There’s a lot going on!

This year opened with a bang and continues to keep me busy. I am joyous and grateful for the doors that Spirit has begun to open for me! In January I was able to move into my new studio space and begin getting myself settled in there.

February opened with my participation in The Art of Living Black 2019″ show and open studios, along with the completion of my first book When We Pray. I want to thank all who offered your support by placing a pre-order for When We Pray. Your patience during the order fulfillment process was greatly appreciated. I am a freshman author and I learned a great deal during the course of my publishing process. The insights have been a real blessing.

March began with a wonderful Grand opening celebration that was both a debut of my new studio space and my first book reading. Both portions of the event were well attended. The music was and refreshments were also outstanding.

April opened with the start of my 6-week workshop on a mind-body technique called Visual Journaling. The group is small but very committed. The participants are gaining clarity and wisdom from the technique and having a great time in the process! I also participated in the opening reception for my Solo show at the East Bay Church of Religious Science. The show will be up until April 30th – so feel free to stop by EBCR if you have time.

On April 28, I’ll be doing some live painting at the Oakhella Street Festival Season Opener! I have never done any live painting before so I am both nervous and excited to take advantage of this new opportunity. However, I am up for the challenge and grateful for another chance to expand my comfort zone. I plan to raffle off the painting I complete for the Oakhella Festival so make sure you come by painting space and pick up a few tickets ($5 each). You could be a winner! 

This May I would love to engage with you at my May 9th Workshop!
SEARCHING for BEAUTY: INSIGHTS on ART, AESTHETICS & PRACTICE
Thursday, May 9, 2019
6 pm to 8 pm

Abrams Claghorn Gallery
125 Solano Ave. Albany, CA

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR MY NEW COLLABORATIVE PROJECT!

After 10 years of waiting, I will soon begin working on a new series of images on yoga. I have been talking about this project for 10 years and it has just not materialized. I applied for grant funding last year but my proposal was denied. However, Spirit has recently given me the go ahead and presented me with the perfect opportunity to work birth this series.

I will be creating a 12-piece series of watercolor images on yoga. The series will be in collaboration with the founders of Black to Yoga. Black to Yoga is a monthly yoga extravaganza created by people of color, for E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y! Their mission is to bring health and wellness to our community through the transformative power of yoga.

The founders of Black to yoga have graciously offered to pose as models for the series, and collaborate with me as sponsors of the series once it is completed. I am extremely excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to get started! 

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When We Pray Is Ready!

PLACE YOUR ORDER NOW!

*The first 350 people to place their order will receive a signed copy of the book AND a limited edition 7 x 10 print of the cover illustration (pictured above).  

WHEN WE PRAY
Eight Meditations on the Aesthetics of Prayer and the Spiritual Life

When We Pray Cover Illustration

When We Pray Cover Illustration – limited edition print

CONTENT

The overarching aim of When We Pray is to explore the connections between prayer, meditation, art, and aesthetic experience in ways that are both insightful and practical. Each of the eight essays takes the reader on an exploration of topics such as the role of imagination in prayer and manifestation, the aesthetic aspects of enlightenment, the role of signs and symbols in the spiritual life, and more. As you explore these topics you are also invited to feast your eyes upon professional illustrations created by the author himself. When We Pray is a total package experience that features insightful, thought-provoking essays that are accompanied by beautiful, well-crafted imagery that supports the topics covered in the prose.

*The first 350 people to place their order will receive a signed copy of the book AND a limited edition 7 x 10 print of the cover illustration (pictured above).  

FEATURES
-When We Pray is printed in an 8.5 x 11, soft-cover format. The prose and the accompanying illustrations are printed with black ink on opaque white paper. Your copy will be autographed!  

-The cover illustration is a 7×10 limited edition, full-color illustration printed using archival inks and paper. Each print will be numbered and signed by Dr. Powell.     

The Total cost for your PRE- ORDER will be $20
This includes the price of the book, applicable taxes, along with shipping and handling for the book and limited edition print

To place your order, click here
WHEN WE PRAY PRE-ORDER
or any of the underlined links above

THE AUTHOR

The Reverend Damon A. Powell, Ph.D. is an artist and theologian who currently resides in Oakland, California. Dr. Powell’s academic research and artistic creations focus on the intersections of art, aesthetics, and spirituality. Dr. Powell’s insights come from extensive research into a wide range of spiritual and philosophical concepts that have provided him with a deep understanding of the various ways the spiritual and the aesthetic interpenetrate one another. Damon’s artistic creations are the result of ongoing spiritual practices that provide insights that he births into visual form using color, line, and symbol. Damon’s mission is to give form to divine light through the manifestation of symbolic images that reflect on the myriad ways Spirit reveals itself within our daily world.

**Please share this link with others who might be interested in this offer**

Coda: There is Only Love


FINAL CHAPTER EXCERPT   

The publishing process for my book is moving along much faster than anticipated. The editing phase is almost complete. The final phase, publication should be well underway by mid-January. Look out for opportunities to place your order very soon. Below are a few selected excerpts from the concluding chapter, Coda: There is Only Love.

When We Pray VIII: There is only Love

 

When I began to download the initial inspiration for “When We Pray,” I had no idea that a series would follow. The initial inspiration came forth just as many others have during my daily practice of prayer and meditation.  I was sitting quietly, peacefully, feeling the warm and then cool pattern of my breath when I became of aware of a very distinct sense of presence all around me. It was not a sudden awareness but a slow, steady, building which seemed to reveal itself progressively as it became increasingly more distinct all around me. I’m not sure how long the process took, but it was a slow and deliberate revelation that became increasingly more palpable. I felt no fear, only an evermore confident sense of comfort, ease, and genuine care and concern for the issues I was offering up for divine assistance. I somehow instinctively knew that my inner voice was heard, that spirit was listening and was also compassionately concerned. As I poured forth my concerns, there was a gentle but firm sense of being held, or of being wrapped by divine hands and arms. That I was being stroked and soothed as a mother would her slumbering child. At the same time, I felt as if I was also shielded and supported. Then it suddenly dawned upon me that I was in God’s hands and that this was the place I had occupied every time I prayed, but I had only now become aware of it. This realization of being in enveloped within the hands of the divine resulted in the initial image of the series…

…As we are lifted-up by love we also lift and are lifted by others. This active web of relations lies at the heart of love and forces us to confront humanity’s dominant conceptualization of love. We conceptualize love as a noun, but love is and ever shall be a verb. Because love, like creativity, requires manifestation. Love must be made visible, or it is not authentic love. All our conceptualizing and imaginings about love are simply much ado about nothing unless they become expressed in the form of concrete actions expressed in daily life. These expressions undergird our need to “make” love, “fall in” love, “give” love, “welcome” love and actively experience it in all the myriad ways it can be given and received…

…From a metaphysical perspective love never ends. But it is often born, dies, and is resurrected within the context of our material human experience. If we would simply take the time to look within, listen to our souls, and set free the love already within us, we would surprisingly find more of it everywhere we look. But we often travel through life crippled and completely lacking the very thing we crave so desperately. Love is free for the taking if we would just open ourselves to receive it. So, let love flow to you and through you. Love has no beginning or end because love is all there is.

MY NEW COURSE
I have now begun the initial preparations for the creation of an online course that will expand upon and supplement the material presented in When We Pray. The course should be completed and ready for enrollment by the 2nd week of January. 

MY NEW STUDIO SPACE
On January 4, 2019, I will become one of the resident artists at Blank Page Studio. Blank Page Studio is a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing low-cost studio space for visual artists and supporting the visual arts in Oakland public schools. It is an honor and a privilege to share in the work of an organization that supports the youth of Oakland.  Be on the lookout for your invitation to my Grand Opening celebration!

PAINT PARTIES ANYONE!
As of January 1st, I will be working with Wine and Design – Oakland as a painting party instructor. Wine and Design is located in downtown Oakland at Jack London Square.  If you want to try something different, celebrate an occasion, or raise funds for your favorite non-profit we are the ones to call. Don’t forget to request yours truly as your party artist.

FINE ART INSTRUCTOR
My contract as a Fine Art instructor for 6-8 graders who participate in the Higher Ground After School Program has been renewed. Higher Ground is a non-profit corporation dedicated to serving youth in the Oakland public school system. 

My new series has begun!

My new “Asana” series has officially begun!

The image depicted above is the first piece to be completed in my new Asana series. The last time I reached out, I spoke about my intention to begin collaborating with the Yoginis who have formed the entity Black to Yoga – Maureen Miller, Kirsten Rogers, and Zenovia Forbes. 

This initial reaching out led to the completion of three sessions of photos shoots. I shot loads of reference photos for the coming series and completed some sketches for layouts. The images are HOT, and I have been so inspired that I could hardly wait to begin painting! 

The inspiration for the series hit me about 10 years ago. I had only recently been introduced to yoga by a former partner and I was amazed at how much my limited knowledge and intermittent practice had already begun to have a profound effect on me. At my partner’s suggestion, I borrowed her copy of “Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar and then began sketching images of various poses I found in some photographic journals on yoga. Some weeks later, in the midst of a sketch it suddenly struck me, “Why aren’t you producing your own images and interpretations of these poses?” and from that moment on,  the fire began to burn. 

As any creative will testify, inspiration is more often than not- a fickle, fleeting, elusive thing. Just like a cat, it rarely comes just because you call it. The lightning of inspiration does strike but you never really know where or when. Hence the reason most of us rush to strike while the iron is hot. But this fire has been burning for almost 10 years!

Every time I wanted to begin working on the images, circumstances always appeared to block my way. I often spoke about it to yoga students and instructors who entered my studio – and some even offered to model for me. But for some reason, the timing and the offers just didn’t feel right. Something in my spirit would not find ease with those opportunities. but I still kept feeling inspired to work on the series. 

However, there is something to be said for waiting.  The deep inner knowing within us always makes its desires known at the perfect time if we are willing to patiently wait, watch, and listen. I now understand the reason(s) for the delay. My heart was in the right place, my intentions were noble and sound, but I lacked the knowledge, sufficient development in my own yoga practice, and internal maturity needed to pursue this project in a manner that would do it justice. Some things can only be learned and developed through trial and experience and I was simply not yet ready. We often don’t know what we don’t yet know.  Thanks be to Spirit for growth, maturity, and waiting!   

This is the first image in the acrylic images of the Asana series (there will be a much larger watercolor series as well). It is a 30 x 30 – inch acrylic image that was begun live during my first attempt at live painting! The image was initiated at “Yoga After Dark” a monthly event conducted by Black to Yoga. I will be the resident “live painter” at these events for the next 3-4 months so come check me out sometime soon. 

The initiated live painting with model Kirsten Rogers

The completed live painting with model Kirsten Rogers

Coming Events

SOLO SHOW OPENING 

East Bay Church of Religious Science
4130 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA
*The reception is free and open to the public 

Friday, April 5, 2019
7pm to 9pm

I will do some readings from my book When We Pray AND showing the images from the
When We Pray Series (along with some other works).

 

YOU CAN STILL REGISTER FOR MY APRIL 2ND WORKSHOP
If you are local, purchase your spot in my upcoming Visual Journaling Workshop.

VISUAL JOURNALING
The soul speaks in many forms. Visual Journaling helps us identify and name these messages so we can more easily identify which part of our soul is speaking. The manifestation of an image can often allow us to access and process experiences by deeply engaging both the body and mind in the effort. Visual journaling helps us hone our inner vision by expressing thoughts, feelings or emotional reactions as colors, shapes or images.

The Course
This 6-week course will explore the technique of Visual Journaling and the ways in which it promotes our own spiritual growth. Each week the facilitator will discuss aspects of the technique and then present an exercise focused upon a particular theme (love, joy, grief, pain…). Participants will be expected to complete additional exercises at home during the week and contribute to group discussions during the weekly meetings. The final meeting will be dedicated to the creation of a larger final piece that will explore the results of the process.

Maximum number of participants: 12 
     
Registration deadline: April 1, 2019 (10am)

Dates: April 2, 2019 to May 2, 2019  Tuesday nights (4.2, 4.9, 4.16, 4.23, 4.30 & 5.7) 

Time: 6:45pm to 8:15pm   

Cost: *$225 
Payment includes 6 workshops sessions, supplies for 5 of the sessions, and healthy snacks.

*1x payment that must be completed prior to 10am. April 1, 2019)

2 Scholarships are available.
To apply for a scholarship, or ask a question please submit a confidential email to: info@damonpowell.com

OTHER EVENTS

Preaching
7 Last Words Service
Corinthian Baptist Church
(550 24th St. Oakland, CA)
April 19, 2019
7pm to 9:30pm

May Workshop
Workshop on artistic practice & aesthetics
Abrams Claghorn Gallery
(1251 Solano Ave. Albany, CA)
May 9, 2019

YOU CAN STILL PURCHASE

WHEN WE PRAY: 8 Meditations on the Aesthetics of Prayer & the Spiritual Life

Content

The overarching aim of When We Pray is to explore the connections between prayer, meditation, art, and aesthetic experience in ways that are both insightful and practical. Each of the eight essays takes the reader on an exploration of topics such as the role of imagination in prayer and manifestation, the aesthetic aspects of enlightenment, the role of signs and symbols in the spiritual life, and more. As you explore these topics you are also invited to feast your eyes upon professional illustrations created by the author himself. When We Pray is a total package experience that features insightful, thought-provoking essays that are accompanied by beautiful, well-crafted imagery that supports the topics covered in the prose.  

Features
-When We Pray is printed in an 8.5 x 11, soft-cover format. The prose and the accompanying illustrations are printed with black ink on opaque white paper. Your copy will be autographed!  

-The cover illustration is a 7×10 limited edition, full-color illustration printed using archival inks and paper. Each print will be numbered and signed by Dr. Powell.     

TOTAL COST $25

Price includes the price of the book, the limited edition print, applicable taxes, along with shipping and handling.
To place your order, click here:  WHEN WE PRAY

**Please send this link to others who might be interested in this offer**

 

The Aesthetics of Enlightenment

MANUSCRIPT COMPLETED!!
I spent long hours over the holiday weekend working on completing the manuscript for When We Pray. The manuscript and the images have all been formatted and sent to the publisher. I will be publishing through Balboa Press Books with an estimated release date of late February- early March provided everything runs smoothly.
The book will be printed in an 8.5 x 11 softcover version which should run about 80-100 pages. I have decided to complete a special illustration for the cover and need to have it completed for publication by mid-January. I AM SOOOO EXCITED!!! I am literally overflowing with anticipation to see one of my lifelong dreams coming to fruition!!

MY NEW COURSE
I have now begun the initial preparations for the creation of an online course that will expand upon and supplement the material presented in When We Pray. The course should be completed and ready for enrollment by the 2nd week of January (if not sooner). The new year is going to start off with a bang!

ARTICLE PUBLISHED
My article, “Conjuring the Muse: A Theology of Inspiration and Imagination” is now in print (finally). It is available in the November issue of the SEEN Journal – HOPE edition, Vol. XVIII (November 2018) a publication of the group CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts).

EXCERPT ROM CHAPTER 
Below are a few selected excerpts from chapter 2. Remember, my manuscript hasn’t been poured over by the editor yet so things could change.:-)

When We Pray II
The Aesthetics of Enlightenment: The Universal & the Particular
                When the word “aesthetics” is mentioned in contemporary circles, most of us associate it with theories regarding how we perceive and understand beauty, but this is a very limited perception that merely props the door open. If we open the door fully, we are invited to enter a much broader landscape which grounds aesthetics in the realm of sensory experience. Our senses are essential to this discussion because beauty must be perceived in order to be experienced, and perception is impossible without the use of our senses. You see a beautiful work of art, you hear beautiful music, you see and taste a beautiful meal, you physically and emotionally feel the power of nature. Beauty, at its most fundamental level, is a celebration of the sensual which props open the door to a wider range of aesthetic experience. “Aesthetics” is derived from the Greek root aesthesis which can best be defined as “of the senses” or “perceptible by the senses”. When the founder of the discipline, Alexander Baumgarten coined the term “Aesthetics” his original intention was to establish a scientific method for the study of empirical experience.[i] If beauty props the door open so we may glimpse what’s on the other side, Aesthetics opens the door and invites us into an exploration of sensory perception and the nature of human embodiment.
Far too many of us live disembodied lives. We are rarely fully present to our experiences due to living in the past, worrying about the future, over medicating, overindulging, blocking or denying our feelings, ignoring or neglecting our bodies…until we reach the end of our lives without ever having truly lived them. Unfortunately, many of our religious and spiritual traditions do more to re-enforce this tendency toward disconnection than encourage healthy and affirming attitudes toward embodiment. We have been told that the body is bad, sinful, part of the reason we suffer and a host of other negative assertions. However, embodiment is essential because It is through the locus of our bodies that we perceive and experience this reality…

               …Science now re-enforces this claim by proving that every perception we have is accompanied by a corresponding physical sensation that is stored in the body as cellular memory. Whether it is a thought, an experience, a feeling…it is still perceived by the brain and the body as sensory data that is recorded and stored within the cellular memory – whether we are consciously aware of the experience or not. This finding supports psychological theories which discuss trauma, PTSD, post-traumatic slave syndrome, recalling experiences in the womb while under hypnosis, and practices such as the curing of ailments through body awareness practices, improving intuition through muscle testing…etc. This process of cellular encoding ensures that all human experience is sensory, embodied, and aesthetic.
If all experience is aesthetic, then the paths to enlightenment, nirvana, and the road to heaven must all be paved with sensory experience. If we are to walk this path, we must first define what we mean by enlightenment. Enlightenment is not a destination to be reached nor a threshold that one must pass through. Enlightenment is a blossoming, a progressive unfolding of insight and revelation into the nature of universal, divine, consciousness. This perspective moves us away from the misguided notion that Enlightenment is a prize to be obtained or a goal that one accomplishes. Neither is it a destination to be reached. This mindset is much too static. A more nuanced perspective allows us to envision a progressive, ongoing, revelation of consciousness that moves us through the sensual toward the supra-sensual until we eventually become one with pure consciousness. The movement toward enlightenment is one of relative degree and expansion into the vastness of all that is…
                 …We have this treasure in earthen vessels. But in order to find the “treasure”, we must be willing to dig for it. We must be ready and willing to get down on our hands and knees and dirty ourselves in the soil of life. This is the true purpose of living. To dig deep into the ground of existence, to struggle to be present to our particular lives and all the experiences it will present us….(excerpt).

[i] Richard Shusterman, “Aesthetic Experience: From Analysis to Eros” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 64: 2 (Spring 2006), 218.

Chapter Sample

Yes, my book is almost done! Finally! The manuscript will be completed by the end of the month and expect the book to be out on the market around mid-March to early April. I didn’t get quite as much completed as I would have liked last month but am making significant headway already this month hand have set myself a hard deadline. Now you have my promise to have it done in print!

Below are a few selected excerpts from chapter 3. Remember, my manuscript hasn’t been poured over by the editor yet so things could change.:-)

When We Pray III
Signs, Symbols and the Sacred

From 2014 to 2018 I maintained a small studio-space within a local gallery in downtown Oakland. On the first Friday of each month, the city and most of the local galleries would host an event known as the “First Friday Art Murmur”. My space along many of the surrounding galleries located within the downtown area would be open during that evening allowing the public to come explore their galleries and the various artist’s studios. Even though I was working full-time for three of the four years I maintained my space, I always did my best to have at least one new piece on display during First Friday. After the first year, this became one of my favorite opportunities to show my work. I welcomed this event because it helped me stay focused during the month, provided me with an opportunity to show my work on a regular basis, and most important of all I was able to observe the visitor’s reactions, hear their comments to one another, and speak with them about my work. This source of direct feedback provided me with insights that have proven invaluable in innumerable ways.

One of the most astounding things about these encounters was the ways in which people responded to the symbols used in my work. Those who were not familiar with a symbol found in a certain piece would usually ask me what it meant and why I had chosen to use it. It was always both humbling and amazing to receive words of appreciation as they began to grasp the connections between the symbol’s meaning and the other elements within the piece. It was as if it all began to click, and most would stay and examine the piece more closely as if this newly acquired knowledge allowed them to digest the imagery more thoroughly. Those who recognized many of the symbols would often speak about how much they appreciated them being used in appropriate ways, and comment about the various nuances in meaning they grasped in a particular work because of one of the symbols encountered within it. This recognition of a familiar or meaningful symbol often increased their appreciation of the work and filled it with more significant meaning for them. These conversations let me know that I was on target with my desire to incorporate symbols into my work and helped me to better grasp the power of symbolism…

…Signs and symbols help us to make things “special”. If human beings lacked the desire to make anything “special” we would all lead very drab, indistinct lives. Making special is as natural to us as eating or breathing. This notion of making things special is one of the most significant aspects of our humanness – particularly for those of us who are striving to live our lives with an intentionally spiritual focus. It is the human desire to make things “special” which lies at the heart of any discussion upon the distinctions between the sacred and the secular. Things which we have designated as “special” are deemed as such because they hold significant psychological value individually or collectively. We prize a particular ideal, experience, object, symbol, person, role…to such a degree that we imbue it with significant psychological value. By doing so, the value we place upon it makes it “special” and in many cases it becomes so special that it enters the realm of the sacred. Making Special is the true essence of the sacred-secular distinction. Whether individually or collectively, human beings possess an innate need to make things special and the degree of value we place upon them determines whether or not they are deemed sacred. Throughout history art, signs, and symbols have played a significant role in this process by helping to: designate something as special, remind us that it is special, or celebrate its particular psychological value…

…What was coming more immediately to the foreground of my consciousness? What did I need to “make special” and why? Asking these kinds of questions increased my trust in spirit and deepened my meditation practice – because it helped me to see how important it was to practice looking for the “signs” instead of wondering and waiting for what was often already right in front of me. So, look for the signs. Open your senses and feelings to the signs. Pray for a sign. Meditate on the signs. Believe you have and will continue to receive the right signs. Give thanks for the signs. Trust the signs. You’ll have more appreciation for the journey, if you pay attention to the signs along the way.

New Opportunities

Last month I accepted a part-time position as a student Art Instructor for the Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corporation. Higher Ground is a nonprofit organization that provides elementary education and support to youth and County Education offices throughout the East Bay.

My work as an Art Instructor is part of the Afterschool programming component. I help to encourage the creative artistry of youth in the 6th to 8th-grade range. At present, I am working in 9-week intervals at two schools. Once this 9-week period is over, I will move on to another two.

Needless to say, I spent most of last month on the development of lesson plans, researching art suppliers, and prepping for my first round of students. I am excited about the opportunity to share my love for art with young people whom have shown an enthusiasm for creative expression. So far, I have been impressed with the overall level of talent displayed by the students I have encountered. Our first official week of programming begins next week and I am looking forward to meeting many more.

Now that I have my schedule with Higher Ground pinned down it is time to get back to writing. I have already penciled in some dedicated time for writing and am looking forward to digging my heels in and pushing forward on When We Pray: 8 Meditations on the Aesthetics of Prayer and the Spiritual Life. The completion of this project will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream; to have my own words and images combined into a book format! I am entirely too close to give up now! This will be the first of many!

BE ON THE LOOKOUT…next month I plan to give everyone a few teasers by sneak-peaking excerpts from a few of the chapters along with their accompanying illustrations! 

STUDIO SPACE
Once my manuscript has been completed, I plan to begin searching for a new studio location. If you know of any places that I should check out, please email me directly at: info@damonpowell.com. 

SHOW ME SOME LOVE

I could also use your support as I continue to save and raise funds for a studio deposit and just because you respect my contribution to the world. I am still accepting patrons through Patreon. If you would like to become a patron, please visit my page:

When We Pray – Progress

Greetings Family,

I was unable to complete the whole manuscript of my book last month. Although I was quite enthusiastic to get it done, I think I was a little unrealistic about the amount of time I could actually put not the project without going to a retreat location and write from there. However, I did manage to get four chapters completed which places me at the halfway mark! I have four more to go and will be ready to get back into writing mode as we refocus for a new month.

Unfortunately, I was sick with the flu the whole holiday weekend and spent 85% of my time at home in bed! 😦  But I’m almost well now and plan to get back into the swing of things later this week.

Below is a summary of each chapter of the project. As you can see below I don’t necessarily complete the chapters in order because my brain just won’t work that way. I meditate upon which chapter should come next and trust that Spirit will guide me to the write one, as it inspires me with the needed content.  Hope you find them of interest!

WHEN WE PRAY:
8 MEDITATIONS ON THE AESTHETICS OF PRAYER & THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
CHAPTER SUMMARIES
Preface

Since the book is really a series of essays or meditations (or monographs??) I don’t think a formal introduction to the contents/concepts is needed. However, I do think it important to basically set the tone for the reader and provide a few insights about the overall direction of “When We Pray” and my reasons for developing its content.

When We Pray
Making the Connection: Prayer, Aesthetics & the Spiritual Life
This initial essay will paint a picture of the overall conceptual framework that allows the reader to begin to see and understand the connections between prayer, aesthetics and the spiritual life. In this section, I will define some essential terms, provide some historical and contextual grounding, and lay the overall framework for the more specific points of discussion that will comprise the other meditations.

When We Pray
The Aesthetics of Enlightenment: the Universal & the Particular – COMPLETE
It is here that the real work begins. I delve into the most misunderstood paradox in spirituality, how the seemingly particular act of going within through prayer and meditation ultimately leads to an ever more intimate understanding of that which is most common to all – the universal. This essay will delve into this paradox and help us to understand how the aesthetic dimensions of spiritual life help us to better understand the universal and the particular.

When We Pray III
Making Special: Sacred Symbols, Sight & Geometry – COMPLETE
What does it mean to make something special? How does our concept of the sacred relate to our use of symbols and the ways in which symbol is used on the spiritual path? This meditation will examine these ideas and relate them specifically to the process of spiritual growth and discernment – particularly with regard to the ways both humans and Spirit utilize symbols and signs as a means of communication.

When We Pray IV
The Work is all Divine: The Role of Imagination in Prayer & Manifestation – COMPLETE
In this essay, I will explore the ways in which imagination and manifestation play a central role in prayer and the spiritual life. It will present the conceptual framework and context through which manifestation and imagination helps us to see understand the inherent connection between prayer, imagination, and the process of manifestation.

When We Pray V
Awakening: The Art of Prayer & the Art of Life – COMPLETE
We use the term “art” in relation to a wide range of human endeavors that stretch from the actual creative work of the “Arts” to the facility with which we live our lives. This meditation will explore the term “art” by defining it in a manner that allows us to connect it with aesthetic experience, inspiration, and the spiritual life. Particular emphasis will be placed upon the notion that prayer is an “art” and how human beings can harness the aesthetic dimensions of prayer in order to live inspired and artful lives.

When We Pray VI
In Defense of the “Woo-Woo”: The Aesthetics of Mysticism and the Spiritual Life
The contemporary scientific model and its accompanying evidence-based approaches in the softer sciences have given mysticism a bad name. Even many Spirituality and New Age professionals will often shy away from the mystical or qualify any mystical statements by apologizing for becoming to “Woo-Woo”. In this chapter, I will address this phenomena and put forth a perspective that argues for mysticism and spiritualization as key components in prayer and spiritual development. This meditation will explore the ways in which the aesthetic dimensions of mysticism and mystical experience have always been and continue to be integral to prayer and the spiritual life

When We Pray VII
In the World & of the World
This chapter will focus upon the more practical aspects of living the spiritual life by examining how our spirituality should deeply ground and connect us to the world in which we live. How does one think about and frame their response to the world’s problems from a spiritual perspective, and what can the aesthetic dimensions of our spirituality bring to that discussion? There is a real and needed place for social activism, global thinking and reflection upon the ways in which our spiritual life can be brought to bear upon the needs of our current place in human history.

When We Pray VIII
Coda: There is only Love
Ultimately, love is all there is. This final essay will serve as a concluding segment that will weave together the various strands from the previous meditations through an examination of the concept of divine love. It will provide an overarching vision that incorporates the key concepts from the meditations. However, it will not be a summary, but rather an inspirational vision that is both a didactic and beautific discussion on love and the ways aesthetic insights can aid us in the expression of love in our every day lives.

When We Pray copy

Love: The Harmony of Coherence

INSPIRATION

This is the one everyone seems to have been waiting for. Since I began painting the chakras everyone who’s entered my studio eventually asks, “When are you going to create something for the heart chakra?” ” I really love this series. I can’t wait to see the piece you create for the heart chakra, “ or variations thereof.  Most of my patrons appear to go blank when I tell them, ” I am waiting for direction because the process is rather intuitive so I really have no idea which chakra will be next.” 

Hindsight is always 20/20. 2 weeks ago I came to the realization that all of the chakra work I had been doing for the other pieces was in preparation for the internal shifts I needed to make for the creation of this one. When discussing the root chakra last month, I spoke about going deep within and grounding myself as I began a period of deep inward soul-searching. This led me to what I understand now as the next logical step –  cleansing and purification. I needed to clear away and jettison the things which no longer served me. I needed to go into my prayer closet and not come out until I could see with a much clearer vision. I needed to unburden my mind, body, soul, and heart. It was time to let go and release.

For me, this process began with a firm push from my guides to finally invest in the Neurogym program with John Assaraf. I have been following his work for a couple of years now but had been hesitant to make such a heavy investment. But now my guides were pushing me. This was the worst possible time since things were becoming progressively more intense around money. Every time I asked, I was given the go-ahead to get on the payment plan as Spirit said, “trust me!” From the ego’s perspective, everything about this decision was wrong because it appeared as if everything was falling apart around me. But Spirit kept repeating, “trust me.” Shortly after making the initial payment I also began a period of cleansing and preparation which ended up lasting 15 weeks. No drinking, no smoking, no sex, no dating; combined with weekly periods of intermittent fasting, cleaning up my diet, consistent exercise, and the completion of a series of spiritual clearing and discernment exercises that included daily affirmations, intense journaling, and discernment exercises – all while completing the daily requirements of the Neurogym program! It was only about a week ago that I realized I had designed and enrolled myself in my own personalized holistic Bootcamp!!

The Nuerogym program consists of neuro-linguistic programming, guided visualizations, guided self-hypnosis, self-affirmations, and brain training exercises to and more. The inner work I was able to do, combined with my own spiritual practices and exercises would have easily taken me another 1.5-2 years if I hadn’t invested in the program. Having said all of that, I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about internal transformation and wants to make a real investment in themselves. As with anything in life, you only get out what you’re willing to put in, so spend the money and commit to doing the work.

Love The Harmony of Coherence
Love: The Harmony of Coherence

Coherence is defined as “the quality of forming a unified whole”. Unity and wholeness can only exist when there is equilibrium and harmony. This is the work of the 4th chakra and the reason why it serves as the center-point of the entire chakra system. From this center, it balances and harmonizes the energies of the chakras above and below it thereby creating coherence. In the heart chakra, the externalized, egoistic, desirous energies of the 2nd chakra become internalized and we begin to see the world from the broader lense of relationality and reciprocity. This shift toward the more internal states generates a higher vibrational frequency that opens a channel for inner and outer harmonization. The balancing and harmonizing force resulting from this coherence is love. Love is an inside job!

Love is a unifying force. It creates balance and harmony through the allowance and acceptance of interdependence in order to create a greater whole. All things strive toward harmony and equilibrium. Imbalances can’t and won’t endure. The key to creating this unity is acceptance. Self-acceptance is the key that unlocks the door to greater and deeper levels of self-love. From this perspective, we don’t make or create love we, discover and allow it through our willingness to open, accept and allow. This means allowing things and people to be who and what they are. The greater our capacity to do so, the greater the coherence created which increases our capacity to love.

I needed to learn more deeply about the nature of love. I could go no further until I was cleansed, purged and opened. There were too many blockages, too many aspects of my life that needed to be either accepted, reconciled or jettisoned. They had been holding me back from growth and consequently blocking my expansion to the higher levels. The imbalances had become much too great and much too costly. Every aspect of my life was being affected. I could no longer piece-meal it or wait. I had to do the work!

It was time for me to confront and accept myself. I had to let go, forgive, allow, trust, listen,  purge, cleanse, re-fill, discover, open, appreciate, give thanks, release, admit, fortify, pray, meditate, shift, cry, scream, push, be still…until the end was the end and also the beginning.  Just like Jacob, I wrestled with the angel in the darkness and was determined to not let go until it blessed me. When the morning came, Jacob received his blessing but he was also wounded. When the dawn finally cracked across my horizon, I too received my blessing.  In my case, I was already wounded and am wounded still. But this time the wound is different. I accept it, have peace with it, carry it, nurture it, treasure it, and allow it a special place on the altar of my heart as a reminder of the costs of transformation.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, this creation has also been the one I too have been waiting for. I would never dare to say that I have arrived. But my heart has been opened and what lies there now is vastly different from what occupied the space before it. There is a great deal more acceptance, a deeper level of coherence, greater harmony, and a more open, willing and desirous capacity for love. There were many things I had to confront and let go, but letting go is not same as giving up. Love is the harmony of coherence.

SYMBOLISM

As with every piece within this series, the graphic lotus-like symbol above the figure contains the Sanskrit symbol for that particular chakra and the corresponding number of leaves that indicate the heart or central chakra (12).

The central figure is seated in the yogic full lotus asana with his palms turned upward and his hands loosely cupped. Upturned palms are predominantly a receptive state which matches the yin energies associated with the heart chakra. His eyes are closed with his head slightly bowed as he focuses his awareness within. My initial inclination was to use deep rich browns, blues, and purples for the skin tone in order to make a connection between the dark fertile earth and the deep green of growth and vegetation, but the color sketches I produced all made the figure overpowering among the green. This also kept the viewer’s eyes stuck on the darker shades in the center of the composition – thus making the entire composition too static. The lighter sienna tones provide a much more soothing complement to the greens (red and green are complementary colors) and allow the eyes to move in and around the composition giving it a feeling of spaciousness despite the large figure and lotus.

The lotus beneath the figure is large by design. It partially encompasses the lower portion of the figure while the leaves extending behind the figure give the impression that they are almost supporting him.

The background composition incorporates the all of the shades of green used throughout the painting and gives the background a soothing quality that appears to be both dynamic and static all at once. The activity gives movement without competing with the key elements in the composition.

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