July 2012 Full Moon- Buddhist Chanting & Finger Painting

•July 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

We had the pleasure of hosting this full moon at our home. We began our evening in circle sharing the original intent of Alchemical Experiments and the ways that it has evolved. Michelle and Ramon spoke to the urgency of our times, as underscored by the death of Lonesome George the last Great Pinta Island Tortoise from the Galapagos. We spoke of our desire to blend different disciplines and practices and to connect different community of which we felt a part. Including Michelle and myself there where about 11 participants, most of whom had never partook in Alchemical and for at least two of whom this kind of “free- style ceremony” and intentional circle space was new. The newness of the participants was a reflection of an evolution in our meetings, opening up the full moons to those who are interested, friends, friends of friends, neighbors etc. We then asked each participant to speak an intention into the circle, lit a candle and turned the evening over to Carley Martin.

Carley is a member of Soka Gakkai International explained that the Lotus Sutra she shared is a recitation of an original sutra given by the Buddha. Apparently, his students, having being raised in the ancient Hindu caste system, had to be lead to the realization which the sutra states- that is, that everyone can reach enlightenment in this lifetime, regardless of “birth position”. Carley explained that its adherents believe that one need not understand the chant to partake of its beneficial effects. The vibration of the chanted sutra has power in and of its self. The founder of this practice, Nichiren Daishonin claimed that chanting this “Expedient Means” could aid the practitioner in coming into alignment with the universe by awakening their Buddha nature. The first line of the Lotus Sutra,  “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” translates roughly into “devoting oneself to the Mystic Law and the simultaneity of cause and effect through sound and rhythm”.

Carley explained that different groups chant at different speeds, for various periods of time, gradually developing their own rhythm. After practice, the groups when then discuss various aspects of their lives in terms of growth and challenges. We followed suit. After handing out tiny pieces of paper with the chant written on it, and carefully modeling the pronunciation and tone Carley began. “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge- kyo”. The chant increased in volume. In speed. At certain moments I heard tiny resonances between our voices. We continued for 5 minutes (what felt like half that time) with the children weaving in and out of the room, sometimes laughing, sometimes joining in. After we finishing we share out experiences, with a few of us reporting sensations of heat, while one participant described having feelings of tingling, warmth, awareness of tension in his back and shoulders, and a general sensation of somatic discombobulation. We then clasped hands and bowed to the candle in the center of the circle, and we left it burning infused with our prayers.

We then transitioned to integrative art- finger painting, setting up one piece of paper for the adults, and another for the children.

As we painted various themes wove though our discussion. Two of the families in attendance where immigrants and visitors from Latin America, and parts of the conversation took place in Spanish. We spoke of the challenges immigrants face in this country. Another participant, who is associated with an anarchist collective in Denver spoke to her experiences creating a community ritual for the summer solstice. The main cultural groups in attendance where whites/euro American and folks from Dine, and Hopi communities. She spoke to the history of cultural appropriation of ritual forms by white Americans of indigenous American, the need that many white American feel to develop earth based spiritual practices without “borrowing”, the challenges of appropriate symbolism and location, and the deep and prolonged communication disputes and gridlock that often results in intentional conversations when whites and indigenous folks attempt to reconcile conflicts in regard to ritual and ceremony.

One family from Colombia spoke to similar efforts to bring together traditions that honor the earth, while acknowledging the abuse that has taken place between peoples. We began to dream of ceremonies of reconciliation, restitution and apology, between indigenous, invader and immigrant peoples, bringing some of the language of restorative justice. Carley then compared people’s attempts (including our own) to develop afresh earth and community based rituals, to Nichiren Daishonin revival of Buddhist teaching in the context of contemporary life. We agreed that the imagination is a huge resource in doing so, all the while the children ran in an out of the house, flicking finger paint at each other, and leaving drips of color on the side walk.

Creative mayhem:

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June 2012 Full Moon and Venus Eclipse

•July 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Initially we were going to celebrate these rare celestial alignments with spontaneous, viral street performance on the day of the Venus Eclipse bridging astrological themes and the notion of a “gift economy”. Instead, we combined the full moon (the day before) and this once in a life time visible celestial alignment with a simple potluck, council and construction of an altar to all things Venusian.

We began by gazing at the Eclipse itself (using eye protection of course). It was difficult to actually see Venus passing over the solar disk, one because of the cloud cover and two because of the tiny size of the planet (and its distance from the earth) compared to the size and brilliance of the sun. It appeared as a pin prick, and I found myself thinking of the Police song, “ There’s a little black spot on the sun today”. The best viewing came moments before sunset, where Venus could be seen as a tiny speck, like a beauty mark in the top right quadrant of the face of the sun.

After a meal we began in a circle in silence with 8 participants. After a few moments we then introduced ourselves, speaking about where we are from (either geographically or ancestrally), the meaning of our names, and the method whereby our parents named us. We spoke about the altar which was set up to illustrate, in a very simplistic form, the actual astronomical alignment that makes up the eclipse. I used painted stones in a line to represent the sun- venus- earth. Some of you may have noticed how prominent Venus was in the evening sky in the last few months. It is the bright ‘star’, usually close to the horizon after sunset. After the Venus Eclipse it moves from being the evening star to the morning star, preceding the sun before dawn.

In astrological systems Venus represents, love, beauty, harmony in relationships, in word, in disposition and in environment. It is therefore associated with the social sense, the arts, craft, adornment and all types of beauty making. In Meso- American mythologies Venus represents the god Quetzalcoatl, the bringer of the sciences and the arts that make culture possible. In some tellings he returned in various incarnations at different points in Mayan history, to renew their civilization, and some anticipate his return (archetypally or as a spiritual force in consciousness) with this transit. I also spoke to the fact that an apparent overlapping between any two bodies in astrology is called a conjunction, signifying both the end and the beginning of a particular cycle between those bodies and the energies they represent. In astrology the energy activated by all significant alignments can be liked to a bell that rings after it has been struck, only the bell also ring before it has been struck. Thus the energies are active sometime before, and sometime after the alignment.

In my research for the evening I relied heavily on The Venus Eclipse of the Sun 2012, a work by David Tresemer,
architect and builder of the Starhouse in Boulder, a temple patterned after the zodiac among other special properties. Tresemer states that this eclipse will stimulate human beings to question our relationship to technology, and its capacity to eclipse the offering of our hearts as expressed through our hands. Eclipses he says tend to create a disturbance or turbulence in whatever energies that are at play. He speaks specifically about the issues raised by the planet Venus, issues which became the topic of our council, which I will quote here for your contemplation.

“The Venus sphere includes relationships to groups, to groups to which you belong in your efforts to accomplish something of significance in this life, those who are your brothers and sisters in spirit, and who have similar ways of working in the world”.
“Thus the eclipse will stimulate in turbulence the Venus question “To what group does my ‘I’- my individuality, my sense of self-belong? What is the purpose or work of my group of human beings? How can I participate actively and further this purpose”?

In response one participant: a teacher, spoke to the difficulties and challenges he has experienced in that field, namely that many teacher come into the profession with the aim of changing lives and end up severely constrained by bureaucracy or political pressures. Another participant raised the question, “Why should we spend the greatest part of our day devoted to institutions and organizations, rather than our family, friends and local communities?” Other participants spoke to the their sense of place in the Front Range, of moving from and between different cities and the feeling of community that is being created in Denver. Someone voiced the insight that really we only belong to our most essential self, or sense of I-ness found in states on stillness and deep meditation. Another woman spoke powerfully that her purpose was to “ create art and share concepts with people”. Her sense of belonging seemed connected to the work that she does in the world. The council made a powerful turn when another woman spoke to really feeling the turbulence of the Venus Eclipse referred to above. She explained that she had encountered difficulties with her partner, causing them to change the status of their relationship. Basically the partner was experiencing an upswing of success in his work, causing him to come into contact with groups of people from wealthier classes. This precipitated strong questions of identity and leading her to question whether she was willing to “move up” into relationship with people whom she felt judged and excluded by.

She spoke with great vulnerability and “realness” which opened the door for what I personally felt was the most moving part of our evening. My’ three children and another participants spoke that evening. Feeling safe from the previous sharing the children (a few with tears in their eyes) spoke to their experiences of inclusion and exclusion with friends at school. They touched on the switching of loyalties that often characterizes the social lives of pre-pubescent children, of fights and reconciliation, of the awkwardness of social roles, of good friends moving away too soon. They also spoke to having a sense of belonging in their neighborhood, at the foot (or foot hills) of the Flat Irons, of feeling at home in the open space with the plants, crickets and creeks. Their words were sometimes whispered, sometimes spoken after great pauses, causing us all to listen more deeply.

Over all a strong sense of introspection and even self-criticism on the emotional level was voiced in the circle that evening. The children brought us all deeper into our hearts, and brought the Venus questions back to its earthly basics: who are my friends and where is my home? For me as a father, it met the need to share significant experiences with my children and to have them feel that they are an active part of the purposeful community that Alchemical Experiments is a small reaching toward.

We closed the evening with hands clasped, speaking prayers, hopes and wishes for the flourishing of family, art, and beauty in our lives and once again the children spoke words and advice of such magical depths as to leave the adults in the circle slightly astonished.

 

 

April 2012 Full Moon- FUTURE OF HUMAN TOUCH

•July 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This was perhaps our boldest, most exciting Alchemical Experiment yet. This interactive, multi- dimensional art-ritual-experiment was part of an exhibit called the Human Touch currently featured at the Red Line Gallery. The event included a collaboration with our folks from Alchemical Experiments and Denver area body workers and healers, yoga and dance practitioners, musicians, poets, MC”s, and improv. actors.

We began the night outside, by inviting guidance from the intelligences of the Four Directions. Then in single file and with voices humming, whistling and singing we and the 100 plus guests entered into the gallery. Participants were given rattles, kaleidoscopes, and tiny pieces of paper with messages. Trays of fruit were served by hand and the evening was divided into three acts, with breaks for roaming the gallery and partaking of “libations”. I began the evening offering an interactive and embodied astrological experience by setting up a 16 ft diameter “birth chart” that volunteers could enter into. The teaching which consisted of three parts fit into the whole evening’s three acts: a teaching on cycles working with the moon phases as exemplar, one on basic attributes of the signs and planets and a closing teaching on our historical moment as seen through the lens of the Uranus- Pluto square, an aspect which many astrologers are discussing and which I shared about of in February’s Full Moon.

Each act was woven with simple and unifying yoga postures, rhythmically re-occurring with accordion and flute in the background and simple grounding exercises offered by body worker Elzabieta Kosmicki. Initially participants seemed hesitant, but with the support of a large number of “plants”, by the third act willingness flowed and most participated. These elements where juxtaposed by the comedic commentary of the Black Actors Guild, who played the role of amplifying questions and insecurities that participants might have been holding. In later acts they staged fights at the height of musical performances and created a skit featuring two hustlers, waiting to pull a heist, discussing everything from veganism to The Secret. The third act featured an interpretive dance performance and song based on the Mexican folk story of La llorna. The first two acts ended with live musical sets featuring local slam poets and MC’s backed by a drum kits, accordion, flute and trumpet. We actively strove and largely succeeded in getting participant’s backs off the walls and into the the space of the dance thru call and response.

For the closing of the last act, I finished with an astrologically based picture of our present moment, connecting the square aspect of Uranus and Pluto, with the conjoined aspect that they occupied in 1965, which many astrologers at the time claimed reflected and anticipated the cultural, social and political shifts of that era. A relationship between these two planets, primarily signifies upheaval, transformation and the often times brutal and destructive forces that seem to accompany the rooting of new cultural ideas and impulses. To counterbalance these forces, I spoke of the entry of Neptune into Pisces (shifting painted stones to signify the changes of positions). Both planet and sign are associated with the dissolution of boundaries and mystical aspects of our feeling (watery) life, from aesthetic and musical imagination and an oceanic compassion for all life, to our capacities for addiction, escapism and self deception. My hope was to help deepen our sense of “being in touch” with the volatile, transformational potentials of our times.

We closed the evening, once again under the sky, giving thanks of the Four Directions, and thanking those gathered for their courage and playfulness. By the evening’s end, the air had that palpable, energetic flutter, yet sufficed with a kind of calm. It was beautiful y’all. Beyond the brilliant and well balanced sharing and performance of the team that put it together, what made the evening magic was the willingness of the participants to step out of their initial hesitation and into a ritual space of contact, trust and a joyous, tentative wildness.

Hats off to Adrian Molina for brain-birthing and organizing this event. Video of the evening should be available soon, as this summary really only scratches the surface.

This full moon was quite fulling for me personally and began to meet my original intentions that Alchemical Experiments bridge cultures and modalities, serve as a cauldron for cultural possibilities and reverent sensitivity, release a bit of the alchemy that sleeps between us and share that with a wider public, while attuning to natural cycles. I look forward to creating with you all and the host of new allies contacted from this event. This full moon set a high bar for the kinds of social, artistic and spiritual gatherings I envision for the coming summer solstice, fall equinox and the winter solstice of 2012- the conclusion of this experiment.

Future of Human Touch

Next Month’s Full Moon: The Regenerative Mapping Project: Community, Permaculture and Earthen Structures- hosted by Regenerative Lifestyles (Robin Eden and Mike Wird)- Saturday, May 5th/6th. Details to come.

Alchemical Experiments May full Moon: Regenerative Mapping Project

Big thanks to anyone who gave of their time to read this writing.

With respect, gratitude and excitement!

~Ramon & Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish

March 2011 Full Moon- Sacred Economics

•July 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Last Wednesday a group of about 30 gathered at Denver’s Growhaus under the Virgo Full moon. The group contained many who were new to Front Range Alchemical Experiments which began in Fall 2010, reflecting the experimental and changing nature of the whole project. It also reflected the community within which the Growhaus is embedded and their interest in the evening’s topic, Sacred Economics. We began in circle with a candle. Each person spoke their name and one word that represented something they wanted to bring into the circle. Michelle then read the poem Dear Darkening Ground by Rilke, written between 1899-1905 & concurrent with our theme and location in the heart of Denver’s industrial machinery.The opening circle opened the gates of trust and depth and allowed us to begin the night with a sense of intimacy.

We then turned the evening over to Adam and Abby, our evening’s facilitators. They asked everyone to write their names and a few of our current needs on a name tag. Adam then posed the following questions of the group –What is money? The responses varied, leading to a discussion. Some responses included: a means of measuring flows, a means of control, something that stands for something else and something that represents worth/what we value. One participant, an elementary educator questioned the idea of money representing what w value. Why as a society do we say that we value children and education, yet schools and teachers are poorly funded. Interestingly the question about what is sacredboiled down to that too. What reminds us of our connection, direction, and that which we value? After this initial discussion we then moved into partner yoga-like exercises lead by Abby. These pairs included an exercise when one partner balanced on the back of the other, requiring us to “put our butts under” each other to brace for supporting one another, generating a some laughs, and building further trust within the group. From here each pair moved sat down to take turns listening and speaking about our triggers of scarcity consciousness and some concrete steps we could take to address those fears and shift our behaviors towards an awareness of abundance. A few of these pairs then merged and became the dinner groups for our potluck meal. Throughout our time, Adam & Abbi asked people to read powerful quotes from the book Sacred Economics.

Sharing what came up in the larger groups with the whole made up our final conversation, with scarcities around time surfacing as one of the most common fears. In one small group, it was even decided that timeis the ultimate “currency”, and is not exchangeable. Adam presenced the notion of the Gift Economy, an old practice in many parts of the world wherein exchange occurs in large part based on what people want to share, what skills they have to offer, what deep vocational gifts they have identified and cultivated. A central question that seems relevant in regards to sacred economics, (and even connect to last month’s topic, detailing an astrological configuration reflecting major dynamics of our time) how to we supply each other with real needs, and decouple at least some of our needs from a system that we know to  be unjust, unsustainable, and just plain hollow. As a concrete exercise in this four our final activity, each participant made up a certificate detailing at least two services or skills that they would be willing to gift others in the circle. We then shared and actively exchanged some of these in a closing circle, and collectively blew out the candle, and closed our evening.

November 2011 Full Moon- Family Constellations and Beyond

•July 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Last Thursday night in the home of Jude and Tom Blitz in Boulder 11 of us applied the very personal practice of Family Constellations to collective and socio-cultural concerns, thus attempting an alchemical fusion by bring one medium out of its usual usage into the concerns of another. 

We began standing outside in our socks under the bright Taurus full moon with a gentle innovation of the seven directions. Upon returning inside, Jude asked each person to name an ancestor who they felt stood in support of their growth, to voice one personal concern that weighted heaven on their heart, and the same  on social or collective level. Rather than work with the energies of Occupy as we spoke in our invitation, Jude pooled the collective voices together to identify what was in the field and created the Constellation from that.

What emerged was the role of technology and media, as they relate to social isolation, addiction, renewable energy and earth conscious technologies, oppression, our increasing dehumanization/robotization by constant interface, loss of culture and peoples struggles for hope and renewal (echoing themes of our first full moon gathering in Jan). Big, thick, difficult terrain.

The way a constellation works is that different individuals use their bodies to represent or stand in for certain persons, voices or issues, and constellate themselves in relation to one another. A therapist or a client then moves the characters, or constellates them in relation to one another, while the therapist asks the constellated characters to voice certain statements or tune into their own feelings and speak from them.

At one point  in our group constellation, an individual stood on top of a chair, thus towering above us all and took on a short of archetypal or more than human voice that was difficult to call anything but evil. The collective shadow voice.  Another woman stood in as the gate of death and rebirth itself, with the voices of elders, hope, isolation, anger and acquiescent despair placed in between. Obviously from the magnitude of what we dealt with we arrived at no solutions. But, the function of a constellation at least in part is to throw issues into sharp relief, and to allow individuals to have some measure of objectivity in regards to familial relational patterns. And what we arrived at I think, was nothing less than portrait of the archetypal or alchemical struggle of our times. Will we connect heart and minds with each other and thus become more human, or will we retreat into flashing screens and fantasy while brutality occurs outside or doors? Crazy. Thick.

Jude closed by having us step out of the constellation and speak what was on our hearts. Most voices expressed gratitude for having the chance to connect and interact in this way.  We closed the directions. Shared food and words and filed home. Michelle and I feel re-inspired to continue with Alchemical Experiments.

Thinking alchemically, how could tools like the Constellation be used to examine and untangle other collective issues? Could it be used at protests like Occupy, as a workshop or as a form of action? What do you think, people? Let’s keep sharing and building collective intelligence and magic and finding ways to inspire and work with one another.

Our next gathering will be on Saturday December 10th. Myself and a few others will lead a workshop on Theater of the Oppressed. What alchemical spin could we put on it? We welcome your thoughts? We have decided to make this an open group, so feel free to invite any loving and diligent soul you think might have something to learn and contribute. Look for details of time, location and description around Dec. 2nd. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Blessings and stay human.

~Ramon & Michelle.

May 2011 Full Moon- Vocal Authenticity

•June 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

As our small crew assembled, before opening, we dropped into a deep discussion of the pharmaceutical corporations and the way they reflect the deep disconnect between the human and wider wild world, between our technological and mental capacities and our relationships with our bodies.  The pacing of the world we’ve created for ourselves appears to be beyond what our animal brains can handle, and so the question arises, in what ways can we expand our capacity to deal with change, to be present?

Our small crew of four opened officially invoking the directions with a strong tribute to the sting and passion and shadows of the Scorpio full moon ( according to some  traditions the full moon under which Buddha attained enlightenment).  We then did a brief body warm up to make sure all parts were present and accounted for, from toes to elbows to foreheads and fingertip, through spine and belly and heart, to support the opening of voice, and ultimately the heart.  Meagan then painted a picture of the anatomy in our bodes that makes sound, how it works, and how to keep it safe and healthy.  With our fingers on our voice boxes we felt them slip and slide into sound for the first time!

Next we embarked on a call and response journey to many terrains of the voice, from sound effect to musical, from loud to soft, from high to low, to the many tones that elicit emotion and response.  It created a sort of high, a buzzing in the body, lowered lids, a bit trance-like.  We braked shortly, then shifted away, Meagan leading so that each person in our circle could give it a try, and from there, the passing of sound became a conversation, a long add-on story, full of many moods, theatrical and experimental, passed round and round, from anger to confusion to gratitude, the heart speaking with out words but with many notes and grunts.

Finally, we wove our voices together in an improvised texture, each of us finding our own place in the sound-scape, and we closed by finding harmony between all four voices.  We savored a few moments of silence, and then Meagan asked for some feed back on how this work felt relevant to the larger picture of people developing themselves as change agents moving toward a more balanced planet.  With voices freed and on fire with expression, and with the discovery of new ways of sounding our truths, we become more effective tools, but first there is a taking apart of the cultural silencing most of us endure, and the stepping out of the box of what we are comfortable expressing to stretch our capacity to communicate.  Ramon asked what it would be like if, as we take in information on the intense and painful imbalances in the world around us, we were to use our full bodies and voices to make an expressive shape and sound of how it impacts us, in class rooms, board meetings, protests, using our Alchemical Experiments together as testing grounds?  And Meagan reflected on how she has observed, the more she leads vocal work in groups and with individuals, that the experience has the effect of being a kind of “expressive deconstruction”- it breaks down patterns and shakes things up.  This is important to watch, as it can become trance-like and induce a mild altered state, and she only wants to do this if it can be integrated back into a person’s day-to-day.  She marvels at how the simple act of using one’s voice can take things like our hardened identities apart, and wonders at how to best facilitate reforming afterward to create more health…

We closed out the directions and scattered back out into the night under the clear full moon.

Meagan Chandler & Ramon.

What Does Alchemy Mean to You: Scott MacInnis April Full Moon 2011

•May 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment
Alchemy: turning lead into gold.
Lead=conditioning
Gold=true nature
Alchemy is a literally a process of metabolizing conditioning by meeting it with curiosity and openness to the experience. By conditioning I mean any experience you are having that is not based in what is happening in the present moment. By experience I mean anything you are noticing in your field of awareness. This includes your physical and emotional experience. We all can think of a time when our reaction to something is way out of proportion to the thing that triggered the reaction. I’m sure we can all think of an attitude or belief that limits our participation in the world. This is hugely relevant to any attempt to create a change in society or human relationships with each other or with the environment. Every revolution that I can think of ended with the new bosses acting a lot like the old bosses. This is because the conditioning that rules the individual and collective players was not addressed or was addressed in an oppressive way. Real change only happens through the practice of internal inquiry. Real change is effortless and happens as the result of cultivating a quality of attention that allows experience to become unfrozen and unfold.
I shared a simple practice that is essential to alchemy: The practice of meeting your experience in the present moment with openness and curiosity. This quality of attention is mission critical to allow conditioning to dissolve and true nature to be revealed. True nature is who we are, what we are made of and the field that supports our existence. The form of this practice was sitting quietly and noticing our physical experience. We welcomed whatever we were feeling and met it with our curiosity, even if the feeling was uncomfortable or familiar. I encouraged us to suspend our judgement of the experience we were having and forget everything we thought we knew about our experience so we could just meet it in the present and feel what can arise when thusly allowed. Below is a video of me teaching this practice. Its short, has low production values and will give you a strong hit of what I am writing about. This practice has instant gratification and long term developmental results. Dissolving conditioning and allowing true nature is a life long journey. Maybe an eternal journey.
The following video is more about the meaning of this practice.

Thanks for any comments questions or observations!

Love,

Scott