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...

Read about this and much more in: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor  from Llewellyn Worldwide available direct on this page, or online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – 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…

Read about this and much more in: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor  from Llewellyn Worldwide available direct on this page, or online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – 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: Dreaming Little Pieces, Becoming Whole

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, that he'd finally broken through the exoskeleton of his damaged Ego-Self. He could stand now fresh and fragile, as a mostly unknown but nonetheless whole man. In the dream he was in a place that time had long ago covered over for him – the downstairs of his father's house, on the rocky hillside overlooking the canyons. Time had been opened up and laid still. Everything was exactly as it had been in his childhood. He was there, in a reality that concurrently ran through and beneath 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 gingerly walked down the hall he noticed every little thing was just as it had always been. The linoleum floor tile with a tiny chipped corner. The cabinet door, always ajar (it never would close completely). On his left was the door to his brother's room. On his right, the door to the outside, to the patio and through the oleanders into the canyon, the rusty dirt and granite rocks covered with lichen, the foxtails and sage and scrub.

Past his brother's door was the door to his own 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. The boy was drawing intently, but seemed as though he were putting together a jigsaw puzzle, searching for the lost 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 Disney-map island somewhere in a turquoise sea that he could fly away to. The Island of Lost Boys.

"Hello," said Koko softly. The little boy looked up, with recognition and a little fear in his eyes. "May I come in?" The little boy said nothing, but Koko recognized him immediately, walked in behind him, and gently bent down onto one knee. The boy had stopped drawing and put his pencil down and was just sitting in his little bedroom world, drawn on the paper before him, surrounding him, spread in little pieces on the olive brown carpet. Koko put his hand on the scared 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 a solid 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 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. You can know that in your heart, and just keep going." Tears welled up in the little boy's eyes. Koko hugged him, and the boy pressed his face into his chest. "I know it's a tall order for a little boy, but I'm always here for you, and you'll find there will be others you can ask...."

Koko knew the little boy wouldn't, that he would never ask for help, not until he absolutely had to. Not for many years – not 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 knew it was the child's own karma-path, and could only hope that he'd helped somehow.

The dream ended there, like that, though Koko wanted it to go on so that he could do more to 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 knew that he would—that 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

Read How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor  from Llewellyn Worldwide available direct or online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – but ask for it it at your local bookstore!