Heart Opening Moments

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Aikido’s Path Beyond Awakening

Battle of the Samurais by Mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Battle of the Samurais by Mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Last Sunday I had the privilege of being in Gankashu training with an aikido master Utada shihan. 学習 (gankashū) in Japanese means learning or actively studying a subject. In aikido, we emphasize 修学 (shūgaku) which is beyond the superficial intellectual understanding and as a way to commit to the depth of true knowledge. 修学 (shūgaku) is similar to 修行 (shūgyō) or 修道 (shūdō) which is often used in martial arts training to describe one’s lifetime devotion to the path.

The path prior to awakening is similar to the path prior to attaining a black belt. We often aim our direction in such a way in order to achieve, to conquer, and to make the ego successful. It is not to say there’s no value in such an aim. It is just that the path after awakening is substantially different even though the outward expression of the path might hold certain similarities.

A few months into my aikido training years ago, I asked both of my senseis how long it would take for me to obtain a black belt. Back then, that was my aim. I thought if I made it to a black belt then I have made it onto the ladder of success. I remember clearly the older sensei just laughed while the younger sensei smiled and sincerely answered me in such a way that was fit for my level of understanding at the time. I could sense that I was blind to a greater knowing. I saw it on their faces that for me to even ask such a question I must only have had superficial understanding but really was essentially ignorant.

Life worked out in such a way that my sustained awakening synchronized with my training for my shodan (first degree black belt). My training partner invested in aikido mats for a home dojo where he aimed to obtain his black belt no matter what. We trained during normal class times as well as in his home dojo and by ourselves. He held a purpose to obtain just as I lost my obsession to obtain. I didn’t know what was really happening within me at the time. All I knew for certain was that I had lost the drive to ace the test, yet I still trained and trained with every ounce of my heart not at all concerned with the outcome. The interesting sensation was that I felt more truly devoted to my path without holding any agenda at all.

Samurai sword bushido - artwork by mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Samurai sword bushido – artwork by mariusz Szmerdt (used with permission from artist http://sumi-e.pl)

Utada shihan told us a story of a samurai’s search for Enlightenment. This samurai set his course to be the best. He did end up conquering and defeating even the best samurais around him yet he did not find what he was looking for. He decided that a warrior’s path cannot lead to Enlightenment so he switched his path to become a farmer. Years later still not able to find what he was looking for, he then switched his path again to become solitary and lived in a cave no one would ever find. Legends told that he never found what he was looking for.

Stories of samurais or warriors in search of one’s true path are often told in great detail and variation in many cultures.  They are all the same story in essence – a hero’s journey. Initially the hero wants to obtain skills for a grand purpose. There is much hardship and resistance internally and externally. This is symbolized as the fight, often times a duel to the death. Death is also symbolic where an old way must completely end in order for the hero to truly discover oneself. We project out our own inferior qualities onto others in the world and in such stories these inferior qualities must be “killed” in a duel so only one True warrior can live on. Unfortunately for some stories like our story of the unfound samurai, even winning the duel cannot bring a deeper understanding of Truth, Self, and  Life. Fortunately for some others, we dig deeper than just the superficial appearance and find a whole new world of being. There does come a death, more dramatic than the physical death is the death of the old, the death of our tinted beliefs, and the death of the psyche. In the physical death, the energy of the old way of being will still carry on and the psychological death does not allow any old parts to carry on – EVERYTHING must go, must be cleaned out.

The moment of awakening is the realization of “oh, I now know what I am.” Just because this realization takes place it does not mean all of our cellular memories, hardwired beliefs and reactions will shift in a single moment. The clearing out process takes time. The new neuronal network takes time to disengage and rebuild. And the new DNA transcription and new protein expression also takes time to re-educate. And these times of the post-awakening can sometimes be very clear while all of a sudden we sink into the mud again of confusion. This is because our system is rebuilding, readjusting, and relearning. Anything that no longer fits the new system will be brought to the surface, examined, and evaluated. There are times of blissful oneness followed by unshakable darkness. The path after awakening is that of purification. It does not happen by us, but it happens to us. Grace takes care of the majority of the work, we just are just along for the ride – hence 道 is written as a the “one who emerges” riding a “carriage”. Like my 初段 (shodan) is written as the beginning of a path – the road after awakening is  where the journey truly begins. This path is 修道 (shūdō) – the path of complete devotion to the life after realization.

Utada shihan shared several points through aikido to help one orient the focus in a constructive manner. These points will help aikidokas and freshly realized beings alike.

I) 道場とわ (dojo to wa)
“how to conduct oneself in the dojo environment”
In aikido, one must start from the self, once our inner space is cleaned then extend that onto our gi and into a cleansed and open space we call the dojo. This is also true for our spiritual journey. First we must hold what is realized, then embody what is realized and be what is realized. We take the realization into the world.

II) 心技体の稽古 (shin gi tai no kei ko)
“the importance of the body and mind/heart training”
In aikido, the enemy is the constantly changing and wavering mind. The wavering mind unbalances the body. A unbalanced wavering body is already defeated. In aikido, we train to unify. In our spiritual path after realization, the mind can still try to take center stage and take along the body, emotions and energy with it. The training is to become “no mind”, where movements are simple expressions from spirit not thought.

III) 二つの目付き (futatsu no me tsuke)
“two ways of witnessing”
There are two ways to witness, one way is 見 and the second way is 観.  The first way is to view something with sight. It is only a superficially physical way to witness. The second way is to deeply see and intuit the completeness of something. It is often said 観 is a deeper way of truly seeing with one closing one’s two eyes but opening the third eye and turning it inward. It is the first word in the Heart Sutra – the beginning of truly seeing. Life after awakening demands us to no longer rely on 見 but we must look inward and view life by its completeness with our own depth through 観.

IV) 伝統と継承 (dento to keishou)
“tradition and succession [of the art]”
In any type of martial arts, we base our training in the grounded-ness of tradition. Aikido is an evolved form from the way of the sword, jujutsu, and other forms of martial arts. Because of tradition there is training. Yet it does not become capped but a life-form that keeps evolving to higher and higher levels.  O sensei said in an interview: “In my opinion, [aikido] can be said to be the true martial art. The reason for this is that it is a martial art based on universal truth. This universe is composed of many different parts, and yet the universe as a whole is united as a family and symbolizes the ultimate state of peace. Holding such a view of the universe, Aikido cannot be anything but a martial art of love. It cannot be a martial art of violence. For this reason Aikido can be said to be another manifestation of the Creator of the universe.”

And that too, is the path after realization.

December 21, 2013 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, Death & Rebirth, Enlightenment, Fine Arts, Inner Growth, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Softer Side of Spirituality

The balance of Yin and Yang has been studies and expressed throughout history in many different cultures. In this pair of Chinese Song Dynasty Scrolls, the artist used the balance of dark and white space, strong and soft composition to express both a winter scenery and a summer scenery. On the left, a lunar colder calmer quality is presented in the winter scene. On the right, a solar hotter windy quality is presented in the sumer scene. Yet in the winter scene, stronger lines, sharper angles were used to bring in a touch of yang. And in the summer scene, softer lines, more curves were used to demonstrate the presence of yin.

The balance of Yin and Yang has been studied and expressed throughout history in many different cultures. In this pair of Chinese Song Dynasty Scrolls, the artist used the balance of dark and white space, strong and soft composition to express both a winter scenery and a summer scenery. On the left, a lunar colder calmer quality is presented in the winter scene. On the right, a solar hotter windy quality is presented in the sumer scene. Yet in the winter scene, stronger lines, sharper angles were used to bring in a touch of yang. And in the summer scene, softer lines, more flowing curves were used to demonstrate the presence of yin. [Paintings from “Picturing Listening: The Sight of Sound in Chinese Painting” by Susan Nelson, University of Indiana]

As the gentle sea breeze caresses my hair, my spirit begin to dance in the wind, letting go the tough shell, exposing a softer side of an inner nature…

How often have I forgotten to melt into the wind? As part of my journey I insisted to be overly focused on fitting into a mold, following a form and in turn losing touch with the essence, the formless, the effortless way of being. So much of our spiritual teachings in existence were written by men – the solar Yang, the masculine, the protruding drive towards attainment. Yet for all of us, we all possess an inherent nature of the lunar Yin energy that is yearning to be a balanced part of our complete whole.

I love beauty. A bulb waiting to blossom can move me to tears of appreciation. I also love training, striving for more, and breakthrough my self-imposed limitations. Lately I noticed the more I strive, the less content I become. In a way, I’m training myself too forcefully that actually deviates my path away from my true Self-expression.

Enlightenment is already a part of our innate nature. The path of spirituality is really to allow that which is Realized to penetrate deeply into our everyday lives, in the way we carry ourselves, in the way we share love with one another. As we sink deeper into Awareness we touch upon a softer side of spirituality – the feminine all-acceptance non-conditional Love. In this side of the same coin where Yang resides, Yin tenderly watches over us like a mother tending to her child’s every need. Yet this Yin energy does not demand, it does not strive, it only watches us with the grandness of her love from a distance. She has no agenda of her own. She allows us to come and go as we choose. Don’t mistake this for non-caring, as she senses our every laughter, every drop of tear, and every challenge we face she is there for us through the strength of her spirit. This is the expression of Yin.

In all of us, we inherited both the Yin and the Yang. The Yang were well publicized in the form of committed actions such as structured meditation, contrived martial art movement, or even directionalized intense focus. We are familiar with such a drive and somehow we believed if we just do this or do that, we can achieve enlightenment or we will march our way towards attainment. On the other side of the coin, we often forget the quality of allowing, the carefreeness of going with the flow, following the way of nature.

I have forgotten my softer side and now she is calling out to me. Today, as I slow down from weeks of intense training, I allow myself to breathe in the cooling sea air, feeling myself wrapped in a warm blanket of Grace. I step slowly to feel every inch of grass beneath my toes. I open up myself to this emerging spring inside and out, feeling blessed to be a part of grand nature, balancing my own unique mixture of Yin and Yang. My meditation is to feel, to open, and to love.

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Chinese, Fine Arts, Inner Growth, Self Realization | , , , , | 6 Comments

An Exploration of Enlightenment

Chances are, if you are a spiritual seeker, then you have heard of enlightenment. We were told Buddha was an enlightened master, so was Jesus and a few selected individuals throughout history. There are others such as Muhammad Rumi, Albert Einstein, Joseph Campbell all exhibited such inherent passion for life and ease of living that they too might possess something mystical. Even various cultures throughout history have shifted into a space that completely transformed human reason to redefine the quality of our very existence.

Enlightenment Period Art – Time unveiling Truth, 1733, Jean-François Detroy (The winged figure of Time, holding a scythe in the sky, reveals Truth, his daughter, who unmasks an old woman personifying Fraud. The four Cardinal Virtues kneel in tribute at Truth’s feet. Fortitude rests by a lion which symbolises her courage, while Justice carries a sword and scales which refer to her power and impartiality. Further back Temperance carries a pitcher of water which signifies abstinence, and Prudence carries a snake, an allusion to her wisdom. In the top right-hand corner is a building which recalls the Pantheon in Rome.) http://tinyurl.com/ae6ywb3

What is the commonality between various categories of enlightenment?

Look up the term in google, the definition comes to be 1) the action of enlightening or the state of being enlightened; 2) the attainment of spiritual knowledge or insight that which frees a person from the cycle of [karma]. The Buddhism root of the term translates into “awakening” and “understanding”, which then allows us to break the bondage of suffering. Spiritual enlightenment promoting individual well-being in the Western civilization leading into the twenty-first century are often called a new age idea drawing on Eastern cultures and philosophies. Hence spiritual enlightenment is thought to be an “achievement” all individuals seek to obtain.

A more well-known use of the term is the “period of enlightenment” roughly span the early seventeenth century through the eighteenth century where traditional hierarchical political-social structures such as the French monarchy were violently overturned. The “period of enlightenment” occurred with a shift in thinking. Unvoiced in the past, individuals were encouraged to criticize the corruption of the monarchy and the aristocracy. At an earlier time in the late fifteenth century a parallel force of the scientific revolution triggered a yearning for new science, new experiments, and individual searches of intellectual freedom.

This wave of scientific revolution also helped to shape “enlightenment thoughts” in philosophical discussions. Against popular beliefs promoted by religion, Before the mid-sixteenth century, Descartes joined Galileo in advocating a heliocentric solar system. To avoid the Inquisition, his books in science were mostly published anonymously. Yet this undercover passion shaped his philosophical inquiries of doubt and knowledge, which allowed his skeptical arguments to penetrate the court of Queen Christina. In the mid-seventh century, Voltaire stood out to question popular believes by his words against myth and superstition taught by religious authorities. At the same time, Hume’s inquires into the sometimes false perceptions of the mind, Kant’s aim to unite new empirical experiences with established rational reasoning all propelled a shift in thinking – this shift is known as the Enlightenment.

In a sense, no matter how unrelated each categories might seem, various forms of enlightenment somehow point to the same direction – a question, a reassessment, a revolution, an awakening, a transformation leading to the freedom of true knowledge. In essence, enlightenment is a shift in perception, a shift in being that sheds light on something, illuminating what was in the dark to making it stand out and absolutely clear.

What does enlightenment have anything to do with you? And why would you want a piece of it?

Have you ever thought there might be more to life? One time or another in our lives we all strived to be happier, live deeper and experience more. What we’ve been taught by society is to achieve more in life and possess more materialistic things. We would purchase a bigger house, a more expensive car, exotic vacations, marry a handsome husband, earn a good living, yet somehow all these achievements quickly lose their attraction and we still feel unfulfilled. Some of us might turn to addictions such as food, drugs, sex, TV shows, video games to fill the hole yet still not able to find the happiness we yearn for. We don’t see a way out of this darkness, we yearn for more…

Second, like most human beings you have probably experienced suffering. If you are lucky, a tragedy in life might have brought pain to your awareness – physically or emotionally. From an early age we often cry in response to unpleasant events. Later in life, we tend to spin our wheels and try to solve various life’s dramas only finding ourselves unable to break free. For some, this suffering is always screaming and leaks into every part of our existence. Such as a solider who lost his legs in battle later found himself unwilling to take part in the simplest daily activities due to his overwhelming sadness, anger and shame. For others, this suffering is unconscious yet dictates all the choices we make in life. Like a young woman who believed she is not pretty enough so she spent hours each day to prepare herself, endless hours in the gym, purchased new breasts to feel better, dated hot guys to validate her own self-worth. For her, all of her energy is spent in this endless loop of the believe that she is not pretty enough, nevertheless she is trapped in a subconscious suffering.

Third, no matter if you are a scientist, a historian or a psychotherapist, you care about truth. As the Enlightenment philosophers once explored, truth can be very difficult to come by. As a scientist, I would form a theory of the world and then design experiments to examine the validity of my theory in an attempt to find truth. As a historian, you might research paintings, literatures, personal documentation in attempt to find what were the true forces responsible for a radical global shift. As a psychotherapist, it is your job to help individuals to discover which mental perceptions are faulty and how to form reality-based knowledge without the effect of delusions. Or if you are anything like me – a skeptic of everything you read or hear, you are tired of being living in other people’s structures of life and you want to use your own experience to feel life as it truly is.

No matter if you are yearning for fulfillment, seeking the end of suffering, or needing the clarity of truth, enlightenment holds the promise to set you free. It literally unmasks an old belief like the painting “Time unveiling Truth” – resulting in a break-away from the endless loops our old conditioning. It is difficult to describe what enlightenment is if the actual experience has not yet taken place. Everything you read here and elsewhere is only a finger-pointing to enlightenment, it is just a map hoping to get you closer. That is when Kant’s argument of external knowledge and reasoning might be helpful leading one to an actual internal experience. Upon the union of both – external knowledge and internal experience – Truth can then be attained – cycles of suffering or karmic ties can then be broken.

But, what the heck is enlightenment?

It is often referred to as “awakening”, “self-realization”, “freedom” and more. Like the word “enlighten”, it literally has the quality of shedding light onto an area of darkness. The contrast of this event is so great, it is like day and night. Once enlightenment happens, you cannot deny it. Just like dawn might still be very cold and dark, and upon the arrival of the day, the sun shines brightly you know you are no longer in darkness. It also has the quality of waking up from a dream. As we were once asleep, life’s problems were hunting us and we drive ourselves mad trying to come to a resolution. As we wake up, we realize all that suffering was just a dream. In fact, after awakening we realize all is well. Like the word self-realization, it is a realization of who you are, and that dream was all the untruth, that dream was everything you were not yet you just didn’t know it. Upon awakening you will know you are not your thoughts, you are not your body, you are not emotions, you are not your intellect, you are not your personality, and all that’s left over is you are space, you are pure awareness.

You are free to go beyond your past conditioning so each moment greets you anew. You are no longer dictated by the monarchy of your karma. You get to experience life fresh, without trying to focus on the moment, the moment simply just is. You are no longer controlled by your mind or by an external standard of right or wrong. You realize all the knowledge you accumulated before was somehow not of your own, it was passed down to you from other authorities, and you have somehow believed to be Truth.

After awakening you profoundly understand Truth spoken by Jesus when he said “the kingdom of God is within you.” You realize that the God you once prayed to as an old bearded man in the sky was just a mental imagine of what God might be because you didn’t know better. Upon enlightenment, you know with empirical experience that the essence of God is within you, God is omnipresent, and God is all there is. You know who you are, you know who everyone else is as well, and magically you are no longer separate, you are no longer sad or lonely, somehow, you are naturally happy. Then the you that was once the center of your universe disappears into a heliocentric solar system where God is the sun. You no longer aim for achievement to make yourself look better, instead, you naturally care about the well-being of the whole. After enlightenment you will know that God lives within you, and you are joy, you are Love. And you are glad that there’s no more you, there is only Flow. life literally becomes magical and everything happens between time, space, and in the perfectly harmonious order.

How does it happen?

Like the “period of enlightenment”, a personal enlightenment is also a revolution. It starts with a profound discomfort that you are not living your full potential and something must be done. You might feel that something different is taking place but you can’t pin-point exactly what is going on. Often times deep suffering can be the birthing place that promotes such revolution. Like a society, when old structures no longer work in the current context, something must change. Many individuals feel an unrecognizable fear as if life is no longer mapped out. Each and everyday becomes a struggle as our old way of operations is shedding away and we no longer how what to “DO”. Some people might feel as if suddenly their whole life is falling apart in the traditional sense. Some might feel their own masks of individual identity has being ripped off by external events. Others might feel chucks of their memories are missing or being re-invented. All these are indications of an under current of a powerful internal transformation.

Enlightenment can happen by a traumatic trigger such as a near-death experience or diligent hard labor such as a monk’s daily devotion. For most, it happens somewhere in between. It requires a personal willingness to let go everything we once were taught to be true and search for our new inner science (hence Sadhguru’s Isha Yoga is an inner science towards self-realization and his beginner’s program is called Inner Engineering). It also requires a softness to perceive beyond the logical mind and receive whatever God has in store for you – however, whenever. Sounds simple yet it may not be easy. Most people are stuck yearning for the grace of God to unveil Truth yet they are not willing to let go their self-centered personal identities. It is often called letting go of the ego – meaning letting go false identifications of who we believe yourself to be (as in the painting by the old woman with the mask, she is old outdated and her mask must be lifted off by Truth).

Similar to the “period of enlightenment”, once enough momentum is gathered to start the movement of a revolution, it can no longer be stopped. It becomes a rolling snowball, so anything that is untrue will be violently overturned and destroyed in the process to pave way for Truth. Yet at the time of war, your days can become extremely unpleasant, yet this must take place to bring-forth a transformation. One day you might realize that you are dying and there’s nothing you can do about it. What’s dying is your old perception of who you are, this death of the ego in painful but it will not kill the real you. It destroys the impostor who posed as you only to give space to the who you really are.

Like a caterpillar “dying” in the cocoon, it does not know what’s on the other side of the death only that he can no longer be a caterpillar. When this happens, the revolution has been well underway and it can no longer be reversed. An incubation time will begin in the darkness of deep self-reflection and fierce inquiries of truth. You might wonder how long you must watch yourself melt away… Then another day might arrive on this continuous stream of journey that suddenly you are no longer dying but rebuilding as a new part of nature. Your vision somehow seems brighter, you no longer get bothered by other people’s comments or your own internal dialog, you notice the way you view things is completely different from everyone else around you, and you KNOW who you are. You might laugh, cry, or both at the same time. But suddenly you will KNOW – you will KNOW who you are, you will KNOW who everyone else is, you will KNOW what the Truth is and what are merely masks. Slowly like a newborn butterfly, you will find yourself navigating in a brand new world, testing our your new wings.

Like aikido master Nev Sagiba said, “Enlightenment is like getting a shodan – AFTER ENLIGHTENMENT THE WORK BEGINS! After enlightenment, life truly begins.

Common misunderstandings of enlightenment…

“Enlightened people never cry again.” – NOT TRUE! After enlightenment we are more open to the vast collection of emotions, we no longer shy away or judge our organic emotions. We might laugh, feel frustrated when the computer didn’t auto-save, we might cry – yet somehow even the tears become sweet.

“Enlightened people experience perfect health and never feel pain.” – NOT TRUE! Some pain and illness are just another natural aspect of life. However, pain does not equate to suffering. One might feel pain and become intimate with that pain yet never suffer a minute through it.

“My life should work out exactly the way I plan to when I’m enlightened.” – NOT!!! After enlightenment there’s no more I, nor planning. “I” melts into nature and planning no longer applies when you are a part of God. Therefore you do whatever is needed whenever it is needed – as a part of harmony, a part of nature, a part of God.

“I was doing great with amazing mystical experiences then suddenly I’m lost in a black hole with no more amazing experiences. What’s wrong?” – NOTHING IS WRONG. Many people chase after experiences they label as “good” believing these experiences will get them closer to enlightenment. In actuality, everything life hands to you is exactly what you need and when you need it – designed for your growth, with sufficient awareness, you can awaken.

“I must be a nice and happy person in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.” NOT TRUE! You must be a truthful person in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. We were often taught what is nice and not nice. We often suppress our “negative” emotions to be nice. Not facing whatever arises within us, we lose the opportunity to be truth. By stuffing away what we judge to be “bad” or “not nice” can only delay our progress. Pretending you are not sad or angry when indeed you are will only lead you further away from the truth. The key is to meditate on such feelings before we act out unconsciously.

“The ultimate goal of life is enlightenment. After that, I can rest and never have to work a day in my life ever again.” – NOT TRUE! Enlightenment is a rebirth, before enlightenment our vessel is too dirty to be an instrument of God, after enlightenment true work can finally begin because we have finally become emptied of our own desires and are now instruments of God. After enlightenment we still need to continuously polish our vessels to remain pure and free of optical illusions.

How do I become enlightened?

It all starts with a desire. Dedication. Devotion. Shugyo. Consistently devote to truth and commit to the demolishment of untruth.

How does individual enlightenment translates into collective enlightenment?

History is a beautiful illustration of a collective transformation, like the “period of enlightenment”, through individual efforts, seemingly unrelated events at the time can result in a whole movement to bring forth a whole new world. Like a fractal, the macroscopic social enlightenment can manifest from the microscopic bursts of individual enlightenments. In a sense, from the smallest metamorphosis of consciousness can result in an boundless global transformation. As Mahatma Gandhi once said – “be the change you wish to see in the world!”

November 5, 2012 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Books, Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, Fine Arts, Inner Growth, love, Self Realization, Tears, World Transformation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Life after Realization

chinese watercolor goddess serenading the moon

After Realization – life becomes a beautiful expression of poetry and you are a part of it.

There has been waves of awakening happening all around us. People of all colors, all shapes and backgrounds are coming into the realization beyond the boundaries of form that once constricted us and separated us.

The old man from the dog park once asked me if I ever discarded a piece of artistic creation. As I told him no, his eyes glittered with love and replied, “I know, the universe is inherently beautiful.”

The key-maker from the hardware store smiled with such genuine generosity, it didn’t matter his age, his skin tone, and his piercings are all sources of societal judgement, his love pierced through the hardest of hearts.

If you can feel the profound depth in these simple incidences then feel free to read on.

Life after Realization (with the capital R) is profoundly different. There are so many spiritual texts leading you to the doorway of Realization but never walked through the gate with you. Wondering around the front yard of Heaven, we are left to experience the ecstasy and confusion of leaving the familiar life behind and yet to know how to act within the gates of Heaven. We know Self-Actualization comes after Self-Realization but how do we actualize? Once we ask the question of “how?” we are no longer frolicking the grounds of Heaven. Once we fixate on a desire, Hell appears to greet us again.

For most people, life after Realization can be the most challenging times they will ever experience. It is literally between the death of the self and rebirth of the Self. Before Realization we can all relate to tribal accepted believes and behaviors but after Realization somehow we ended up in a parallel universe and all of a sudden we don’t know anything at all. Other people might even look at us and wondering what is wrong with us. One day after an amazing meditation I was in the state of rapture as I headed to the park and found myself accused of being drunk in the middle of the day. I didn’t know how to reply, I just laughed and stayed there nevertheless.

Life after Realization becomes a moment to moment expression. You are no longer in control of your life, your time, or what happens. Life is no longer filled with goals you must obtain or things you must possess. Life becomes a beautiful expression of poetry and you are a part of it. This is when you become the passenger while God is the driver. You begin to feel exactly where you are needed from one moment to the next. And it is nothing like you had imagined at all. Fear might arise as we walk into the unknown, resistance will sneak up on you amid bliss, all you need is to connect to the deeper parts of who you are. You will feel happiness and sadness, but you will know even the tears are beautiful. You will not know what to do, but somehow the do-ing comes from your be-ing. While your be-ing-ness shines through, no matter where you are, the blind will once again see clarity – even if just a split second. You don’t have to preach awakening, awakening will happen in your presence. You don’t have to force yourself to love, love will naturally come-forth.

Don’t grab on. Relax. And enjoy the ride.

July 13, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Fine Arts, love, poetry, Self Realization, Tears | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Today, I’m in Love

Today, I’m in love. Here are some nuggets of truth I stumbled upon while traveling on the path of self-realization – expressed through my art and micropoetry.


taming the ego…clarity I see…stunning true nature…set free

mixed media by Flo Li

Awakening Dawn, mixed media on canvas by Flo Li

allow my love…penetrate your core…burning gentle passion…dazzling aflame
Burning Passionate Love

Red Rose of Love, photography by Flo Li

miraculous radiance…hidden dark nights…protecting a secret…atonement birthing sunlight
oil on canvas by Flo Li

Secrets of the Dark Night, oil on canvas by Flo Li

lick me…she says…not my body but my soul…craving your gentle kisses deep inside I grow

Femme Glow, fractal art by Flo Li

Today, I’m in LOVE. Let’s share. May the Love of Truth set you free~! Namaste.

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Death & Rebirth, Emotional Freedom, Fine Arts, love, poetry, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Reflection on Buddha 菩萨

Fractal 艺术

Buddha by Flo Li (Fractal art on Aluminum) Copyright 2010 http://www.FloLi.com

Rough English translation of a Chinese art critic’s review

First time I saw Flo’s works, out of curiosity, I wondered why it lacked specific artistic effects. However knowing fractals are mathematically generated, I was surprised that the seemingly dull mathematical formulas can actually condense into such beautiful patterns. These particular effects cannot be replicated, the same way that each input function can create various graphics are based on boundary conditions or variable constraints. Often times these functions and constraints produce no more than discontinued numbers or out of range nothingness – which seems like a little joke to the artist when rendering the fractal – hoping for something yet finding nothing. The nature of fractals made me wonder how someone can use this media to convey the depth of feelings.

In a quiet and pleasant place this work was cautiously presented. Much to the Flo’s personal preference to this piece she carefully placed it in her bedroom and hope to connect with its energy before handing it over to a buyer. Flo spent much time producing this work and I wondered why is this work so difficult… I noticed that this piece conveys a deep idea and it is simply profound. Because of its black background, the sliver and blue/green focus precipitated out of the whole picture against that dark contract – making the work hauntingly mysterious. Her use of color was very stingy yet it is this presence of color contract of black, silver and cold blue that simplified the process of captivating the viewers’ hearts with a quite whisper of sublime kiss.

The name of this painting is called “Buddha”. Before I had asked for its name I speculated the kind of work this particular piece contributed. It has the feeling of penetrating sacredness that people long for but have difficulties grasping. After knowing the title of the work, the sacred feeling has deepened. This work conveys a highly philosophical realm. Only in this state such creation was able to blossom out of our hearts to answer our longing for God – not because it rigidly adheres to a particular shape or image but rather it generates an intuitive visual experience of inner knowing. It is this explosion from within truly expresses the sacred and the unspecified wondrous harmony that deeply haunts the spirit of all living creatures. Flo uses the specific color of cold blue to give connotation to the presence of Buddha, seemingly appropriate, as the coldness inspires us to feel the spirit within the space spanning nothingness. On the other hand, the darker blue area in the center of the work  with darker dots made me think of characteristics of a mother’s womb as it traces back to the beginning of human race. The transformation outwardness from the womb into undefined physical shapes shows where human nature was often overlooked in our current cultures and human societal laws are now bound by ball and chain into silencing the inquiring minds… The reason why the Buddha is God is because she can influence people’s hearts. In fact, the way this “Buddha” is represented is vastly different from historical images of colorful Buddha created by our minds with jewels covered shawls, mediating in the throne of a shimmering lotus, showing anger with thick brows and mercy with the flick of a finger.  The images of Buddha throughout history have been heavily based on human interpretations while artists have mistaken our egotistical creations for the source of spiritual inspiration. Therefore God must not simply be the image of anthropomorphic art. God’s true charm lies within the invisible strength where faith is precisely seeing beyond the seeing-eye to go beyond our perceptions of lack and separation and to surpass our confused minds of hardship we were addicted to pursuit. When I saw this piece of Flo’s work I realized in fact WE have been overly concerned with the appearance of things rather than the essence of things. The outward search cannot offer spiritual freedom, we must find a doorway into mental and spiritual moments of serenity in order to reach within – into the permanent peace of the mind and ease of the spirit.

Flo is a practitioner of martial arts. She pursues the Tao of Aikido in order to sense the physical, mental and spiritual condensation of divine Ki – the ball of energy within the hara that acts as a doorway to access the endless supply of our essence. When I stood quietly in front of “Buddha” I found myself unable to escape the “balloon” feeling within my center because the composition of “Buddha” have somehow evoked the life essence within me. Its spiritual nourishment metabolized into physical sentiment. In this piece, the turning of gaseous sphere around Buddha’s center produces the bodily outlines that layers around its essence symbolizing the impermanence of our appearance but what is true lies within. Just as we feel inspired, we take a breathe into nourishing the body through the spirit. The Ki-focused and body-secondaried composition also leads the viewers into the illusion of different perceptions of the Buddha without making the outer perception as the ultimate goal. It honors various visions of Buddha without adhering to the historical views and worships. In this work, Flo has clearly standardized the answer that many individuals discovered on the road to  self-awareness – elements of unseen need to be found in order to reach God. This unique form of painting gives the viewers an objective freedom of choice not only through the interpretation of the theme of such creation but also through the image of Buddha from different viewer’s own perspectives and rich cultural backgrounds.

The most magical moment this work brought forth is that the human spirit unconsciously craves the merging of the physicality of mathematics into the spirituality of arts. Fractal’s extraordinary creative method can not be planned or reproduced by the same equation as we cannot plan ahead where a mystical experience can suddenly take place. Unlike Flo’s traditional paintings, such holistic work cannot be executed by plan alone but it must rely on faith and the rarity of coincidences. In fractals, only faith is appropriate because this art form cannot be derived from our subjective metamorphosis of our ego to transfer the misconception of human will. I believe “Buddha” is special. It is pure. In fact, as long as the heart of God is still beating, “Buddha” is truly watching over us everywhere.

Thank you Flo for your creation, for your faith and for your inspiration. Your work has brought us many moments of Truth and endless waves of awareness…

By 小鱼 (Ethan Zhao)

Jan 12th, 2011


在一个安静和惬意的地方摆放艺术作品往往是非常谨慎的, 这张作品挂在FLO的卧室里FLO非常喜欢它,所以在这张作品上也花费了大量的时间去制作.而在我看来FLO诸多的作品中,这张作品最为艰辛,为什么这么说呢?因为作品传达出来的意念不仅仅是深刻.因为在黑色的渲染中整张画面更沉淀出一种难以形容的玄妙,FLO并没有给整幅作品赋予太多的色彩,用色彩非常的吝啬,但正是这种有些压迫感的色彩效果,反而使得观者的心里得到了难以宁静的升华.

这张作品的名字叫做”菩萨”,只是这张作品在我并不知道它的名字之前既有了自己的猜测,因为画面所渗透出的那种神圣的感觉使人无法木然。看到了作品的题解之后,这种感受更加加深了。这张作品传达出了极高的哲学境界,创作之所以能在我们的心里绽放出对神的向往,并不是因为它拘泥于某种特殊的形象之中,而是在于视觉产生的第一感受。正是这种从内部散发的神圣与奇妙,深深的感染着泯泯众生.FLO是用冰冷的蓝色赋予菩萨特有的内涵,这种色彩的渲染非常贴切,在不知不觉中启迪着我们的精神空间,而在画面蓝色区域的中心深蓝色的圆点让我更多的联想是母亲的特质,想到了孕育人类的起点,只是这种人类的本质,常常被忽视和默然所束缚。菩萨之所以为神,那是因为她可以感化人们的心灵。其实菩萨的形象绝不单纯是我们脑海里,那个身着宝石罗英,脚踏莲花宝座,慈眉善目,大慈大悲普度众生。因为任何神的形象都是人们对现实困惑的反映,是对人类精神世界的一种诠释,所以神绝不单纯只是拟人化的艺术形象。实际上神的魅力是一种贯穿于对生命的启迪和力量, 信仰恰恰是因为人类自身的某种无法逾越的缺失,才使得芸芸众生不得不去苦苦的追寻。当我看见FLO这副作品之后,我才恍然大悟:其实我们过去一直关注的是事物的表象而非本质,所以我们只能得到精神或心灵上片刻的宁静,而却达不到心境永久的收放自如。.




January 14, 2011 Posted by | Aikido Wisdom, Chinese, Fine Arts, Self Realization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Out of Darkness and Into the Light!

This morning as we performed in the choir at Unity, I saw the blissful experience on the faces of the audience when Rev. Wendy delivered messages of Joy. As we opened our hearts and allowed the music to flow out of ourselves, something magical happened. Something invisible yet undeniably powerful happened. The sun came out while it was raining. Effortless smiles resurfaced on so many faces. Individuals were touched and the choir got standing ovations song after song. We were amazed ourselves. To be honest, this time around, we didn’t have enough people in the choir and the sound system was not working as we stepped into rehearsal at 7am.  Yet somehow after our morning prayer together and letting go the fear of not being good enough, we simply opened our hearts and let it be. Somehow, some way, some form it all worked out so seamlessly.

When I came home, I remembered the looks on a few faces before and after the morning service. The contrast of despair when they walked in and the glowing joy when they walked out seemed nothing short of miraculous. I couldn’t help but to think what can I do to bring forth yet another form to help people bridge the gap to find their way home again–the way back to joy. So I decided to reformat my book Microscopic Expressions of Spirituality into a video and matched with the music I wrote. The amount of energy I got while working on this project was amazing. I was no longer in my head and I once again experienced my own joy spending more than 5 hours nonstop! And for hours 6 and 7, I posted the video on facebook and youtube so others can have access to a little piece of inspiration that uplifts them out of darkness and bring each of us back in the light!

I hope you will enjoy it! If this video has touched you, please pass it forward! Thank you for being a source of light.

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Fine Arts | , , , , | Leave a comment