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A Spiritual Perspective on Receiving Credit as an Artist

A Spiritual Perspective on Receiving Credit as an Artist

At this stage of my experience as a creator, I can say with certainty that none of my creations come from me. An idea, a spark, that I pick up from the ether may move through me, find shape within the matrix of my personal constitution, as if my personality and experiences were a tall scaffolding structure, and the idea fighting to take form were a bunch of silly putty falling from the sky an arranging itself around the bones of my structure.

It is the structure that I can take credit for. Not for the silly putty, the thought, or the idea, which, after all this time and science, the origins of which cannot be pinpointed.

When I take credit, it is for being a vessel clear and hollow enough (or a structure sturdy enough–the duality!) to receive inspiration. Information.

Inspiration; spirit. Information; form. Spirit. Form.

And one need not prescribe to dogma to believe in spirit. I feel, and have felt, my spirit so deeply, without ever having to rely on an authority to tell me I had one.

I remember distinctly in a literature theory class at university, studying all of these different theorists, and always mixing up their names, confusing who believed what, because subconsciously I didn’t think it was important. “Well, the ideas are out there,” I’d say. “That’s all that matters, right? Who cares whose idea is whose?”

And perhaps in its own way, this was a mild form of spiritual bypassing (one definition of spiritual bypassing according to robertmasters.com, is “the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs”).

To disregard the specific matrix that spirit passes through, in favor of pure, unadulterated spirit, is not good enough. Maybe in another dimension. Here, we have material bodies, and material experiences, so it does matter whose ideas are whose. Because their history and influences are an important consideration.

I am learning to accept credit for the things that move through me, even though it’s made me uncomfortable in the past, even though I’ve wanted to dissociate from my creations because their origins were seemingly too mysterious for me to claim them. But owning up to my work is owning up to my history.

It takes work to be a clear enough vessel. And I’m not saying that I have the formula. But my effort, and your effort, and our effort, deserves acknowledgement.

Buen Viaje,

Katrina

How to Bungee Jump

How to Bungee Jump

The number one tip I can provide for a successful bungee jump is:

JUMP!

Provided you’ve chosen a reputable company to jump with, are of age, have paid or plan to pay (none of this jump-and-dash nonsense … or, as it’s called in the bungee jumping community, jump-and-jump), and meet all of the physical and health requirements.

Anyway, although it has been 5-ish years since my bungee jumping experience off of Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa, the time that has passed has revealed a few more ways in which this activity serves as a metaphor for other aspects of life (surrender, faith, taking the plunge, all that good stuff). Whether you are planning on literally bungee jumping, or are simply interested in the metaphor, here are a few suggestions to make the experience a little bit smoother.

1. To reiterate my first tip: just jump!

It requires a bit of mindlessness, because the more you think about it, the scarier it gets. The folks that were assisting me, who strapped me in and walked me to the edge, counted backwards from three (or from one to three? I just watched the footage but the audio is very unclear) and at that moment, my attention was 100% dedicated to the bodily action of jumping the MOMENT they shouted “three” (… or one). I couldn’t afford to hesitate for a single second after the countdown–I just focused on jumping, knowing I was safe.

2. Don’t stay up late the night before watching videos of people’s fearful reactions right before they bungee jump ..

Some research is good, for example, reading articles like this one! At some point, though, overly researching a subject can become obsessive, and a form of fear-porn, in a way. Perhaps this is more applicable to the empathetic and sensitive variety of people–if this describes you, then seeing other people’s reactions and expressions of emotion causes you to feel the same way. Don’t do this to yourself! Visualize yourself completing the jump with a sense of grace and ease, and save the ridiculous videos for after you’ve already done it!

Demonstrating air yoga

3. Do some air yoga!

That’s right, you heard me! I don’t mean yoga in the sense of crazy contortionist poses. I mean: breathe, embrace the fall instead of flapping wildly to resist it, and keep your body in gentle alignment by not craning your neck too much. I will say that one of the risks of bungee jumping is mild whiplash, and that risk can be reduced if you’re not craning your neck wildly to look around.

4. Relish the scenery

Whether you’re jumping from Bloukrans Bridge or the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, you are getting a view of your surroundings that you likely won’t get any other way. I’m not sure how other companies handle getting you unstrapped, but with Face Adrenalin, they let you hang there for a minute before someone comes down to get you. Take in the scenery while you can! Whether it’s a green or an urban space, you are getting a unique perspective.

These are some tips to get you ready for your jump, and there are plenty of other resources out there to help you prepare.

Hope you enjoyed!

DON’T SPEND ANOTHER DOLLAR ON FOMO!

DON’T SPEND ANOTHER DOLLAR ON FOMO!

Do you believe you’re missing out? That everything good is happening somewhere else? -“Jesus Christ”, Brand New

I don’t have to go into detail about how social media has affected general trends of mental health. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve felt it for yourself: the emptiness that arises during a mindless scrolling session, comparing your body to this girl’s, or that guy’s, or comparing the details of your life to another’s apparent successes. If this has never happened to you then I congratulate you, but for many of us, this FOMO (fear of missing out) is an all too common reality, whether it’s fear of not being invited to a certain event or fear of not achieving a certain look or lifestyle.

I cannot personally raise your self esteem or make you feel better about your life situation. However, I can give you some practical, actionable advice against the one thing FOMO is good at: making you spend money or energy on things that do not give you joy or feed your soul.

This is true for most tourist destinations, but I experienced this in Indonesia on an entirely new level: tourist ticket prices are astronomical compared to the price they give locals, for obvious reasons, but after awhile it left a bad taste in my mouth. There are many exploitative aspects to tourism that go both ways–and in this instance, I felt like the ridiculousness of some of these prices were specifically to take advantage of people’s FOMO.

Borobudur is humongous

There are many visitors to Indonesia who, no doubt, wonder if they will have the opportunity to ever visit again. I fit into that category. Indonesia is a long, long way from the USA. “I want to do everything I can while I’m here, no matter the cost,” was my line of thinking, but in reality, cost did matter. And even now, upon my return to the states, I am still paying for less-than-frugal decisions I made while I was in Asia.

While I was staying in Yogyakarta, one of the first must-see destinations I heard of was the Borobudur Temple, which was about an hour and a half away by scooter. I learned that a combined ticket for Borobudur and Prambanan Temples cost $40 USD (of course I had to get the combined ticket and not see just one temple, because you know, FOMO). To put it in perspective, many world famous temples in Indonesia have an entrance fee of around $1 USD. But because Borobudur is a UNESCO world heritage site, somehow that makes the ticket price reasonable. I thought that if it cost that much, it must be worth it.

I like what the folks at UNESCO are doing. Their mission statement, according to their website, is to “encourage the identification, protection, and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity”. I don’t doubt that Borobudur’s legacy has had far reaching impact. But after visiting Borobudur, I can say that its value to humanity was not necessarily analogous to the value I gleaned from visiting, the hour-and-a-half trek there, and the money I spent, which did put a dent in my budget.

View from the top of Borobudur

Here’s what happened the morning I visited Borobudur:

I woke up at 3 am to be able to get ready and be able to arrive at Borobudur around 6am to catch the sunrise, which is the recommended time of day to go. The sunrise is beautiful, it’s not scorching hot yet, and the temple isn’t as crowded early on. When I woke up, my scooter was not parked in its usual spot in front of the hostel, and was nowhere to be found on the property. It was missing. This part has nothing to do with the FOMO, I realize, but contributed to the overall tone of the day. No one at the hostel was awake for me to talk to. When I first received the rental scooter they told me they would be exchanging it for another scooter shortly after, so I figured the rental company had taken it and would be back later with another one, I just didn’t think they would come in the middle of the night and ride off with it.

Frustrated that my plans were foiled and I woke up at 3am for nothing, I went to the back of the property to the exercise/multi purpose room so I could hoop dance and take my mind off of the situation. I was too wired to go back to sleep and no one was awake to help me, and dancing was the only logical solution I could come up with to feel better. An hour and a half later I went to the front of the hostel to check out the scooter situation, and my scooter was back in its place. Not a replacement scooter, the same one. I never found out what happened to it or why it went missing.

It was a little before 6am when I left, so I definitely was not going to get to Borobudur to catch the sunrise. I was still frustrated and disheartened but decided to press forward anyway, because it was the plan.

The ride was exhausting and lengthy. When I got there, the sun beat down ruthlessly and it was almost too crowded to enjoy it. On my way to the exit, vendors harassed me, also ruthlessly. One man selling knick-knacks followed me for a full two minutes after I said “no” twenty different times in twenty different ways, and didn’t stop until I crossed through a gate and was on the other side of the fence. I was disoriented finding where I had parked, and I got caught up in a literal maze that had been constructed to trap visitors in endless passageways of vendors, all vying for attention. I understand they need to make a living. But it gets exhausting saying “no” after awhile, especially when I was physically trapped in these winding corridors. Oh, and as part of the big Disney-like Borobudur complex, they have elephant rides. This is a problem.

On my way back to the hostel, I stopped at an outdoor cafe close to the temple. I needed some medicine (caffeine) and to sit quietly and decompress. A young German couple stopped by to get coffee, and when they found out I had just visited Borobudur, they asked if it was worth the hefty price tag.

I didn’t want to be the reason someone didn’t do what they had set out to do. So I gave an unenthusiastic answer, something like “It wasn’t what I expected.” I regret that, though. I should have told them to save their money, especially because they sounded like they were on the fence anyway.

The visit to Prambanan was much more peaceful.

 

If Borobudur is on your bucket list, I am not trying to discourage you from going!

If you have a proper plan in place and are mentally prepared, I’m sure it can be a great experience. I just want to illustrate how doing something I felt like I was supposed to do, because it was “popular”, a “tourist attraction”, had a fancy title like “world heritage site”, and because I might never have the chance again, turned out to be an exhausting disappointment. I’m all for venturing into the unknown and seeing what happens, but listen to your gut. Are you doing it because you are genuinely curious, or is it a sense of obligation that is forcing you?

This, of course, is all practice and I expect I will still spend money on things that disappoint me. But with practice in listening to our gut, we can reduce that margin of error (maybe I should have taken the hint the moment I realized the scooter was missing!).

Buen Viaje,

Kat

A Transcendent Experience at Arches National Park

A Transcendent Experience at Arches National Park

July 3, 2016
Laughter in the Canyon

The canyons and the mountains bend the rain. We scramble into a shallow cave, just enough to keep dry. Water travels through the washes, bringing the place to life. And just as quickly as it comes, it goes, some final mists cascading off of the tops of rocks; sporadic, bright little flakes of water falling all around.

As if I could handle any more beauty.

But some force seems to think I can. So the spectacles keep happening. I throw my head back and laugh. The cracks, ridges and grooves in the red rock breathe with water, and the cliff faces in the distance swirl and dance with the same breath. I lay my hand on the stone inside the cave. It’s trembling as much as I am. I am still laughing. I curl up into a ball and laugh. Mother Earth is laughing with me, I can tell. Everything is freshly illuminated, glinting miraculously.

A fountain of colors mushrooms up inside of me. Every burst of laughter that comes forth ends in a soft, relaxed, elated sigh. With each sigh I think I am finished laughing but they serve merely as brief pauses, places to catch my breath so I can begin again. I have a vision of a garden filled with all my sisters, winged and not, laughing and sighing in a beautiful chorus, because there is nothing else to do but laugh with creation. I know this garden is a place I have been before and this canyon is a reminder.

To my supreme amazement, the clouds begin forming arches, roughly to the North. Like an ephemeral cathedral ceiling in the sky, the clouds resemble an enormous passageway, and I have no doubt it is being used as such, and this desert is some kind of landing pad for invisible beings from other worlds. Then a rainbow forms, stretching up to reach the arch ceiling. I am rendered breathless.

Photo by Kurt Larson

The sun is setting. The clouds hanging on the horizon reflect an enchanting variety of pinks.

As still as the desert may appear at first glance, it is anything but. I keep seeing little flutters out of the corner of my eye, and I look to see if it’s a bird’s wing, but they are simply swirls, near-invisible tornadoes rising up, energetic gyrations excited to expand upward, and the flutters I see are ecstatic moving points on each tornado. I giggle with delight at the way the desert dances.

We are walking towards a cluster of rock formations, hundreds of feet high. From a distance, this grouping of rocks looks like it forms a perfect circle, an ancient council of red stone elders, bowing their heads in deliberation. As we grow closer, the rocks refract into a new pattern, become less circular, scatter. We pick one nearby that has a shallow slope and scramble up the side. I find a nook to lie in. Wearing his sweater, hood up, I sink, allow myself to become heavy in the crevice.

The sky has arranged itself to create the appearance of an enormous, magnificent dome. An infinite, perfect, deep black directly overhead, both foreboding and welcoming, fades into a calmer indigo the closer it descends toward the horizon. The stars begin baring their friendly faces. Some of them hang so low I swear some of them have dropped down to dance atop the rocks. There is a distinct geometry among them, flowering and multiplying as more appear. Occasionally a plane blinking red and blue cuts across the deepening sky, sending ripples through the matrix, but the pattern quickly repairs itself, regaining stability.

My rollicking belly laughs have simmered down to a frothy inner laughter, silent, but still overflowing. The quietude is sterling, all-encompassing, infinite like the domed sky above.

My Solo Journey to View the Total Solar Eclipse of August 2017

My Solo Journey to View the Total Solar Eclipse of August 2017

I sat in the grass, surrounded by thousands of people, eyes all pointed towards the sky. Despite the crowd, the air was reverently calm. Music wafted faintly from across the lake, but was winding down in preparation for the event.

It was an August morning in central Oregon, and I was attending a music festival where people came from all over the world to witness a two-minute long miracle: a total solar eclipse. I had driven 2,000 miles from my hometown in Texas, participating in one of the largest human migrations I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I had done it alone. After the festival I planned to drive up and down the coast to see the sites, do some camping and hiking, and volunteer at a handful of organic farms. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would end up staying on the road for three months. I had some art supplies, a notebook for journaling, a stack of maps, foam pads laid out in the back of my station wagon to sleep on, and a suitcase full of clothes that would prove to not be warm enough in the coming autumn months. I didn’t have a strict plan–I would let my wellspring of excitement guide me.

The moon was closing in on the upper-right corner of the sun, covering a small sliver of it, even though the sun still shone with its powerful luminosity. I wore my safe-for-sun-gazing glasses they handed out at the entrance–it would have been almost impossible to tell there was a partial eclipse without looking through the lenses. But as the minutes passed, the sky gradually grew darker and the air a bit chillier. Everyone was captivated. They didn’t want to miss a second of it. Some sat quietly, some danced in celebration, others had their camera gear set up. Families huddled together, children squealing in delight and wonder; couples held each other, enjoying a rare and intimate moment.

I already missed my boyfriend, but seeing all of the couples together made my heart ache for him even more. He was still in Texas, staying home to fulfill certain obligations. We shared many tearful exchanges before I left. Understandably, he was worried about my safety, worried that I’d never come back, struggling with his trust in me. The truth was that this journey was many years in the making. I dreamt of visiting the Pacific Northwest since high school, and now, as a twenty-six year old woman, everything was aligning to provide me with the opportunity to go. Some might say it was selfish to leave him behind. But I chose to put my foot down and fulfill this vision, and the ultimate conclusion we arrived at was that if we could survive this, we could survive anything. So he helped pack my car and sent me off. Our faith was sturdier than our fear the morning that I left.

During my first few days on the road, there were times that fear shook me. There were times I cried myself to sleep, yearning for him. But I found ways to fortify myself so that I could focus on the task at hand. There was always a task–a map to read, a campground to find, food to cook or water to boil on my propane-powered burner. There was the drive itself, the hours upon hours of mind-numbing highway.

I was excited to reach my final destination, but I also let myself meander a little. I stopped in Utah to explore the desert, and I took a detour into Wyoming to explore the mountains. In Wyoming, I did some light hiking in Grand Teton National Park, where I ran into a mama bear and her two cubs, lumbering towards me on the trail. It’s interesting how my small anxieties, those nagging little concerns, fell away completely in the face of a true fight-or-flight situation. I remembered not to run, though, or make any sudden movements. Instead I backed away slowly, making noise so that my presence was known. The bears eventually scaled the mountain, freeing up the pathway so that I could pass. It was only in hindsight that I realized how fluffy and adorable the cubs were. I almost had to laugh, to shake off the terror that gripped my heart only moments before.

With the emotional roller coaster I was experiencing, I made sure to write at the end of every day, to unload my thoughts into my trusty composition notebook.

During the eclipse, I had my notebook unfolded on my lap. While some people recorded the moment in images, in photos and videos, I let every sensation, every vibration from the environment flow through my pen so that it could be recorded on paper. I was breathless and shaking with excitement as the eclipse approached totality and the bright morning skies turned to dusk. My handwriting was barely legible as I struggled to steady my hand, but I continued to write about the things going on around me. I couldn’t explain it, but I felt an immense power in my words.

The energy picked up, and people were now hollering and howling. Some people sang songs of deep praise. We were all united under this spectacular event. The sun was now completely obscured by the moon. The two celestial bodies aligned perfectly overhead, appearing to be exactly the same size. I hadn’t anticipated for it to be this magical, this awe-inspiring. I stopped writing, just for a moment, to tilt my head back, take a deep breath, and soak it all in.

There were many more paths to be traversed, more deserts and mountains to be discovered, more wild animals to encounter. I continued to explore, holding the surreal vision of the eclipse safely in my memory. In mid-November, I returned home with more miles on the odometer and much less ink in my pen. My sense of duty to write was re-invigorated on my journey, and I vowed never to let my abilities as a writer go to waste. I was so excited to share my stories. I was even more excited to see my boyfriend–we could finally hold each other again.

We started talking about our trip to South America, where another total solar eclipse will occur in three years. It will be an honor and a blessing to be able to travel with my best friend and partner, but I’ll always cherish the adventures I had on my own.

 

 

Eclipse photo by Takeshi Kuboki