Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rick Benjamin


I think I make very little distinction between spiritual & artistic practice. Which is also to say that I don't make much out of either one of them. I guess there's also a furthermore: I don't treat either one of these things as separate or more precious than other things I love in my life. I try to love everything to the same depth & degree. That is my daily practice, & the same thing will be true of doing the dishes as for writing the poem: both are going to get my best attention. A child's question can be a work of art; so can your response to her question. The conversation you have with a friend or student may be the thing you needed to pay attention to that day, or was it your meeting with the Mayor. If your son can't find his shoe in the morning, & you lose your patience & become angry, all the meditation in the world won't make up for it. Spiritual practice involves the daily practice of living. The quality of your life should be the measure of your spiritual & artistic practice.

I do bow down, I do practice meditation, say mantra; on occasion I have been known to seek out teachers because I needed their wisdom. But I also want to be intentional, well & rightly motivated off the mat. A cloistered spirituality or creativity-- ones that haven't been tested, tried & survived trials-- do not interest me. This is the life I have chosen & that has chosen me.

The only way to be peaceful in such a context is to embrace it all equally. When you are doing Buddhist prostrations, for example, do not be disturbed when your toddlers experience you bowing body as something to jump over. Your children are a large part of the love in your life so, for those moments, they are also part of your practice. When you daughter is looking over your shoulder at a poem you are writing, don't regret your loss of solitude, explain to her what you are doing, incorporate your conversation into the poem. It is so important to cultivate a loving, companionable relationship with our own work, & this begins in fully embracing other relationships. If you can achieve peace in & among all of the facets of your own life, if you can refrain from choosing between them, embrace them all equally, then, & only then, can you extend these gifts outward: you will treat everyone the same way, you will move through your day with a sense of inquiry, delight, surprise, spontaneity. Not only will you allow for interruptions to your "work," you will discover that in the interruptions might be the impetus for creativity, for spirituality. It might have been what you needed to pay attention to that day. Since you're not feeling particularly conflicted (it all deserves your attention & giving it equally is actually effortless), but you are unlikely to engage in conflicts elsewhere. Are these not the seeds of peace?

Am I making any sense?

A few more words about "peace." Many, maybe most of the people in the world, certainly all of us in this country, are overdue for enlightened instructions on multicultural humility. Curiosity, openness & honesty among differences have a way of fostering peaceful interactions between self & other, to the point that such divisions entirely break down over time. Real trust can grow in such a context. I am, after a while, less inclined to think that my interests alone are important or valuable; I am much more likely, in fact, to recognize that my interests are inextricably bound up in yours. I am never sure about what seeds or infrastructures stimulate the kind of growth toward a peace that is substantive & durable, but I have a deep faith that in those who risk planting or building. Any such try might take root or involve others in building similar structures. The tree bears fruit; more spacious lives exist inside suppler structures.

1 Comments:

Blogger Kathy said...

My Wise Old Man (Rick) says: "Curiosity, openness & honesty among differences have a way of fostering peaceful interactions between self & other, to the point that such divisions entirely break down over time....I am, after a while, less inclined to think that my interests alone are important or valuable; I am much more likely, in fact, to recognize that my interests are inextricably bound up in yours."

To " inextricably bound" my world with yours, self/other merges, and therein lies Peace. Peace, self peace, world peace, your peace, my peace. I create images that demonstrate my own fight with inner peace, in that manner the viewer is offered the opportunity to engage in their own.....conflict or contentment....Peace of mind, peace of place, peace of cake. We are all One and the art shows it for those who invest the time to find it. A message of humanity is evident for those who seek it, those who look beyond the surface into the depths of being...in this world. I perceive Peace as wholeness, quiet contentment, empathatic engagement in your world as well as mine. The only way I know to show 'my world' is through the images. The images tell you a story, my story, and just maybe others can relate in some to them. If they so we connect. And, in that connection self and other dissolve into One. And, in One Peace is realized.

January 14, 2010 at 4:20 PM  

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