Twilight Drawings

“Twilight Language” is an intricate system of symbolism that shrouds the true meanings of much of yogic written and visual material. Mantras, mandalas and sutras, use this symbolism to protect yoga’s deep and powerful teachings, making them incomprehensible to the casual observer. The true meaning of each lineage is passed from teacher, who understands and has mastered the teachings, to student. The student’s job then is to practice well and reflect intensely upon them. Despite the requirement for intense effort and study, no teaching is to be taken by the student at face value. Each idea presented by the teacher is then tested by the student through logic, direct experience, or on the authority of a spiritual master.  For some the path of yoga is that process of learning, dissection, and meditation. Through this investigation, the student can decide if the ideas are paths towards awakening.

The Twilight Drawings are  my investigation, each piece explores a sutra or concept I’ve engaged.  My investigations in turn drape the drawings in twilight, and they hint at the symbolism in the yogic teachings. The artwork is the vessel for my concentration on a teaching or a mantra, or represents a flash of insight gained along the path. I use the making as my practice to test and assimilate the wisdom of the yoga tradition into my consciousness. Paper is the space for me to pour my intention, concentration and reflection upon what I learn in my studies.   Pen and paint are the tools of investigation, feedback and the platform to share visual symbols of what I’ve learned.

 I bow in gratitude to Jessica Kung-Dreyfus and Stéphane Dreyfus for giving me these teachings. I am so grateful for the gift of yoga and it’s power to show me the depths of the universe from simply closing my eyes.

If you are interested in purchasing prints or original drawings, please contact me for prices.

Granthi: Breath, Body, Spirit

Pencil on Paper

Yoga philosophy maintains that the outer world and the inner world are reflections of one another. It organizes our layers of experience moving from the external world all the way down to the subtle movements of karma. Each of layer  influences the other layers, and throughout our yoga practice, we work with all levels. Working on the layers moves the practitioner towards the goal of Yoga, which has been described many ways, but in this case towards a state of wisdom and compassion. 

The “subtle body” is felt at level of Prana (energy, or chi), and as you can see it’s central place in the bodily layers positions it to profoundly influence our experience of the world and our karma.  The subtle body is understood as channels of energy.  The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes 72,000 channels, of which only three are our main concern.  The Sun Channel (Ha) starts just inside the right nostril, runs up to the crown of the head and then traces the right side of the spine until it ends at the tip of the sex organ.  In it run the thoughts of anger and the misunderstanding of outer objects as self-existent or having a true nature.  The Moon Channel (Tha, pronounced “ta”) moves parallel to the sun, on the left side of the spine and is the pathway for thoughts of selfishness and depression, and the misunderstanding of ourself as self-existent. The Central Channel (Susumna) runs down the center and is the conduit for thoughts of wisdom and compassion.   The Sun and the Moon Channels wrap around the Central Channel and create tight knots, known as Granthis. (Think of the tightness you feel in your chest when you get angry)  These Granthis create blockages in the flow of prana, or Chakras, which create suffering across all of the layers.

Hatha Yoga literally means the “Union of the Sun and the Moon.” The original purpose of the Hatha yoga postures was to move the body to loosen the knots so that pranamoves away from the side channels and into the central channel.  “Granthi: Body, Breath, Spirit” portraysthebody as these channels beingknotted up in an intricate web of suffering. Through the use of breath, the channels dissolve and prana moves into the Central Channel.   The drawings convey the dissolution process, where by we achieve yoga, and in that union become light, freed from the suffering energies that bind us.

Lotus Garden

Ink on Paper

While creating “Lotus Garden” I overlaid paper on to the first “Granthi” Drawing across the hall. I imagined each knot in the drawing being an obstacle as well as opportunity for wisdom and compassion. I silently chanted and reflected on the meaning of Om Mani Pädme Hum for each pen stroke. I drew the lotus flowers on top of every obstacle, imagining their transformation. Spiritual practice for me is looking at every challenge I face in life as the chance to radically transform, to create a garden of love instead of a wasteland of hate. The center is intentionally left empty, and references emptiness itself, which is the ground for any transformation to occur.  The practice of yoga shifts our projections to experience the garden in the present moment. 

Om Mani Pädme Hum first appeard in the Karandavuyha Sutra in the late 4th and early5th centuries. Mani means “jewel” or “diamond”, which is the symbol for emptiness, or the lack of a self nature in any and every object/ thought/ action in the world.  Emptiness is the unlimited potential of every single thing in the universe. It is our past thoughts, words and actions that color our experience of those things and project the world we live in.  It is because of the truth of emptiness that we are able to see change, both in ourselves and in the world.  “Wisdom” is having a direct realization of the emptiness of reality and is the result of Yoga.  Pädme means “lotus” which symbolizes the compassion one feels for all living beings along the path towards and in the state ofYoga.

“The mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. Pä, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom...So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom.”

—Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Heart Treasure of the Enlightened One

 

Wisdom and Compassion

Watercolor and Ink on Paper

“The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, and to all people, experiencing everything totally without mental reservations and blockages so that one never withdraws or centralized onto oneself.”                                                                                             Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Every day as I sit in meditation, I practice Tonglen as a way to cultivate love and compassion and combat the calcification and shutting down of my heart.  Tonglen is a Tibetan word and means “giving and receiving,” and in it you imagine receiving someones suffering, destroying it, and giving them happiness.  There are many versions of the meditation that range from inhaling suffering and exhaling love to more complicated visualizations where one uses symbols of perfect wisdom and perfect compassion to destroy suffering and create healing in themselves and in the world. 

In my practice of of Tonglen, I imagine my body as the pure blue sky. A lotus appears at the heart center, which symbolizes our ability to have perfect compassion for ourselves and others.  A diamond is visualized at the third eye center and represents our capacity for the highest wisdom, to understand the true nature of reality as empty.  I unite the diamond and the lotus at my heart center, and use their union to remove the suffering of the person I am meditating on. This person can be myself, friends, family, neutral people, enemies, basically any living being.  Then beautiful gifts are given from the lotus and the diamond to that subject of the meditation and they are imagined as totally happy and free.

Tonglen is used as a link to empathize, understand, and create compassion for others. It’s used to begin to see that others are just like you in the way that we all want to avoid pain and to cultivate happiness.  This painting is an extension of that Tonglen into the outer world, and as I painted the lotus and the diamond I silently chanted mantras for wisdom and compassion for all living beings. 

 

Upward Spiral

Watercolor and Pen on Paper

When you move with love, you always move up.

Sun

Pencil on Paper, 2014

This drawing is a meditation on Yoga Sutra 3.26:

Bhuvana jñānaṃ sūrye saṃyamāt 3.26

Turn the combined effort upon the sun and you will understand the earth. 3. 26

Bhuvana means “earth.”  Surya means “sun.”  Jñānaṃ hear means “understand,” and saṃyamāt means “combined effort” refers to the last three limbs of yoga, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

To a person just reading the text, this verse doesn’t make much sense-it’s saying if you mediate on the sun, you’ll understand the nature of the earth.  This is strange and not very useful. But the twilight language conceals its true meaning, which is an instruction on working with the subtle body. In this case, Master Patanjali instructs the yogi to meditate on the Sun Channel (Ha), and in so doing, she will understand the empty nature of the objects in the world. As I created “Sun,” I drew with concentration my own sun channel; the drawing is an outward expression of that meditation.

Moon

Pencil on Paper, 2014

This drawing is a meditation on Yoga Sutra verse 3.27:    

  Chandre tārā vyūha jñānam 3.27

You will understand the arrangement of the stars if you turn this same effort upon the moon.  3.27

Chandra means “moon.”  Tara means “star.”  Vyūha means “arrangement,” and saṃyamāt means “combined effort” refers to the last three limbs of yoga, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

The hidden meaning of the verse is disguised in Twilight language. Here, the secret instruction to the yogi is to meditate on the moon channel (Tha),  and in so doing she will understand the nature of the stars, which are in actuality the drops of consciousness that are making up the mind stream. We can think of constellations in the sky, all the tiny little points of light being thoughts that are created by our karma. By meditating on the moon channel, you will understand the empty nature of the self, and your own thoughts.

 

This drawing captures the moon on the surface of water, and the tiny points of light the stars created on the surface of the water.  As I drew the tiny pencil lines, I meditated on my own moon channel.

 

Yoga

I made this drawing on the night I received teachings on the second verse of Master Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, where he defines Yoga:    

Yogāś citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ 1.2

Yogāś  comes from the sanskrit root yuj, which means to join or to yoke. Citta comes from the root cit, and means to shine, here it refers to the mind. Vṛtti has the root vṛt which means to twist or to turn. Nirodhaḥ comes from the root nir which means to blow out and here means permanent cessation. and can be found in the word “nirvana.”  From these pieces we understand the whole:

Yoga is the stopping how the mind turns. 1.2

What is the mind turning? Simply put, the mind is constantly misunderstanding the world, and turning it to it appear as if it’s coming from “out there and happening to me.”  We reach the state of yoga when we realize that every experience of the world is coming from us. Specifically, our karma-or our past thoughts, words and deeds create the lens through which we perceive our universe.  Yoga reveals to us that the world is being created “in us” and is the collection of our labels projected onto a blank universe that does not exist independently of other beings or causes.  

To demonstrate this point,  a common example used is a simple pen. When a human is writing on paper, they hold an object that they call “a pen”.  They assume that the pen has a self nature of “penness.” But if a puppy came in to the room and you shook that “pen” in front of it-more likely than not, the puppy will playfully grab the object and start chewing on it.  So the question is:  What is this object really-is it really a pen or really a chew toy? Is it both, or neither? If you took all the humans out of the room, and all of the puppies out of the room, and there is nothing in the room but the object, what is it then?  

The answer is there is only the objects unlimited potential, otherwise known as its “emptiness.” 

The human is forced to see a pen when it enters the room because the human is projecting a label on to the object that is created by the humans past karma.  The puppy does the same thing and it is forced to see a chew toy.  The pen is a neutral example, but the implications become more relevant when you change to object to either an angry boss, a problem you’re facing, or a happiness you are experiencing. Master Patanjali says that it’s when we have a direct realization of the emptiness of the pen and know that it is coming “from us” rather than “at us” that we have achieved yoga and understand the true nature of reality. Further, yogic practices use karma and emptiness to influence how one perceives the world, with the hope that the world will one day appear to be free from suffering.