Metta Flow

For Open Streets Waterloo 2015, I created a unique space where metta (maitri in Sanskrit), “loving kindness,” meditation could be practiced. Metta meditation entails the cultivation of loving thoughts. There are five main stages of which consecutively gains more and more physical expansiveness as moved through. The objects that the practitioner is called to send love to are as follows:

1) Yourself
2) A loved one
3) A neutral person
4) A difficult person
5) All sentient beings

Some examples of well wishes one may send to the object of choice include: “May I/ you be safe,” “May I/ you be well,” “May you I/ be happy,” “May you I/ have peace.”

If practiced traditionally, the meditator began on the first block at the bottom, and then moved up to the next whenever they felt ready. However, street passerbyers were free to enter and leave the station as they pleased; they were flexible to practice part or all of the meditation depending on what their needs were at the moment. Yoga mats were also provided alongside in case meditators wished to prep their meditation with mindful movement.

The Ebb and Flow of the HPA-Axis

“The Ebb and Flow of the HPA(hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal)-axis,” is a contemporary, long durational art piece I performed at the 2013 Toronto Nuit Blanche portraying two sides of the most prominent physiological responses of the human body in regards to mental unrest in Western culture. The HPA-axis is a communication system starting at the brain, circulating to the kidneys, to then elicit physiological responses which puts the body into a state of stress and vigilance. This response is key for survival when activated in short bouts when necessary, but is however the root of a plethora of illness when switched on chronically. These illnesses include anxiety, stress, epileptic, and depressive disorders.

The right side of my mat represented a hyperactive HPA-axis; as I danced over to that side, my poses would portray pain, suffering, noise, and inner turmoil. To further illustrate this point, I progressively wrote descriptive words with charcoal on the sidewalk. On the right, I wrote phrases such as, “AMYGDALA,” “GLUCOCORTICOIDS,” and “FEAR.” On the other hand, the left side of my mat represented a balanced HPA-axis; as I danced over to that side, my poses would be meditative and peaceful, representing safety processing enamored by yogic practices. Here, I’d write phrases such as; “GAMMA-AMINOBUTRYIC ACID,” “PEACE,” and “VAGUS NERVES.”

The cut up triangular papers in front are copies of a research article by Chris Streeter and colleagues titled “effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder”—the source of inspiration for this piece.

Peace in Chaos

On a search for stillness and peace amidst a rhythm of chaos, I meditated for four hours on the corner of Yonge and Dundas street, one of the busiest intersections in downtown Toronto. I had set up two practice mats in opposition to one another: one for me, and one for any passerbyer who wished to join. From there, I closed my eyes and began cycling through bouts of hatha flow and mindfulness meditation.

But Why?

Learning to still the fluctuations of the mind within a controlled, calm, and tranquil environment is indeed powerful, but only half the battle; this simulated practice space does not extrapolate perfectly to the entropy and turbulent aspects of our daily lives.

A more realistic micro-depiction of our living environment may be better represented by a mixture of blaring police sirens, loud honking from impatient drivers, shouting religious activists, a collision of musical sounds from buskers reverberating from several directions, ants crawling on my feet, cigarette smoke swirling the air, teenagers screaming “LOSER” in my face, confused spectators crowding my space, and a continuous stream of clicking cameras.

The point is: If you can discover peace here, you can discover it anywhere.

You say you want bones, But…

The Gorilla's ThroneOn Her Rumble HOUSE Throne: 14″ x 20″ Acrylic on Corrugated Panel 
Painting by Rich Theroux

You say you want bones but
bones never quite do
No, they never do because once you have bones
you’ll only want more
so don’t wait for more bones to emerge out from beneath
the waves of your sheaths
because the pretty mirrors
aren’t always so clean—
with a noisy fog that constantly hovers
from the the fights with your mother
to the judgement from your brothers
to the shame from your lover
to the lies from magazine covers.
Its only when your Body lay
paralyzed in pain
fire turned to ashes
washing your breath away…
on the bathroom floor
It’s only then you might realize
that she deserves so much more
More than the bullshit that’s been poisoning her hearts core:
—body hatred as normative
the Body is divine—
her lungs fill you with energetic life
her brain holds a brilliant mind
her muscles and bones allow you to dance in the sky
and her warm heart: a beautiful kind.
Your Body is divine
so give her instead
unconditional love and empathy
Listen to her cries and respond
and soon you’ll see:
a firm promise she keeps
with no one else to please
she’ll joyfully set you free.