Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bodhicitta - Dharma Series

"Your Mind is Not a Problem"
11.7X11.7in ink & gouache on bristol board

Lately the focus of my Dharma study has been Bodhicitta. I first encountered the word through - surprise, surprise - reading and listening to Pema Chodron. It’s one of those very difficult to translate words because there isn’t exactly a direct translation available. 

Instead teachers point at different words which capture the essence of what Bodhicitta is all about. Pema herself describes it in so many different ways. 

Bodhicitta is awareness of our compassionate nature. Or Bodhicitta is the ability we have to be big enough for our world and our experience. Bodhicitta is our awakened mind. Bodhicitta is our Buddha nature - the nature of all beings to see the world free of reference points. Bodhicitta is recognizeng interconnectedness, or as Thich Naht Hanh says, ‘interbeing’. 

Our ability to awaken Bodhicitta is our ability to show up for ourselves and for others. In order to do this we work with our own mind, with gentleness and dedication. The more we can see our mind, the more we can sit with our experience, and the most honestly we show up for ourselves, the more we are able to open up to others. 

Our minds may seem like the enemy, at times, which is why gentleness is so important. I’ve recently realised I experience anxiety at its worst when I’m being impatient with myself. The more harsh I am about what I’m feeling, the more challenging working with my mind becomes and the more intense my emotions. But when I’m kind to myself, when I see my mind as workable rather than something that needs fixing, the whole experience softens. My heart opens up and I genuinely feel big enough for my life. 

I didn’t come up with the text for this piece. The person who did is incredibly wise and I am so appreciative of the ways she reminds me to be gentle. The moment she said these words I knew they were the ones that would accompany this piece. 

Your mind is not a problem to fix. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

So many little projects

Leather project
I've been working on a lot of little projects these past few weeks. I seem to suddenly be getting an influx of freelance and custom work, which is always fun. I do find these requests come in waves.

I'm really enjoying this particular wave as there is such a variety of projects for me to work on.

One of the requests has allowed me to use up some of the scrap leather from all my mask making. I've also done a new pair of custom shoes, which is always good fun for me. And I have some more freelance design work, including a logo design and a promotional rack card.
Sketch for custom shoe design

In and around these projects I continue to research agents and submit manuscripts. I'm also on the hunt for someone who knows how to design apps and might want to partner with me on a few ideas.

Oh all this creative energy!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Make things happen

I seem to have an abundance of energy at the moment. I already know that I have a pretty high output but I swear I somehow managed three days worth of To Do list accomplishments in one on Easter Monday. And it wasn't frantic either - it was a very relaxed, productive day spotted with regular bouts of lolling in the sun reading 'Good Omens' or 'Everyday Zen'.

There was no anxious energy underlying my productivity. It was just pure flow.

And it's continued on this week. I've been filling my evenings with projects and tasks and ticking things off to do lists left, right and centre.

One thing I've started doing again is submitting manuscripts to agents. This is always an interesting task as most agents prefer to be the only person you've sent a manuscript to. They take six to eight weeks to get back to you, so it's a waiting game once a manuscript is submitted.

I have five completed ones and three nearly complete. This gives me a bit more to work with. I can find eight suitable agents to submit to, check the dates, and then wait. I can space submissions a week apart to give some regularity to the task. I intend to do this and intend to carry on submitting until I am picked up because ultimately, in all the things I do and dream about and dabble with I always come back to the fact that since I can remember, since I could hold a pencil and form a letter, since I could put down into words the things that filled my childhood imagination, I have known in my bones that I am a writer first, foremost and with the greatest conviction.

All this meditating I've been doing (I'm sitting for a half hour both morning and night these days) is really focusing my mind in so many new ways. I feel very energised by it but also incredibly calm. I have a clear purpose:
I do what I do to engage people in their own sense of curiosity and wonder. 
I do what I do to encourage people to try new things, to be adventurous in their choices and to see their world and their life in a bigger way.

I write, I create art, I keep this blog, I have a full-time design job - and behind all of these things my big all encompassing 'why' is engrained in my every action. I'm really looking at this sense of purpose and how it drives us. When we know our purpose we can sort out the how and the what afterwards. I'm really enjoying this way of looking at my life and my intentions and actions.

So far it's resulted in some pretty incredible practical and creative output. Long may it last...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

London Journal - Stomping around Shoreditch

I love going to Shoreditch. There's always so much street art to be found. Usually I wander about aimlessly, collecting photos of pieces down the various streets I take, but on my last visit to the area I discovered the jackpot along a single street, Hanbury.

I could hardly walk four steps without spotting another fantastic piece of art across the side of a building or on a gate or door.
Bottle lid silhouette. 

I feel like the tagging done over this lion actually really works somehow.
Urban jungle...

One of my favourite street artists!
Don't know who it is but I love their work. 

Stunning level of detail. 

Banksy inspired on the right?
I don't think it's an actual Banksy. 


These were very small and hardly noticeable. 

Also small and easily missed. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Awe and Wonder - Contemplation

"Don't underestimate the things in your life that will bring you happiness." 
-Pema Chodron

I want to talk about woo. Woo isn’t exactly a ‘real word’ and yet I’ve encountered it in many conversations and even in blogs written by medical professionals, so there does seem to be a growing universality to its use. 

Woo could also be known as ‘airy fairy’ stuff or ‘hippie clap-trap’ or anything along those lines. Practitioners of woo tend to come across as flakey. And woo itself is entirely at odds with science and practicality. 

As a Buddhist I encounter a lot of people who spout woo and I know that a lot of what I study and share is taken as woo. But there is a distinct difference between woo and awe, or woo and wonder, or woo and delight. 

Woo has always come across as fake to me. It’s generally quite harmless but it’s childish in a make-believe way. In the way little children will tell lies so outrageous that adults just laugh. Like ‘I saw a tiny dragon down by the river…actually it was a huge dragon. Oh, and there were two of them!’

In kids it’s cute. In adults it becomes a bit concerning. 

Buddhism is not woo. On the surface it can come across as such and I know it often does. Things like Karma and reincarnation are not properly understood by a lot of people, including Buddhist practitioners. Karma is simplified into some dualistic system or punishment and reward and all about ‘energy’ in a woo way. 

The actual teachings on Karma are in-line with physics - cause and effect. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Inertia. Karma is science. 

And reincarnation is not some mystical idea when the teachings on it are really examined. Again, reincarnation is more science. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Our bodies have a lot of energy, our consciousness has a lot of energy. If energy cannot be created nor destroyed then we’ve all already lived forever. 

I’ve never felt that Buddhism and science were at odds with one another and, in fact, the more I study both the more interwoven I find them to be. Because awe, wonder and amazement are crucial elements to scientific discovery. 

Neil Degrass-Tyson is trending right now and has been for several years - and he is full of wonder. I don’t know what, if any, spiritual leanings he has but he definitely sees the universe in a bigger, fuller way than most of us. He says things that match entirely with Buddhist teachings I’ve read. 

Same wisdom, different package. 
“When was the last time you caught a snowflake on your tongue?” he asked a six (and three quarters) year old boy. 

“A few weeks ago.” 

He turned to an adult in the audience and asked the same question. 

“I can’t remember.” 

I caught a snowflake on my tongue the last time it snowed in London. I stood outside and let them land on my face and I enjoyed every freezing touch of it. Because snow is magical. 

I’m about to turn 30 and I’m delighted by seemingly simple things. This comes from appreciation of the world around me, of my interdependence with it, and of the absolute magic to be found in the setting sun or the way a flower blooms or the buzzing of a bee or indeed, the falling of snow. And this is not woo or something flakey. This is appreciation I have for the wonder of life. 

And wonder is not just in the beautiful things we see like a sun-set or sun-rise. Wonder is in seeing the difficult stuff and appreciating it as part of the richness of being human. 

A person who can see the wonder in the most difficult of situations isn’t naive but awake to the fullness of their experience. They can appreciate that something like grief is an expression of love or the energy that accompanies anger. To have wonder is to see the benefit that comes from not rejecting any of our experience. 

And I totally recommend watching this video because what Neil has to say about the meaning of life is totally and utterly spot on. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New shoes!

I got some spiffy vintage shoes! So I had to customise them, naturally. These will be my birthday gift to myself. They're awaiting the just-right-perfectly-suitable laces. 

If you think these are spiffy and you'd like your own custom pair of awesome canvas shoes you can order them through my website:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Not *exactly* a London journal entry...

Last year I set my sights on Belfast. I decided I really wanted to finally get there, given I've been living the UK for ages now and it's silly that I've not been to Northern Ireland yet.

It didn't happen last year and I determined that this year I'd definitely get there, for sure - no matter what. I had a few possible weekends when it could happen but have to admit I didn't think the decision to go would come the week before it happened. Oh the joys of spontaneity!

And oh the joy of realising that the Giant's Causeway was only an hour and a bit to drive to from Belfast.

So this past weekend I stomped around Finn McCool's Causeway and delighting in all the vibrant colours of the seaside combined with the absolute wonder of nature.

Not to mention a fantastic educational jaunt to the architecturally majestic Titanic Museum.

Fantastic sculpture depicting unity and peace. 

Love street art like this. 

The very cleverly designed Titanic Museum - it's amazing how much they fit in there. 

Sculpture of Titanica

Street artist's sand sculpture. Very impressive! 


The absolute wonder of the Giant's Causeway

Love the purple seaweed

Stunning. :)