Yoga Nidra

Yoga NidraYoga Nidra: 20″ x 24″ Acrylic on Canvas

Year after year,
living blindly in loopy chains,
‘till Life pinned me so eloquently to a corner where from myself,
I could not escape.
She told me, “The architecture of your brain needs to change—
you can no longer run, skip, and jump far, far away,
from your internal pains.”
Meditate to medicate.
Day after day now,
my Heart leads the way.

Yoga nidra is a relaxation practice that allows the practitioner to gain deep insight and awareness into unconscious areas of the brain. It subsequently cultivates an ability to rewire samskaras (ingrained patterns of thought, emotions, and behaviours) in a willful manner which in turn assists a way of intentional living. This piece represents the process of yoga nidra: In the center lies deep, dark, unconscious samskaras—that is, outside of our awareness. As we practice, these patterns gradually flow into the light… such like training a skillful eye with acute abilities. The process is slow moving and not always pleasant; painful samskaras present themselves vividly. However, when awareness is established, change is possible. Positive intentions called sankalpas are planted and cultivated—such ones that bring liberation.

Cerebella

Cerebella: 20″ x 24″ Acrylic on Canvas

The cerebellum lies in the human hind brain and is most typically involved in motor control, coordination, posture, and balance. This beautiful flower-shaped structure contains over 100 billion densely packed neurons, that is, more than twice the amount of neurons in the entire cerebral cortex. It’s projections to and from the prefrontal cortex are what makes the wonders of moving meditations possible.

I didn’t want to fight

Calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh placed a haunting stock photo of a shocked, dissociated, teary eyed Vietnamese soldier in an article of his about compassion. Every fibre of the soldier’s being emanated an unspeakably tragic pain and worse off—one that was not allowed be expressed. He spoke to me: I didn’t want to fight. My heart dropped and my gut wrenched. He must have been no older than 20 years old. The following thought was: He could have been dad. But he wasn’t. My dad evaded enlistment during the Vietnam war by hiding inside a wall in his home for a long time. Later, him and my mother fled the country on a small boat by bribing the police with gold. We’re now grounded in Eastern Canada.

During the war, Thich Nhat Hanh was exiled from Vietnam for his immense efforts in peace activism. Even after the battle played out through to its brutally long end, the victorious Vietnamese communist government was still threatened by his influence. For these reasons, they banned Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings, exercising forceful control over his mindfulness practice communities. You may be asking why? How could such an innocent practice like attending to the present moment pose such a risk?

I learned the answer after undertaking vigorous mindfulness training myself. It’s because when you practice mindfulness, you develop a greater capacity to question all conditioned beliefs (e.g. political ideologies), and explore in your Heart what truly feels right. When you practice mindfulness, you learn to release hatred for “the other” and replace it instead with compassionate understanding for all sides. When you practice mindfulness, peacebuilding skills grow naturally from the inside-out. Of course, the Vietnamese communist government did not favour a population of freethinkers and nonviolent resisters.

The image of the soldier is still menacingly burned into my head. Though I can’t help but believe that Thich Nhat Hanh strategically placed that photograph there for me (and of course, others like myself), because it had triggered a deep grief in my ancestral history that cannot be forgotten. This is not acceptable. This cannot happen again. This should still not be happening now. What do I do? The answer arose spontaneously from the very core of Thich Nhat Hanh’s mission itself:

Spread the practice of mindfulness.

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
Floored.
It’s only then you might realize
that she deserves so much more
More.
More than the bullshit that’s been poisoning her hearts core:
—objectification
—sexualization
—body hatred as normative
socialization
because
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
Compassionately
and soon you’ll see:
a firm promise she keeps
with no one else to please
she’ll joyfully set you free.