Thursday, October 16, 2014

Street Art - Berlin journal!

 Berlin was mind-blowing, mind-stopping, mind-expanding. I was travelling with one of my dearest friends who also happened to be a history major and general history nerd, which was great for expanding my mind.

My appreciation of art and history is rather indiscriminate. I know what I like and if I like it I will absorb it, gaze at it, just be in awe with it.

I appreciate a broad range of styles and mediums so Berlin is a perfect cornucopia of art for someone like me.

I've long been a follower of street art, especially since moving to London where I encounter Stik and Banksy on a regular basis. Going to Berlin was like going to the Florence of street art. The city is peppered with it, especially the East side and obviously, the East Side Gallery - an expanse of the wall left standing which has some of the most iconic street art every made on display.

This was at the start of the East Side gallery - a more modern contribution.
I love this particular classic style of street art. Vivid colours, bold shapes and lines, a bit surreal.
Like something from an album cover. 

I find this more detailed work is always lovely to encounter if only because it's so rarely seen. 

My mum is a big Pink Floyd fan. I loved the Wall tribute to their classic album artwork.
I mean, come on, it's The Wall illustrated on THE Wall. 

Leaning against history...

This was across the road from the East Side Gallery.
Gorgeous Art Nouveau inspired work. 

Wandering down to a food market the buildings along the way were peppered with artwork.
I particularly liked this one. Reminds me of the many lions sculpted into the older buildings of Berlin. 

Old meets new...

This is, by far, one of my favourite pieces of street art I've ever found.
It was on a building near where I stayed in Berlin. I could have sat and marvelled at it for hours. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Enjoy the Ride - Kait's Mixtape

"No matter what happens, we value it to wake up." 

This song has been on my OCD playlist for well over a year. It's on my Buddhist playlist too. There's a lot about it that I love but this line in particular is something I like to contemplate. 

I used to spend a lot of time 'chasing shadows' - trying to find answers and make things fit into my idea of the world or how I wanted my life to turn out. The first time this was really properly challenged was with the demise of my first long-term relationship.

My whole life had been planned out, entirely, and when that ended it felt very much like the future had become a blank canvas. This terrified me, initially, but then I began to see it as an opportunity. 

The second time the rug got pulled out from under me was another failed relationship and this time I had to really stop and think. I hadn't pinned my future on the success of the relationship but I'd also felt like I'd done everything 'right' and still ended up with someone fundamentally wrong for me.

This just led me to deepen my practice, to search more and more for answers or to understand life, the universe and everything. And that's when I realised I was trying way too hard. 

The thing about having the rug pulled out is that the more often it happens the more we realise there was never any rug to begin with. We are constantly in free fall because of the very chaotic nature of life. The future is unwritten and every experience we have is rich with opportunity. 

The meaning of life is not to find an answer but to question, explore and be open to all possibilities. When we try to pin it down we're trying to make static that which is constantly changing and impossible to define. Things are much, much bigger than the limited ideas we have about them.

In short, we can just enjoy the ride instead of trying to figure out why there is one. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

All This and Heaven Too - Kait's Mixtape

A very dear friend of mine once said, "That's the thing about love, it comes in so many different flavours."

I remember when I used to measure love - used to see it as how much I could have for a person or thing. One thing meditation definitely does is change this perspective - especially Metta practice (Maitri). Love stops being something quantifiable because that implies that love is limited.

True, genuine, unhindered compassionate love is as limitless as the universe. 

And it's not easy to explain this without it coming out a bit funny. It sounds hippy-dippy cheesy when I try to explain to someone the very transformative experience of tapping into this sense of unbridled compassion.

I can use all the cliches - it's without conditions, no matter what. It does not excuse poor behaviour or cruel actions but has a sense of tenderness towards the confusion that leads to one human being causing pain to another intentionally or otherwise. It's embracing the fact that no one does anything because they want to feel worse and people aren't just one thing. No one is inherently 'bad' or 'evil'.

No one.

I say this emphatically even though it's not something I can explain. All I can say is my practice has taught me that I cannot and am unwilling to write off another human being. It doesn't mean I have to like everyone (You can love someone without liking them, ask any parent ever) and it doesn't mean I have to keep people who have done me harm or intend to do me harm in my life. It doesn't make me blind to the atrocious behaviour of some people on the planet. If anything, this kind of love makes me more aware of it and more able to be there for those who are at the hands of such treatment.

It mean my heart is open to possibilities and I feel more genuine in the world. This is because I know I am just as capable of acting unwisely, causing pain or harm to another consciously or unconsciously.

But regardless of what I write here, I don't think my words will ever truly capture what I'm pointing at. It doesn't mean I'll stop trying to explain it, to put something so ineffable down on paper or in a blog, but as the lyrics I chose say, nothing I could possibly write would ever be worth this feeling. You have to test it for yourself to know it. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What happiness looks like

I often take photos of the things which stop my mind. These are things that give me reason to pause and wonder at the world. My phone is full of them. Sometimes I won't take a photo and instead do the Buddhist practice of dedicating the wonder and beauty. But I like the photos because they're like little reminders to me and they give me something I can actually share. 

I sent these images to friends and family, like a gift of something beautiful. 

Happiness is appreciating the world, our part in it, and all these images of wonder that surround us every day. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I'm going on holiday!

So my brain is a bit focused on that right now as I fly tomorrow.

In the mean time, here's a selection of finished masks that will soon be available to purchase!

'Copper Dragon'
I'll be doing this same design in different colours and also come up with more dragon design, for sure. 

'Silver Point Tabby'
Inspired by my fur-sister when I was growing up. Again, soon to come in multiple colours. 

Had fun with this one. More Venetian mask inspired than the others. 

Again, to be made in many different colours.
I think I'll also do a few different butterfly/moth designs. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Even MORE masks in the making!

Sketch of a mask idea.
I used the template from my dragon mask for this. 

All cut out! 

Impression for my wolf mask! 

Impression for a fox mask... with ears this time! 

All cut out and ready for stamping and moulding. 
I'm really loving the entire process of mask making. I've got several templates I feel really confident in and I've been taking suggestions on my Facebook wall for new ideas. I'm definitely keen to try a panda, puma and snake. At this rate I'll need a new sheet of leather to work with. 

I've discovered I prefer the thick stuff over the thinner stuff because even though the thinner stuff is easier to cut and mould I love how solid the thicker stuff feels when it sets at the very end. 

I'm now in the process of building up some stock and will be sorting out pricing soon so keep watching my blog, website and Facebook and Twitter. I'll soon have these available!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Getting a bit Zen - A Book Review!

Not done a book review for a while. Mostly because I've not managed to read anything I felt like recommending super highly. But this past weekend I finished a few books and one in particular has been really brilliant: 

This was recommended to me during a meditation retreat. I was familiar with Ezra Bayda and his primary teacher, Charlotte Joko Beck, from many of the podcasts I listen to. Seriously - if you want to find great philosophical or contemplative writing, listen to a few podcasts and you'll soon have an insurmountable reading list.

But I digress....

I enjoyed this book immensely. Whilst Ezra is a student of Zen, much of what he writes about is incredibly similar to the mahayana and vipassana teachings I'm most familiar with - but also, like so many Buddhist texts, a lot of it is general common sense. More of that 'stuff that just really makes sense regardless of the package it comes in'.

In such books the teachings can become quite repetitive, which is fine because I feel it solidifies my understanding to hear the same thing taught in a different way. In the case of this book the old teaching that came across in a very new way is the practice of asking 'What is this?'

One of the great misunderstandings of meditation practice is that it's something that's meant to help us 'transcend' or 'transform' ourselves. This is not true at all and something that took me quite a while to figure out.

Meditation isn't about fixing or answering or changing anything. Meditation is a formal practice of being present. It's a practice of accepting, being and embracing. And it's a practice of curiosity.

Regardless of the school of Buddhism a person follows, the four noble truths are at the heart of the teachings and the first truth, 'Life is suffering' is what we learn to open up to through meditation. Asking the question 'What is this?' is a great way to do this and something I began trying out as soon as I'd read Ezra's explanation of it in this book.

The idea is not a nihilistic one. It's one that invites us to see the world as it actually is, rather than how we want it to be or expect it to be or imagine it to be based on a storyline we've developed. I find this difficult to put into words and appreciate how challenging it is to teach such a thing, which is why I loved this book so much. I feel that Ezra, especially in the final chapter, really gives clarity to what it means to accept and embrace the nature of the world.

It's not a passive experience - it's an experience that gives us great clarity and allows us to act skillfully because we're not restricted by what we think we know.

I don't know that I've explained any of this well so to summarise - this book was really great and super helpful for my practice. I think, regardless of whether Buddhism is your thing or not, that most people would benefit from reading it.