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When Art Inspires Art

I recently I came across a word I hadn’t heard since grad school: ekphrasis, a term used to describe writing (or other art) inspired by another work of art. Think Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” or Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” The list goes on (and perhaps it should even include such Quirk Classics as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters…).

I find it fascinating that inspiration and creativity can dance in this way across cultures and ages. I think it’s beautiful when an artist can transcend time and space to commune with the spirit of another artist and with his or her creations. When done well, ekphrasis can serve to both honor, sustain, or even deepen an original vision but it can also take us in a completely different, perhaps contradictory or even comical, direction. It’s a cycle of sorts wherein art begets art, recognizes itself, and becomes expressed again in a unique way. Not to improve upon but simply to say, “and this too!”

I suppose one could make the argument that ekphrasis has a place on the spiritual path as well. (In fact, in ancient Greece the word was originally used as a device to call out or give name to the inanimate…check out Plato’s Republic if you’re bored some time…) When we come across an individual who we deem a master of living, so to speak, they can become a source of inspiration for our own artful expression of who and what we are as we go about our days. When we identify ourselves as a Buddhist, Christian, Jew, and so on, perhaps that’s a type of ekphrasis as well.

What are some of your favorite instances of ekphrasis, in art or in other arenas? Have you ever created art inspired by art? I’d love to hear about it!

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Wake Up Festival 2014!

Friends we are so happy to announce and invite you to the 2014 Wake Up Festival!

The Wake Up Festival is a five-day immersion experience in personal and collective transformation. It’s the largest and only festival of its kind, uniting renowned spiritual teachers, bestselling authors, healers, scientists, poets, yogis, and lovers of life within the context of an open-hearted, uplifting community.

The Wake Up Festival is not your usual “festival.” It’s not about outer activities; it’s about inner exploration and discovery. We think of it as a feast of life-changing insights with just the right amount of practice to enable us to truly embody what we learn. You’ll be invited to approach awakening through meditation, personal writing, qigong, yoga, dance, shadow work, and more. And we will do it as individuals each supported by our Wake Up community.

We hope to see you all in August!

Enter the Mystery

Once upon a time there was no time
Only the circling of suns and moons and stars
Across the infinite namelessness

Do you remember?

Breathe deeply and look back with me
Far, far away to the earth’s first dawn
Where we stood together in awe at so much beauty

Can you see it?

When our only purpose was to be
When the present moment was the path
When life whispered in our ears the secrets of the universe
and we knew how to listen

Truly I tell you this day is no different
Originality renews itself in every falling snowflake
Walk then with me into this mystery
Shimmering with answers to questions we need not ask

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The Boulder Floods

Thank you so much to all of you who have written in (and otherwise sent) your thoughts, prayers, and love to us here at Sounds True, and to all our friends throughout Colorado during this very difficult time. It has been a very trying week for all of us and many here have lost their homes, businesses, towns, and even lives. Like any tragedy, though, it has brought individuals and the community together in new ways, and shown us what is truly important at the end of the day.

Fortunately, the sun was out all day yesterday, and today is also looking sunny and dry. We are praying that the worst is behind. While some of the roads near Sounds True have been damaged quite extensively, we were able to re-open yesterday, and were grateful that most of our employees are doing okay. We are for the most part safe, but many of us are in touch with others who are not faring so well – friends who have lost their homes, have been air vac’d out by the National Guard, cannot find loved ones, and are experiencing great fear and despair. Many dozens are still unaccounted for in Boulder.

Here are some photos to give you a visual sense of how the flood is impacting local communities.

And here is some video footage of Longmont, a town just next to Boulder where a number of our employees live.

Finally, a rather shocking amateur video of the flood as it moves through Boulder Canyon.

If you’re interested in helping via making a donation, information may be found here.

Thank you again for thinking of us and we join you in sending our thoughts, love, and prayers to our brothers and sisters throughout the state as we move through this very challenging time.

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Happy 78th birthday to His Holiness the Dalai Lama!

Wishing His Holiness the Dalai Lama a joyful 78th birthday today, and praying for his long life! I’ll never forget the one and only time I met the Dalai Lama, at his residence in Dharamsala many years ago. I was quite young, coming off a difficult break-up, and broken wide open alone in the mountains of northern India, just sort of wandering from place to place. He held my hand and just looked at me. He wasn’t scrambling to try to make my heartbreak go away, he wasn’t playing the wise guru offering me some subtle teaching on the empty-luminous ground of awareness, he wasn’t hurling blessings at me so that all would be made right and I could enter into some other state of consciousness. He simply spent a moment with me, all the way through, totally human, fully there with everything in the space between us. It was a short moment of time, but in another way it was totally eternal; those sorts of rare meetings, heart to heart, are rare and precious, and not easily forgotten. In my experience, the Dalai Lama is a holding environment of love, in and of himself; a totally real, humble, open-hearted, incredibly warm, authentic human being. May you live long, your Holiness!

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Washed out by grace…

We can be so hard on ourselves in so many ways: why did I choose the same kind of partner yet again, why am I not able to find more meaningful work, why am I acting just like my mother/ father, why have I not become awakened yet, why am I not truly loveable by another. Recent research and clinical reports in the fields of attachment and interpersonal neurobiology have shown us that the way we’ve come to see ourselves, others, and relationships was formed in the extended nervous system prior to the acquisition of language. As little ones, we lived in a non-verbal world, shaping our models of self and other according to our deeply wired need to survive, to receive love, and to be mirrored empathically.

Fortunately, the realities of neuroplasticity have shown that it is possible to reorganize the way we see ourselves, conceive of this sacred reality, and interact in close relationships. By some unknown grace, it seems that we are wired for love; somehow we are supported by the unseen world to allow love to restructure our lives. While this journey is simple, we know it is not easy. We sense that it demands everything – and this can be scary. But through compassionate self-inquiry, authentic contemplative practice, somatically-alive psychotherapy, and especially through that ever-fiery crucible that is attuned, intimate relationship, the opportunity is there to give ourselves fully to this life and to receive the fruits of a wide open heart, a body and senses that are an offering of love, and an the clear wisdom of an intuitively-guided mind.

It does seem that one thing is required though, and that is tremendous kindness to ourselves – an unconditional friendliness to who and what we are, and a deep respect for the journey from fear to love, for it requires everything we have – and more. Let us nurture and hold ourselves in kindness today, and to appreciate the difficulties and challenges in living a life beyond belief. Let us set aside the spiritual superego, our desperate need to be something other than what we are, and to allow the grace that is always and already here to wash down throughout this sacred body, pouring through these precious senses. And let us behold the miracle of this life as it is, seeing how lucky most of us truly are, and how we could only ever be in the exact right place, to take the perfectly-designed next step into love.

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