Archive for July, 2009

Quiet, yet not.

I’ve been quiet for a while!  Wasn’t really on purpose.  I got a head cold, and I’ve been very spacey/introspective for the past few weeks. I needed to slow down, to remember to prioritize and say no… I feel overwhelmed in the summer with the crazy schedules, but yet most everything (except work) is something that I want to do, something that makes my heart sing and refuels me.  But I need to have enough down time to recharge or I’m running on empty.  No idea where all these gas metaphors are coming from 😛

Not long after I posted about flow, my love posted as well, and you should read it.  😀

Two weekends ago, we went to Dexcon same people who run Dreamation, the game convention in February.  We are truly lucky to have this in our backyard, and took full advantage of the weekend this time.

Friday night, at the last minute, we dressed up steampunk and stopped by a LARP that was created by someone I know – called Brimsteam.

The Dexcon gathering of Brimsteam

The Dexcon gathering of Brimsteam

While we weren’t there for long, we had an amazing time playing Maddy and Clarke, on a scientific expedition from the University to study plant and insect life in undiscovered lands.  Clarke learned to gamble, successfully, and we had a small expedition in a hot air balloon for some sport hunting of astral jellyfish.  Yeah, I know.  But it was FUN!

Steampunk Self Portrait

Steampunk Self Portrait

We then went to the vampire LARP that we played in February.  You know, vampires really aren’t very sociable, especially when you are enemy clans… but we enjoy dressing up and pretending to get along with all the others, and well, the costumes are half the fun 😀

The next day, we went back for board games.  Gloom, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and something else… Then we were dragged into $300 Pyramid, where I did better than I ever expected to and won $6 in credit at the vendors room!  Played a game of Poison, then went home to change and returned for the continuation of the vampire LARP.  (Photo above is from the second night.)  Despite staying up late both nights, we returned Sunday – Nate for a game of Magic, and me for something that was overbooked and had no room.  But we were roped into a game of Puerto Rico, and then headed out to get to Philly for practice with our fire performance group for Burning Man.

Insert boring long work week, with being sick and lots of unpleasantries.

I was worried my health would prevent it, but I recovered in time for the weekend and on Saturday we caught up with the next playtest of Brimsteam.  This time, there was actual Danger! and Excitement! as I got caught in my first gunfight (and hid. yup. I did. Not ashamed to admit it.  I AM playing a sheltered intellectual 😛 Not to mention wearing heels in a dark area with steps, I thought I’d kill myself before a bullet could.)

Brimsteam Beta 026

Kaylee and Maddy

12 hours of character creation, game play, fights, downtime with refreshments and gambling, and lots of mystery and mayhem.  I can’t wait to do it again.  (While I don’t mind the vampire LARP, this is such a different experience and more suited for me personally!)

Brimsteam Beta 041

Kaylee turned out to have a similar education to myself - here we are investigating a bio-luminescent fungus attached to moss that was a key clue to a murder and sabotage plot!

Brimsteam Beta 063

And Clarke gambled. And gambled. And drank and fought and was shot and unconscious for a bit. And gambled.

Unfortunately we are missing the first full weekend of play, as we’ll be out in Reno for Burning Man.  But we hope to make it to the one in September, and I only hope it’s not during my cousin’s wedding! 😀

So that’s two busy weekends, with lots of work and rest in between. My added stress is having to significantly purge and reorganize my apartment before some electrical work needs to be done – luckily the date is postponed, but I’m not sure to when, and I have to keep up with it while the crushing pressure is off.

This weekend we’ll be traipsing around south Jersey, seeing some of my love’s friends and family, another conclave rehearsal, and at some point seeing my brother for his birthday.  Hope you all are enjoying your summer!

Photography and Flow

Sculpture - Frederick Franck  Quote - Hui-neng

Sculpture - Frederick Franck, Quote - Hui-neng

There has been an ongoing battle in my head/soul about photography.  Without a doubt, I’ve experienced times where taking snapshots or trying to get the right settings for a shot completely seperate me from truly experiencing what was in front of me.  The camera CAN be a barrier, putting you outside the action instead of being part of it.  It can interrupt the act of being in the present – because you are usually focused on the future, the photo you hope to have a result or souvenir of your trip.

There are times I’ve seen some photographers as hungry energy sucking vortexes, anxious for a scene with topless women to provide someone with material to jerk off to.  They don’t see the people in front of them as people, but a meal ticket or a titillating image.

I’ve also witnessed photographers who create amazing art, manipulating light and shadow to evoke visceral memories and touching thousands of people.

As well, I’ve noticed how once you spend more time behind a camera, your eye sees things in the everyday that otherwise pass unnoticed.  The brickwork, murals, and chipping paint as I drive through Philly on I-95 make me want to stop the car often, though it would be a hazard to do so.

Philly from the passenger seat

Philly from the passenger seat

I’ve blogged about this once already, and while I’m not much closer to a definitive answer, I am feeling instincts/intuition and synchronicty pushing me in the direction I’m supposed to go.

This past weekend was absolutely one of the best I’ve ever experienced.  The visual beauty and creativity was only outdone by the auditory talents of the DJs and performers.  I brought two cameras.  I didn’t touch either a single time I was there.  In the moment – I didn’t regret it one bit.  A workshop on presence helped set the tone for the rest of the weekend, and I was there to experience and immerse myself fully, without analysis or thought.

Now I’m home, and I miss that there are not many snapshots of myself and my friends, that I didn’t push my creative boundaries with the numerous opportunities of unique subjects.

And I’m really questioning myself on whether photography HAS to distance you from the experience, or is there another way?

I spent some time googling things like “mindful photography” “meditation photography” “zen photography” and found many resources out there.  While I’m reading, it hits me like a ton of bricks.

The concept of presence and flow were the overwhelming themes to this past weekend.  My love got a taste of the addictive flow of skill toys that goes beyond the initial thrill of learning a new skill or even adding fire to it.  One night, I witnessed him dance like I’ve never seen before – we both don’t know where it came from but it was amazing to experience.  I hooped with closed eyes to the Gamelatron, and I felt the flow when I borrowed a friend’s glow poi (as mine were too far away) and couldn’t stop dancing/spinning.

The flow we’ve experienced comes some time after learning the basics of the “how to”.  At some point, our monkey brain manages to turn off and we stop thinking “Oh I’ll do this move next”.  It’s about being purely in the moment and not a millisecond in the future on where we go next.

The reason I’m struggling with photography is that I’m still learning the skills.  I’m still hitting myself in the head with the poi, I’m still dropping the hoop.  Flow is possible, and it will happen, but it most certainly cannot be forced.

Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

It has nothing to do with the subject, or whether other photographers are shooting the same scene.  It’s an internal process – which is great, as that’s the only thing you can choose to control!

by John Suler (Click to view on flickr and read a great essay)

by John Suler (Click for a great photo/essay series on flickr)

From now on, I am giving myself permission to decide to not take photos because of the sheer number of other photographers.  But I’m also not going to let that stop me if it’s something I really want to shoot.  I will still take snapshots – of course, they are fun and great memories of times with friends.  (To me, snapshots are separate but related – lighthearted and more about capturing memories than creating art.  Doesn’t make them any less meaningful, they just serve a different purpose.)  But I am also going to work on taking more shots with the goal of improving my skills so I can get to that flow zone more often, and try taking time to make photography a meditation.

It makes so much sense.  This may not be a dramatic change in where I am now with photography, but it definitely helps define where I am going, and reminds me to listen to my intuition.

The goal is not necessarily to produce art that moves others, but primarily to move myself during the process. Is this a complicated way to state I’m finding my “voice”?  It could be – but this simplifies things for me.

The flow is possible in anything we do, really – especially you combine the traditional definition (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first coined the term) with the spiritual concepts of presence, zen, whatever buzzword you want to give it.  I know you’ve felt it at some point.  To cultivate it, we can’t go chasing it around but we have to turn inwards and quiet ourselves.  To surrender to the magic within and around us.

Mind is the camera
memory the film
Previsualise, store memory.
In order to see you must first learn how
to look.

Ttebroc Yrrag (1954)

Related Articles:

On Photography as Mindful Seeing

Introduction To Photographic Psychology

Snapshot Photography vs. Mindful Photography

The Zen of Photography

Zen and the Art of Photography

Writing and flow

In the Zone

Related Blogs:

Meditation Photography

Zen and Photography – Blog

Related Books:

A Presence Behind the Lens: Photography And Reflections by Nicholas C. Hlobeczy

Tao of Photography: Seeing Beyond Seeing by Philippe L. Gross, S.I. Shapiro

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


Morning Coffee - by ManisMachine

My Morning Coffee - by ManisMachine

I am back in the “default” world after an amazing weekend at the first (and hopefully annual) PEX Summer Festival.

I’m almost at a loss of words.  I’m also at a loss of photos.  I brought two cameras, and never touched either.  I’m relying on photos others took and enjoying the candids I find of myself!

(Sometimes I find looking through the camera keeps you from experiencing something.  There is also creativity in photography, and it’s rewarding in it’s own way… but I sometimes feel struggle to balance being in the moment and taking photos (whether snapshots or artistic)  Anyway this is a whole post on it’s own so we’ll talk about that another time.)

By ManisMachine

Workshop that Random and I attended, taught by LinaLuv - By ManisMachine

What was it like?  It was like the best summer camp ever.  The location, Ramblewood, used to be a kids’ summer camp.  Now it caters more to adult and alternative groups like ours.

It was a weekend of music (oh the music), friends, fire, workshops, swimming, playing, learning, smiling… I think I realized every time I saw anyone in the main PEXie crew (who each put in hours and hours of work to make this happen) – they had a huge grin on their face.  I think I did too.

Lounging - by Brian McBriarty

Lounging with Reno, Random, and my bottle of wine - by Brian McBriarty

The weekend was just full of joy, laughter, dancing, playing with fire, meditating, and just hanging out with some really amazing people.  The only thing missing was some people who I knew wanted to be there and couldn’t, for whatever reason.

Giant Bear - by ManisMachine

Giant Bear's Effigy - by ManisMachine

The night the effigy of Giant Bear burned (via torches stuck up his butt :P) I just felt the possibilities of where this first festival is taking us, and I knew that we were watching a piece of history.  No, this wasn’t quite the same as a burn (as in an official Burning Man recognized event.)  But it was almost like the best PARTS of a burn, magnified, with the worst parts missing altogether or passing unnoticed.  And on July 4th, it was the perfect way to express and celebrate our freedoms.

Some favorite memories:

– The Gamelatron.  An amazing installation of a robotic gamelan orchestra – all we knew at the time was that it was such a peaceful serene moment that sent us into a wonderful meditation.  We returned again planning to meditate more, and there was spoken words at times during the piece.

Modeled after traditional Balinese and Javanese gamelan orchestras, the GamelaTron is an amalgamation of traditional instruments with a suite of percussive sound makers. MIDI sequences control 117 robotic striking mechanisms that produce intricately woven and rhythmic sound. Performances follow an arc similar to classic Indonesian gatherings, where stories from great epics, such as the Ramayana, are told and settings given in words that are continued in music.

– Music – need I say more?  Of course, with several stages and world famous (or just philly famous) DJ’s, the music was amazing.  A DJ was set up right by the pool so you could swim and still feel the beat, and the pavilion went all night long with fire performances and comfy couch/beds to fit all of your late night needs for entertainment and comfort.

– Workshops – made it to a few, including one about Cultivating the Gift of Fire, by LinaLuv.  This was based on the chinese elemental creation cycle, and dealt with being in the present moment in our relationships/interactions with others.  We also went to a fireplay workshop, which covered contact fire and fire eating.  Random took a contact staff class with Lucky and has a new obsession, and I made it to a pleasure palace workshop which was an exercise in asking and receiving pleasure from others (while respecting your own and others boundaries) – it was a very relaxing experience to have 6 people massage you at once!!

– Our mini camp.  We had a small group but a comfy shade structure and spent lots of time chatting with old and new friends as we overlooked the field and watched activities around us.


ETA memories as they surface again:

– Performers before the bear burned came out and the crowd was way too silent as they watched.  Chad’s yell of “we’re gonna burn some shit!!!!” and prodding the audience to hoot and holler was a wonderful sight!


I happened to be on the PEX facebook group and while the first part has been on PEX webpages before, if you haven’t seen it, it’s a good summary of what they are all about.  And below it is a wonderful poem I never saw before.

The Philadelphia Experiment is a Community of diverse beings that are connected through a common desire for creativity. The Experiment is the catalyst that unites us. We are dreamers, dancers, musicians, engineers, designers, artists, yogis, teachers, students, philosophers & just plain ol ordinary folk. Through our network we open doors of collective opportunity and experience. We invite you to join the PEX family. Chat, discuss, connect, create and get down here.

In Philadelphia
there is an experiment;
an examination of a life…
a community
beyond the false borders
of the homophobic, claustrophobic
caustically toxic
closed minded social order
that feeds us disunity.
The experiment
is an examination of rhythmic sound,
an observation of human creativity,
an exercise in social autonomy,
the rehearsal of a collective economy,
a measurement of participatory allegories,
and that of dreams becoming realities.
There is freedom
and liberation…
an emancipation from the socially toxic “me first” nation.
And there is dancing…
like no one’s watching
dreaming with your feet
getting into that higher trance type of dance.
Formed in the Black Rock City valley
this Philadelphia experiment
is a reflection
of radical self-expression,
a manifestation
of urban in-ergy
human synergy
free-love showing
consciousness raising
acceptance of the beauty in asymmetry.
It is a mindset.
A realized concept…
the silhouette of a calumet
shared in peace.

In Philadelphia… there is an experiment… and it is we.

The Philadelphia Experiment -A Poem Inspired by the Decompression
The Philadelphia Experiment
by Oskar Castro aka Bohiti
(a work in progress)

It’s so hard to explain to people who haven’t been.  There’s a sense of heart and community at the base of all that they do, and you know everyone who makes this happen does so with ALL their heart, and just for you.

A huge thank you to anyone who helped make the event happen (and it took so many!) as well as to each person who showed up – because they are just as necessary to make the experiment work.  With a happy heart and a smile still on my face, I look forward to celebrating independence and freedom with you for many years to come!