Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Congratulations to Philipinos: A New President!

This has been a very interesting time to be in the Philipines-- the country has been in the midst of a historic and often tumultous election. At last, yesterday, the new president was sworn in. In bodes well for peace and stability in a country thar has been holding it's breath for the last month.

Brandy, Beer, Cigarettes and TV

This morning I woke up feeling terrible, groggy and slow. "What is going on?" I asked myself. I couldnt figure it out. Then it hit me. A hang over!

You see the last few weeks I have been walking, communing with nature, meditating, fasting, doing lots of yoga eating totally fresh, local and organic. i went at least three weeks without any alchohol. My vibe has pretty pure and I rise brightly with the sun.

But not last night nor this morning! I have been hanging out with the local Anglican priests here in Sagada. They are a great bunch of guys who serve the various villages around here. They are laidback, straight forward and down to earth. They also buy a bottle of brandy and sit around talking theology, politics and culture each evening. They have a few cigaretes, some beers too and share a plate of salted pork.

I joined them again last night and we had a blast talking controversial issues. I strayed from my usual single beer and had some brandy "El Fundador". Then I stumbled back to my hotel and watched 2hrs of TV.

It's been ages since I last watched TV! Yikes! The cuts and commercials are so fast! Have you ever seen 24 or CSI? So much violence! Man! My chilled out body and soul got a little shell shocked I think.

So, today's prescription: Long walk in the mountains, veggie meal and... no brandy!

Oh... And I really need some coffee.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Joy of Littering

Yesterday, I unpacked my snack, took a satisfying bite, then tossed the wrapper into the ditch. An unexpected joy overcame me.

Growing up in Canada it was instilled in children like me that garbage belongs in the bin. The implication: "Garbage" is seperate from the natural world and belongs in a sealed bag and in a dump somewhere far far away. Normally, tossing litter into the ditch would bring me great existential pain-- so much so I never ever do it!

And thus, me x millions, Canada appears clean.

In developing countries litter is a major problem. Wrapers and bottles and plastic contaminate the landscape. Why? It is easy for me to judge-- how terribly ignorant of the folks to just toss their refuse away!

But that wasnt always so.

"Garbage" -- something seperate from nature-- is a concept that never existed here in the Philipines. Litterally. The very word in Tagalog 'basura' comes from the Spanish colonizers. Folks ate fresh food from the market or from their own land! Here in Sagada those traditions are incredibly still intact. They grow and raise almost all their own food through a self-sufficient community ecosystem that ranges from rice to all the fruits and vegetables youncan imagine. Add to that coffee, tea, tabacco, mushrooms, meat, and their own candy bars.

But, of course all the mass produced foods are making their way here just as everywhere else in the world. Sugar-laden, processed and refine 'food-like' products that through massive marketing somehow upsurp the locally grown incredibly bio-rich real food here. I watch with anguish as little kids much on 1 peso sugar candy, their early teeth already all decaying.

Of course most of the places and countries like this didn't do the massive education that Canada did in the 70s-80s to normalize the "disposal" of untold tons of plastic and aluminum packaging. It doesn't gomaway of course. We just bury it.

Here in Sagada they still sell some of the old indeginous snacks. My favorite is a rice and peanut bar cooked and packaged in a banana leaf! Brillant! The cost is just as great: 5 pesos! Maybe 10 cents in Canada! The bar is just as big as any chocolate bar-- but infinitely more satisfying.

ALL the ingredients come from within 50kms of the town.

And my 90% of my 10 cents doesn't to gonto some massive marketing, branding and celebrity endorsement capaign. On the contrary! It goes right to the hand of the women who baked it.


So let me make a daring suggestion: Who is more messed up! I the Canadian with the nice clean cities, but with a deeply entrenched mindset that garbage that will endure for centuries is normal and who's corporations are indoctrinating the rest ofthe world with the illusion that plastics, wrappers are normal necessities? Or, maybe the more sane are the folks and cultures that still haven't been able to wrap their minds around the existence of inorganic plastic and metal based packaging that won't biodegrade for centuries and that enables the mass transit of highly manufactfured "food" over thousands of kms and the emergence of massive corporations that focus more on the brand on the package than the healthyness, sustainability, and humaneness of food production and the food itself.

Yeah. Maybe. And it is only 5 pesos!

Snack time.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Making a Mandorla with Sarah

I am immensely proud of this mandala. What happens when two professional mandala artists get together? Yep! They make mandalas-- and in this case a Mandorla.

Sarah and I have been synchronistically connected even before Abby and I had tickets to the Philipines. Sarah makes mandalas with folks, just like me! She works with children and spiritual themes, just like me! We had been talking excitedly over facebook about mandalas.

After three weeks in her country I proposed we put together a workshop on co-creation together. The idea was to lead couples in making a single mandala as an exercise in harmoniously harnessing the unique attributes of male and female energy.

Well, Sarah contributed some good feminine common sense: She suggested we should do one first together before trying to teach anyone else. Indeed!

And thus we began the week long process of getting to know each other and to make a "mandorla"-- the name for the shape that emerges when two mandalas overlap.

Wow! What a powerful process!

We began on the paper you see above with the outline of two overlaping circles. As we each worked on our own mandala, the space between us loomed, just as we slowly drew closer. The process became more intimate and charged. Slowly we dared venture our own emerging patterns in the centre.

As we did so we monitored the range of emotions that emerged... "He's not giving me room!" "She's not stepping forward with her pattern!". "He's rushing ahead without me!". "Why are her borders so strong and thick?".

Fascinating! We processed our cocreation together for hours afterwards and asked others who knew us for their interpretation. It succinctly captured our personal patterns and dynamics with the opposite sex. The overlapping mandalas were an amazing insight into the coming together of personalities and energies.

And out of this has come consciousness! Consciousness to harness and guide the compounding of our attraction, and complimentary energies to realizing our joint and individual aspirations.


From there we made a joint intention map mandala. More on this to come!

Smiling with the Land - Alam, Mt. Province, Philipines

Jenifer and her mother Flora smile with their land. I met these two on my walk to Sagada the other day. They showed me a shortcut through the mountains before we got to the trail to their fields. I see many of these spectacular terraces. It was a pleasure to meet some of those who work them. Yes, those terraces there between them, down at the valley bottom, are their family's rice paddies that have been worked for generations. There is a joy that comes from working your own land, producing your own food, and working with your family-- maybe, because this type of all round oneness is the planet's salvation. There is much to be learned from their simple smiles.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Community Mandala Prayer

This community mandala came together over three Sundays working with the youth, then the congregation of St. Matthews Church, in the village of Bagaan, Northern Philipines.

What better way to pray for peace and unity than to be it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Aha! This is where Rice comes from!

I have eaten much rice in my life, but in darkness as to it's origin and how it is cultivated. Living here in Sagada the last few weeks I have been right in the middle of the whole process. What an enlightening blessing!

I shall never eat rice again the same!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Light, Breath & Magic Mandala

High in the mountains of Sagada Philipines, I was able to teach the ancient Tibetan technique if Light Breathing to a group of local priests.

I had led a normal mandala making workshop with the priests, deacons and parish women of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Sagada that afternoon. We moved from making individual mandalas to making a co-creative group mandala with ripped paper.

They caught on really fast.

At the end of the afternoon there were five of us left. I felt that these men had so fully grasped the way of the mandala that I could impart to them an ancient, and all but lost Tibetan technique of 'Light Breathing'.

This ancient way requires meditating for several hours outdoors on the beauty of nature, until one jas acheived a purity of focus that can be literally breathed into reality. Then, joining forces in a circle, the energy of the tibetan monks, in this case Anglican priests, manifests through breath alone a mandala.

After meditating in the beautiful mountain light and air, the men came in and we were able to record their magical co-creation on film.


The music is played and sung by Father Prenzel then and there. He is one of the light breathers in the movie. It is in the Canka'ne dialect of Sagada.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and as usual the making of mandalas together was a profound and insightful experience all round.

And... We had fun too!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I am here

I've been staying in the most beautiful place for the last three weeks. Yet, despite all my blogs I have neglected to post any photos of the landscape.

Each day, to get into town is a good hour walk. The journey takes me on a thin path that winds precariously through the rice paddies, then up through the village onto a country road. The road is perchered on the side of a mountain and it takes me through pine forests and orange groves. The walk is the highlight of my day and the joy of my late afternoon.

That is, if I miss the inevitable afternoon showers! At about three, the clouds descend and the peaks are schrouded in mist. Combined with the fading light of the setting sun, well... It has been the most beautiful and magical of experiences.

Alas, my poor iPhone is utterly and completely inadequate at captuings the undulating hues of purple and violet as they softly cover the verdent green staircase of slopes like an ephermeral shroud. I doubt any camera could do it justice. After numerous shots, I resigned myself with joy-- twas a moment destined just for my soul.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Grey Clouds Cleared

A Giant Moth

GeoTagged, [N17.09816, W120.89987]

I came across this beautiful creature in a garden along my walk. It stopped me in my tracks-- easily as big as my two hands with it's wings unfolded. It felt like something symbol or omen from a dream.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Grey Day

GeoTagged, [N17.09816, W120.89987]

Tis a grey day. I went to bed sneezing. I woke up my eyes so red that I could barely keep them open. I am beset either by allergies or some strange cold. I feel absolutely terrible.

Most of the day I could barely see, let alone do any work, or walk into to town to coordinate mandala projects. That just adds to the general greyness. I can't add credit to my phone, I can't move money to my bank account to withdraw, and I can't finalinalize important contracts. Shit.

See the tree in the photo above that I snapped this evening? I feel just like that. The grey clouds have descended and obscurred my world and purpose. Moments like this come occassionally dont they? I despair.

I spent must of the day in teary, runny nose anguish lying in bed. I couldn't read or even watch movies. Of course, I am so well taken care of. Aunt Ruby, the grandmother here, gathered herbs from the garden and made me special healing tea. Dodo, the grandaughter baked me some pancakes and brought them up to immobile me on a tray. Two rays of light.

It is so uncanny how the outside world can mirror the inner. The cloud shrouded, lone, grey tree is just how I feel. Alone, seperate, so far away. And what am I doing here exactly? What is the point of all this? Am doing anything worthwhile? I am 33.... Shouldn't I have a house and a car and a mortgage somewhere? Should I be somewhere else, doing something else? Immoblized, blind, the thoughts easily descend upon me obscuring my moment.

Indeed, today the clouds are dark and heavy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Peace and Light handed out by three children in a flower tree in Modongo, Philipines

Walking down a country road we came across three children playing in a tree. I asked if I could take a picture of their smiles to share with the world. They gleefully obliged and this photo emerged as the little boy offered us some berries, and you some light.

Oneness is about being present to the presents in the present as you walk down the road. Stopping to be with these kids, rather than hurrying on, was being present to the oneness for me today.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Baagaan Group Mandala

Well, that was fun! I was invited back for a second Sunday of mandala making at St. Matthew Church in Baagaan this past Sunday. This time we moved up from individual to couple to a big group mandala. Again, no art supplies necessay! I gave the kids 10 minutes to wander around the Church and pick flowers.

And this time, Sarah joined me! She made the 13 hr trip from Manila to just in time join me for the workshop. Sarah is a professional mandala artist too. Mandala artists are in fact a rare breed, I only know one other. Through the coordination of the Kasiyana Peace centre, the kids have no idea how lucky they were to get the two of us guiding the cocreation!

Sarah added her unique energy to the flow, showing how a mandala composed with silence and mindfullness can be a prayer. When we moved to make the group mandala we had everyone add their contribution with a thought or a prayer for the community.

Mandalas even made it into the sermon that Sunday.

Father Dalis was so excited to learn about Mandalas the day before-- he had graciously invited me to join him and his family for dinner-- that he spent a quarter of his sermon on them.

There is a beautiful stainglass rose window in the cathedral in Sagada. But he, nor the parish knew the meaning behind it. I was was able to explain the numerical symbolism to him over dinner. He then excitedly explained it to the Church.

He did so in the Canakan'e dialect so I didn't understand what he meant til someone explained later that afternoon to me that, after reflecting the day before on what I had explained, an 'Enlightenment blessing to the community". Nice! Oh, and he also introduced my name as "Russel T. Mandala".

I have no idea what the T stands for though!

Of course, its not really about mandala making. Its about the harmonizing of intentions and community coming-together. Its an honour to be the catalyst for such things.

Round three next Sunday!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How do you do an Art Workshop without Supplies?

Good question! How do you?!

That was my issue this past Sunday sitting in the wooden community church of St. Matthews in the village of Bangaan. Dom-an had spoken the day before with someone from the Church about our last mandala done through the Kasiyana Peace and Healing Center. The youth group was thus all excited to have us do a mandala workshop after the service. However, I was pretty much convinced that with so little planning and no supplies we would have to wait til next Sunday.

St. Mathews Church happens to be Anglican, which is my denomination back in Canada! A merry coincidence. The Chuch itself is a basic structure yet packed full of smiling folks.

I've always beleived that with art there is no such thing as not having the right supplies. Your moment is always perfectly supplied. Its is just a matter of seeing with creative eyes!

An idea hit me as the service ended. There was one clear source of colour in the building: the Flowers! After I had been introduced to Father Asterio Dal-is, I asked him a question.

Could we sacrifice the altar flowers for art? He was more than happy to oblige and the youth were more than happy for the workshop to happen!

I introduced the art of mandalas. Then, taking apart the flowers, the room fell into meditative silence. Dom-an played her flute, and we all worked together to make collaborative flower mandalas in pairs. They caught on fast! I watched in amazement as everyone manifested incredibly creative constructions. They kids would have kept going and going if we hadn't wound things up after 2hrs

Beautiful! The best creativity is unplanned.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Madungo Mandala

After a hectic month in Manila, I am out in the mountains for some rest, restoration and... Mandala making! I am staying with Dom-an, a petite Philipina of indigenous Igorot ancestory. Her Kasiyana Peace and Healing Center where I am typing this as the rain pours down gently on the roof. It is perched on a forested hillside surrounded by lush terraced rice paddies beside the village of Madungo, near Saganda in the Northern Philipines. Next week I will help with the rice harvest.

In the meanwhile we are introducing mandalas to the community! The other day we filled up the Madongo community centre with about 20 children ages 5-12. I think they understood some of my English, but just in case Dom-an was there to translate to the local Kankana-ey dialect. It is a very humble Igorot community of people who live off the land -- there were no pastels, let alone paper! So Dom-an and I improvised with home made playdough and Terra-cotta clay (thanks for the inspiration Sarah!)

I introduced the concept of mandalas and the kids excitedly started molding away. We made our favorite shapes. We made little balls as many times as our favorite numbers. By then, the kids had caught on, and a co-creative mandala began to take shape on the floor.

The Sagada area alas has been a place that has seen violence and war in the past-- going back to WWII. Simmering tensions between rebels and the government still echo in the town. What a beautiful and important place to do make a harmonious, co-creative, cross-cultural, peace-filed mandala. Especially with the upcomming generation that will inherit this land and it's legacies. Mandala making is subtlely powerful, the type of thing that leaves long lasting impressions and affirmations with children on how we can all work, create and live together as one.

The kids want us back, so this story isn't over yet!

A Mandala of Manila Mandalas

I've been meaning to post this for a while. Back in Manila, I attended a mandala writing workshop. Yep, 'attended'. I wasn't leading it! And, it was on making written mandalas. It was a refreshing and inspiring shift.

We sat together in silence and wrote out our own particular set of affirmations. We wrote them around and around with coloured pencils on provided circle templates. I choose: "I am trusting, I am love, I am generosity". You can see me with my mandala on the photo above.

It was a wonderfully meditative and empowering exercise. Afterwards we all shared our experience and then posed for a group photo with our mandalic creations.

However, that day, I had been working on the new build of the 1Mandala. 1Mandala photo portraits were on my mind! An idea hit me: We could all assemble in a circle to make a mandala out our mandalas! Everybody loved it and we began to arrange ourselves.

But what to put in the centre?

That is where Orlan comes in. Orlan, one of the workshop leaders had previously created a very large written mandala. In fact, the intricate creation had take him six months of steady writing to complete. It was done with one fine black pen. Written over and over was the affirmation: "I am a divine being".

If you look really carefully at the new build of the 1Mandala you will find our portrait mandala of mandalas in the center.

And, in the centre of that, you will find Orlan's mandala.