Friday, June 1, 2012

The Art of Balance by Neil Kramer

The Unfoldment presents a body of sacred wisdom and a deep spiritual perspective that puts real power and real magic in the hands of those who seek a path of awakening.  Here we share an excerpt from Chapter 16 entitled Input, Output with a message that you always have a choice.

Input , Output

Deep in the human experience of consciousness is a powerful impulse to create. It is through our creations that we grow, share, and steer a graceful path of ascendance. To create is to give. To learn is to teach. In the process of creating we attain discipline, think laterally, focus our will, and magnetize happiness.

Some people believe that they are not creative because they can’t draw too well, or they can’t think as inventively as Leonardo da Vinci. This misapprehension arises from our childhood, where we are all too often conditioned to harbor rather constrained ideas about what constitutes good creativity. These ideas usually revolve around how realistic our creative representations are and the level of technical ability we are able to demonstrate. Yet, when a child produces a crayon drawing of a dinosaur, is its creational value less than a portrait by Albrecht Durer? No. Its realism and technical prowess will naturally be entirely different, yet these are not the only appropriate measures of value.

It is easy to confuse art with creativity, but they are very different things. Art can be esoterically divided into two classes: synthetic/unreal art, which is concerned with control, and organic/real art, which is concerned with freedom. You can easily tell the difference. The synthetic stuff doesn’t really resonate much heart, passion, sincerity, or spontaneity. It is largely self-referential and seldom aims above the mundane, whereas the true organic manifestation of art is always full of the good stuff; it is effortlessly universal and invariably contains transcendental elements. Creativity frequently produces organic art, but sometimes it does not produce anything that we would ordinarily recognize as art at all. Our creations can come simply in the form of thoughts, dreams, conversations, humor, memories, hopes, or realizations. Often, there is no resulting tangible form, yet the creative outcome can change our whole lives.

I went to art college when I left high school. It was an enlightening experience on many levels. From an academic standpoint, I relished the opportunity to explore different genres and modalities of art, such as abstract expressionism, surrealism, and conceptual art, which had hitherto appeared to me to be just some sort of intellectual joke. I was keen to get to the bottom of that particular enigma, or at least understand what the back story was.

The epitome of the confusing abstract expressionist was Mark Rothko (1903–1970). Rothko was a Russian-born American painter who used simple, broad bands of color to explore his chosen subject matters. He is one of those painters whose works can all too easily elicit the uninformed yet perfectly legitimate response: “My two year old daughter could’ve painted that. How is that art?” When one understands what Rothko was aiming for, the question begins to answer itself. Firstly, he was deconstructing form. That is plain to see, though most people lose the thread right there and then. A bit like wondering what the hell Mondrian was doing with his little red, blue, and yellow squares, plopped in a grid on a white background. Quite mystifying out of  context. Rothko was using art to explore the inner landscape at a vital level, necessitating an intimacy that must transcend form. One intent was to re-spiritualize the Western relationship with art by destroying outward appearance, and elevating the purity and primacy of direct experience. He attempted to achieve this with the subtle interplay of carefully chosen colors, the largeness of the shapes, and canvas placement and dimensions that encouraged the viewer to become absorbed in the work.

For Rothko, the journey of the creation is the juice. In the act of creating, something stirs deep inside the psyche and what was a previously silent communication is slowly brought to life. There is a correlation between the profundity of that exposure and the disintegration of structure. Rothko went very deep and it shows—so deep in fact that, at times, his work is decidedly uncomfortable to take in. A similar principle can be observed in Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings. Though I personally don’t like the end result quite so much, Pollock was making a significant statement about liberating oneself from the conventions of politics, aesthetics, and morality. His paintings represented the act of this emancipation and a radical disentanglement from tradition.

The creational value of art by da Vinci, Durer, Rothko, and Pollock, and the crayon drawing of a dinosaur are equal. Considered as synthetic products, they are assessed and priced drastically differently. Considered as organic human art, they each tell us something potentially remarkable about the human condition.

At root, the creative impulse is a willingness to transmute energy from one form into another. We shift its density, we recalibrate it to express something unique, we take hold of the raw material and sculpt it into a configuration that conveys our growth and ascendance, and then we openly share that with others who are on the same wavelength.

Knowing that every creation is valid, the barriers to manifestation fall away. Taking oneself seriously enough to imagine that even a subtle creation can be striking and profound, is a delicate but vital mind shift toward recognizing the fidelity of one’s own creative endowment. Doodles are fine art. Scribbles are novels. Tickling the ivories is a piano sonata. One becomes the other by way of confidence, not ability.

There is one other little matter to consider before the full flow of one’s own creative engagement can make its presence felt: the everpresent inducement to consume.
Moving through the modern mediaplex of screens, pages, feeds, portals, and broadcasts, one would think that consumption is a 24/7 imperative for all human beings, a strange obligation to gorge oneself with endless input. For example, to have an addiction to news is considered quite acceptable and even secretly commendable. Morning, noon, and night, quick fixes or unhurried binges are available everywhere: at home, in the car, on the subway, in the street, at the office, on the shop floor, or even in the restrooms of certain American airports. Like the chain smoker who reaches for a pack of cigarettes upon regaining consciousness each morning, the news junkie reaches for his or her smartphone, tablet, computer, or TV remote to see what lurid tribulations are slithering out of the informational cauldron today.

War, money, and slime. Not exactly the most inspirational subject matters in the world. Nevertheless, these are the things that are habitually obsessed over by the media controllers, constituting most of the available broadcast bandwidth that is pumped out every day. Admittedly, slime is rather a broad category, though it does seem to reasonably suit most of the additional political, corporate, celebrity, and entertainment segments of the news broadcasts.

I recall once being stranded by a particularly impressive snowstorm in Burlington, Vermont. The landing gear of the aircraft that was supposed to take me home to New York had completely frozen solid. The plane wasn’t going anywhere. As I walked out of the warm airport lounge and into the freezing street, my eyes watered from the sub-zero blast of the wind, and the tears turned to ice on my cheeks. American East Coast winds are noted for their peculiarly bone-chilling powers. Thankfully, I found a hotel with vacancies just a short distance away. I had 24 unexpected hours to myself. I got my provisions and buried myself in the welcome coziness of the hotel room. Bags thrown to one side, clothes stripped off, into bed, and asleep in 30 seconds. I awoke a few hours later. My mind was awake, but my body hadn’t caught up yet. Foolishly, I reached for the remote and flicked on the TV. I watched the news. More and more and more of it. I willingly submerged myself in an uninterrupted gush of reports, bulletins, dispatches, and statements. It was curiously hypnotizing. The sugared unreality infected my psyche, and I was drawn into the whole thing with embarrassing ease. I was experiencing the temptation of these deadly broadcasts. It’d been quite a while since I’d subjected myself to such a barrage of news. It wasn’t pretty.

I sat through 10 continuous hours of it, from all the major stations. There were absolutely no inspiring or honorable communications from or about the real world. Of course, nothing at all was remotely connected to the majestic human journey of ascendance amid all the hundreds of news bites and commentaries. Just the same tripe repeated over and over: war, money, and slime. Even so, I could not help but notice how habit-forming all this morbidity was. Then the sledgehammer of knowingness cracked open my perceptive stupor. I realized that it was not news at all—not in any way that makes any reasonable sense. It was something entirely different. It was doom porn.

Filling oneself with input temporarily quells the emptiness that arises from a deficit of self-expression—of output. Whether that input is focused on doom, cooking, sex, soap operas, talent shows, sport, or high culture, the desired outcome is the same: tranquilization. It just so happens that at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, one of the most socially acceptable input habits is mainstream news.

There is a maxim that has been voiced by a number of wise thinkers and visionaries over the past two decades: Consume less, create more. Embedded in these simple words is an equation that is abhorrent to the consumer way of life that has been foisted upon much of America, Britain, and Europe over the last half-century. It is a worrying thing for those who idolize control when the very lifeblood of capitalism—consumption—ceases to be a pleasurable or automatic pursuit for large sections of society. Yet this is precisely what is happening. People are starting to disbelieve the line they have been fed that consumption is a hallmark of a healthy civilization. It is not. Personal, organic, human creativity requires very little large-scale corporatized consumption. People just feel so much better when they create something. No matter how large or small, creations bring a natural sense of accomplishment that is hard to beat. The more time we spend creating and the more we resonate that feeling of imaginative achievement, the less and less appealing the old ways of consumption become. The habit is kicked.

Not all portals deliver the mainstream unreality broadcast. Over the last 10 years, inexpensive and free, open source technology has enabled a growing number of creative individuals to produce authentic, high-impact independent media, in written, audio, and video formats. Bloggers, podcasters, writers, and artists have created a whole new stratum of output that is more alive with meaning and legitimacy than anything we have previously known in the last few thousand years. It is now viable to completely replace the old conventional media with something that is actually relevant to human life. Healthy output = healthy input.

Such is the penetration and efficacy of this new and unfettered media, that what used to pass for high-brow political, cultural, and philosophical programming in mainstream broadcasting is suddenly starting to look a bit lame. Where people might’ve once contentedly tuned into well-respected and publically funded radio programs for some plausible discussion on matters of substance, their output now comes across as increasingly meek, bourgeois, and somehow feigned.

From around 2006 onward, the quality, professionalism, and overall production values of the more committed independent media producers started to rival and even exceed that of the old kingpins of primetime broadcasting. Certainly the all-important content was leagues ahead of anything that could be found on regular television and radio. Despite the establishment scramble to co-opt, sequester, and generally get in on the act, their attempts to replicate this new media were hopelessly bland. They lacked the heart.

For me personally, there was a huge sense of satisfaction when I stopped paying the ludicrous (and mandatory) British television license, because I no longer watched live broadcast television. It was easier than I thought to give it up. Shortly after, I gave away the television, too. I have not had one for years now and can’t imagine a scenario where that will change. Even my old friend the radio has precious little to offer nowadays. But things have changed for the better. There is such a wealth of fascinating podcasts, blogs, audio books, and videos out there (most of them free) that I could easily spend the rest of my life imbibing quality media about real life, made by real people. But once more, even that would be a little too much input.

Balance is central to the art of living as a naturally ascendant human being. Balancing input and output is the same as with any other play of polarity. Sometimes input is exactly what is needed, though it should be a conscious choice as to what that input is and what it is for. How relevant is it? What is its truth? The output of one’s creative expression represents a spiritually uplifting and gracious movement of consciousness.

It enlivens, teaches, heals, and encourages others to embrace their own creative endeavors. If we can move with the natural flux of the universe’s own creative momentum, we can draw upon its infinite beauty and inventiveness for our own inspired creations. This is something that cannot be thought about—only felt. Allowing an open creative exchange between ourselves and our world means that whatever we bring into being is infused with that singular divine spark. All of our creations become living symbols of truth.

Before we can fully embody a truer resonance in our communications, we have to first bring it into the felt experience of our day-to-day being. This means that it is sometimes appropriate to be exposed to situations where there is an absence of truth. By observing the dynamics of unconsciousness—by living through the wrongness of a particular scenario—we come to appreciate the incredible transformative power of truth. This teaching is most consistently demonstrated in our dealings with other people. Although it is certainly instructive (and admittedly easier) to learn from those fine fellows who have attained a degree of enlightenment and self-awareness in their being, there is frequently even more to be gained by being temporarily marooned with those who have definitely not enjoyed such realizations.

Neil Kramer is a writer, philosopher, and teacher specializing in the fields of consciousness, metaphysics, shamanism, and ancient mystical disciplines.  He has made a lifelong study of philosophy, indigenous wisdom traditions, inner alchemy, occultism, and esoteric world history. Kramer shares his path of transformation in writings and interviews, and travels the world giving seminars, workshops, and teachings.  He has spoken at numerous international conferences on the nature of human consciousness and alternative communities, recognized for his message of empowerment, lucidity, and spiritual insight.

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