Arrow into Blossom

Arrow Into Blossom
Line Drawing

In a teaching workshop during last year’s fall Ango at my Zen Buddhist temple, I was inspired to do a quick thumbnail sketch of an idea for an illustration. The concept I wanted to encapsulate within it I had gotten to share with the others in my group during a break-out discussion.

Jizo/Arrow into Blossom
Thumbnail Sketch

For a long while now, and perhaps increasingly so, I have been aware of how reactive people are becoming in and off of social media. It is a pet peeve of mine, and I am so disturbed by the data-mining greed factory that social media platforms can be. Social media at it’s worst encourages reactionism and writes carefully curated algorithms to push it along. Whatever item gets you to respond you will receive more exposure too. Choose mindfully.

I have this deep love of people, but not all the things they do. On more than one occasion in my life, and perhaps more to come, I have had to give considerable effort to pull myself back into mindful presence after letting my mind get intoxicated on some emotive reaction or another. It would be harder, so I suspect, except that there is also some very obstinate part of me that relishes the notion of not letting anything affect my decision to remain steadfast. Even then, fallibility overpowers at times, but intention wins out in the long run, with practice.

As time goes along, what would make me feel sad or angry is now more often a murmuring disappointment, that over time, becomes easier to step around. I have learned to see the suffering in the other person and it makes a tremendous difference for me. That does not mean I am hosting dinner parties for them, just that I can choose to be unaffected and hold them in my intentions.

I choose not to judge them by a bad moment, bad habit, or bad day. No matter what arrows, or words, or stings, or slights that are encountered. I choose to go on with the effort to be a calm compassionate person. I believe our compassion should be like a bridge that invites others to cross over into a state of acceptance and peaceful abiding. I do not suggest that means inviting abusive behaviors to be closer to you. You must love yourself enough to have solid boundaries. My own resolve has been tested by some really difficult situations and people. I never regret choosing compassion.

For me, compassion has been too often simply walking away and not being involved, sometimes leaning in and offering to listen deeper, sometimes just silently wishing a person what they need to heal, sometimes it’s confronting them without losing hold of intentions. It can happen with graceful ease and something as clumsy as falling backward downhill. I have dusted off my knees many times.

Currently, for me, compassion means executing due diligence to address aggressive behaviors I have had to suffer. At one point, at a spiritual retreat, an individual allowed their underlying aggression to manifest into physical action. During a ritual, while I was sitting on the floor, they loomed over and suddenly and aggressively yanked the serving utensils I was holding out of each of my hands, then hey served my next meal to me cold. To this day I have no idea why.

I avoided being anywhere near that person for about a month, which got me some criticism for my absence. At a spiritual retreat, you assume being fully vulnerable and open is safe. The last thing you expect to happen is to encounter such behavior with no indicator it could happen. Anything is possible anywhere. Eventually, almost two years later, when feeling anxious about being alone in a meeting with that person. I let them know how much a bully I thought they were, though not very mindfully in my wet sobbing grief.

Ultimately, it opened the door for me to finally try trusting the larger body of the organization enough to confide about what has been happening. This is very difficult for me and I am not sure how it will go, as relational aggression, as I was told it is, is not easy to address.

Practicing compassion sounds like it should be really easy and sweet. It is when we want to do it for people we like, but practicing it when we don’t want to with people who have been unkind and hurtful to others or our own self is not always easy, not at first. It takes some heavy lifting, but it leaves you feeling light and free in the end.

Whatever is causing the suffering that is leading to such behaviors, may it be cast out. Ultimately, that individual will have to dig down into the roots of that suffering and yank it out, just like a weed. Then it can decompose back to fertile ground.

Line drawing

There is no end to the arrows life throws at you. Sure, you could just isolate yourself away, but your mind will still throw arrows at you. If we are really honest about it, that is where all the arrows originate. The practice of transmuting the arrow into blossom is about keeping your heart empty enough to hold everything…. the whole universe… as it is.. right now. One flower after another.

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Lúnasa 2019

Grecian Harvest Home by James Barry

Grecian Harvest Home
by James Barry

August came with bold promise and has delivered an ample harvest, thus far. It is kind of ironic that part of the strive for a simple and meaningful life means a flurry of activity geared toward that endeavor. It is part of being free, the chief ingredient in that endeavor is mindfulness.

Lughnasadh, Lughnasa, Lúnasa, is the name of the calendar month of august in Irish, it is also an ancient harvest festival. Lughnasa is the month when I pause to look at the work I am committed to, celebrate it, and begin identifying what to reconsider. Ultimately it is the time to ask the question “What do I want to engage in a relationship with and how?”. This, of course, can be applied to people. Ultimately, for me, it becomes a matter of deciding where to spend this precious thing called life. Now, near the end of the month, the last of that effort is nearing completion.

Given the nature of having multiple chronic illnesses in tow, it can be difficult to set reasonable goals in the ebb and flow of disease activity.  With my art, I have focused this summer on Juried shows over exhibits and it has been fun interacting with the community I live in, in this way.

In June, I won first place in People’s Choice Award for Art in the Park and here on August 1st, I found out that I had won 5 ribbons out of the 6 pieces I entered into a local Juried Show held at the Wood County Fair. It is rather encouraging, especially because I discovered areas to improve in.

On the order of successes is also: confronting my ex in court over his two-page list of made-up claims about being denied visitation, which was all completely dismissed. The result was ordered accommodations that my daughter has been needing for a while, which include simple things like a dresser or storage place to keep personal things. In addition, he was given a deadline to begin making payments on the 5k he owes me.

I’ve have made some solid initiative on many projects such as selecting my burial plot, homesteading projects, and the 101 myriads of things that come with a legal name change.

On October 31st, 2017 I made the announcement that I decided to adapt my nickname as my name, as well as take on an ancestral name on my mother’s side of the family as a last name. It was a  multifaceted decision if you are curious, bored, or both you can read more about that here: Is mise Branna, I am Branna

On that endeavor, to move into this nearing the second half of my life thing, I have set many things in motion. What becomes apparent as we age is that we are always sorting elements of life to weed or cultivate, as it were. There is no shortage of ideas to throw ones many talents at, and while I am always going to be eclectic, to some degree; I must narrow down the primary focal points if I am ever going to enjoy the juicy depths of them. The fruits of that labor are quite evident in the progress that has been made this year, sufficiently so that I know I will spend the winter in considerable discernment to do more.

Do what is Difficult was my theme for the year, and I have a lot more work to do before the end. Mostly, because I still get anxious in the early phase of confrontation. It is the result of having to suffer the pettiness of ego-driven behavior in others. I have learned to shed that feeling and throw it in the fire. I have faith in something bigger and I have learned to be free.

One thing is for certain. I must streamline and reduce what I do on social media. That one is very hard because I appreciate all the people I know in the far reaches of the world. I am inspired by, learn from, and care about so many people, and I love the exchange. However, the rabbit hole of SM has it’s own gravity and its gravity can interfere with that of my own sense of purpose and meaning. So, I have many decisions to make on the precarious and hard to find fulcrum at that juxtapose.

For now, though, I am celebrating this season of harvest!



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Fine Art Juried Show, Wood County Fair

Wood County Fair

Fine Art Juried Show
Professional Artists
Wood County Fair

I decided I would donate a painting as an auction item for Wood County Parks and Recreation’s annual fundraiser. In order to introduce the piece, as it were, I participated in two local arts events that incorporated public viewing and was fortunate enough to win awards each time, which I am grateful for.

The second event was the Fine Art Juried Show that is part of the Wood County Fair. While Registering for the event I noticed that there were several categories to select from, and so I decided to enter pieces from a few other mediums that I work in occasionally. The first had been Art In The Park.

When we went to enjoy our usual favorites at the fair we took a stroll through the Fine Art Show, I was unbelievably surprised to see that I had won a ribbon for 5 of the 6 pieces that I entered. Below are the pieces I entered.

Time Swiftly Passes By

Time Swiftly Passes By
Graphite on paper
portrait of my son
Ian O’Laughlin

Breaking Out

Breaking Out
Mixed Media on Paper
Green sea turtle hatching

African Sunrise

African Sunrise
Mixed Media on Crescent Board
Zebra colt in grassland

Bee on Lavender

Bee on Lavender
Watercolor on Cotton

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Watercolor on Paper

Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams
Graphite on Paper
portrait of my daughter

The portrait of my daughter did not win a ribbon,  there were a few lovely color pencil pieces it had to compete with, and a lot more drawings were entered than paintings.  Much more delightful than winning another ribbon for that pieces was my daughter winning a ribbon for her own work! It was especially exciting to see that my daughter had success in her first-ever juried show! She is now very motived to practice and work on her skills, which is beautiful!

I also want to say how grateful I am for all the love, support, and well wishes by so many! It means so much to me to know that people are engaging and supporting the arts in their community, and I am personally touched for those took a moment to see my work. I am equally blown away by the creativity that is put into the booths that showcase the animals, as well as the canning, quilts, and knitting. Just gorgeous creative work everywhere!

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