Thursday, July 30, 2009

I am the Dream



Yesterday, Stefano, after a tour of the tumultous city of Trieste, took me up to a cliff overlooking Trieste and the Adriatic sea. Off in the distance you could see Slovenia, Italy and even Croatia. I enthusiastically put my hands in the air told him that at the very moment I was living my dream-- biking around the world and being in Italy!

It wasn't until we we're back at the Zeleni centre that I realized that I had just lived the painting that I had made in Berlin "I have a Dream". It made me shiver. I had even been wearing my red shirt. The only difference was that a half moon hung high instead of the sun.

My meeting and time with Stefano has been filled with beautiful and en-couraging resonance.
I made this updated sketch for Stefano. The title:

"I am the Dream".



Monday, July 27, 2009

Magnifico Pasta con Stefano


I have made no secret of the fact that one of my main reasons for cycling through Italy is for the pasta. Its only been a few days and already been pastantically blessed!

Yesterday Stefano cooked up an amazing pasta meal using some unlikely ingredients. Stefano is both American and Italian. And, it seems that as long as you've got Italian in you, you can do pretty much anything with pasta and it turns out magnifico!

Grazie Stefano for the wonderful time in Monfalcone!


Slovenia?




Today I find myself in Slovenia.

Yep. I am just as surprised as you. If you happen to come from Northern Canada, Slovenia is perhaps just as distant as and mysterious as Timbuktu! Imagine my delight then, to be invited to stay the night at a mountain spiritual retreat in the hills of Slovenia.

I arrived by train in Monfalcone Italy with my bike in a box. I was in need some place to get it back together. Monfalcone is right beside Trieste. Trieste is on the border between Italy and Slovenia. Steve know Stefano. Stefano is the caretaker of this retreat-- an old Balkan army post in the hills. He invited me to visit! The Zeleni centre is now a place for yoga, meditation and peace.

And... Reiki! This weekend a Reiki retreat was going on and I was introduced to all the marvelous folks. They were eager to contribute to 1Mandala project. After a weekend of Reiki learning they were filled with some seriously good energy and some great peace portraits were the result.

This peace portrait of them all was taken yesterday as well as today's peace portrait of the day.

Now I just need to get my bike fixed!

The 1Mandala project is now live in Italian! Perché Siamo Tutti Uno




Perché Siamo Tutti Uno! Because we are all One!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cheers to Unità, Pace e Amore!

video

I have arrived in Italy!

Buenisimo! I am so excited to be here. My new friend Stefano met me at the train station in his home of Malfacone, Italy. He took me out to the most amazing lunch at his favorite restaurant.

The whole meal I was joyfully ecstatic-- until this particular movie was shot and I had just put a bun in my mouth as they brought the food out and all the attention of the restraunt turned to me! Aside from these twenty seconds I have had a big smile on my face all day!

It has been a dream of mine to visit Italy for a long time. I can't quite beleive I am actually here. I love everything about Italy already. From the pasta to the people, to the language to the landscape.

I have the feeling I am going to have a fantastico time here.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Love is Beautiful




This is my last painting from my Berlin Simple Series. I post this on my last night in Berlin. It is an a propos post for this conclusive night. The painting's title is a reflection of both my feeling and experience here in Berlin: "Love is Beautiful".

I won't write anything about this one tonight. I'll just let it speak for itself.

That said, there's soooo much thought, intention and love behind this piece. Its a whisper from my soul. Its been six months in the making-- or perhaps "finding" would be a better word. You can see some sketchs and read my thoughts in this blog post on triadic love.



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Peace Portrait of the Day: Scourmont Abbey, Chimany, Belgium




Everyday, we send out a Peace Portrait of the Day from the 1Mandala project.

Today's peace portrait comes from Pere Jaques and myself.

There's a bit of a story to this one. Pere Jaques is a Trapiste monk that I met on my journey through Belgium to Berlin.

This was a particularily special connection for me. I ended up staying more than two weeks at the monastery.

The monks took me in during a Winter blizzard. They insisted I stay and wait it out. In the weeks that I was there pure magic manifested itself. A group of 50 mentally handicaps let me take their dazzling peace portraits and a group of Flemish teenagers helped me translated the project into Dutch, not to mention the Abbey's help resolving some major dental problems that begining to seriously ail me (blog: Thank God for the Pain).

Out of my immense grattitude for the help of the monks with my teeth this week I finalized the donation of a 2000 euro 1.5 x 1.5 metre painting for their monastery. I am proud and overjoyed to say that the painting, "Avec Grattitude No. 2" is now on its way to Belgium.

In another burst of beauty, what would have cost hundreds in shipping for such a big painting, manifested itself in a day or two: The Monks make their reknown Chimay beer at the monastery, and their Berlin distributer, Bierlinie GmbH has offered to take the painting to Belgium for us!

The smaller version of the painting "Avec Grattitude No.1" will now, fittingly go to the Dentist.



Follow the Flow of Peace Portraits of the Day:

Friday, July 17, 2009

Camping out with Death on the River




I have only shared the story about almost dying in a lightning storm to a few people.

Of these few people I have only told one or two the full, full story. My friends have been encouraging me to share also the "bad" experiences of my journey. Its not easy to share this stuff. Its far easier to tell about the sun shinning moments.

Why? I think I am afraid of people seeing past a certain persona I put up. To see my weaknesses and folly. To be vulnerable. There's alot of people reading my blog these days. I need to be honest about it all-- to myself first. So, I am going to tackle this fear head on. Thank you Brenda, Mark and Vaughn for the encouragement.

This particular story goes right to the heart of several towering fears of mine. Its taken me months to write and post this. But here we go.

Its not all blue sky cycling around the world. Sometimes there are storms. Literally.

I had been cycling for several days along a beautiful forested trail in rural Pensilvania. I had been camping easily at ready-made forest campsites for several days. The camping was getting a little too easy. As dusk fell, I was feeling up for something a little more, well, adventurous.

From out of the forest the trail emerged onto a long suspension bridge that spanned a gorgeous river coursing through the hills. Down below I spotted a beautiful shoreline. Perfect! I found a trail that the kayakers used and followed it down to the river's edge.

And, there it was!

A flat rock about the size of my tent, three or four feet out into the flow of the river. Wow! I thought: "I can camp in the river! Now that would be adventurous!"

Indeed, the rock was the perfect size for the footprint of my tent. As I went about setting my tent up however, my intuition began to buzz: "Russell! This is a BAAAADDD idea!" I remember to this day my uncanny sense of unease.

Yet, it was a gorgeous evening: The sun was setting. The river flowed peacefully beside me. I had the coolest camp spot ever. What could go wrong?

Once my tent was up, I cracked opened a beer and got my dinner cooking. It was then, that I felt the first drop of rain.

And then the next. And the next. The drops began to fall faster and faster. The breeze turned into a wind. Before I I could finish my beer I was in a storm.

I dashed into the sanctuary of my tent as the rain increased. Thunder rumbled nearby. Massive black clouds moved in, the evening sunset was extinguished, an ominous darkness reigned.

I could do nothing but huddle in my sleeping bag as the river began to rage around my little island rock. The wind into a gale. Lightning began to flicker all around me. Thunder crashed everywhere. My unpegged tent, an eery bubble of fragile comfort, was being assaulted on all sides. I was in a full out torrential downpour.

As I lay there I counted the ways that I could die: First, there was the lightning-- there was more blue light outside than darkness now. Second, the wind would cast my tent into the water-- the sides were billowing madly. And third, a flash surge would plummet me into the water hopelessly wrapped up in my tent-- the river, which had once been so calm was now raging.

The inevitable question arose: "Russell, my friend, are you ready to die?"

Looking back on this rather intense moment in the face of death I feel convinced that the first thoughts that hit me, I need to deeply honour. I felt I wasn't ready to go. I felt I needed to complete my 1Mandala project. And, I felt I needed to experience love in
triadic open and loving relationship. This is what came to my mind! A relationship that totally busted the old morals and ideas of love. I asked the universe to help me get through this.

As you can tell by me blogging about this, the storm blew over, and the Universe helped me out indeed.

A little too much actually! A kayaker passing on the bridge had spotted me. He called the state park rangers. After the storm was settling down, just as my heart rate was returning to normal, there was a voice outside. The rangers ticketed me for dangerous camping! I couldn't beleive it. I still can't. I also still have a ticket outstanding given the impossibility of paying it at the time. Bummer!

Yet, far more importantly, in my little campout with Death, I cut right through all the clutter and distractions of life, to the core of what my heart is calling me to.

Death had gift for me.

What to live.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Peace Portrait of the Day


A Tree and a Human Hug. A snow melting peace portrait from Bavaria.


So the 1Mandala Project is getting so many great peace portraits these days. They flow into my inbox and each morning, and am faced with a great smile from somewhere in the world. How cool is that?

Basically, its just too cool. I just got to share it!

That said, I've come up with the idea of featuring a Peace Portrait of the Day. Using Flickr, Facebook, Blogger and Flickr and RSS feeds we're sharing the peace right back at the world. For those who follow me on Flickr and Facebook you've been getting my experiments on sending them out. For those of you who follow my blog you'll see the Twitter link posted at the top right corner.

For those who want to follow the flow, you can get the peace portrait of the day by following 1Mandala (i.e. me!) on these links:

http://www.twitter.com/1mandala

http://www.facebook.com/1mandala

http://www.flickr.com/photos/1mandala/

RSS: feed://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photoset.gne?set=72157621496888390&nsid=29855706@N08&lang=en-us&format=rss_200


I am convinced that the way you do a project is just as important as the goal of the project. Let me say that another way: "The means is just as important as the ends". Or another: "The medium is the message". Or one more time, "the journey is just as important as the destination."

My project is about Oneness. Sure, the idea of unveiling a great big Mandala in NYC is pretty cool. But what is really important and frankly, the best, is the way we're doing it. WE (the 1Mandala team of dozens of people all around the world) are connecting and collaborating and working together in beautiful ways with people from all over. Inspired Collaboration!

If my project's goal is Peace and Oneness, then, ladies and gentlemen, its gotta be about every step/pedal of the way. The Peace Portrait of the Day is just another manifestation of this.

So, for all you have sent in your peace portrait-- know that you cannot give with out receiving. Know that you are affecting that stranger from Romania, just as they are effecting you. And here is that Peace, right back at you, one peace portrait each day.

:-)






Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Words are very unnecessary


This morning I said good bye to Peggy.

Making beautiful friendships and connections is one of the hazards of my journey. Because of my journey I meet so many wonderful people. Because of my journey, I must also say good bye.

Yesterday, Peggy took me up to the top of the Berlin TV tower. This landmark Berlin tower has a 360 degree view of the city. Peggy pointed out to me, far below, the church where she was baptized, and the hospital where she was born.

In our time together she has shown me the places where she has lived and grown up. She grew up in the old DDR and lived through the fall of the Berlin wall. With a community of people shortly afterwards they occupied a house. She lived and breathed a historic moment. With my hand in hers I have had one of the most engaging historic tours of Berlin you could ask for.

From the TV tower, with such a wondrous view, I could not help but contemplate the epic scale of difference between our up-bringings.

I grew up in the Yukon. At a Depeche Mode concert here in Berlin there were as many people in as in my whole territory of the Yukon! If you were to have the same view of my town as I had yesterday of Berlin, you would see nothing but mountains and forests for as far as the eye can see.

Indeed, if you were to keep walking North from my old backyard in Whitehorse, you would walk into a forest, pass our vegetable garden, maybe hit one or two more town roads, and then, you would walk for the next 1000 kms without wouldn't crossing another town or city or even highway until you hit Artic ocean.

If my journey has the theme of Oneness and connecting, this was a dazzling example. Depsite these epic differences in where we are from, despite not even sharing a common language, Peggy and I came together and shared a beautiful moment and connection.

Between my hackneyed German and her school English, we had about 400 words to work with. Yet, with patience and effort we were able to talk about just about everything, and work through the trials and tribulations of an intense love. And we did it. With so few words, we we're honest about our feelings and thoughts all the way through. When I am embraced her this morning it was with nothing but love.

As you can see by this post (#280), I rely alot on words. To love and connect with so few was a spectacular lesson. Too often I have hid behind words, too often they have in fact been a wall and a buffer. Not this time. In silence, souls can speak.

The words of Depeche Mode's Enjoy the Silence come to mind:

"Words are very unecessary... Words are trivial... Words are meaningless and forgetable. All I ever wanted, all I ever needed, is here in my arms. "





Thursday, July 9, 2009

Love Me - a painting and a poem



This is a simple painting. Its inspired by the love that I have met here in Berlin and on my journey. Its titled: "Love Me"

Why? Well, the more I, Russell Maier, try to Love, the more Fears I discover.

I see these Fears in others too as I love them. There are so many antiquated ideas, so many crippling anxieties, so many rusty patterns that shackle us from loving and throwing ourselves fully into our moments together. Yet, there's really nothing more beautiful and rewarding than loving. The title is equally a message to myself: Russell, Love!

Here's the poem I posted a while ago. It is now complete with its partner the painting.

-------


Here I am in your moment,

Just as you are here in mine.

The universe has conspired in a symphony,

An orchestra of flow so subtle, so sublime

That our hearts meld as our eyes meet.

The current takes us, sweeping us gently together,

My heart speaks to yours: Fear not.

Love!

Smile, touch, speak the most beautiful words.

Embrace, caress, hold.

Crush the tethers of the past!

Refuse the chains of tomorrow.

Spring with me into the Sea of Now.

It is our moment.

There is no blue sky day so fine.

There is no other time so true.

As when your eyes meet mine.

What else more beautiful is there to do?

Love me.

As I do you.



Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dark Night of the Soul


My last paintings have alot of blue sky.

This one does not.

I feel it is important to express the "good" as well as the "bad".

There's been some tough times on my journey-- materially and existentially. The cold wet Winter comes to mind going through Holland. Going days without really meeting anyone. Setting up my tent in a swamp forest in a crazy windstorm. Mechanical breakdowns in the middle of nowhere. Using the wrong type of fuel in my stove and ruing it, my food and my pots. A day or two with little to no food. Trying to hunt ducks with a rock. Yep. Its not all blue sky.

And there's another one that I really didn't expect: Walking through the streets of Berlin surrounded by hundreds of people, knowing no one, feeling separate and alone. Thomas Moore calls it "a dark night of the soul".

Thomas Moore also writes that it is in the darkest of night that dawn is most near.

On one particularly lonely, wet and cold Winter day I was cycling through a desolately gray and barren Dutch "forest" when something caught my eye. On the side of the path were these little alien-esque entities peaking through the dead brown leaves. I stopped, bent over and inspected the little white flowery things. It appeared that something was green and growing!

We don't have these in Canada. Later I learned that they are called 'snow drops' or snei glockleine. They are the very first plants in Europe to pop out at as Winter nears Spring.

In the painting a man kneels. The night is so dark. The road is has been long. The moon is but a distant crescent. The tree is barren. He is weary. Yet in that dark hour, in that cold winter night is the first glimmer of light. Are surely as the sun set, and so it will rise again. As surely as the leaves fell, so shall they grow again. A fragile flower speaks its reminder.

A re-minder that love can find you anywhere.

So chill. Let it come. Be with your night.











Monday, July 6, 2009

I have a Dream




I have had this painting on my soul for the last few months. It was my dream to paint it here in Berlin-- Big! It is 1.5 metres by 1.5 metres. Much bigger than most vagabond cyclists would dare to paint!

It is about the glorious feeling of merging dream with reality: "I have a Dream". It needed to be big.

Lately, I have been having many conversations on manifesting one's dream. How exactly do you make longing of your soul happen? How do you make dream reality? As I wrap up my time in Berlin this is a great moment to remind myself of this process.

First, you've got to listen to your heart.

The whole dream might not be there... I didn't actually come up with the idea of going around the world until I came to the monastery in Belgium. However the first seed "Russell... leave Smithers on your Bike for Berlin!" was there. I had to hear it.

Second you've got to speak the dream.

How can a dream come true if you can't even put it into words? How can a dream not come true if you can't even tell your friends? I am talking to myself here! My fears and dreams are inextricably linked. Speaking and articulating the dream is the essential first step of facing the fears.

As I made my way towards Berlin, I would tell people my dream of painting these big paintings. Then the magic then began to happen! Then they would say... "Oh! You must meet up with my friend who can help you!" "Oh! I know someone with a studio!" "Oh! I know someone with a cafe gallery".

And so, as I arrived in Berlin, the ingredients of my dream came to me -- bekommen mich. I found myself in the harware store-- a friend helping me buy all the wood that I needed. I found myself in a studio-- the saw, paint, brushes and everything I needed around me. Now, I type this in the gallery where all my paintings hang around me.

Dreams tend to involve fear. That's why they aren't real yet. Often what we dream of, is precisely what we fear the most. For me speaking and painting the dream is a way to process the fear and to figure out exactly what the dream is. This is the essence of my simple series of paintings. Through extreme simplification I get to the essence of what my heart is longing for.
So, Russell, what now is your dream? Here we go:

My dream is to cycle around the world back to Kamloops, BC Canada orchetrating the planetary 1Mandala collaborative project. I will start in Northern Italy and start cycling east towards Romania and then onwards East to Japan. I will meet and make great friends, meet beautiful people, learn new languages, make dazzlingly cool movies and art and deepen mine and humanity's understanding of Oneness and have the time of my life.

"I have a Dream". That's me folks, looking out at the Mediterranean-- the sun of love and health and passion shines down upon me.





Saturday, July 4, 2009

Courage.




This past weekend my beautiful lover from Holland came to visit me. Abby and I shared a wonderful weekend talking about life, love and dreams.

But she really didn't drive from 7 hours from Holland to Berlin just to see me. She came to see a painting! A painting, aptly enough, about following your heart.

You see, I had told her about the way I intentionally paint scenes that then magically manifest themselves. For her Birthday two months ago, I told her that when I got to Berlin, I would love to paint her a painting and an intention. If it works for me, why not for others? I invited her to describe a scene that she chooses to manifest and I would work with her to paint it.

Abby told me what to paint. She described the scene and the intention.

This beautiful painting emerged about following your heart.

Abby has a wonderful dream about letting go of her home, moving to Paris, learning French, and immersing herself in Parisian culture, baguette baking, yoga, dance and freedom.

As great as it sounds, it is really not that easy to let go of your home.

I know!

I went through my own epic struggle to cast aside my self-wrought chains that were holding me back from following the call of my heart. It took months. At times I felt it was surely impossible. On my journey, I have met so many who yearn and feel the same about leaving the known for the unknown.

And thus, on the comfortable, stable and secure pier stands a lone figure. A vast open horizon beckons. The sky is blue, the sun shines, the unknown looms in all its stunning danger, excitement, promise and in-security. The woman turns her head, it is almost too much to bear.

Yet, there sailing into off in the distance in a red sail boat. The dream is there. She knows deeply that it can be her. The very act of turning away is an acknowledgement of the power of the dream.

As sure as the sun sets on the day it shall rise on her dream.

Courage.

That is title of the painting.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Painting: "With Gratitude"



As I prepare to depart from Berlin and conclude one dream, another one looms before me: To cycle around the world.

The new dream was wrought at the Scourmont Monastery in Chimay, Belgium. At this point in my journey my destination was just to get to Berlin.

But then, I met Père Jaques. Père Jaques greeted me at the gates of the monastery with a gruff "We have been waiting for you for an eternity". When I left the gates three weeks later it was in a heart rending goodbye.

This wonderfully kind Belgian monk started telling people that I was a "pèlerin de la paix" (a peace pedaller) who was "cycling around the world". It was partly true, I had come all the way from Smithers on the West of Canada. I was also working on my 1Mandala peace and oneneness project. However, cycling around the world wasn't yet my conscious intention.

However, Pèrere Jaques words resonated with me deeply.

They excited something deep in my soul. My heart smiled. It had been guiding me in this direction all along.

And so, Berlin has become not a destination, but a beginning. A beginning of an even greater and more wondrous dream. Today, I look at the map-- of Europe and Asia and I plot my course. So many adventures and beautiful experiences lie behind me. So much more before me!

The painting above is inspired by my stay at the monastery. First painted at the monastery, it is titled: "With Gratitude"

You see, while there longstanding dental problems began to plague me. I did not make much money as an artist back in Canada-- and I simply could not afford the necessary repairs to my teeth. They had gotten worse and worse.

When I mentioned in passing a small pain, Pere Jaques insisted I stay longer. An appointment was setup. After a survey of my many large and small issues, the monastery dentist insisted I come back the next day when he was done all his regular work.

I arrived at 8 PM. He set to work in a marathon dental extravaganza. He tackle not just one problem but ALL OF THEM. In three hours, five years of dental issues were resolved-- wisdom teeth, cavities, fractures, etc. He worked late into the night in a bloody, painful yet glorious session. When he was done, every single issue was dealt with. Everything! I have had no problems since.

At midnight when I returned, a bottle of the monastery's strongest brew of beer awaited me.

My gratitude was so immense. But so was my pain! The monks insisted I stay longer to recover. In a week of recovery I painted the first version of this painting as a gift. It now hangs in the monastery.

I realize now that an even greater gift from the monastery was finding my dream. There, walking through the snow covered orchards with Pere Jaques and experiencing the chanting morning masses I heard the whisper of my heart. As I have cycled on my gratitude has only grown for my time at the monastery and for the general abundance of blessings that have befallen me

Here is the second, much bigger version of the painting "Met Dankbarkeit / With Gratitude" (1.5 x 1.5 meter) now hanging here in Berlin.