The Oh-So-Human Enlightenments

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humanity + mud

+ the mottled, messy life =

enlightenment

A few of the main features of working with clay that I love so much are its messiness, its unpredictability, and, of course, its earthiness!  Out of this, it seems that nearly anything is possible.

It is an ongoing experiment, just like our daily lives. Whether we categorize it as having gone well or poorly, How fortunate we are that it provides our chance to awaken!

Yours from deep in the muddy world,
Anita Feng

Everything is Given

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Everything is given. However, because of the transient nature of all phenomena, nothing can ever belong to us. As a mother, as a wife, this can be a tough pill to swallow. But this is the insight of our meditation practice. It warrants a lifetime’s examination and celebration—in the midst of coming and going, everything is given.

What bounty is spilled out before our eyes, our hearts and minds. What unexpected potentiality and occurrences.

It must be said that the Zen teaching of letting go is not, by any means, a teaching of loss. Letting go means releasing our mind’s fixations so that we may participate, fully, in this wondrous parade of being. May it be for the benefit of all.

Be the Ride, Be the Spinning Top

When my children were little, they dreaded going to the doctor’s, especially when they knew they would be getting a shot. Maybe some of us aDSC_9246dults still fear it? But always, that pre-suffering suffering far eclipsed that instant prick on the arm!  And yet, how captivating (how apt a term) it is to imagine what the pain will be like.

Just think of the way the news is broadcast to us in a daily dose of “what if’s”. There is excitement in fear, energy stirred up in projected visions of doom – after all, that what sells the news. That’s what sells the tickets to the Big Top Show of not knowing. So what’s the difference between the dread of not knowing, and the awakened grace of not knowing? Should we simply disregard our concern for the future?

Of course we do need to prepare, in a practical sense. We need to consider the effects our actions have on the planet so that we can heal its wounds. We might well consider the possible repercussions of a political leader’s bad speech so that we do not become infected by it. But we also need to distinguish between when our minds get held “captive” by the hook of fear as opposed to a spacious wonder at the wild ride that is unfolding before our very eyes.

May we always, all of us together, be the ride and the life of the dharma.

We’re Told That We’re All Buddhas, but

but, we are a captive audience of standardized icons and story lines!  What to do?  Tell it new.  Show it fresh.  What else could we ever authentically do?  Tricky parts: trusting that, trusting that, trusting that.

I’m reminded of drawings that my daughters did in their early childhood.  Such conviction and surety (and purity!) in those portraits.

I’m reminded of a few of the earliest raku Buddhas I made and realize now, that it might be a good idea to revisit that squishy, likeness-free realm!

some early work
Early Abstract Buddhas

The Complexion Blue

I love using the “naked raku” technique of firing.  The surface of the raw clay is coated with a thin layer of slip (known as terra sigillatta), which is then burnished smooth with a soft cloth.  The surface is glowing but not shiny; truly reminiscent of a skin-like quality that I love.  Lately I’ve been experimenting with colorations added to the terra sig.  And I especially love this blue.  Though light in shade , it’s no baby blue, but rather something smoked and crackled and lined just as any aged face ought to reveal.

Before…and After

I always have to hold my opinions in check after a piece has been glazed and before it’s fired.  It’s raw, monochromatic, somehow very flat-looking.

And the reward (hopefully) comes after the raku firing when all the painterly impressions of fire, wind and weather play over the surface.  A human face appears….