Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sketch to Lens exhibition opens next week!


From Monday my Dharma series and a selection of contemplative photography by Lyn Langille will be available for viewing at the Oolong Teahouse in Calgary, Alberta! 

Oolong is a fabulous little teahouse where I used to set-up shop to work on Faunawolf Creations promotions when I still lived in Canada. They have a great selection of teas and have always had brilliant artwork on the walls. I'm so excited to be exhibiting my work there and hope those of you in Calgary will have a chance to drop by. 

Originals are available to purchase and you can order prints through my website:

www.faunawolfcreations.com/dharma-art.html


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bearing Witness - A Book Review

A few weeks back a co-worker brought in 'The Kite Runner' for me to read. I'd heard of it but I didn't know what it was about. I ended up reading that and two other books by Khaled Hosseini in three weeks and it was the third one I read which really struck me the most. 




First of all I'll say that as far as his way of writing goes - it's not always fantastic. He delivers analogies and metaphor in a rather heavy-handed way and his characters recap things mentioned in previous chapters in more detail than is necessary. But it wasn't the way it was written that struck me. 

It was the intensity of the stories. 

I realise this is fiction but it's a fictional account of actual historic events - of a Communist occupation, militia warfare and Taliban rule. 

I've recently come to realise that I'm hugely ignorant about the politics of the Middle-East and even most of Asia, to be honest. In school we were bombarded with the World Wars but always the Canadian, British and American side of it and always just what occurred in Europe. 

In the past I would avoid books like this because they were just too intense for me. Even in the fictional context, I found the stories too difficult to bear. I've always been a bit high-strung when it comes to violence. Graphic violence in horror films cause me to pass out. 

But recently I've had a shift in my experience and started doing what Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel refers to as 'bearing witness'. This is a practice that allows us to open up to the world as it is. 

It's not about being passive but about acknowledging the truth of the human condition - which is that life can be incredibly painful and brutal at times. In the case of Afghanistan this has been a stark reality for decades. War tore through the country leaving destruction, chaos, and death. The rule of the Taliban saw half the population so oppressed they may as well have been dead and indeed, many people took that as their only way out. 

It's a painful thing to face up to - especially living in the West where we are largely sheltered form such things or easily become numb to what we see in the news. 

I used to refuse to watch the news because I found it depressing. I said it was always the same so why bother? All it did was perpetuate a sense of negativity and gloom. 

Since discovering Elizabeth's teachings and her practice of Bearing Witness this has changed for me. I now watch the news so that I can learn and become a more effective human being. 

The only way to create lasting, effective change, is if we understand the fullness of any given situation. Something like war is incredibly complex and while old age, sickness and death can never be stopped, war can be. But only when we take a holistic view of it. It can't be prevented or stopped if we think we 'know' what must be done of feel there is a single definitive 'answer'. There can't be an Us Vs. Them approach. It must be something that we address as a human problem - not a problem of a politic view or a particular country or group of individuals. 

Reading these books and particularly 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', has been a bearing witness practice for me, a way of furthering the understanding I have about the importance of developing compassion, discriminating awareness and seeing clearly what can be done to be effective human beings on the planet. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Less There is of Me







As you probably know I've got an exhibition coming up next month, for the entire month, at the Oolong Teahouse in Calgary, Alberta. 

When I first began planning this exhibition way back in August I had intended to include this triptych but when I partnered with a photographer for the exhibition I decided against it. 

I did this piece very early on this year - in February I believe. It's a series of photos I took as I shaved my head, removing my then blue and pink hair. 

From the age of fourteen until I was 24 I regularly dyed my hair various colours. It was blue for nearly four years straight and then as I entered the working world and could afford to, I did it rainbow for Pride and kept it that way for at least a month. I dabbled in other colours - green for Hallowe'en, pink and blue for the fun of the contrast of it, and blue as the general default. 

My hair was very much part of my identity. I have had various nicknames and many of them had something to do with my hair: Blue meanie, Kool-aid, Rainbow Bright, Peacock... 

When I moved to the UK I knew I was going to be in a distinctly more conservative culture. While looking for work I felt it was important that I gave a good first impression as I know the assumptions people can make when they see brightly coloured hair or tattoos. So I grew my hair out and made sure I was as presentable as possible. I figured, once I'd secured a job and proven myself to be the highly productive employee that I am, I'd then be able to dye my hair again. 

This didn't end up happening though. Partially because the CEO where I first worked in the UK asked me not to and partially because I was sort of enjoying the freedom of having natural hair. Dyed hair requires a lot of work and upkeep and moving to a new country, adjusting to a different culture, starting a new job and also cultivating a new relationship were all very time-consuming things. 

For nearly four years my hair remained uncoloured until late last year when I found myself working somewhere that absolutely embraced and encouraged my creativity. I'd always associated my brightly coloured hair with this creativity and I decided I'd give it another go. I was eager, absolutely and entirely, to have my 'natural' look back. The look I'd identified with so strongly for most of my teenager and young adult years. 

But as soon as I rinsed my hair and saw the colour in the mirror I felt a pang in my chest and a sense of disconnect. I realised that the colour of my hair said nothing about who I was as a person. It was not a statement of my personality or energy. My external presentation may in some ways reflect that but it was not definitive of it. 

And then I had an incredible moment where a lot of the Dharma teachings I'd read and studied about ego and what that means clicked with my experience. 

I suddenly appreciated that a sense of 'me' was actually very artificial and that when I thought in terms of 'this is who I am' in relation to something physical I was limiting myself. I was forming an idea about who I was based on the appearance I chose to put out there. When I didn't have such ideas I felt a great freedom and flexibility. I felt a chance to grow and change and be different every day because every day I am different based on experience. 

It was liberating! Incredibly so! And suddenly something I'd once heard as a quote attributed to Leonard Cohen made a lot of sense to me: 
The less there is of me, the happier I am. 

Because when we think: 'This is Me' we put a lot of importance in it. We give it meaning and if it has meaning we think it really matters. But a lot of time the stuff we apply this meaning to doesn't actually matter at all. But we take ourselves too seriously and then we hold on to things best let go. 

We cling to an idea that people won't know who we are, or that we won't know who we are, if we don't have brightly coloured hair or we don't smoke or we don't dress in a particular way or we don't meditate a certain amount. 

But we were never one way to begin with (This is one of my mantras) and when we realise that it's incredibly liberating. 

It's a paradox as well - people change, people never change. Both are equally true. But what we realise is the things that change can be very superficial and the things that never change are inherent in our nature, our personality. But even these things change because they can deepen or weaken depending on how we choose to live our lives. 

By not clinging to an idea of who we are or who we want people to see us as (no one can truly know another person anyway) we allow ourselves to just be, as we are, in the present moment. 



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

To Build a Home - Kait's Mixtape



Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Buddhist monk who lives and teaches in France. He's attributed with inventing the word 'Interbeing' - which is a way he relates the interconnectedness and cause and conditions of all things.

He has many ways of explaining this but my favourite is his meditation on a tree. He describes how beautiful it is to look at a tree because you can see the entire Universe in a tree. When you look at a tree you can see the sun because without the sun, there is no tree. You can see the clouds because without clouds there is no rain and therefore, no tree. You can see the Earth because without the minerals in the Earth, there is no tree.

When I first heard this meditation it brought tears to my eyes and I instantly thought of the video that went viral a few years back where Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked to share what he felt was the most astounding fact in the Universe. This song was used for that video and as I listened to the tree meditation I was so delighted by the idea that Thich Nhat Hanh and Neil DeGrasse Tyson were talking about the same thing.

I find myself in wonder more and more often because when we really stop and look at the world - look at the way the leaves change or the way ice crystals hang in the air or watch a bird doing something as incredible as flying - we are seeing the very wonder and magic of the universe. We are seeing the result of an explosion billions of years ago.

And we're part of that. 

The entire Universe started with a bang. A bang that's been expanding in chaos ever since. And all that chaos lead to a molton rock cooling just enough for there to be life. And that life has flourished for billions of years and eventually, you came into being.

Because there was a big bang you are here now.

That is the essence of interbeing and that is the essence of life itself.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

One Day... - Kait's Mixtape



 "If death is certain and the time until death is uncertain, what's the most important thing?"

This blog entry is going to revisit a topic I wrote about often when I first moved to London. At that time I felt a lot like I was making up for lost time. I'd been in a stagnant situation for three years prior and I was kick-starting my life with this move to a new city.

I used to be able to tell you exactly what I'd be doing year on year to the day simply because I always did what I'd always done. I was bored of this, I needed change, I needed to completely change my situation.

The thing I said the most at that time was, "I'd rather look back on my life and regret having done something than wonder what might have happened if I had." 

One of the latest revelations I've had from all this meditation practice I get up to is that we don't figure something out and then put it aside. Wisdom is incremental and it gets deeper with practice. We will revisit the same thing again and again and each time - because of experience, new ways of thinking, knowing our minds better than before - we will get something new out of it.

Death doesn't scare me. I told my mum it did when I was little and she said that simply wasn't true because if it was I'd never do anything. I'd stay up in my room and avoid any situation that might be remotely dangerous.

I remember this as the first time I encountered the idea of living life to the fullest. I've come back to it again and again and each time it shifts and my understanding gains more depth.

When I first moved to London I wanted new experiences because I was terrified of not doing enough with my life. I've often remarked that I'm allergic to procrastination because I feel a bit sick if I put off that which I can do now.

Well, that's changed quite a bit recently. Not because I do put stuff off now, I certainly don't. I actually seem to be doing more now than ever - but the feeling sick bit happens less and less.

There was a frantic energy to a lot of what I did. A sense of striving and getting things done so that eventually I'd get everything done and then maybe, maybe I could relax. 

It wasn't very comfortable. It's a strong habit though and one I'm still working with. But now the frantic energy has gone out of it because the present is just a single moment and in a single moment, we can only accomplish so much anyway. I take it as it comes, and I carry out a single task with great care and mindfulness before moving to the next.

Interestingly I seem to get a lot more done, in a calmer fashion, and it gives me more time to do absolutely nothing beyond being - which is helpful since I love meditating so much.

The less I try to 'do' the more I can 'be' and the more I can be the more I appreciate the time I have. Less and less of what I do is about getting somewhere or finishing something or ticking off a list. Now it's about experiencing the moment, enjoying the process, and waiting for what comes next patiently, without forcing it or driving for it. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sketch to Lens - December Exhibition in Calgary, Alberta



It's official! From the 1st to the 31st of December, 2014 my Dharma series sketches and Lyn Langille's contemplative photography will be on display at the Oolong Tea House in Calgary, Alberta. 

On the 21st of December you're invited to 'Meet the Artists' from 3:00pm to 8:00pm

My pieces that will be on display can be viewed through the Faunawolf Creations Facebook page.