Chani Nicholas, Latihan and Postcards

8.20.16 Collage by Chai & SonyaI love it when different parts of my life intersect, reinforce, inform one another, validate, how ever you want to put it. It took an Einstein, I am told, to say: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

I have been tracking the astrology of Chani Nicholas for about 15 months now and she has become my go-to astrologer, for what that’s worth. I glean the Virgo section of her weekly emails and ofter there is a nugget for me. Last week, however, I did not even need to go to the Virgo horoscope for this bit of wisdom:

We are made of energy. Pure vibration. Humming along with every other force of energy in the universe. Mixing, merging, creating more. We are here to share our energy. To see what it does when we use it wisely and insightfully. To see what it inspires more of. We are meant to let this energy run through us. Freely. Opening the flood gates of our energetic reserves with a great generosity. Cleansing us as it does. Creating more space to see by. Clearing away the debris that collects when we stay too constricted within the self…

We might even feel purified when we step out of the way, letting universal intelligence flow through us…We are meant to intuit what we could be beyond the boundaries that keep us caged and to find a way to transcend them. We are meant to venture beyond the bounds of a scarcity, using our minds to expand our world. We are energy. Experiencing ourselves through the physical forms that we have been given. Sometimes believing that we stop where the body does. But we go beyond. When we remember to open our minds to that fact we give ourselves the chance to tune into something else at play. And we need that reminder.

Compare this with the Wikipedia entry for Latihan Kejiwaan of Subud:

Latihan kejiwaan, or simply the latihan means “spiritual exercise”, or “training of the spirit”.[4] This exercise is not thought about, learned or trained for; it is unique for each person and the ability to ‘receive’ it is passed on by being in the presence of another practicing member at the ‘opening’. About twice a week, Subud members go to a local center to participate in a group latihan, men and women separately.[5] The experience takes place in a room or a hall with open space. After a period of sitting quietly, the members are typically asked to stand and relax by a ‘helper’, who then announces the start of the exercise.[6][7]

Practitioners are advised to surrender to the Divine and follow ‘what arises from within’, not expecting anything in advance. One is recommended not to focus on any image or recite any mantra, nor to mix the exercise with other activities like meditation or use of drugs, but simply to intend to surrender to the Divine or the will of God. (The term “God” is used here with a broad and inclusive intention. An individual is at liberty to substitute interpretations that they feel more in tune with.) One is not to pay attention to others in the room, each of whom is doing his or her own latihan.[7]During the exercise, practitioners may find that, in terms of physical and emotional expression, they involuntarily move, make sounds, walk around, dance, jump, skip, laugh, cry or whatever.[8][6] The experience varies greatly for different people, but the practitioner is always wholly conscious throughout and free to stop the exercise at any time.

I was “opened” in Subud in June 2004 and became a serious practitioner in 2007. Latihan also acts as a kind of psychic detox agent,  It has become clear to me that so much in life becomes conditioning and intellect, we lose our more intuitive way of being in the world, or confuse it with fear. Maybe that is why I like road trips so much. You are in the moment, reacting to the moment when you are behind the wheel. Having control of the music helps. When we learn to trust whatever physical impulse comes up and just do it, don’t think about it, it can be a profound healing experience. I was told by my Soma body-work therapist that my pelvis area can use some help by keeping it limber, moving it around, shimmying. These actions come naturally in the latihan hall if you let them and has for me on some level on many occasions. The body usually knows what it needs if one can get fear and the intellect out of the way. Chani Nicholas knows this on some level, as she has learned to follow her intuition as pertains to astrology and has a unique way of relating the experience. I think health can be best seen (& more importantly, experienced,) as a flow of energy as well.

The Joy of POstcards

The Joy of POstcards

Learning to trust an inner impulse is also at the root of the magic of the August Poetry Postcard Fest, now near the end of Year Ten. It is hard to believe I’ve done this for ten years, but when I see that I have written over 600 postcard poems, it makes sense. I’ve written on and on about spontaneous composition and I still feel like I can’t articulate it in any way that does justice to the experience. Again I cite George Bowering, who said:

When a poem has you in its grip, you have to shut up all your usual yapping and listen as hard as you can. If it continues to work, and nothing interrupts it, you will get to be the first reader of the poem. It will be a happy event.

If THAT does not communicate how one reaches outside of one’s self for the words in a poem, I don’t know what can. I DO know that learning to write to trust what your conscious mind in the moment does not understand, but learns to trust that it “sounds good” or “feels right” then the intuition is being strengthened again like a muscle with exercise. And the writing gets better. The added dimension of exchanging cards every August puts poetry in the front of one’s consciousness for a month (or more, since the call goes out July 4) and there is no better antidote to the industry-generated culture than poetry, because real poetry has a negligible market value.

8.22.16 - Corita KentI sent out my 610th postcard poem this morning and have written 38 this year. I feel like I have at least two more in me, although seeing the Corita Kent exhibit at the Portland Art Museum gave me another model to use and I’ll probably be writing about that once the tenth APPF is over for me.

So here’s to your effort to get into the flow.

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Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun Interview

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

On August 5, 2016, I was honored to have a rare opportunity to interview Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, one of the most brilliant painters in Cascadia. His work is also the subject of Unceded Territories, a huge exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The webpage for the exhibit says:

Unceded Territories promises colour and controversy through this display of over 60 of Yuxweluptun’s most significant paintings, drawings, and works in other media – a critical and impassioned melding of modernism, history, and Indigenous perspectives that records what the artist feels are the major issues facing Indigenous people today.

The exhibit is large, political to the tenth degree and inspiring. I first became aware of Yuxweluptun’s work when I got the book Challenging Traditions by Ian M. Thom. The subtitle is Contemporary First Nations Art of the West Coast and while there were a few artist’s whose work I was familiar, Susan Point and Robert Davidson among them, a painting by Yuxweluptun caught my attention: 

Portrait of a Residential Schoolchild

Portrait of a Residential Schoolchild, 2005


Here were the nods to Salish traditions, such as the ovoid (Yuxweluptun says he practices “ovoidism”) but also bold color and a surreal feel. There is a neo-surrealism” to much of his work which melds with his own aboriginal traditions which are quite beyond the scope of the typical settler’s industry-generated-cultural experience.

A giant piece taking up all of a large wall in the gallery put me into a state of latihan kejiwaan, the spiritual practice of the worldwide Subud community, of which I have been a member since 2004. I had a similar experience once before, looking at Bill Reid’s 1984 Mythic Messengers sculpture, which you can see at the Vancouver Gallery that bears his name. The Yuxweluptun piece is from 2016 and is called

Spirit Dancer Dances Around the Fire (2016)

Spirit Dancer Dances Around the Fire (2016)

That HE is the spirit dancer in question might have something to do with the shivers I was getting, in a good way. He is authentic and for non-natives to get some sense of Northwest Coast spirituality, this painting is a blessing and can act as medicine.

I took many photos and was granted permission by Yuxweluptun to publish them here, but this post is about the interview and it went for sixty-five minutes. Yuxweluptun did not mince words. I am pretty sure he is incapable of doing that. I did not even need to do my planned introduction. We sat down and he started talking, but I would have said:

In June of 2014 the Vancouver city council unanimously voted to acknowledge that the city is on unceded Aboriginal territory. The motion from the city said:

Underlying all other truths spoken during the Year of Reconciliation is the truth that the modern city of Vancouver was founded on the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and that these territories were never ceded through treaty, war or surrender…” The city said that it will work with representatives from the Aboriginal community to determine “appropriate protocols” for conducting city business.

Unceded Territories is the name of an exhibit at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology featuring the work of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, an internationally-known artist of Coast Salish and Cowichan descent. A graduate of the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, Yuxweluptun, who says he was “trained as a politician and became an artist” has over 60 pieces in the exhibition that feature bright color, neo-surrealism, Coastal Salish tropes such as the ovoid used in a new way, and a political content that is fierce but also features a vibrant sense of play. Lawrence, welcome.



In the first segment he immediately talked about his displeasure with the status quo for indigenous artists and about the very name of the province in which he lives, British Columbia, which he called “a big piece of colonial bullshit.” He inferred the province’s name reflects the longest war in history, one that he says is still ongoing. Listen to Segment 1, 4:26.

Fish Farmers They Have Sea Lice (2014)

Fish Farmers They Have Sea Lice (2014)

In segment two Yuxweluptun responded to a question about how he acquired his name, which translates to: “Man Who Wears Many Masks,” how he was initiated as a “Mask Dancer” and a more recent given name: “Man Who Possesses Many Colors.” He says “Lawrence Paul is his ‘government’ name.” He also responded to a question about how his parents were politically active and how that might have shaped his own very political stance by talking about Canada’s “Indian Act.” Listen to Part 2, 6:46.


An Indian Act, Shooting the Indian Act, Healy Estate, Northumberland, September 14, 1997

In segment three Yuxweluptun responded to the notion that the Vancouver City Council’s proclamation was extraordinary by saying it was essentially meaningless.  He also talked about shooting up a copy of Canada’s Indian Act and calling it “A Book Report.” He gave a long list of items he would gladly put a price on for colonialists, such as rainbows, water and earthquakes and also suggested he’d be fine with Canada’s dissolution. Listen to segment three, 6:54.

Red Man Watching White Man Trying to Fix Bog Hole in the Sky (2000)

Red Man Watching White Man Trying to Fix Hole in the Sky (1990)

In  the fourth segment, Yuxweluptun responded to a question about how this current exhibit came about and he said that he has always considered the MoA “the cultural morgue of Canada.” He talked about how capitalism is failing the planet and referred to his painting Red Man Watching White Man Trying to Fix Hole in the Sky and how it is an example of how he records history. He also discussed how he uses what he calls “neo-surrealism” and how it gives him the opportunity to address these concerns he has. He also responded to a statement that his painting Spirit Dancer Dances Around The Fire can bestow upon viewers a spiritual experience. Listen to part 4, 7:53.

from Sprit Dancer Dances Around the Fire (2016)

from Sprit Dancer Dances Around the Fire (2016)

In part five Yuxweluptun responded to a question about the transparent nature of some of the images depicted in his work by talking about spirituality.

He said “my job is to enlighten, to entertain, to give you joy…”   He also discussed his use of what he calls “Ovoidism” and whether indigenous people can have an existential thought under the Indian Act, if one does not legally exist. He also talked about his act of shooting up the Indian Act.

Listen to part 5, 6:47.




I Have a Vision, Green man Comes to Fix the Dying Land (2015)

I Have a Vision, Green man Comes to Fix the Dying Land (2015)

In   the sixth segment Yuxweluptun responded to a question about his painting I Have a Vision, Green Man Comes to Fix the Dying Land (2015). He talked about how his work comes out of visions and not dreams like surrealism. He talked about his experience in residential school and related his anguish about that experience and about his astonishment that there were no graveyards at the new school when he transitioned to his public grammar school. Listen to part 6, 7:35.

In segment seven he talked about stopping “the industrialization of the war machine on the planet” and how that, perhaps initiated by the U.N., would start to make a difference in education and other aspects of life as we prepare to combat planetary climate change. He says the money saved by NOT spending on war would fund education for everyone on the planet. He specifically mentioned species extinction and his memories of songbirds from childhood. Listen to Part 7, 6:01.

In part eight he talked about those who have gone before him from whim he draws inspiration, such as Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Chief Seattle, Chief Joseph, Bob Marley, Gandhi, Rembrandt, Brueghel and Bosch. He talked about his “street education” in traditional art and the class action lawsuit regarding the government’s removal of aboriginal children which, he says, “ruined their families.” He also talked about the way in which indigenous women in Canada are being murdered and how it appears that they can be killed “at will.” He also talked about Pierre Trudeau’s effort of the White Paper Act, which attempted to assimilate indigenous people into “mainstream” society. Listen to Part 8, 7:51.

In the ninth and final segment, in response to a question about what gives him hope, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun said that the planet’s climate has been altered and the “Christian God will not save you.” He talked about the need for rapid transit and how Germany is much more advanced than British Columbia and other solutions to the problem of climate change. Listen to Part 9, 12:46.




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Annual Bradner Gardens Reading

8.13.16 Bradner Promo2016I get to read Saturday with the Jim O’Halloran Quintet at Bradner Gardens, which is always a gas. The band is amazing and Jim always takes time to work out an intelligent plan to accompany my work. Bradner Gardens is one of the jewels of Seattle’s P-Patch system of community gardens. Faiza Sultan is a fine poet and great human being. Elva Pope is a powerhouse vocalist.

I hope to see you Saturday night.



8.13.16 - Bradner Gardens ParkJim O’Halloran Quintet
Saturday August 13
Special Guests: Elva Pope, Vocals; Faiza Sultan & Paul Nelson, Poets.

Featuring Jim O’Halloran, flutes;
Bill Anschell, piano; Dean Schmidt, bass; and D’Vonne Lewis, drums.

Bring a picnic and blanket! Free!

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