Prototyping a Painting

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Painting: wrong

My friend Daniel says its important to carry prototypes all the way to the end. That way you can see all the mistakes, and not just the ones that you made at the beginning. When I outlined my painting on canvas, I immediately realized that I hadn’t properly spaced the circles. As a result, I couldn’t follow the actual plan or outline of the Sefer Yetzirah, the tree of life. But, in the spirit of figuring out what it looks like when you do the geometry incorrectly, I realized a number of things.

One, the retraction of earth and the moon places the Moon sephirah in the place of power, not the sun. Thus daath or knowledge becomes a place of power unconnected to other realities. This is the realm of the invisible sun.

Second, the more regular geometry feels less organic, more structured. It’s not alive, exactly. It’s more balanced, but less energetic. The empty space is necessary for the work to flourish.

I’m going to keep working on this painting, but I suspect it won’t be a Tree of Life when I’m done.

Taiji Day 31: Tuck the Tailbone

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My mother the artist, bless her heart, is always reminding me to stack the spine, one vertebra on top of the other, and tuck the tailbone.  She’s right of course.  In her yoga as in my taiji, it’s easy to leave the tailbone dangling out there — letting it all hang out.  But there’s power and strength in all the muscles around the hips and thighs.  You can’t put that energy to work if you don’t tuck the tailbone.

All sorts of things happen when you tuck the tailbone.  The energy spot that might be called the Tan Tien starts to come alive.  The breath invigorates the self.  The hip twists become easier.  The muscles of the core … curiously enough… stack the lower spine.  The belly starts to pull in, finding a natural wall between pectoral muscles and the crease of the hips (which is not to say the belly won’t get in the way if it’s – ahem – overfull, but the belly wall does tighten).

Keeping track of all of this when moving through the form is difficult.  But by moving through the form with the tailbone in mind, the arms and legs slide through the postures in remarkable ways. They feel like they BELONG in specific spots, as opposed to your shoulders and pectorals putting  them there.  And you can feel when they’re not in the right place.

The body complains about focusing on tucking the tailbone.  Muscles that aren’t normally used get tired.  They want to give up partway through the form.  But in truth, the muscles don’t want to give up. They’re delighted to work.  It’s you that wants to give up, to go back to letting it all hang out. Entropy is easy — the restful garden path to dissolution.

Tuck the tailbone. Discover vigor.

Sacred Text

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I’m also working on a couple of calligraphy practice projects.


My calligraphy stinks.  I’d like it to be better.  But frankly, I’m not necessarily interested in doing it perfectly; I’m interested in making a transcription of the Aphorisms of Hermes to Asclepius.  I got this from Frater RO’s web course — I’ve been a reader of his site recently, and when he needed a new car, I bought his discounted course as a way of saying thanks. But really, there’s a number of gems in it.  I won’t display or publish all of my pieces that I’m creating from his work; that’s not fair to his course or his students.  But just as there’s power in copying out a talisman’s lines, there’s value in copying out the texts that you regard as sacred, or that you wish to study in more detail. Making your hand do the work is just as important as sitting in meditation trying to make your brain do the work.  In some ways, making your hand do the work is much more important.  The text dies when it’s only alive in electronic or printed form — it has a much better chance of affecting the spirit, or of BEING a spirit, when it’s written in ink by your own hand.  Take the time to copy out texts that you regard as sacred.