Creating a Tantric Mandala

October 24, 2016

At a retreat this past summer, I facilitated a ninety-minute workshops called Creating a Tantric Mandala. Here s how I announced the workshop.

Tantra is a Sanskrit term meaning exposition or teaching. In the West it is often used to refer to Hindu and Buddhist practices that use sex as a path to enlightenment; but tantra embraces much more than this, including meditation and chanting. Mandala is a sanskrit term for wheel or circle, and usually refers to a circular design used as an object of meditation. In this workshop you will create your own mandala by using collage (cut and paste), colored pencils, and oil pastels. You will start with a period of meditation with a partner, move to selecting various elements for your mandala by drawing or cutting out portions of photographs. You will then arrange these in a circular design and finally use this mandala as a meditative aid. No prior art experience is needed. A portion of this workshop is ideally done without clothing.

Preparation

Before offering the workshop, I had to create a collection of pictures that could be cut up for collages. I already had a folder of .jpg files from the internet that I had used as reference photos for my own drawings and for a previous workshop, Drawing What You Love. Most of these were from a site called Deviant Art. To this I added some photos I’d taken during a photo-shoot I’d done with two friends – one of them modeling with me and one shooting with my iPhone. In many of these photos, I and my friend were in the maithuna position, which is a position often used when there is an image in the center of a tantric mandala.maithuna4web

When I had assembled a total of about seventy-five images. My next step was to print them on glossy photo paper. Usually I printed each image twice, flipping the image horizontally for the second printing. Thus I had two pictures that were mirror images of each other. Sometimes I combined two mirror images into one file before printing.

cocksflipped4web

Now, all that was left was to gather all the materials I needed and set up the space I would use.

The Procdure

When the men arrived, we formed pairs and I asked each man to place his right hand over his partner’s heart and then his left hand over his partners right hand – a position known as the mudra of the heart chakra. We held this position for three deep breaths, all the time looking into our partners’ eyes. Then we changed partners and repeated this until every participant had worked with every other participant.

I told the group that the next meditation was best done without clothing, and everyone stripped. I had each man lay down on his back next to a partner with his head next to his partner’s feet. Each person had his partner on his right. I asked them to reach across and gently place his right hand on his partner’s cock and balls. The focus of the meditation could be either on the sensation of ones own cock being touched or the sensation of touching another man’s cock. We held the meditation for about ten minutes.

Still naked, we sat down at the work tables and meditatively began looking at the pictures I had printed. I asked the men to select three to five images that called out to them. When they had selected images, they took scissors and cut out the figures in the photos – sometimes a whole figure and sometimes just the cock and balls.

Next I had each man use a draftsman’s compass to draw a seven-inch diameter circle on a piece of colored construction paper and then cut out that circle Then they arranged their cut-out figures on the circle to form a design that would be bounded by the circle. It was okay to have a portion of the figure go outside of the circle, but that part would be trimmed off later. I pointed out that where two images came together in an awkward way, a third image pasted over the juncture might resolve this. (You can see this in the first of the three mandalas shown below.)

When each man had found the positions for his images, the next task was to use a glue stick to paste them to the construction paper, pasting the ones that went directly on the paper first, and those that might be partially on another photo next. After the pasting, one man used oil pastels to put spirals on the figures. They looked something like tattoos. The final step was to trim off anything that went beyond the edges of the circle and then paste that circle on a piece of Bristol board (a light cardboard) or on another piece of colored construction paper.

Using the Mandala

At the end of the workshop, we all sat cross-legged on mats and held our mandalas in front of us. We let our eyes rest upon them for a few minutes and then closed our eyes. I explained that a good twenty-minute meditation would be to hold a mandal and gaze at it for ten minutes, and then to close the eyes and visualize that mandala. If attention wandered, one should open ones eyes and look at the mandala for three deep breaths, then close them again and continue visualizing the mandala. Because of the time constraints of the workshop, we couldn’t do this, but each person would take his mandala home to use there.

Here are two mandalas I made – the first in preparation for the workshop and the second during the workshop.

mandalatwo

mandalaone

If you follow these instructions and make your own mandala, it may be right to show it to others or you may want to reserve it for your own meditation.

From May through December of 2013, I posted a series of articles created using active imagination centered on the figure of an explorer. I have recently been led to return to this type of meditation. The following is another episode that I recorded in 2013. If you have not read the previous postings with this theme, or if you don’t remember them, I suggest checking out my page, “Fantasy/Fables/Fiction,” where you will find links to all the postings with the theme of the explorer in chronological order. You probably find the series more interesting if you read the posts in the order that I created them.

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I found it difficult to sleep that night. So much had happened. I felt very good, very positive; and yet there was so much that was confusing. Not the least of this was how the healer, Matta, knew so much about me. She seemed to know everything, and I wondered about things that she hadn’t said, seeing things that she hadn’t pointed out, she hadn’t dwelled upon.

Did she know my sexual orientation? Did she know my feelings toward other people, people I disliked. Somehow, I felt she did, but that that didn’t matter. I recalled a verse of Scripture where Jesus knew things about a woman that he met and she recognized that. Was Matta in some way another Jesus?

I wondered what kind of religion she had. At least it was one that taught people to be loving; because, of all else, I felt Matta was really loving – and by that I mean accepting, allowing me to be who I was and who I was not, not wanting me to be something different. I felt that I should go and look at Scriptures – Christian Scriptures – read more about Jesus; and yet I had no interest in conventional religion, and somehow something was saying this is not about conventional religion; this is about a spiritual man, the medicine man, who gave me the drugs that eliminated the parasites after a bout of diarrhea and delirium and who knows what. How did he know I had the parasites? My guide had referred to them as evil spirits. There was something I wasn’t quite seeing, and I wasn’t sure what it was.

I wondered if Matta could see evil spirits, if she thought of disease in that way. So I waited. At one point I almost called the Healing Center to break my appointment, but I knew I could not do that. Somehow this was exactly what I needed.

I was spending a lot of time now, as I had promised myself I would. thinking about the direction of my life, where I was going, what I wanted to accomplish – something I knew I could not do in the jungle, in the highlands, anywhere outside of the big city. While I was exploring I couldn’t really keep my attention, my focus, on internal problems; and something said “you must be an explorer of your own mind and accept this without question.” But still wondering what it meant to be an explorer of my own mind. I could do that just as well in my hometown in California or in El Paso or even across the border in Mexico. I wondered if it changed that much in fifty years.

For some people, security is very important. They have a need to be in control. Others are willing to take risks and may even relish being in a situation that has some degree of hazard. A few years ago a friend, Frank Crowley, sent me a story that illustrates varying people’s requirement for safety. He is describing one August when he was working as a volunteer for a non-profit organization that ran a retreat center.

That same first week in August on sunny days we workers painted the back of the guest house, the long, two-story, motel-shaped residence for guests who don’t camp. I was happy with the job: to be outside in dappled sunlight and fresh breeze watching my frisky helpers scamper naked up and down the frequently moved ladders. I took the lower half for fear of falling, and I kept up with B. and E. as they moved along and as I worked under them. At one point, I was looking up into dual, handsome posteriors in constant stretching. A dollop of green paint fell neatly onto the bridge of my nose and trickled down to the tip in war paint, American Indian style. I whooped and hollered! Both men looked down and giggled and flecked some more onto the top of my bare head! I was soon “the boy with green hair.”

Next thing I knew, B., standing slightly lower on the same ladder, painted E.’s bare-butt with two slaps of the big brush. I yodeled! E. was hanging on to the roofline for a moment, it seemed, to get his bearings. B. bolted down the ladder, and E. followed him quickly, full brush in hand. 

E. has the face of the wounded Christ with lugubrious lines, sunken cheeks and long hair. Almost everyone in camp remarks on the similarity in long-faced expression and on the longing in his eyes for the redemption of the fallen B. But, in this instance E. decides to avenge his green-apple cheeks. I could see that the slap of paint covered the soft downy hair on the hapless E., so he looked now like an aroused clown with a wide-brimmed paint hat.

E. chased the fleeing B. with a yelp, a whoop and burst of bloodthirsty cries, a painted warrior without a horse. B. screamed his high pitch laugh and ran for his life, but E. galloped on his long, powerful legs. He caught up with B. on the snake path aside the main driveway in full view of guesthouse and lodge. Three swift strokes with his right hand, while he pulled B.’s pants down with his left, achieved the goal of painted penis and crotch.

I laughed my stupefied cackle, E. turned and I cowered, as I knew that even with my own strong running legs I’d never escape. “I’ll paint you, too,” he threatened and turned on me with his brush outstretched in a fierce smile. He ran back up the hill toward me. “Oh, please, noooo,” I pleaded in my submissive crouch up by the corner of the guesthouse, where I had awaited the outcome. B. had meanwhile collapsed in giddy laughter on his knees. As E. closed in for the kill, I looked up into his face beseechingly, and slowly his expression changed to mirthful release, then pity and tenderness.

I returned to painting the guesthouse, B. and E. went to clean up at the lodge and the rest of the crew continued their housekeeping duties. But, it was a long time I was alone back there because both were reassigned to clean rooms, as they said, sheepishly, looking out one of the back, bathroom windows. It seems that our Canadian “Tom Sawyer” and American “Jim” escaped painting “Aunt Polly’s” fence, but only for an hour, as they were soon back out with me slapping away for the rest of the long, summery, slap-happy afternoon. 

What strikes me about this story is that if any one of these workers really felt unsafe, the whole story would be different. Something in their relationship made it okay to horse around as they did, and perhaps the fact tht they were comfortable naked together contributed to a feeling of safety in a situation where others would feel unsafe.

There’s an apocryphal gospel attributed to the disciple Thomas, in which Jesus says, “When you strip naked without shame and trample your clothing underfoot just as little children do, then you will look at the Son of the Living One without being afraid.”
(The Gospel of Thomas 37). I can’t say that the men in this story looked “at the Son of the Living One,” but they certainly looked at each other without being afraid, and thus found the security needed to have fun in what others might consider a crazy and perhaps threatening situation.

Two months ago I wrote about my planned second visit to the Torus Porta – this time for a marathon of performance art lasting from six in the evening to about three the next morning. It has been a busy summer, and my memory of that evening is now vague, but I’ve assembled some still and video images into a report of the evenings. You can draw your own conclusions.

When I say that my summer was busy, it was nothing compared to that of the two founders of the Torus Porta, the team known as Wild Torus: Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, Greece and the US. have been on their tour; and in one week they’re coming to Easyon Mountain, for an event called Q-Topia. The will be leading a workshop on Saturday and will be part of the performance on Sunday. You can read about this on Easton Mountain’s website.

In my May 30th post, “Being Wild with Wild Torus,” I wrote “I see in Wild Torus performers taking risks, inviting each other to take risks and inviting the audience to take risks. Do these risks help us know who we are? Do they help us be more truly what we are meant to be? Only by taking the risks can I find out.” In two days, I’ll be furthering my exploration with a second visit to the Torus Portal.

This time, I’m contributing a video to the evening. I noticed that between the live acts there were sections where performers were setting up and visual stimulus for the audience came from video projection. I’ve created about twenty-four minutes of video that will be used in this way. and here’s a short segment from it.

The event starts at 6:00 PM. this coming Saturday (July 2) at a basement space called “The Torus Porta,” 113 Stockholm Street (off Myrtle Ave.) in the Bushwick Section of Brooklyn. It has been billed as “The Closing of the Torus Porta” – the final event to be held at 113 Stockholm. The list of performers is long, with the last performances starting at 3:00 AM.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have a Vimeo channel called Erotic Imagination, where I focus on videos that use nudity in staged and filmed performances. As I view them, I try to see what artistic truth is being presented or reinforced by the naked performers.

In 2012, a video by Dimitris Papaioannou, led me to discover that he was performing in Troy, New York. My reaction to his work is recorded on a blog post, “Acting as One

A week ago Saturday, was only the second time, that I’ve attended an event after seeing videos on Vimeo – this time after seeing “Morte Portus Vitae”

and “Bushwick Coal Mind,” –

two productions of a group called “Wild Torus.”

When I searched for “Wild Torus” on the internet, I found comments like these:

“All I could see were a number of sweaty, naked bodies covered in stickiness and powder.”

“I couldn’t distinguish between men, women, and blow-up dolls.”

“Let me tell you, “wild” in @wildtorus is a serious understatement. These guys are bat-sh*t crazy,.”

“I decided if I stayed one more moment I risked tumbling head-first into a DMT-fueled trip back to whatever the hell regrettable things I was doing at festivals as a teenager. And I wasn’t about to strip, which made things slightly awkward– clothing wasn’t optional here, it was seriously frowned upon.”

On the evening I attended, all of the spectators except two kept all their clothes on. One female performer was naked at the end, but no man’s cock was ever visible.

The event consisted of a number of acts crammed into a small space with only a few chairs – most of the audience standing or sitting on the floor. Wild Torus was scheduled for the last act of the evening. This evening, it wasn’t their act that took the prize for being “bat-sh*t crazy.” That came earlier, when bare-breasted Phoebe Novak, carrying a violin and two violas, stepped on a large pice of black plastic that had been put down to serve as her stage. From a box, she produced a number of pieces of broken mirror. She then got spectators to tape these broken shards to her bare skin.

Woman having fragments of mirror taped to her bare skin.

As she bowed her violin, and later the violas in turn, one of the pieces of broken mirror poked into her bare breast. I found myself wondering if the pain in the music was a direct result of this painful act of bowing or if she was using this pain to stimulate emotional pain of previous experiences. Suddenly, she called an end to her performance, gather her stringed instruments from audience members who had been plucking them, and moved into the adjoining back room of Torus Porta. There were a few drops of blood on the floor.

Most of the acts focused more on sonic phenomenon rather than visual, until the final piece – the work of Wild Torus itself. This started with the performance artist Rudi Salpietra singing with Marc Mosteirin accompanying him on a Korg keyboard. When I asked Marc afterwards if they had rehearsed, he said that it was entirely improvised, but that he had a close relationship with Rudi that helped make the song work. After the song, translucent plastic was rolled down on two sides of the performance space. This made it difficult to see the performers covering each other with poster paint.

Woman with paint, audience behind plastic

I moved out from behind the plastic to see better and later stripped to my briefs to let my body be covered with paint.

What is there to say about all of this? It’s hard to know. What I can say is that I see in Wild Torus performers taking risks, inviting each other to take risks and inviting the audience to take risks. Do these risks help us know who we are? Do they help us be more truly what we are meant to be? Only by taking the risks can I find out.

In the end, we were left to clean ourselves up as best we could. If I had designed the ritual I would have added a section where the performers and those audience members who were covered with paint clean each other up.

The performers of Wild Torus are now in Europe. When they return, I hope to further my exploration of their brand of wildness and to report on that exploration in this blog.

About a year ago. I set up a channel on Vimeo called “Erotic Imagination.” I described it in this way:

The erotic is an entry to the transcendent. While these videos contain both male and female nudity, they use reality, fantasy and art to focus on authentic human relationships in a way that transcends humanity and draws us into a consciousness that is both individual and universal.

Since then, I’ve added 134 videos to the channel. I’ve realized that in doing this I’ve really been asking a question: How can nudity in video and in performance (as many of these are video recordings of live performances) create a “focus on authentic human relationships,” and how can nudity do this “in a way that transcends humanity and draws us into a consciousness that is both individual and universal”?

To the extent that the videos in the collection use nudity to either show us something profound about human relationships or draw us into a change of consciousness, they themselves are an answer to this question – but not an answer that is easily put into words.

Miguel Thomé, a director/editor from Brazil, has created “Inanimado.” The name is Portugese and means inanimate, lifeless or insensitive. Thomé describes the work as, “A surrealist journey through the unconscious of a couple belittled by the metropolis.” As I see the end of this film, I find myself asking: Is the man’s scream one of ecstasy, anger or terror? What would have been the effect of having two men or two women perform the scene? — of alternating opposite and same sex couples? — of using electronic editing to have a man dance with himself?

The Greek videographer, Zafeiris Haitidis, describes his video, “West of Eden” in this way: “Adam bites the apple. He abandons Eve and the Garden of Eden in search of his destiny on earth. What he discovers, though, is his worst nightmare… ‘You can’t escape yourself.'” After seeing this video, my thought is it isn’t that Adam can’t escape himself. He can’t find himself – certainly not after moving from the Garden of Eden into a twenty-first century urban world.

The New York choreographer, John Jasperse, has chosen to use same-sex relationships – two men, two women. for “Fort Blossom Revised.” A New York Times review said “Dance, the body, and erotics are topics about which ‘Fort Blossom Revisited’ keeps testing, investigating and analyzing, and often brilliantly. Leaving the theater we are no longer quite what we were when we arrived.” This is the ideal of every artist who strives to go beyond “art for art’s sake. Whether we have spent a few moments contemplating an O’Keefe painting or a half hour listening to a Beethoven symphony, “we are no longer quite what we were” when we started.

Cosmology in Art

May 7, 2016

Last summer, I had three three small watercolors on display at Saratoga Arts. Each measures seven by seven inches and is in a ten-by-ten-inch frame. All of the paintings, drawings and photos in the exhibition were in ten-by-ten frames in keeping with the theme of the exhibition “10 X 10 = 100” celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the chartering of Saratoga Springs.

The three paintings are part of a series I call “Windows of the Soul.” They are paintings of images that have come to me in meditation, though the images have evolved during the course of making preliminary sketches and the final painting. I work with a cosmology that regards the universe as agapic – coming from love – as noetic – supporting thought – as morphogenetic – and as an electromagnetic-gravitational space-time continuum. Out of love comes thought, out of thought comes life, and out of life comes the world of matter, energy, space and time.

Warm-colored painting with curved geometric forms

Windows of the Soul, One

The first painting relates to the noetic world, with shapes that come from ten arcs.

Rays of creation from lower right into the created world in hte left andupper part of the painting.

Windows of the Soul, Two

In the second painting the noetic world, represented by streams of light coming from the lower right, gives rise to the morphogenetic – the world of life in the left and upper part of the painting.

Painting of plant=like form

Windows of the Soul, Three

The third paining represents something alive, something coming out of the morphogenetic world manifested as matter and energy in space and time.

Ancient City in the Desert with energy Pattern in the Sky

Windows of the Soul, Four

A fourth painting, not in the exhibition, shows a town or city in a desert, with something in the sky that represents the agapic-noetic-morphogenetic expressing itself through the human creation of the city.

Since the exhibit at Saratoga Arts, I have completed three more paintings in the series.

Forms suggesting hairless flesh

Windows of the Soul, Five

“Windows of theSoul, Five” expresses a morphogenetic field in abstract forms that have something of the quality of human flesh.

A city-scape with tall building surrounded by shorter buildings

Windows of the Soul, Six

“Windows of the Soul, Six” continues the theme of “Windows of the Soul, Four” but references a more modern city.

Sci-fi image of torus what could be a space shi at a conical dock

Windows of the Soul, Seven

“Windows of the Soul, Seven” has of a sci-fi element. Thus Windows, Four”, “Six,” and “Seven” together represent past, present and future.

“Windows of the Soul, Eight” and “Nine” are still works in progress. When they are completed, they will appear on this blog.

 

Demythologizing Jesus

April 19, 2016

Dictionary.com defines “demythologize” as follows: “to divest of mythological or legendary attributes or forms, as in order to permit clearer appraisal and under-standing.” In reading the Gospel of John I find that I can have a clearer understanding of what are purported to be miracles if I ask what the probably truth is behind the miracles.

An example of this is found in the first ten verses if the second chapter of John’s Gospel:

  1. And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
  2. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
  3. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
  4. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
  5. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
  6. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
  7. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
  8. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
  9. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
  10. And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Tradition tells us that his father was a carpenter, and probably the family didn’t have much money. It’s quite possible that at times the family didn’t have wine to bless and drink on the Sabbath; so Jesus, being a practical kind of guy, would take some water and bless it and the family would drink it as their Sabbath wine.

Wine was not only something used in Sabbath devotions, it was an important part of the Jewish marriage ritual, as it is today. So when Mary reported that they had no wine, she was saying that the ceremony couldn’t be performed. But Jesus was reluctant to do in public what he had done at home. He said he was not ready to assume the role of a spiritual leader.

Mary ignored this and simply told the servants to do what Jesus said, so Jesus had them fill six waterpots, blessed the water, and told those assembled to use this water as wine for their ceremony.

Here we have a compelling picture of Jesus as a man who identified with the poor. Not being able to afford wine was no barrier to God’s grace. His own family’s poverty had opened him up to the truth that it was the spirit and not an ancient ritual that brought blessing to everyone.

Gustavo Solar

March 29, 2016

In July of last year, I put a comment in the “Shout Box” of my Vimeo channel, “Erotic Imagination,”  about the videos of Gustavo Solar.  Since then, Solar has posted four additional videos, and I’ve added all of them to my channel, as they are all examples of a fertile erotic imagination.  The most recent, “Visionado Beso Negro Solar” (Google translates this “Black Kiss Solar Viewing”) has short excerpts from a number of performance pieces he has done.   Longer versions of some of his performance pieces can also be seen on Vimeo.
Cuerpo Eclipsado2
The 2012 performance, “Cuerpo Eclipsado,” in which Solar is penetrated anally by a dildo-wearing woman, elicited this comment:  “Whoaa!! It must have been difficult, painful & very brave to share that kind of intimacy in front of all those people. … It got MY attention. It was also captured on video beautifully, sometimes those kind of things can be embarrassing or ugly to see in porn, this wasn’t pornographic at all, and it was beautiful in its own way.”

In a manifesto presented at the Festival Internacional de Performance, (Quito. Ecuador. 2015) Solar stated three times, “Un artista de performance debe amar profundamente a otro artista de performance antes de morir. [A performance artist must deeply love another performance artist before his death.]”  Could “Cuerpo Eclipsado” be a documentation of that love?

The latest entry on Solar’s blog is 24 July 2015.  In it he describes this posting as documenting his final project in qualifying for the Academic Degree of Bachelor of Arts majoring in Visual Arts. The project consisted of riding around the School of Arts of Las Encinas on the top of a car and covering his naked body with the Chilean flag.

After reading this I wondered, “Now that he has received his BA, what’s next for him?” I’ve discovered that he has a Facebook page with links to other sites that document his work – such as El Archivo en la Creacion Visual – and that he is scheduled to perform at the Zuhause Festival, which is being held from April 21 through 24 in Buenos Aires.  For this festival he will be doing a performance in his own home.  I hope that he will document what he does on his blog and certainly on Vimeo.

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