A New Year to Let the Awe In. (There’s No War in World)

My favourite capture of the year.

My favourite capture of the year.

 

We’re 15 years into the millennium!

Wondrous. Wonder. Awe. Reminders of LIFE.

I rarely leave the house without my camera, even if I’m in a cranky mood, or just walking to the supermarket or taking stuff out for recycling (a fairly complicated process in Japan that requires a fair bit of walking – well worth it!)

You never know how the sky is going to turn, or whom will be suddenly be doing what, or how the sun might lighting a flower to look like a fairytale, or what visual feast might appear before you.

Life is full of momentous occasions, the kind you expect and prepare for, and also the kind you can’t possibly anticipate — and we’re doing ourselves a great service when we can make a point of being present for every last second of it.

This doesn’t mean having a camera strapped to us at all times, of course. Image-making just happens to be one form of expression that gives me a great deal of joy. I’m always infinitely happier, it should be said, when I manage to carve some time to sit and observe my breath, when the only universe I have access to exists behind closed eyes. There’s nothing “only” about this, in my modest experience!

But most of life is lived with open eyes, and this is no small opportunity to have them open with full attention to the moment at hand, so we can see that behind/underneath our desires for how the world should look/be/appear/treat us, there is a humming, thriving, perfect world just as it is.

And just as we are.

It exists whether we have the thickest cloud or happiest rainbow filtering our view on any given day, and it’s our privilege to be able to find it.

I took the photo above on a crisp, sunny winter day. I walked by, at first absorbed in one interior drama or another, and something about the scene caught my eye. I turned and saw this man sitting on a bench at the park closest to where I live. From my view, he was caught in the “frame” of this ancient, strange play structure, and instinctively, before I reached for my camera, I took a few steps backward to frame the man in the center ring.

I couldn’t help but think: how happy we would remain if we seized every opportunity to make any of the infinite, small adjustments that are fully in our power to make, to manifest moments of always-beautiful and always-changing perfection.  It could be as simple as remembering to take a long, deep breath; or opening our eyes just a little wider with a heart that is just a little more expansive; or expressing gratitude for the air that gives us life, and the people who give us the great honour of practicing love.

Happy New Year, dear everyone, and may 2015 bring you a world full of joy and passion, peace and magic.

Tammy x

 

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The Girl with the Ukelele (There’s No War in World)

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

When you sit down to learn stone carving from some of the world’s most practiced craftsmen, in Mamallupuram, Tamil Nadu, India, people are going to be curious.

A few days ago, we decided it would be fun to try this art form. All across town there are men chiseling away, with gorgeous finished products displayed outside the shops. Ganesh and Buddha predominate.

I initially thought this trip, our third to India in as many years, was going to be about opening my heart by way of spending time in ashrams, doing seva (work with no expectation of compensation) and meeting with spiritual gurus. I felt I needed this, the Hugging Mother’s hugs we’d experienced the year before, to awaken to my own heart through meditation and slow, deliberate contemplation.

Maybe this is still the case, and maybe it will come. But so far we’ve become fascinated by how much of a living-art India is in almost all its aspects. The aliveness of the place, the colours.

I have a piece of cloth I’ve been embroidering for over a year that I couldn’t bring myself to work on during our trip to India last year, and I’ve been at it daily here.

This is the finished product, for better or worse.

This is the finished product, for better or worse.

 

And now stone carving. We sat outside the shop with the two foreigner wranglers and stone polishers, and a few masters of the trade. We chiseled, hammered, watched in awe as the masters designed our pieces and images – of a Buddha and a hand – started coming to life.

Working on a Buddha bust.

Working on a Buddha bust.

Many people passed by since we were on the main road of the tourist area, which Lonely Planet refers to as Backpackistan. Most looked at what we were doing, some with keen interest. Maybe 10 per cent came by to watch, and about half of those people smiled, exclaimed, or sat down to talk and watch.

Just sitting there, we were attracting kindness, the attention of new people, and conversation. The sun was beaming on us.

One of the people to stop and sit down was a young Japanese woman who just arrived in India the day before, for a four month trip culminating in Sri Lanka. She was quiet, curious and had a very strong presence about her. She left about an hour later, and returned in the evening. We were still chiseling away, a few chais and a lot of laughter later.

She probably had it in her mind to have dinner with us, but this was our last day with the carving masters, and we both started new, smaller pieces to practice, and couldn’t stop. Hesitating, she sat, worked on a tiny elephant one of the guys surprised her with, and took out a ukelele.

Exclaiming, I asked her to play, and started working again. It’s not often someone appears with such a beautiful and unusual instrument, nor was there anything usual about sitting on the concrete in a town we’d never heard of until about two weeks earlier, carving outstretched hands and Buddhas.

Soon I could hear the softest, most melodic voice singing Aloha; she was turning the Hawaiian tune into a magical folk song. The waves lapped audibly nearby.

Out of the Shadows of Doubt, Faith

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.” ~ Voltaire

 

Faith is on my mind.

I’m not an expert on faith, and my relationship with it has run the spectrum from skepticism and turbulence to curiosity and wonder. But here I am, with some thoughts I have to shake out onto the page.

I recently spent some time with my sister’s kids, and the experience was a sheer delight from start to finish. My six-year-old niece is a slice of magic.

Having never been to a massage parlour in her young life, she somehow found it perfectly sensible to set up a home-and-portable version of one, which she maintained with an adorable professionalism and absurdly endearing attention to detail. She never once thought she should research the art and technique of massage or develop business acumen to any degree. She just went for it, and wildly succeeded, in my opinion, especially in her willingness to accept rhinestone hearts as cash.
There is a beautiful logic in the way children move around in the world.

Childplay can look like mimicry of the “real” world (“playing house” or “playing doctor”), but it is also a whole world all its own, which works according to its own internal rhythms.

We all had access to this world at one time; it was more or less our birthright, and many of us lose this capacity to really play as a child would, as the years go by and we’re encouraged to “grow up” and be responsible, functioning citizens.

Children don’t know statistics.

They don’t put two and two together the way we do. They don’t reason things out when they suffer. They just suffer. And then they don’t. They also have an amazing capacity to bounce back after a fall, can laugh from the deepest part of their gut (or soul, depending on how you want to look at it), and are often more than happy to find answers to their own myriad questions, no matter how eccentric these answers might seem to us.

Children follow their own logic, and I want to suggest that one of the threads underpinning this logic is faith. Children question everything, but they are believe, or rather, have belief.

They don’t doubt, as we do, because having doubt is essential to not being considered naïve in the world. They don’t start to doubt until they are given reason to doubt: maybe someone has lied to them and they’ve caught on, or maybe friend have bullied or betrayed them. Until this happens, the M.O. of children is to believe. To have faith. To know without knowing that it’s not just okay, but awesome to be in this world, as it is. As they are.

We can’t remain children, and there’s also a lot to be gained with the kind of knowledge that comes from learning rational thought, developing analytical abilities, and learning how to discriminate between one thing and the other. This goes without saying. Yet, we find ourselves trapped, unhappy, having compromised too many times.

We remind ourselves that we need to play more, laugh harder, love more freely. And we find it extremely difficult to do so with any level of commitment, passion…or belief that it’s possible to sustain these kinds of things.

We do need to laugh, to nurture ourselves.

We also need to remember what it can be like to believe. We know that when we believe in our friends, our loved ones, in the life we have built and in life itself, we are happier. It’s perfectly reasonable and logical that we should do things that make us happy. When things happen to dampen our ability to believe in certain things, or people, it’s also important to adjust our way of being in the world so that we do not set ourselves up to be continually disappointed or hurt.
But let’s not burn the whole house down.

Let’s not infer a hurtful world from one hurtful action. Let’s not assume belief itself is suspect because some things can no longer believed. Faith is not intentional—it is not meant directed at one object, not matter how large that object or entity is said to be.

Faith, I think, is about stripping away our doubts (some founded, some perhaps not), and seeing what remains. What remains must be a positive, not a negative, and we would be doing ourselves a huge favour by embracing it. What do we have to lose? We might want to ask ourselves: what have cynicism and doubt brought to our lives?

Conversely, what has belief brought us, when we’ve allowed it in?

Faith is faith—it exists, like children do, according to its own logic and rhythms, and we can either join the party or not. We don’t have to forget all that we are, were, and have been to join the party, and we don’t have to do anything with eyes closed.

We just have to remember what it can feel like not to move wildly and freely in the world, because doubt has gotten in the way. All we have to do is step in, with an open heart and a genuine intention to meet the world with good intention and an attitude of reciprocity, and let the rest unfold.

“If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

*This article was first published on elephant journal.