Kauai's Hindu Monastery and being Hindu-Curious

I'm not sure what it is that makes me love Kauai's Hindu Monastery so much. It's a million tiny little things combined with the obvious fact that it sits on one of the most glorious spots in Kauai. But, well, all of Kauai is gorgeous. So let's call that part moot.

Truthfully, it's one of my very favorites places to be in all of Hawaii.

I love the cleansing act of writing out my wishes, my concerns, my prayers on a piece of paper and then burning it in the fire pit right as you enter. I love the incense burning throughout. I love wandering around the grounds, looking at the amazing trees and flowers. I love the expressions on the monks' faces, something of pure peace and joy that I don't see in other people. I love when a monk stops to check his iPhone, one of the few worldly possessions they are given upon joining the monastery, in order to help them stay connected to the world outside in a way that benefits their community. I love the heartfelt way each monk greets you with a bow and a Namaste, and I love the feeling I have when returning it.

When I was about 11, I lived with a (converted) Hindu family for a time, and when I wasn't living there, I spent all my time there. Their home was a lovely oasis. The grounds were set in the middle of the baking, awful Sky Valley desert, somewhere between Desert Hot Springs and Joshua Tree, about a mile into the nothingness behind the commune-sort-of-place I lived on at the time. (We'll save that particular story for later.) I hate the desert with a passionate fury. But, this house, this family.... I felt nothing but joy and peace to be there. From the moment you walked in the front gate, it was shaded with gigantic, beautiful trees, blocking the sun out entirely. If you survived the boisterous welcome of their Akita dog, who stood on two legs to say hello, the front door/sunroom greeted you with the somewhat humid air from their indoor swamp cooler, heavily scented with a glorious incense that I still burn to this day. It was a big house, draped in fabric and beads and crystals, with glass bottles of water purifying on the windowsills and ferns hanging in all the corners. There was an aviary connected to one of the rooms, providing shade, food, and water to hundreds of doves that were passing through the area. The cooing of the doves was a serene background noise. There was a giant trampoline in the yard, which we slept on during certain nights and watched the stars and counted satellites that passed overhead. There was a large greenhouse in back, which I loved because of all the plants growing, and was educated on different ways to transplant basil and other fragrant herbs, which were then brought inside for cooking and medicinal purposes. One of my biggest dreams in life is having my own greenhouse.

They often spoke of their time in India, and of their guru, whose name and story I will never remember, but whose young face sticks with me. It was difficult for me to comprehend why her picture was throughout the house, and why they showed such appreciation for someone so young. They were vegetarian, and I became vegetarian (for the following decade) because of them. Occasionally the daughter, who was my age, would take time out of our day to meditate. I was never encouraged to participate, because meditation is a private, personal thing, and I never felt the slightest bit of pressure to involve myself in any of their daily practices, a significant difference from certain other belief systems I had also been influenced by. I found this difference refreshing, and it was impossible not to respect their methods.

I miss them and this place greatly, and I wish for an opportunity someday to inform them of the wonderful influence they had on me, and how much I treasure all the experiences I had there.

Because of this, in a way, I feel quite at home on the Kauai temple grounds. I fit in quite naturally. It revives a lot of happy memories for me, and allows me to explore my own continued path as it evolves over time. I always take away something profound from my visits, and just like my time with my Hindu friends as a child, there is no pressure to be anything I'm not. It's a place to just be.

That freedom allows for a much deeper spiritual connection within myself and my own beliefs than almost every other house of worship I have ever been in.

On our last trip to Kauai, we spent multiple mornings there, participating in the daily puja as observers, and meditating with everyone inside the inner temple as the monks chanted, collected the offerings of flowers left by visitors, and filled the room with an even more intense incense. It always feels like such an honor to be there, and I have nothing but reverence for everyone involved, monks and pilgrims alike. My own meditation in the temple is always blissful, and I spend a lot of time just sitting and looking at everything, absorbing the wonderful scents and feelings of peace as much as I can before the mosquito bites win out over my concentration. Sometimes I think the mosquitos are trained to kick you out if you've stayed too long, to give others a chance to have the same experience. That's fair. I am always free to return the next day.

At some point, I'd love to spend enough time in Kauai near the Hindu temple to make this experience regular and consistent. I'd also love to make friends with the monks in such a way that I'll be invited to share in whatever gloriously delicious food they're obviously cooking in the back. It's mouthwatering.

It just feels right to be there, at least occasionally. I feel centered within myself, and my own spiritual enlightenment is furthered by nothing more than my interest in learning and experiencing life outside of my daily world.


Slow Dusk . 36x24 . 2012

 1. natural light
2. artificial/interior light
3. mixed interior and UV light
4. UV light
5. no light (glow in the dark)

Ingredients: acrylic, phosphorescent pigments, crushed glass, glass beads, varnish, water & light on canvas.

*Viewed from straight on, the full moon has a silvery quality. Viewed from the right or left, the color shifts from greenish to blue. The moon crescent sparkles dramatically.

Although this painting is not intended to be part of a set with my last painting, they are most definitely connected. I'm pretty sure I could trace a dialogue between each new piece I've made since I began painting. I'm curious to see how that unfolds further when my career spans decades. It will be interesting to glimpse the long term evolution of my inspiration and techniques.

At the moment, I'm exploring teal. Odd, you're thinking, since this painting doesn't scream teal at all. Actually, what I did here was focus on teal as an iridescent quality. Though the piece itself ranges from blue to purple, as you walk around it in real life, the moon gives off a green-blue color. It requires one to interact with it in order to fully experience the color and light.

In essence, that's a huge factor in what I'm doing with all my work. I want the viewer to observe the art in a deeper way than just standing in front of it. When people come to shows, I encourage them to look at each painting from different points all over the room. Look at it close up, look at it from the right, from the left. Stand on the other side of the room and see how it changes.

What I can never demonstrate online is how a painting looks over time. As the seasons change, the sun is at a different point in the sky and the light even seems to change in hue. I've heard from collectors months and years after a painting was first hung in their home that they noticed something new about it, or a different lightbulb in the room caused a totally different aspect of the painting to come out.

Sometimes it seems like the painting keeps working on itself after I'm done with it. Maybe it's alive?

I like to think so anyway.

You'll have an opportunity to view this piece in person at my show later this year. :)

If you're interested in owning this painting, please contact me.

Tranquility . 36x24 . 2012

1. natural light
2. artificial/interior light
3. mixed interior and UV (black) light
4. UV light alone
5. no light (glow in the dark)

Ingredients: acrylic, phosphorescent pigments, crushed glass, varnish, water & light on canvas.

Tranquility. A beautiful, melodious, serene, wonderful word. I think it's my favorite word.

I've been saving it, holding onto it as a painting title for many years, waiting for the right opportunity. I didn't know that there would ever necessarily be one, and I wasn't sure I would recognize it when it came.

But it's here.

A few months ago when I was in the middle of working on this piece, I knew I felt the word pulling on me. I knew it because of the distinct sense of tranquility I felt while looking at it. It hits all the right notes for me. The color is everything I want to surround my world in. I want to dive from a cliff gracefully into a pool of this liquid, immersing myself fully in the soothing feelings that wash over me while looking at it.

At the moment, it's what I see when I meditate.

I debate whether I will be able to let this painting go from my life. But I also realize, and accept, that my artwork in physical form is not for me. It's for you. No matter where it goes, it will always remain within me, and I have more inside waiting to come out. It will have a much higher purpose if I let it wander its way throughout the universe away from me. I don't need it nearby to create the feeling I see in it. I am this painting.

My hope is for the tranquility of this piece to grow, casting a wider net than I ever could keeping it inside, hoarding the dream for myself. If even one other person feels as strongly about it as I do, the tranquility of it has spread further. It belongs to someone else, maybe a few people, maybe the whole world. Art is so powerful. I want the universe to take it and run.

And if that allows more of me to open up and find even greater peace and serenity in my art than I do now, how perfect my life will be.

If you are interested in owning this painting, please get in touch.

I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now.

(title: lyrics from Bittersweet Symphony. Obviously.)

I've definitely been in a mood lately. Solemn. Serious. Contemplative. Pensive.

"Pensive" was the word used to describe the mood Colin, myself, and two of our friends were in one night shortly before we officially broke up as friends. It was clear we'd passed the point of reconciliation, but none of us were yet admitting out loud that it was over and done with. A 5th friend had us over for dinner and had briefly left the room. We were left in silence, none of us willing to be the first to make noise. The oldest and wisest among us finally broke the silence with, "My, don't we all seem pensive this evening." It's the last thing I actually remember hearing him say. And that was five years ago now.

The word has stuck with me.

Taking a longer break than usual between collections has had an interesting (if not entirely positive) effect on me. I had an incredibly weird year last year, and I wanted time to process it. I think I miscalculated something. The lack of creating seems to have made it harder to process anything. And it should have been obvious. I am nothing if not one who processes life through art.

A few nights ago I had a not-so-great training session at Krav Maga. I've been going four nights a week. It's tiring. It's especially tiring after 2 hours on a Monday, especially when that two hours extends to nearly three. It was an advanced class, my arms were shaking from the first class, and mental exhaustion was overtaking me. I was having trouble grasping a technique. My partner seemed annoyed with me. Instructors began hovering around me with intent to help and from my perspective, they looked annoyed and frustrated too. I wasn't getting it. Just last week I had been asked to help demonstrate something to the rest of the class after performing it well in front of my teacher, and now I was watching all confidence he had in me drain from his eyes.

Or at least that's how I saw it. Nothing worked. No one was able to help me. I just sucked. And I began to panic. I had to seriously talk myself down. I was momentarily convinced I would either drop dead to the ground from exhaustion or burst into tears in front of ten giant men. All I had to do was survive until class was over, then I could get outside to die or cry, or both.

I survived, barely. Having left on such a low note, I only had a few choices available to remedy my situation. A) I would definitely show up to class the next day, and B) I was going to sign up for belt testing in June.

It was a very get-back-on-the-horse sort of situation. It was hard not to see this as a metaphor for life. There are people whose lives seem to vacillate between bad and worse, a reflection of their choices and outlook. People who fall and cry, and slowly climb back to the place they were right before falling, never higher, never daring to reach beyond misery.

I am not one of those people. I stubbornly refuse.

My life might have lows, but it will be filled with mostly highs, mostly great, wondrous, impossible highs and I am going to make sure of it.

So now my personal art season begins again. I will be unveiling the first new painting of my 2012 collection this Saturday. It's great, the perfect painting to start my "new" year, to show you who I am and who I've become over the last year.

For all my pensiveness, this collection is surprisingly positive. I would even say uplifting. Perhaps my way of dealing with myself was to reach inside and pull out every single bit of who I wanted to be. I don't often explore darkness, which isn't a sign that it doesn't exist within me. In fact, I think I make my art very intentionally positive as some sort of cure or medicine for things that I fear. I paint what I want the universe to look like, the way I know deep down that it is, that it must be.

I want to always create beauty. I want to always be surrounded by it. I do not believe that the world could ever have too much of it. There are plenty of other people who put darkness into the world, either with their art or with their lives. They can have it.

If my dharma, my purpose in life, is nothing more than creating instances of beauty whenever and wherever I can, I would feel truly honored indeed.