Wrapping up this round of posts on the arts with a few more, beginning with these short video clips in which six teachers share their perspectives on the role of art and the artist in society. Teachings of this type have deeply informed my mindful journey back into the world of form and have helped me to glimpse the larger human story embedded in all works of art and creation.
To wrap up this first round of posts on the art of computer gaming, here’s a small gallery of soundtracks that demonstrate not only the range of musical styles found in gaming but some of the best work being done in the industry. For music that’s emotive with dashes of energy, check out Journey or The Unfinished Swan. Ori and the Blind Forest reminds me more of a Studio Ghibli or Disney soundtrack with its range, large sound and sweeping movements. The smaller and charming music from DVA is anything but routine and invites multiple listens whereas the soundtracks for Ibb & Obb and Hohokum are the type of meditative electronica that makes for a chill gaming session – or a good work session when playing in the background while blogging (true story – listening to Hohokum at this very moment). The images below link to freebies offered on Youtube for your listening pleasure; please consider supporting the artists of any of these creations you want to enjoy repeatedly. :)
Appreciating The Art & Peaceful Play Of Computer Gaming
Would you like to know the – tenth, let’s say tenth – thing I realized right after awakening? Within a few minutes, literally, I recognized that computer gaming would never again hold for me the same importance that it had until that moment. This thought brought a feeling of loss because I lloooooove me some computer gaming, so much so that in 2016 I spent a considerable number of my pennies on a computer hardware upgrade (which I actually took pics of in true geek fashion) so I could jump onboard the VR (virtual reality) bandwagon. My super happy plan in late-2016 was to finish a project management contract and take a 3-month break from work to slip off the planet into the worlds of cyberspace. Then the awakening happened and all those plans ceased to exist.
After awakening and then spending months pushing through my outdated notions of what it means to be spiritual, I came to point where I recognized that my next challenge would be to come back to the world without getting lost in it. Though I was no longer clear on what specific work I’d be doing in the future, I was clear in my understanding that I should not withdraw from the material ‘noise’ of the world but should engage with it on a creative level. I felt called to resurrect my longstanding and long-neglected interest in artistic creation and to marry that with the skills I had acquired professionally over the years and see what happened. And if this approach seems a little cavalier, blame that on the spiritual teachers who encouraged me to indulge in such recklessness(!).
It turns out that many who awaken are left facing the challenge of finding a new purpose in life, one that feels more true to the newly revealed self. In response to those asking for help in finding this purpose, many teachers advise two things – patience and engaging in the act of creating. Patience makes the time for a practice to develop, bringing the stillness that carries insight. Acts of imagination and creation hook us into the mainline of Source consciousness, the wellspring of all inspiration. Whether through singing, painting, writing – any act of creating is recommended as a way to help quiet the egoic mind and invite inspiration and insight; I’ll share some of these teachings in the next gallery.
Experiencing Death After An Awakening
On Sunday, March 18th, the body of my feline companion of eighteen years took its very last gasping breath and then lay still, emptied of the little spark of awareness that I had known and loved as Frodo, my little fuzz-butt goofy-girl kitty. (What can I say, I’m not very good at guessing the gender of baby cats).
It was a death that was slow in coming; over her last year, her chronic arthritis and kidney disease started to worsen more quickly, though you wouldn’t know it to watch her launch her tiny spring-loaded body onto the top of the neighbor’s fence – or the top of the kitchen counter to loudly request food, more likely. But by mid-January, keeping her fed, comfortable and groomed required almost around-the-clock care. And it was in this setting that my next lesson about death and loss unfolded.
To be clear, this was not my first trip down this road; I’ve shared my home with feline companions for much of my life and have lost these friends to both old age and accidents. In the past, each of these deaths was filled with not just sadness but a sense of grief that I imagine marks the difference between those of us who have ‘pets’ and those of us who have ‘feline family members’. This was especially true a few years ago during the death of Sam, Frodo’s younger stepbrother (someone is a JRR Tolkien fan) who died of intestinal cancer at the age of ten. Over just a few months, I went from trying to save his life to watching him waste away and die and it was heartbreaking. I can still remember the tears streaming down my face as I sat with him and scritched his ears, already living in a time when I would never be able to see him again. And I remember the anger at a universe that had this animal suffering so.
What happens to our sense of ‘me’ after death? Does our consciousness reincarnate in another form to live another life? How should we prepare for our death – and what does that even mean? Insights of the type shared by these six teachers in this video gallery helped me discover a new perspective from which to grapple with such questions about the transformation that is death.
A gallery of images painted by C.G. Jung into the original Red Book. Click on the images to see text and notes from Jung and the book’s editor, Sonu Shamdasani.
The Red Book (1930)
Carl G. Jung, PhD
I am never surprised to hear spiritual teachers refer to the Bible or the Buddha - these are the types of sources I expect to hear quoted by those speaking about nondual consciousness. I was, however, initially surprised to hear so many teachers call back to the insights of Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. From Catholic priests to physicists, from philosophers to psychonauts, the number of people teaching in the nondual space who've been influenced by C.G. Jung is impressive. And what most influenced C.G. Jung? According to the man himself, it was his experiences during the years of 1913 to 1917, as seen in this quote from the book's opening pages:
"The years, of which I have spoken to you, when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then." --C.G. Jung, 1957, speaking on the experiences recorded in 'The Red Book'
While continuing to maintain an active clinical practice and family life, Jung spent his evenings and weekends during these years discovering and documenting the "visions", "fantasies" and "imaginations" he encountered while exploring altered states of consciousness. Originally recorded in a series of journals, by 1915 Jung began transcribing his notes into a 400-page book specially ordered to accommodate the illuminations and illustrations he wanted to add to the text. Jung updated and expanded this book repeatedly over the years but never published it, keeping it instead on a shelf in his office to share with selected students and colleagues, many of whom referred to it not by the name Jung had embossed on the spine (Liber Novus, or 'New Book') but as "The Red Book" due to the bright red leather cover. Though many believe Jung intended to eventually publish the book, that he did not do so before his death left the decision to his estate, which initially refused to publish. But after 13 years (!) of editing by Professor Sonu Shamdasani, the book was finally brought to the public in 2009 to the delight of psychonauts everywhere.
So far I've only read bits and pieces of the book as I can't get past the images (and related footnotes), which I've poured over for hours. Being fascinated by how human psychology expresses itself through images, I can only imagine the insights hidden within the choices (by Jung or by the collective mind?) of the specific colors and forms in each image. Some images remind me of ayahuasca art, some remind me of my own visions and still others seem to invite contemplation. Regardless, images from such a mind as Jung's - and from a time when this mind was discovering its broadest dimensions, no less - are definitely part of the draw here. In full, the book contains a reproduction of Jung's original handwritten text and images, a full translation, notes from the translator and editor, an epilogue, appendix and over 350 footnotes, many of them long and full of interesting comments from the editor. It's like book and meta-book, all in one.
I'm sure the hardcover edition is a beautiful thing to behold but if you're looking for the free option, the website Stillness Speaks has you covered. There are also many resources about the Red Book - I found this series of lectures from Professor Lance Owens a helpful orientation to Jung, the book and the context of its creation.
Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca (2017)
Dr. Richard Louis Miller et al
In case you're wondering what is meant by 'psychedelic medicine' or why a growing number of people are advocating for this research, here's the author making a case that's about as good as any I've heard so far:
"When we expand our consciousness we liberate ourselves from the slavery that is inherent in all cultural and institutional systems. The slavery derives from repetition of daily life until the behavior becomes institutionalized, thereby creating culture. Rigidified, institutionalized culture is the ultimate peer pressure, which stifles, dominates, and controls both creativity and consciousness expansion. Once a person ingests a psychedelic medicine and experiences the Deep Within and expanded consciousness, there is no going back to narrow consciousness and constricted thinking. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Once we experience alternate realities we can never again say this is the only one reality. When we experience ourselves as electrochemical beings of light, as molecules stuck together taking material form, our lives take on new meaning. Psychedelic medicine can facilitate our using the power of the mind to change our very genetic structure. We can change the slings and arrows of outrageous genetic misfortune into a Cupid's bow of a sculpted self." --from the Introduction to 'Psychedelic Medicine'Clearly Miller's strong belief in the importance of psychedelics informs his book, a collection of interviews with many of the leading psychedelic researchers of today such as ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna, psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, MAPS founder Rick Doblin and psychedelic advocate Amanda Feilding. In the interviews we hear a bit about the history of earlier research, the nature of consciousness and other interesting asides as each scholars discusses their research and its implications for the future with author Richard Miller, an American clinical psychologist, radio host and founder of the highly regarded Cokenders Alcohol and Drug Program. Recent headlines have been alerting us to the promise of psychedelic medicine for any number of applications - PTSD, mental illness, terminal illness - and this book offers a timely way to get caught up on much of this important research.