Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shining Night with Morten Lauridsen

I just watched "Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen" by Michael Stillwater and was reminded of the incredible experience I had with Sacred Passage at Flinders Island, reflected in the blog entry I posted on Friday November 12, 2010.

Morten's biography is impressive, earning the National Medal for the Arts in 2007 with his music being played worldwide, invoking emotions that leave audiences speechless. For an introduction and explanation in his own voice, see the Wall Street Journal article he penned in February 21, 2009:

"O Magnum Mysterium" is one of the focal points of his musical oeuvre and referenced at the beginning and end of Stillwater's film. The only two sentences of the latin verse touch on the wonder of the birth of Christ and have been set to music for centuries. I cannot boast that I have composed music to express the wonder of this and all creation, but my experience on Flinders Island brought me closer to how Morten addresses the subject.

While Morten composes on secluded Waldron Island in the San Juan Archipelago in Northwest Washington State, I captured some of my surroundings on Flinders Island off the northern coast of Tasmania. I was fascinated at the opportunity of connecting this profound relationship with nature and the daily tasks of my experience in business management, set in motion by the same values that provided a cultural fit at Ensemble Partners.

With respect to Morten Lauridsen and a challenge to reiterate that experience, I've reposted the entire entry from 2010 here in hopes to keeping the experience and insights fresh in my life, if not the lives of any readers present.

With a profound respect for our interconnections to the Divine Creation of which we are all a part, JB.

I. Describing the Indescribable
II. The Life of John P. Milton, Creator of Sacred Passage and The Way of Nature
III. A Valiant Beginning to a Lifetime of Teaching
IV. Who Am I?
V. Your Call to Action, Leader of the Future World

I. Describing the Indescribable

What would happen if you camped on a solo site for five nights, nourishing your body on a liquid diet while undertaking a strict regimen of guided meditation and Qi Gong to forge a deeper connection to nature and all the interconnected forms of life?

Dig into your most profound memory of being human and bear with me.

It’s hard to condense 100 hours of profound experience in one blog entry. After attending Sacred Passage with John P. Milton on the recommendation of the Founder of Ensemble Partners, our CEO and five others including myself are left somewhere between navigating life as usual and dissolving completely into the ultimate sustainability of becoming one with nature.

If one man has become one with nature, a thousand years says Milton comes close.

No matter how many pictures I could take or videos I could record, nothing would begin to clearly articulate the whole picture. Because of Who I Am (explain of Caps later), I will share some drawings made during the experience to send you on your travels for the remaining four sub-headings.

II. The Life of John P. Milton, Creator of Sacred Passage and The Way of Nature

What’s the most engrossing film you’ve ever seen?

Remember it... Think about it... Relive that feeling of being completely engrossed...

Somewhere between Star Wars, Seven Years in Tibet, and Batman Begins lies the life of John P. Milton. The summary of John’s life goes from studying Zen Meditation in the 1950’s to becoming the first Ecologist at the White House under Nixon; from studying with Taoist Masters on Wudang Mountain in China to spending years with Buddhist Masters in the remote hilltops of Tibet.

There’s no way to summarise when just two in the list include following the Taoist lineage of Chang San Feng from the 13th Century and studying Vepassana meditation with the now deceased S.N. Goenka in Nepal, whose recorded voice remains the sole guide for all Vepassana meditations worldwide.

It’s better that I let John speak for himself, down to the details.

The following excerpt is taken from an interview with John P. Milton by Carla Brennan:

“Since the late 1950's, I have been honoured to work with fine teachers in Taoism and T'ai Chi, Buddhism, Dzogchen, Vedanta and both Hindu and Buddhist Tantra:

In 1958 I had my first teacher of meditative Qi Gong for spiritual cultivation; that opened an ever-deepening form of Taoist practice which I have continued with ever since. Then, in the late 1960's I was first exposed to T'ai Chi Ch'uan and immediately fell in love with that system of spiritual and energetic cultivation. From 1973 through 1980 I studied Cheng's Yang family style T'ai Chi - predominantly with Robert Smith and Ben Pang Jeng Lo - but also with Maggie Newman, Tam Gibbs and others. I also studied Qi Gong and Taoist yoga with Sifu Fong Ha, Mantak Chia and other Taoist teachers.

I have taught these systems since 1979.

In 1958, I also began practicing Zen meditation with Ed Maupin as his teacher. For many years, I practiced classical soto style zazen meditation between four and eight hours a day and Zazen continues until today as a core practice for me. Later on in the 1960's, I also became a serious student of the teachings of Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism and both Hindu and Buddhist Tantra. In the 1970's, I was deeply influenced by the blessings of shaktipat and Siddha Yoga with Swami Muktananda. As a result of all this spiritual cultivation, my first major experience of the arising of Kundalini Shakti and the opening of central channel came in the mid 1970's.

Also starting in the late 1960's and through the 1970's until now, I have been fortunate and very blessed to have many fine teachers from several Tibetan lineages, particularly Sogyal Rinpoche, His Holiness Dilgo Khentze Rinpoche, H.H. the Karmapa, H.H. the Dalai Lama, Lama Tharchin, Lopon Tenzin Namdak, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and many other wonderful Lamas. In particular, the blessings of opening and deepening Dzogchen contemplation have been at the heart of my personal cultivation.

From the late 1960's on until now, I have been very active in helping protect Himalayan forests and in setting up wildlife reserves and national parks in Nepal and Bhutan. I often hired large numbers of Tibetan refugees to help me in survey and parks work in the Himalaya Mountains along the Tibetan frontier. All this has given me some extraordinary opportunities to study and practice with Himalayan masters on their home ground and often in a very traditional way, with few or no other westerners around.

I was also fortunate to study Vipassana meditation with S.N. Goenka and his wife in Nepal. Another major teacher for me has been the great tantrika, and devotee of the Divine Feminine, Vasudev of India and Nepal. Over a number of years I was blessed with being able to study with him in mountain caves, at Nepal's great temple to Shiva as the God of All Nature, Pashupatinath, and in the cremation grounds of Nepal and Varanasi (Benares). His teachings, transmissions and direct initiation into the Sacred View have been an incredible blessing to my life and my ability to serve my students.”

III. A Valiant Beginning to a Lifetime of Teaching

Have you ever used a metaphor from nature to describe your life experience? In any deeply rooted conversation about what just feels right, there is an example of it in nature. From animals who mate for life to the industriousness of an ant colony, nature offers something for everyone to understand the world we have shared for thousands of years.

By Day 3 I began to feel accepted by Gaia on her own terms. On Day 4 I had a profound shift as I climbed to the top of Mt. Strzelecki. The three hour hike to the summit involved the buzzing of flies that would often drive a human into a fit. By the time I performed the 11 Direction Ceremony looking out over the Bass Strait, I came to feel at one between Sky and Earth and joined the flies buzzing around me as electrons in the the atomic connection shared between everything in the universe. The flies were my buddies, along for the energetic ride we all call life.

The profound responsibility that comes with the thoughts I’m having is not lost on me. Looking out over all of Flinders and the surrounding Tasmanian Islands realise what it will take to protect this island development from a population of 700 into the future of what’s to come. I believe this can be a place of Zero Impact similar to the plans for Masdar in Abu Dabi. It’s in alignment with the preservation of Tasmanian wilderness and what’s reasonable and possible in the current paradigm shift in global consciousness.

IV. Who Am I?

(Not to be confused with “Who Am I Now?”, a puberty video my brother will recall...)

I want to share one thing that happens when an updated contract is signed with Mother Nature, being accepted by Gaia on her terms. The name I sign with exudes a deeper understanding of Who I Am. As one of many teachings in Milton’s Sky Above, Earth Below, the “Who Am I” exercise borrowed from the Hindu Master Ramana Maharshi reminds us that we are not any of the trappings that normally form our identity. This profound realisation stops us then to ask, “Who Am I?”, and come up with a meaningful answer that transcends space and time.

The best I can come up with is that I Am The Happy Wandering Artist. I’m on the verge of adding Heterosexual, but nature takes care of that for me. Just as nature takes care of Homosexuals, I might add. It’s no surprise that Penguins can change their sexual orientation from breeders to non-breeders when their population balloons out of control. Almost 7 Billion humans are forever in gratitude to you Non-Breeders out there. But I digress.

Perhaps in a past life, (you know me, Egon Schiele) and in the current life, I am a filter for the human experience constantly on the move. This return to the deepest understanding of myself I’ve had in a decade reminds me of not only Who I Am, but also the weaknesses that come with it. As John so lovingly pointed out when I received his council on my return to buildings and humans:

It is the constant addiction to my own entertainment that drives me. This is a life out of balance when I realise after three days of being confined to peaceful meditation that I can’t sit still for that long and break out to climb a mountain. Nature requires an inner peace in all of us. The need for constant stimulation must be balanced with the personal mastery of meditating for hours and connecting to Deep Source.

I have a lot of work to do on that. I’ll let you know how I go.

V. Your Call to Action, Leader of the Future World

I first saw Milton speak at a Wake Up! Sydney event hosted by the resourceful Jono Fisher in 2009. Little did I know at the time that my future employer Ensemble Partners had brought John to Australia to form The Way of Nature Australia, an Oceanic subsidiary of his institute in Boulder, Colorado, which led in turn to Sacred Passage on Flinders Island.

The take-away from his 2009 speech before a sold-out audience was the vision of what would happen if all the world’s leaders, CEOs, and top thinkers decided to spend at least three days immersed in nature, focused in deep meditation guided by the past thousand years of enlightened human experience.

It was a profound vision of the future then, and it remains profound now.

I urge you, Leader of the Future World, to go out into nature for as long as you can until you begin to feel that Gaia accepts you on her terms. When the world understands you with a Universal common denominator, you will start to understand yourself in ways I am only beginning to see in me.

When you get back, give me a call. Learning from each other, it will start to make sense.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Inauguration of Barack Obama

I was just watching coverage of the Inauguration of 44th US President Barack Obama from where I stand in Sydney, Australia.

Truly a global event, a dark-skinned gentleman standing next to me was slowly clapping in celebration of the incumbent.

In 2012 I was introduced to Democrats Abroad in Sydney, working alongside Dae Levine in an acting Social Media role, ultimately delivering the news of Obama's re-election in November.

I continue to enjoy being a part of the US Democratic system and US Democratic Party from this land of opportunity Down Under in the Asia-Pacific.

God bless Barack Obama, and God bless the United States of America as we navigate the international waters of friendships and allegiances towards a solution-oriented Design Thinking approach to Global Possibility.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lineaist Design Branding Process

In a recent job of rebranding for Turning Green, a sustainability recruitment consultancy, the Lineaist Design brand development process has taken some patented steps into a stylistic competitive advantage.

As most successful brand designers will agree, brand management is about trust. To develop the level of trust necessary between a designer and business owner takes time and some shared exercises.

In this case we went through a series of rehearsals with a scripted engagement, video-taped with a whiteboard presentation as a part of the conversation. What emerged was a very simple logo and brand message.

Lisa Tarry, Managing Director of Turning Green, says, "Thank you Jonathan Blackwell! It was fantastic working with you and I love the new branding!"

Visit Lineaist Design on facebook to watch for more Lineaist client updates.