from Barney's 7th Avenue, and began to celebrate his birthday in a manner indistinguishable from practically every other day of the year.
Heads turned first when Pamela had entered, a reaction he took for granted. Then again, when the actor Matt Dillon sauntered in a little behind them, looking wide-eyed and innocent.

"Oh my God!" Pamela crushed Koko's lapels and hissed into his ear, "It's Matt DILLON!  I've got to meet him! Get him to come over here and meet me!" He often did what she told him to, so he nonchalantly walked over and put his hand out.
"Hey Matt, I'm a big fan." The star smiled a bit and shook his hand easily. "Drugstore Cowboy was the Best Picture of '89, and you should of won Best Actor." Matt's smile opened wider. The trick was to mean it, and Koko really did. It was an excellent movie, and Matt was excellent in it.
"Thanks," said the star sincerely. "What do you do? I mean, for a living?"

Koko was surprised by the simple generosity shown, and felt that brotherhood one feels in a bar when one wants to settle in to a glass and a chat. He couldn't help but notice the actor's skin, his complexion, it was like sweet seamless alabaster. Flawless. He guessed that movie stars were a little different, in some ways.
"I'm an Illustrator, a Pop Illustrator," he answered. " Magazines, ads, newspapers, like that...and a comics artist."
"Cool!" Matt bunched his brows and looked up towards the pressed-tin ceiling for something. "My Grandma's brother was a famous comics artist..."
"Your Great-Uncle?" Koko clarified.
"Yeah, he was famous. He drew Flash Gordon for the Sunday funny papers..." said the actor.
In Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, a unit observing another hurtling along parallel paths perceives the other as shortening in length as the two approach the speed of light and Time slows down to a crawl. Matt Dillon seemed a little shorter to Koko than he had the moment before as he reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the folded piece of paper. The actor watched with interest.
"And this..." said Koko mysteriously, slowly unfolding the paper at eye level," the name of your great-uncle!" Koko read the name, Alex Raymond, backwards through the backlit paper, and looked past it into Matt's widening eyes as he looked from the paper to Koko and back again.

"That's, that's...HOW DID YOU DO THAT?" The actor's chin approached the floor. "That was my uncle's name, my great-uncle... ALEX RAYMOND!"

Koko turned to meet Pamela's eyes and waved her over. She got up, pulling her cocktail dress down as she wiggled past him, mouthing "What did you say?" "Don't worry about it," he whispered as he turned, "Matt...this is my girlfriend Pamela. She's a big fan of yours too."
Pamela locked into the space in front of the movie star like dopamine clicking onto a receptor as Koko withdrew to a barstool and gathered himself in the vacuum of the synchronicitous collision. Apparently, everything had to be connected at a profound and unimaginable level. Pamela sparkled and twisted, and God, was she funny in front of the movie star.
Just what the heck is reality? He wondered. What if absolutely nothing at all happens by chance? He shuddered, and drank to that.

"Meaningful coincidences are thinkable as pure chance. But the more they multiply and the greater and more exact the correspondence is, the more their probability sinks and their unthinkability increases, until they can no longer be regarded as pure chance but, for lack of a causal explanation, have to be thought of as meaningful arrangements."
Dr. Carl Jung, Ibid.