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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.
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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

Gravity: The Manifestation of Form

INTERPRETATION

The Root Chakra is key to all physical manifestation. Not just the form and shape of our body but the form and shape of the life and life experiences we manifest while within our body. The root chakra brings about existence or the manifestation of being and form into existence. As the first chakra, it is singular, whole, and complete unto itself.  Just like the number one, it is the beginning of all beginnings. This emphasis upon manifestation is one of the reasons why the charkas move from the lower to the higher vibrations. Although the 5th (throat) chakra may inspire creativity and the 6th (skull) chakra opens us to receive the vision, creation always necessitates form. Without form, our inspirations and visions have no hope of being grounded in physical reality. These higher vibrations must slow down, congeal, and condense before they can enter the material realm. That process of grounding and manifestation is the domain of the root chakra.  

In my previous post on the 6th chakra, I spoke about the process of purification and envisioning I was lead to undergo at the beginning of the year. But once you have seen the vision, manifestation is always the next step in the process. Moses went up the mountain to meet with God and receive the vision, but if he hadn’t come back down the mountain to manifest that vision his entire trip would have ultimately meant nothing. The results of my sojourn led to the manifestation of “Gravity.” The shape and feel of our lives is always a result of the manifestation of our consciousness in form. For me, this meant going back to my own singularity. Going back to my own roots psycho-spiritually and re-examining the mental and spiritual thought forms manifested there in order to decide if the events, people, places, and things in my life were accurate manifestations of “who” and “how” I wanted to be in the world. I was not very happy with what I was seeing. 

The root chakra is not only singular and whole but is also about grounding and connection. This grounding and connection occurs as we manifest things into form, and from our ability to maintain the stability needed for further nourishment and growth. This ability to “anchor in” and find stability is the basis for the development of individual growth and personal power. Gravity is a force of attraction. It encourages in-gathering and the marshaling of one’s inner forces. It is from this stable core that we are then able to attract or draw forth the power needed for acts of concrete manifestation. This is why the energies of the root chakra ground us into the earth so that we may develop the stable roots needed to grow and exercise our power through acts of manifestation.

Spirit was reminding me of this and letting me know that it was time to re-ground myself through a re-examination of what I had manifested thus far. I needed to make some long overdue changes. It was time for me to take a deep look at my beliefs and values in order to ascertain if they were still reflective of who I wanted to be. It was now time to ground down, find myself, and make serious efforts to change, jettison, or adjust any values and ways of being that no longer served me, or reflected who I “am” and want to be. In my case, this meant addressing my own issues concerning guilt, shame, and self-worth. Everything in my life, and the life I live is firmly grounded in my ability to: affirm what I do have, to believe that I deserve more, and my willingness to allow myself to have more. As within, so without. And so it is!

Gravity The Manifestation of Form

Gravity: The Manifestation of Form

SYMBOLISM

The graphic symbol above the figure represents the four leaves of the root chakra and the Sanskrit character for that particular chakra. The red hues throughout the composition are all associated with the chakra’s red color. Red, the color of blood, fire, and life. You will notice that some areas of the background are much softer and more diffuse than others. This was an intentional decision to symbolize the idea of form coming into and out of various stages of development and manifestation as it slows, congeals, and hardens into the shapes and sizes of physical matter.

The figure is standing in a form of the yogic prayer pose which is also a variation of the popular mountain pose. This pose is a grounding pose which allows one to stand in firm stability as the feet and root chakra energies ground down into the earth. Her feet are grounded deeply within the heart of the lotus she stands upon, as the minor chakras in her feet and knees transmit sensation from the lotus up into her root chakra. Her head is bowed and her hands are positioned in prayer over her heart. Her concentration is both meditation, prayer, and in-gathering as she places her focus upon the work of manifestation.

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Insight: Knowing the Light Within

INSPIRATION

Working with the 6th chakra has helped me to intimately understand how everything unfolds perfectly within the divine’s right and proper time. It has helped me discover depths of perception and insight as they have come to me in a steady progression that reminds me of the lotus slowly unfolding to the light of day. For me, this progression was initiated with the new year as I underwent a week of prayer, journaling, fasting, and detoxification. My plan was to release the old, and use journaling and other rituals to clarify and visualize what I wanted to manifest for the future. This time of release and invocation provided me with a clarity of presence and a wide field of vision from which to gain a greater connection to my guides, higher self, and spirit. I was praying for the removal of that which no longer served me, and the insight needed to move with inspired direction.

It reminded me that seeing is a passive faculty. It is the eyes that perceive, but the mind that sees. When our eyes are open they only pick-up the emanations of light and energy that are reflected from the matter around us. These reflections are then turned upside down and reversed before being presented to the mind for perception and interpretation. Seeing is truly an inside job. The only true light we will ever know or comprehend is the light we find within – physically and metaphorically.  From this perspective, physical sight can also be considered an exercise in intuition since we never actually “see” the matter we encounter in the world around us – but simply intuit its presence and capacities based upon the reflected light and energy it emits. We must trust what light we perceive and intuitively adjust our actions and behavior based upon those emanations. We walk by faith, not by sight. The more light we allow and open our eyes to perceive, the greater our capacity to gain insight and interpret the world around us. Likewise, the more we are still, focused and passive, the better our capacity to perceive and interpret the light we have allowed within. This is why the 6th chakra is dedicated to sight, perception, and intuition.

My week of prayer and fasting help me to understand how much the mechanics of sight and insight are almost identical to one another physically and spiritually. Our chakras and minds do not perceive divine light – because its substance and vibration are entirely too high, but rather the myriad reflections of its movement that have slowed enough vibrationally for our minds to perceive them. These reflections are always there but we are able to perceive them more readily when we are still, passive, open, allowing, and focused upon receiving them. In my experience last month. This state allowed me to begin opening my self to greater levels of reception, which fostered stronger intuitive insights and a deepening of my faith after receiving them. Part of this process was magnified after my guides led me to sign up for a “28 Day Challenge” online course geared toward deepening one’s connection to spirit, higher self, and guides. This guidance was given one week after I had been guided to begin work on the 6th chakra as the next piece in the series, and 3 days after I had completed my research and begun the actual painting! Everything unfolds perfectly within the spirit’s right and proper time. 

Although sight and insight are passive, these passive faculties activate other aspects of our being which are much more active and projective. The more we deepen and open ourselves to receive, the greater our capacity for output through the use of imagination, visualization, and manifestation. The greater our capacity to receive, the greater our ability to project. This is why it so important that we know the light within. Creation and manifestation are birthed from imagination and visualization. The more light we allow within, the greater our capacity to manifest and create – both spiritually and physically. The 6th chakra is both active and passive as it functions to provide clarity, insight, and intuition, while simultaneously being actively present in the work of visualization and manifestation. 

As a point of clarification, I would also like to point out that the third eye is not synonymous with the 6th chakra. Many people convolute the third eye, 6th chakra, and pineal gland but they are not the same thing. Each is its own separate entity. Just as there are other chakras, the third eye is another form of chakra but it is not the 6th chakra. Any well-informed teacher will confirm this. The 6th chakra and third eye often support one another or work in tandem but they are still very separate. The 6th chakra is located deeper inside the brain at or just above eye-level, while the third eye is located in the front of the head between the eyes or eyebrows. If you spend some time meditating upon the 6th chakra and grow more attuned to it you will begin to notice the subtle differences in the energy of the two.  It also helps to spend some time bringing energy into the 6th chakra from the back of the head until you can become more familiar with the differences.

Although I have not been able to find any definitive statement on the exact function of the third eye, I would postulate that it is exactly what its name suggests – a spiritual third eye or chakra geared specifically toward the reception of spiritual light and energies. It functions as our physical eyes by picking up these energies and transmitting them to the 6th chakra so that they can be interpreted, provide wisdom…and then hopefully used by the 6th chakra for the purposes of imagination, visualization, and manifestation. 

Insight: Knowing the Light WithinInsight: Knowing the Light Within

SYMBOLISM

This chakra moves us a step further along the color wheel and higher in vibration. We move from the lighter, cerulean blue of the 5th chakra to the deep indigo of the 6th. The closest representation of that blue is found within the graphic symbol of the chakra depicted above the figures head. Because the indigo is so deep and rich, I was forced to integrate other shades of blue into the composition in order to maintain clarity between the deep purple of the 7th chakra and the deep blue of 6th. Sometimes, the eyes can confuse the two hues with black, and/or not clearly distinguish between them when they are so closely placed to one another. I hope to show the whole series together once it is completed and was concerned that patrons might not be able to easily differentiate between the two – so I took the liberty of using my artistic license in order to create a greater distinction between the hues. This is also why I chose to use a somewhat lighter blue for the background color. Even with the white covering parts of it, the deep indigo would have just been too overpowering.

As in the other four depictions, the figure sits upon a lotus flower, The subtle difference here is that this figure is not just in meditation but also in visualization. We have moved from the vibratory matter of the 5th chakra (she was chanting) to the higher vibration of light here in the 6th. Sight and insight are the material of visualization. Her thumbs are placed upon her heart as she somatically connects head and heart through the action of touch. Scientific studies have shown that placing one’s hands upon the heart, and or touching the heart while meditating strengthens the bond between them thus allowing for increased levels of intuition and greater amplitude from the heart itself. 

The graphic lotus symbol above her head contains the Sanskrit character for the chakra and the two petals associated with the 6th chakra. The white of the background is representative of the cosmic ethers waiting to be absorbed and directed.    

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Polarity: The Balancing Of Desire

INSPIRATION

Most people think the second chakra is all about sex and sensuality, but to limit this chakra’s energies to such a narrow bandwidth is literally majoring in the minors. Sex and sensuality are one the many by-products resulting from the actions of the 2nd chakra’s core responsibility: the balancing of polarity. Polarity is the action or power that connects two opposing forces. In this case, the old adage “opposites attract” is right on target. An easy example lies in the action and attraction of yin and yang both intermingling and interpenetrating one another. Polarity is the energy which binds the power of dualistic forces. As beings of Spirit and matter our very existence is an exercise in the balancing of dualistic forces in polarity.

The 2nd chakra is also associated with the moon, water, emotion, and the gift of clairsentience (the ability to receive information through feelings). This emphasis on motion and change compliments the dynamic movement of forces needed to maintain polarity among opposing dualistic forces. Likewise, the age-old association of the moon and water with feeling and emotion matches the mercurial nature of emotions themselves – as we can be happy one moment and sad the next. Humans can experience the depths of emotion and then enter a complete state of shock that renders us incapable of feeling. These are the mysteries of the sacral chakra. Upon close examination, you will find that the binding agent between these forces, the glue which acts as the substance of polarity is human desire. It is my contention that it is this connection to desire which links the sacral chakra so closely with sex and sensuality.

Each and every moment of each and every day we are desirous of any number of things. To be human is to experience desire. Desire itself is decidedly neutral – for without it none of us would be able to accomplish anything. But if left unchecked or untempered, our desires can so easily become an enemy from within. A trojan horse that is capable of undermining and destroying all our hopes and dreams. If we repress our desires we dam the flow and our manifestations become dull and lifeless. However, if we allow our desires and passions to overshadow everything they will eventually consume us. Therefore, we strive to maintain an equilibrium among our various desires through the action of polarity. Just like water, our emotions, energies, needs, and desires must flow. Shifting and re-forming as needed to fit the multi-form contours of our desires as they expand, contract and intermingle according to the demands of daily life. One of the most easily identifiable areas for observing this need for polarity lies within the realm of sex and sensuality.

Polarity- The Balancing of Desire

Polarity: The Balancing of Desire

SYMBOLISM

The predominant color representation for this chakra is orange. For each chakra, I use a minimum of three variations of that particular color ranging from warm to kool. All other variations in tone are created by mixing a particular hue with white. For this image, I used the orange found in the lotus as the primary tone of the entire image. This tone colors the lotus, serves as the base tone for the background and was painted as a lighter layer on the flower beneath the seated figure.

The 2nd, or sacral chakra is symbolized by the six-petalled lotus with its accompanying  Sanskrit character (Savadhisthana). This same decorative flattened Lotus motif is found at the top and a more realistically rendered lotus is found underneath the seated figure.

The seated figure is meditating in the full lotus position with his hands pointing downward in the shape of a triangle. The triangular mudra has its opening in the location of the sacral chakra. I opted not to place a small graphic image of the chakra within the space for two reasons: I wanted to keep the imagery consistent with the remainder of the series, and I felt that a bright graphic image there would draw the viewer’s eye directly to that location where it would remain stuck – thus sapping energy and movement from the overall composition.

In many ways, this particular piece has been the most difficult one to create thus far in the series. The choice of which chakra to work on next has been Spirit-led and intuitive. This exercise has also meant that a major portion of my focus for this series has been an exercise in tuning in for guidance. Not only tuning in but more significantly, exercising the courage and discipline to trust and follow that guidance once it has been received. In “learning to trust my gut” as the old folks used to say. Learning to balance my inner feelings and hunches with the knowledge and skills I have acquired along the way has been a source of tremendous growth for me. I look forward to the coming year with courage and wonder.  I have finally begun to realize that the process is as important as the outcome. Balance is the key. Namaste’

Look out for a discussion of the 6th chakra next month!

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Flowering of the Cosmic Consciousness

INSPIRATION

To tell the truth, I’m really not sure where this is going? I have been doing a great deal of reflecting in the past few weeks and am in a constant state of awe and gratitude for my present way of being. My decision to pursue my dreams of being a full-time artist has also placed me in the unique position of starting my life all over again. I have literally been given (and co-created) an opportunity to re-create myself and my life. I sit at the potter’s wheel before a massive piece of clay that is ready to be formed into whatever image I desire. But what do I wish to create? What is the quality and content of my vision? I am totally free to fashion and create my life into anything I would like it to be. But this too is a position of both awesome freedom and great responsibility.

I have spent the last few weeks reflecting deeply upon my past, letting go of regrets, forgiving myself for wrongs inflicted upon self and others, examining the present moments, and thinking critically about who and how I want to be in the world. The decisions I make now, and the things I begin to manifest will become the building blocks of my new future – and this realization fills me with terror and exhilaration. But my past and its lessons are also still with me. These experiences have provided me with enough insight to understand that I cannot create a truly new and better future by operating with the same habits and levels of consciousness that have brought me to this moment. I must take a leap both artistically and spiritually. In order for lasting positive change to occur, one must not only know better but BE better!  Creating lasting change is an inside job. Without inner transformation, there can be no lasting and authentic manifestation. It is this realization which has caused me to spend the last few months meditating upon the crown chakra.

There can be no conscious creation without a corresponding change in consciousness. Einstein put it this way, “You cannot successfully solve a problem operating from the same level of consciousness which created it” (paraphrase mine). And so all things must become new. The 7th or “Crown” chakra serves as the gateway to higher levels of consciousness. It is our connection to the highest divinity and a key component in every act of physical manifestation. Spirit has been leading me to meditate upon the crown chakra (and my third eye) so that I can work on opening, widening, and deepening my connection to the higher levels of consciousness needed to become a more connected, centered, intuitive, creative, disciplined, resilient Damon – who is capable of creating and sustaining the life of my dreams. This effort necessitates the flowering of a cosmic consciousness. To leap towards the next level of my enlightenment.

Fron this perspective, we see the true meaning of enlightenment has nothing to do with a destination or goal to be achieved, but a process of ever-deepening discovery, or a never-ending expansion of one’s consciousness into that of the divine.  This expansion brings with it the capability to receive and perceive higher levels of vibration within one’s consciousness as the crown’s lotus expands and opens.  Hence we find that enlightenment is not a state of being, but a journey without beginning nor end.

Flowering of the Cosmic Consciousness

Flowering of the Cosmic Consciousness

SYMBOLISM

The graphic lotus symbol above the figure depicts the crown chakra and its accompanying Sanskrit character “Om” (pronounced A-u-m). The repetition of the Om is purported to be the frequency and sound of the universe (Uni – one and verse – song = one song). As the Om is chanted our song becomes more fully integrated with the universal frequency until all is immersed into one song (the cosmic consciousness).

The color violet is associated with the crown chakra and is thus reflected in various shades throughout the composition. The colors which appear darkest to our eyes also retain the highest frequencies energetically, thus it makes perfect sense that a deep, rich, violet would serve as the highest point of the chakra system while the brighter colors containing the lower vibrational frequencies would comprise the lower chakras.

The figure is seated upon an opening lotus flower, in a deep state of meditation. His hands are formed in the shape of a power mudra as he connects to the source of all power and potentiality. In order to further emphasize the opening or flowering of higher consciousness, I also placed a violet spark on his forehead in the location of the third eye symbolizing the accompanying expansion of consciousness. The swirling mass around the figure is symbolic of the universal energies of creation and their raw unformed potential for physical manifestation. “In the beginning…the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:1

Look out for a discussion of the sacral chakra next month!

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Will: The Power of Integration

INSPIRATION

Believe it or not, I wasn’t planning this. My initial chakra focused image, “The Flowering of Truth” was intended to be a single image. When I completed the work in February, I had no intention of creating another work on the chakras – nor the impetus to create a series. But it would seem that Spirit had other plans.

A large percentage of my inspirational and creative processes are dependent upon intuition and channeling. Most of my inspirations are brought forth through life-experiences and/or insights intuited/channeled/gleaned from my meditation practice. In a very real sense, one could view my creative practice as a spiritual development journal. In hindsight, I see that the process of strengthening my 5th chakra was in preparation for my departure from my day job in order to pursue my vocation full-time. I needed to connect with the expression of my voice and speak forth my truth in authenticity. “Will: The Power of Integration” is about the need for me to marshal my energies and resources towards the achievement of my goals so that I will have the strength to persevere despite all obstacles. It wasn’t until this image’s completion that I realized that this was the start of a series.

The third chakra is found in the vicinity of the navel and solar plexus. Its primary element is fire – thus it is associated with the pancreas and adrenals. It’s color – yellow is the core of the preceding two chakras (red and orange respectively) as the core of any fire is bright yellow-white with the reds and oranges radiating from that burning center. The 3rd chakra is the integrator of the 2 preceding it (1 = earth/matter, 2 = water/creation). Hence the power of the 3rd chakra is based in integration. It’s mantra, “I can” is reflective of human “Will”. Not society’s traditional notion of “will to power, conquer, push through…” but a dynamic force that transforms and shapes through integration. From this perspective, “will” is the integration of our desire and focus for the purposes of transformation and manifestation. Thus transformation and manifestation are based upon one’s power to combine and integrate the various aspects of one’s being in order to direct them towards a purpose. This is the power of “Will”.

Will: The Power of Integration

Will: The Power of Integration. The 2nd creation in my chakra series.

SYMBOLISM

As discussed previously, the color yellow is associated with the 3rd chakra and the core of fire and sun. I chose not to seat the figure because I wanted her to embody the energy associated with this chakra. This woman is standing, floating up and away from the lotus beneath her. She rises unaided, of her volition as she integrates her focus and desire in order to initiate her own ascension. She is the source of her own ascension and transformation due to her own self-integration (we are in truth the truth we seek). Her outstretched arms are symbolic of both praise and the discovery of her own inner power.  It is as if her outstretched arms and slightly lifted head evoke ecstasy and draw in the swirling matter that surrounds her as it becomes an integral part of her being. Her hair is both charged with the light of the chakra’s activation and the power flowing within. 

The graphic lotus symbol above her depicts the third chakra and its accompanying Sanskrit character. The open lotus beneath her figure is also symbolic of the chakras in general. 

Look out for a discussion of the crown chakra next month!

 

To purchase the original image please use the link below:

Damon’s Originals

To Purchase a Print use the link below:

Prints by Damon

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Memento Mori

INSPIRATION

The inspiration for this piece began about three months ago while visiting a Diebenkorn exhibit. I overheard a comment by one of the docents referencing an object placed within one of the paintings (I forget which one) as a “memento mori”. Her utterance of the term immediately brought me back to my undergraduate art history classes. I was struck by the idea and wanted to begin sketching immediately but I hadn’ t brought a pen or paper because I had ridden to the museum on my motorcycle. I resolved myself to begin creating some kind of work around this theme as soon as time would permit.

About 6 weeks ago I began researching and sketching for the creation of my own memento mori. As I mentioned last month, I was later invited to submit a sketch for a South American “Day of the Dead” Pyramid tribute for Burning Man this year. The sketch was accepted and set to be placed upon one of the blocks which would comprise the pyramid. The image was to be printed onto a sheet of vinyl and then mounted onto one of the blocks of the pyramid. Unfortunately, finances and family commitments prevented me from attending the event, but I assume that everything went according to plan?

THE MEDIUM

Since this piece was much larger than the mock-up it took me quite a bit of time to complete it using scratchboard. In order to remain relatively consistent with the sketch I had previously submitted, I tinted the image with watercolor and color pencil after completing the initial black and white scratching process.  For those of you not familiar with the medium, Scratchboard is a white clay board that is blacked over with ink. The image is then scratch back out using various scratching tools (X-acto knives, scalpels, tattoo needles…). The process is actually drawing using a reverse, subtractive approach. When drawing with a pen or pencil one adds marks and shading – while scratchboard creates shading by revealing the white clay beneath the ink.

IMG_0321_edited-1

Completed Balck & White Image

When coloring the board it must first be covered with some kind of clear fixative in order to keep the ink from running when the dyes or watercolor are applied to the surface. For some reason, I wasn’t obtaining the effect I normally prefer and decided to add some color pencil for additional texture and opacity.

Memento Mori72.5

Memento Mori (final image)

SYMBOLISM

The symbols placed within this work all center around the theme of death. The animated skeleton sitting just outside of his open grave site (lower portion) hints at the notion of life after death, resurrection…while the comic caption-like heart shape spouting from his head is indicative of discussions regarding life review, judgment, and the undying power of love. I intentionally wanted some of the references to be more open to differing various mythologies concerning death and the afterlife.

The two standing figures on each side represent Aunbis (Greek), Anpu/Inpu (Egyptian) the Egyptian god of death. Anubis was responsible for: the protection of tombs and burial grounds/sites, guiding souls to the underworld, and judging their hearts upon the scales in order to decide whether or not the soul was worthy of eternal life. I purposely made the two images slightly different in order to create more variety in the composition. The function of Anubis as a guardian of tombs and judge fits in well with the imagery of the skeleton emerging from his tomb and conducting his own life review as seen in the caption.

The middle caption-like portion is an attempt to lighten up the theme a bit. It was added later in the design process after I began to deliberately link my design to the Burning Man project. Since the Day of the Dead carries more festive connotations I thought it would be good to lighten up the overall composition a bit. The skeleton below is remembering love in his life (the caption-like heart) but still doing so as if he were dead – hence the skeleton within the caption. In addition, he is seated next to a succubus. The succubus is a demonic mythical creature which was believed to seduce men in their sleep. During the act of intercourse, the succubus would drain them of their life force. In this instance, the skeleton is actually not remembering his life, but his dream through which he was drained of his essence!

The skull at the top of the image is representative of the traditional Euroethnic notion of memento mori that can be found throughout the euroethnic art-historical cannon. The symbol placed upon the skull’s forehead is the Japanese character for death.

 

To purchase the original image please use the link below:

Damon’s Originals

To Purchase a Print use the link below:

Prints by Damon

Join my mailing list and receive $10 off your first print purchase: 

Damon’s list

My website:

damonpowell.com