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Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer, and my guest today is Stuart company. Stuart is founder of the Institute for art of living not to be confused with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is organization it’s the doing business as The Painting Experience. He’s an artist whose work has carried him throughout the world to work with groups, and a process of inner exploration using the tool of expressive painting to access the potential within the human heart and imagination. For more than three decades, he has taught his unique approach to literally 1000s of people, growth centers, such as epsilon and Omega Institute’s multinational corporations, programs in prisons, and countless other public forums. Stewart lives in Fairfax, California, and is co author of life paint and passion, reclaiming the majestic the magic of spontaneous expression. So Thanks, Stuart. Welcome.
Stewart Cubley: Thank you, Rick.
Rick Archer: You and I were gonna do this back in September or something and I had to reschedule and you ended up going up to Alaska for you have a cabin in the woods completely out of touch with the world?
Stewart Cubley: I do. Yeah, I lived in Alaska as a young man I was, I lived in outside of Fairbanks. And during that period of time, I homesteaded some property, some very remote property on the north boundary of Denali National Park. And so I go back there every year, and we take a helicopter in is 20 miles from the nearest road. And we’re off the grid. So there’s no internet and no cell phone contact. And, and we just hibernate for about six weeks. And then usually at the end, I take a couple weeks or at least three weeks sometimes to be alone there. So it’s kind of my annual retreat.
Rick Archer: And it’s fantastic must really have a profound effect. You know,
Stewart Cubley: it’s a very powerful place. Alaska is one of the few remaining true wilderness areas on the earth because when I look out my cabin door for example, it’s looking it’s looking west towards the Bering Sea.
Rick Archer: There are you can almost see Russia from your front porch, right? Yeah, a
Stewart Cubley: little bit a little Sarah Palin. It’s night hunt. It’s 900 miles to the Bering Sea and there’s no road it’s that well,
Rick Archer: what would happen if you injured yourself or something? I have a satellite
Stewart Cubley: cell phone so I can get emergency call out.
Rick Archer: Right now you have a you’re not merely not I shouldn’t say merely you’re not just an artist. You have been a spiritual aspirant. I guess most of your life. I understand. You spent a fair amount of time with Nisargadatta back in what this is 19 7980 I
Stewart Cubley: think he died in 81. Yeah, so I was there a bit the during the winter 7980
Rick Archer: Most people listening to the show will know who Nisargadatta is he wrote that book was it. I am that?
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, yeah. Incredible book. And he was
Rick Archer: that really powerful. Guru or teacher who lived in Bombay, wasn’t it? And it made and sold cigarettes for a living and had a profound influence on a lot of people. Was that your first foray into spirituality? Or had you been doing various things before that?
Stewart Cubley: Well, that was not my first foray. I think, well, first of all, just to say in the in and around in the 80s 19, or late 70s. His book, I um, that was not published yet in this country. And so you couldn’t really get it. So it was it was being passed from from friend to friend as a xerox copy. And I remember when, when when you got that book, The Xerox copy of IBM that it was like, Oh, my God, this has never been said before. This is just incredible. And so had a huge impact. And and it was kind of an underground movement for a while before it was actually published. But no, my I pretty early on. I was attracted to the spiritual path, I would say probably having to do with wilderness first. I grew up in Northern New York State and And we had a, my family had a cabin in the Adirondacks. So I, I found myself gravitating gravitating towards being alone in the wilderness quite early on, it was very soothing. For me, there was something I found spending time in the high country of the Adirondacks. So it was very important for me. And then later, the West Colorado and so on. And then it was, I got drafted during the Vietnam War. And I had just finished a master’s degree actually at Brown University and engineering of all things. And, and got drafted and I refused induction. The first person I think, to refuse induction in Providence, Rhode Island, they had no idea what to do with me. So they finally just sent me home and said, well, you’ll hear from us. And I never did. Well, that’s great. I kind of fell through the cracks. But I got a lot of mileage out of that. I felt like kind of a rather a kind of a fugitive for a while. And it was like it was kind of an exotic image to have. So. So I was I wanted to Colorado and skied for a while and then took a summer trip to Alaska with some friends. And there was something about the quality of the wilderness in Alaska. That was incredible. I just found myself very attracted there. And so I ended up my friends left at the end of the summer, and I stayed and got the only job that I could really get, which was, again, as a graduate student in our program, geophysics, actually, at the University of Alaska, in Fairbanks. And it was at that time that I, I got a little piece of property outside of town, I built myself a cabin. Without really knowing how to do it, I just sort of did it and, and spent four years there and very, very quickly realized I didn’t want to be a graduate student anymore. And it made a rather strong decision to leave school and to leave my training when I was trying to do and went on to, to just went out into the wilderness and spent four years basically by myself in that cabin. A lot of alone time.
Rick Archer: The cabin, you still go back to today?
Stewart Cubley: No, actually, it’s a different cabin. But But anyway, that when you talk about kind of the roots of my spiritual interest, I would say something I felt very drawn to the, the sort of the solitude and the the sanctity of untouched wilderness. And so that was a very big turning point for me, I, I spent a lot of time alone there. And this, I kind of felt like I would become that was going to be the rest of my life I was going to spend the rest of my life has kind of a weird Alaskan hermit. Living alone in the wilderness are getting very eccentric, and I was pretty saddled with that. But things happened here for me.
Rick Archer: Were you getting eccentric? I mean, not having a lot of human interaction. Were you getting kind of a little caught up in obsessiveness, or other idiosyncratic idiosyncrasies?
Stewart Cubley: Well, I talked to myself a lot since I was the only person around and, and I was I had discovered yoga, and I had found out the only book at that time was light on yoga by it. And so a friend of mine, and I sort of dove into that, and another cabin dweller not too far away. And I got, if I got obsessed, I probably got obsessed about yoga. I was doing like six hours a day of hatha yoga and meditation and pranayama. And it was obsessive, because in a sense, I, I felt like I couldn’t really live with I couldn’t live without it.
Rick Archer: Were you finding that all that solitude and yoga enabled your mind to really settle down and become very quiet?
Stewart Cubley: Well, it was a powerful time wreck because, you know, I essentially needed to get off the merry go round. I felt like as a young man, you know, your life is about okay, who are you going to be? What is your career going to be? Are you going to get married? Are you going to have children? what’s expected of you? What is your what are your parents want? What are your teacher expects of you? And I had been I just felt like I had been on that treadmill. And I had been on that train, so to speak. And so to step off it and say, Okay, I’m not going to do any of that. I don’t know who I’m going to be I don’t know who I am. But I’m not going to do that. And to go sit in a cabin, and in the far north of Alaska over the winters get very dark and very cold. And, and nobody Of course my parents and a lot of my friends couldn’t really understand what I was doing. And and thought I’d gone off the deep end, right? Which David White says exactly where he should be is off the deep end. But it was very, very transformative for me. And I realized that when I, when I walked out of there four years later, I was a different person. Yeah, I can imagine. And I realized I had come, I had established my priorities. And I knew basically what was important to me, although I hadn’t, I had no idea what I would do.
Rick Archer: Like to hit the monastery trip without actually going into a monastery,
Stewart Cubley: I suppose. Yeah, I suppose I, I, you know, sometimes I say that the force that drew me into the cabin, which is a very powerful force, something, something called to me to go into that degree of solitude, and to cut off in the world, that four years later, that same force pushed me out. Yeah. And I felt, you know, I can’t it was too small. It was this vision of my life living in that little cabin, which I had lived with, I thought that’s what I would do. The became way too small for me. And it was very frightening, because I didn’t know what what was beyond the walls there. When I when I left my property. Finally, with my pack on my back and walking down the trail, it was like this momentous event, like, who am I? Where am I going? I have no idea. And I thought, at the time, it was probably just a trip, I would just come back and continue to live there. But it was the beginning of something quite different. And
Rick Archer: the themes of the theme of force something, some force guiding us to do something and then to do something else. That’s very fascinating, isn’t it?
Stewart Cubley: That is fascinating. I
Rick Archer: mean, you know, some people ignore that. But some people, the force is so compelling that you can’t ignore it. And there does seem to be some, in some intelligence, or intelligence is that would like to orchestrate our life for a higher purpose if we’re cooperative?
Stewart Cubley: Yes, that’s a good way of putting it. Yeah. And I like you saying that, because that’s really the core of the work that I do with the painting. Okay, which we’ll get to yes. But I would like to say just before I left the cabin, I think I had a vision. And I think maybe I was meditating. I can’t remember exactly. But I had a very strong waking vision of myself, in a room with many people, in many colors. And there was this incredible energy, there was this quality of creativity and laughter and relaxation. And, and, and I had no frame of reference, what to do without I just said, what is that? And at that point, you really didn’t have any art experience. I had no art experience whatsoever. Interesting. And in fact, I was a little prejudiced against artists. Because I’ve been an engineer, right? Yeah. And so I remember going into the student union building at the university and seeing these kinds of lazy, good for nothings hanging around drinking coffee and acting rather self important and, and that was my view of the artists. Right. Right. So surround
Rick Archer: is primarily an art school. Isn’t that well, liberal artists anyway, and
Stewart Cubley: it’s more liberal arts. Yeah, yeah. So anyway, I was a little bit of a leap for me, but it didn’t happen immediately. I actually, one of the few things that I could read during that time, because I found that books actually were a distraction, even spiritual books. during those four years that I lived there. I found that they kind of carried me out of myself when I really needed to be in touch with my own experience. And so they seem to be always kind of prescribing getting better in some fashion and I wasn’t into getting better I was into being myself, right. So but there was one author, there was one teacher I could read during that time and that was Krishna Murthy. And I found I found myself resonating with his message because it was essentially saying, Think for yourself, don’t create an authority outside of yourself that you have to follow. Go your own way. And, and so I was doing it and it appealed to me. So when I came out I thought you know Krishna Murthy is getting older I’d I’d love to see him before he dies. So I put I had my backpack and my tent my sleeping bag. I ended up first came to California for a while, but then flew to Switzerland. And Krishna Murthy would give these talks and sign in Switzerland in the summertime, in a little little village and in the in the mountains there and people would come and rent chalets and stay in the area and then go three times a week to hear Krishna Murthy. Very international crowd. A lot of people, a lot of Europeans, a lot of people from Asia. Very interesting group of people. So, I went there, and, and spent some a few months, you know, in, in sun and, and it was there that I met a woman who later became my wife, a French, French woman, Michelle, and she was an artist. And so that’s that was that was my connection, eventually, two years later, we got together and started our life together, which was something that was unplanned and, and I, I got a sense of what art could be there, I got a, I got a glimpse, I recognize something about it, even though it was very foreign to me, it was never part of my own direction or self image, I saw the potential in approaching painting, especially in this way, which was undirected, not about producing results, what was really the the process itself. And I saw her doing it, and I knew that I wanted to support that, because, and I recognized that it was not yet available, that that we ended up moving to San Francisco area. And, and so this was kind of the the birthplace of the human potential movement, it was just late 70s, early 80s, it was just, you know, coming into existence. And, and really blooming, so to speak. And, and I said, you know, this isn’t happening, this is not recognized yet. So I realized, okay, I want to support this. And, but it’s not my thing. It’s her thing. And so, we had a little apartment off of history, and, and we started giving classes there, she started giving classes and I kind of organized it and, and weight was only a two room apartment. So when people came to class, I would have to pull our mattress out of the bedroom and put it in the living room, which was a mattress on the floor and make a little studio for people and then show up myself as an extra body just to make the class look bigger. Right. And so it was quite, you know, I did it without I kind of backed into it. I was doing the Feldenkrais training at the time I was I was filled and Christ was giving his first training in the United States at Lone Mountain College in started in 76, I think. And so I been very much into yoga, had written an article for the Yoga Journal unfolding Christ in yoga, and, and that he kind of he liked that and so allowed me to start in the second year of the training. And I was convinced that I would become a Feldenkrais practitioner, and we’ll be pursuing that. But But over the years, as the painting process began to create a network in San Francisco, and it was very grassroots people would do it, they would tell their friends about it. There was long a strong connection with both the spiritual communities as well as the therapeutic communities. And, and they gained recognition as being a valid tool for self exploration. And it just became much more interesting to me than you know, then doing bodywork.
Rick Archer: Continue, I’m just letting the dog out. Okay.
Stewart Cubley: And so, anyway, I started teaching children, I there was an after school program at the french french American bilingual school in San Francisco, where I sort of cut my teeth on, on beginning to work with this process. And children were perfect because I was I was rather shy, I, I was afraid of the children to begin with, you know, I thought they could see right through me and that I would, you know, they would run all over me and they did. But, you know, gradually I began, I learned how to work with kids and to gain my own confidence and then started working with adults. So, it was during that time that that we, we actually went to hear Nisargadatta that was when his book became available. And and I must tell you, I was a little skeptical at first, because I was steeped in Krishna Murty, and so Krishna Reddy was kind of anti guru. And so, you know, to have this guru show up, even though he’s, you know, his writing the book was incredible. I wasn’t quite sure. You know, I was a little skeptical of it, and I kind of carried that skepticism with me. And so, I think my intention was just to observe, you know, to kind of, to kind of go into the, into His presence in his, his little apartment, his little second storey hovel, right and on Catherine Rati lane and in Bombay, and I thought I would kind of have right there. So I remember the very first day we went and, and Michelle and I were together. And we, we got into the downstairs and then there was this ladder, and we climb up through this hole in the ceiling. And then there was this sort of Satsang happening up there and nothing, not very big, not a lot of people, maybe 20 people or 25 At most, and very dark and very thick with incense and, and cigarette smoke, and cigarette smoke, right. He was a chain smoker, and he was just smoking up, you know, the whole time and and there was two translators, Ramesh was one of the translators. And then the other one, I’m trying to remember his name. But I thought, Okay, I’m gonna go and sit in the back, I’m just going to observe. So I popped my head up through the hole in the floor. He takes one look at me, and he said, You here. And he directed everybody he was so in control of that room, he would tell people where to sit. He would tell people when to leave, like, okay, you’ve you’ve heard enough. You’d go.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I got that sense from, from David Godman that he really liked to orchestrate the show. And, and that new people, he really liked to give him his full attention when they showed up. And you know, yeah, see where they were at?
Stewart Cubley: Well, that was it. So he said, Okay, you here, right in front of me. And so that was the last thing I wanted, right? I was ready to hide. And he, he say, puts me on the hot seat. And he said, first thing, he said, Do you know who you are? And I had read, you know, I had read him. And I felt I had an intellectual understanding of it. And so I think my answer at the time was, well, you know, I understand you, intellectually, but I don’t understand you experientially. And then that was translated through the translator. And, and I remember he said, he was adamant. And he said, No, not to only one. Like, like, it was impossible. You don’t if you understood it intellectually, you understood it, there was not two.
Rick Archer: And if you don’t understand it experientially, then you really don’t understand it intellectually
Stewart Cubley: exact works both ways. That’s what he was saying. Yeah. So that was very powerful. And, and we went back, for gosh, there was a good period of six weeks or so there that we were going every, every day, we took a break, and went to go off for a while in Madras, but just day after day, sitting in that in that environment, and I think in retrospect, the thing that that I, that was the most impactful was sitting in the presence of someone who had absolute certainty of his identity with the absolute. That that’s who he was. And that’s how he saw us that we were to, and, and how he could see through every illusion he when he, when he would hold forth, the people who understood his mother tongue, which is what Marathi I guess, we’re always in stitches. They were just laughing up a storm, he was so funny. He was he had a way of putting, creating puns with words on the most serious topics that was just captivating people. And so once it was translated, it was still very powerful, but it didn’t have as much humor, because it just couldn’t carry that the humor, but to be in the, in the presence of somebody over and over again, to see this absolute certainty. And to see someone who was living it in that full fashion, it was quite, quite amazing.
Rick Archer: What was the practical implication of that? Did it was it contagious? I mean, did did you become more and more certain, the more you sat there?
Stewart Cubley: So this gets into another topic. Right? And let me see how I might approach this. See, I want to I want to back up a little bit and say, I’m going to come back to this. So if I could get questions that are sure. I want to I want to say a little bit about the work that I do because the painting process is a way to explore a lot of the questions that we hold in common here. I think it’s there’s a way to explore the nature of the dual mind. I’m going to come back to this question because I need to kind of preface it here a little bit. The painting process is a way to explore. For me the deepest questions that have to do with With non duality and with the nature of itself, and through being, and it’s not recognized, it’s, you know, art is generally thought out. Art is generally thought of as a certain. And on some level, some are not so subtle about the product. Yes, about what what you’re getting out of it, okay. So when you really take it out of that realm, and you really make it about the experience of creating art, you are engaging the what you call what you referenced earlier about this force, for example, this creative force that that drew me into the wilderness, and then that pushed me out at a certain point, there’s an intelligence in this creative force, that is not about your own plans. And not about your schemes, and not about your preferences, and not about even your narrative of what’s going on. It’s something quite, quite vital and quite alive, and, and much bigger than that, they named any of those things. And so this is really what is possible to contact through painting because it bypasses words. And it bypasses, they get rid of something on my screen here, it bypasses the verbal, it’s working with color it’s working with form is working with image. And so it goes great, deep into the human psyche, in a in a tense to, to, to penetrate quite quickly because it’s not. It’s not activating the verb, the verbal ego, so to speak.
Rick Archer: And the way you approach it, you’re not living for the fruits of action to paraphrase the Gita is that first you have control over action alone, never over it’s fruits that not for the fruits of action, nor attach yourself to inaction. So it’s just a process which you engage in. And, you know, obviously, you’re trying to produce a painting, but the you’re not kind of attached to the outcome.
Stewart Cubley: Well, yes, and that’s pretty, that’s easy to say. And it’s hard to do. Yeah, right. Now, we in a way, I do say that we’re not producing a painting paintings, or they’re, they’re, they show up right Oh, from cursor result, but your intention is not to produce a particular kind of painting. But the reason I’m bringing this in, is, it’s really important to create, for me in this work to create the right environment in which to explore. And if there is any hint of preference, on the part of the facilitators, if there’s any hint of a goal to reach, if there’s any hint of me, or any authority that’s involved with the presentation of them being somehow advanced, or anybody else in the group, for example, people show up who have absolutely no art experience, they haven’t touched a brush since kindergarten. And then we have people who are professional artists that show up and have real training. Right, and they’re
Rick Archer: in the same group, sometimes they’re old, they’re absolutely in
Stewart Cubley: the same group, because and it’s really important to have them in the same group, because, of course, the people who have no training have to have to be willing to face the fear of, of not having skill and not having talent. And the people who have the training and experience have to be willing to face had to have to be willing to let go of the safety of what they know.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And I guess you can get away with this in visual art better than you could use it, for instance. I mean, if you had your hoodie menu in and myself, you know, both in a room with violins, I can tell you who did what, who you want to listen to? Well,
Stewart Cubley: you know, actually there are there are people who work in this way with music gave the Darling for example. And you know, he does a very wonderful job with it. But I think art does lend itself to this because, you know, there’s no authority in art, right? It’s not about you know, because you can say certain music is pleasing to the air and certain isn’t. But with art, it’s so subjective, right? I mean, look at look at what can be sold, look what you can sell for for a half a million dollars.
Rick Archer: Yes. Lots of stuff that I wouldn’t pay $10 for sometimes, exactly.
Stewart Cubley: It’s totally subjective. So, on the other hand,
Rick Archer: you know, if I had a choice between having possessing regardless of its monetary value, if I had a choice between possessing a Monet and possessing something, you know, that I could do, I think I would prefer having them on a on the wall, just to sort of throw out the typical doubt that people must have.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, that’s one of the belts. That’s one of the typical doubts in the fact is, Rick, that you can, you could connect with the painting process in such a way that you would you would feel deeply resonant with some painting that you painted, and would maybe prefer to have that on the wall than a Monet, if you weren’t looking at monetary value. Sure. I mean, for sure. But the point, my point here is, and bringing this up at this point at this time is, is there cannot be any hint of authority for this to work, nobody can be, if it’s if it’s about product in any fashion, then it creates the striving for achievement, it creates a kind of measuring in which you either measure up or you don’t measure up, it creates, it creates a kind of inward becoming, so that you feel it’s about trying to improve trying to get better. And then of course, it’s about the inner critic, which shows up big time in this work. And, and so it has to be a really clean environment, it has to be so clean that, that that it’s that the person who enters it feels okay, I can afford to really let my hair down here I can afford to explore, I can afford to do things that might I might think are ugly, that might look like they make a mass. That would be embarrassing for other people, you know, for me to be identified with. Or perhaps they’re dark, perhaps they have to go into some dark places. So there has to be a clarity to the environment in which a person feels safe to do that. And one of the actually one of the things that we ask people during our workshop is for no one to make a comment on anyone else’s work the whole the whole time we’re together. And that goes a long ways to creating the safety. Because if you realize that no one’s going to say anything about what you do. And you are not going to be required to come up with something polite to say to the to anybody else in the room about what they’re doing. And yet you’re in, you’re in the visual field of everyone. So you’re being stimulated by all this incredible imagery and color and form arising from the mystery. Because we don’t give an assignment. There’s no direction whatsoever. There’s no guided imagery, it’s really asking people to tune into their the spontaneous moment and let the painting emerge from there, which we can talk more about. But the fact that there’s no authority is really important. And so this carries over for me to that question you asked, which is I don’t build myself as having realized any kind of attainment. It’s not, it’s not helpful, it’s not right action for me. And my work it creates, it creates an environment in which the person is become special, and the other people have something to attain.
Rick Archer: And I sense that you’re saying that both with regard to art, and with regard to your spiritual path? Well, yeah, if the two couldn’t even be distinguished, but you, you know, you’re not the type of person who would say I have awakened or I have attained such and such or something, you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that?
Stewart Cubley: Well, look what happens when I do that, right. I think it’s interesting to make a little experiment. If I were to say to you look, I, I went and set for six weeks with Nisargadatta. And, you know, it was kind of a fun experience, but I came out of it not really knowing what happened. And, you know, not much seemed to happen. You know, I mean, it didn’t really take hold, and, you know, he’s cool guy. But, so, so, you know, take that in, just notice how that feels, to you. And notice, that that creates, that creates a kind of relationship. Actually, if you if you look a little deeper, creates a relationship between you and me, that yourself in relationship to me, knowing that if I if I say that about myself, that creates, that creates something in the listener, maybe it’s disappointment, maybe it’s, I don’t know what it is, but it creates something. Now, if I were to say the other side, if I take the other extreme and say, look, it didn’t happen immediately, but there was a time in my life when I was challenged very deeply and and had to let go emotionally of something that I was very, very identified with. And at that time, in a moment of real intensity Nisargadatta his message became absolutely clear to me and I saw the nature of, of the one presence. I saw I saw the incredible sanctity and beauty and freedom Enjoy the fact that that there was one presence and I was that. Okay, I could say that to you as an as another hypothetical. And that creates a very different in the listener, you see that creates a very different relationship to me. And I find that that relationship is not helpful.
Rick Archer: It’s funny, because I kind of prefer the second statement in a way. I’m sure you do. But I consider both legitimate. And, you know, whichever one you were to say to me, I would think, okay, that’s fine. And again, I talked to people all the time who have had some sort of spiritual awakening, it’s sort of so it doesn’t seem that extraordinary or special to me. Although I think it’s great. But, you know, I mean, I, myself can say, well, I spent a fair amount of time with this teacher, that teacher, and it really, it rubbed off, you know, I mean, there was definitely some profound influence that I carry with me, you know, constantly. And that doesn’t make me special. But it also kind of gives credence to the value of spending time with such a person, it’s, I mean, the way you in your first statement, it almost sounded like, well, I could have done that, or I could have just hung out on the beach in Goa for six weeks, it wouldn’t have made much difference one way or the other. But, you know, I held that, you know, Association and all the sort of traditional teachings hold that association with such persons definitely has an influence, and it’s to be to be done if the opportunity arises.
Stewart Cubley: Well, you know, and I, that’s why I’m bringing it up, right, because it’s, in my experience, it creates something that is not of service, and I understand what you’re saying, and I and I think I’m not saying this is true, globally, or for everyone, but I know in my own work and my own experience, and that, that to to highlight a particular experience, and make it important is very much like highlighting a particular painting and making an important and in doing so it ties up. It binds the freedom, it creates a model, it creates a relationship to it, it creates a narrative and an image around that narrative that then becomes something that someone quest after. And, and the fact is, for me, and my experience with with painting, and also in spiritual work, that those moments happen. And I’m not in any way saying those aren’t real, that for me, that’s those are the most those the potential that exists. For human record for recognition of self is, is is totally beyond words. I mean, it’s it’s not just another narrative. It’s something beyond imagining. But the, the the opportunity for those sort of openings to happen, come through being willing to inhabit your experience as you are. It’s not through having an image, either have someone who has attained or some at some level of attainment or some abstract, but it’s actually going your own way fully, completely inhabiting your own experience. And, and so those spiritual practices that move in that direction feel, how should I say more effective to me, in other words, mindfulness practice, by the way, that’s, that’s one, it’s about inhabiting your own experience. And it’s not an easy practice, because we have a lot of, you know, we have a lot of preferences about the way we would like to be in the way we’d like to be seen. And the way we’d like to show up and actually have to get out of that. Get out of your own way. And to allow what’s actually there, to manifest and then in painting, to express it, to find a form for it. This is the power for me and in process arts, and in process painting in particular is that you can bypass you can bypass the ego by by accessing the imagination, and excuse me, by accessing the imagination in the heart. So there’s, I would say there’s two but let me just describe a class to you a little bit. So people walk in you I do a lot of weekends. I do five days I do longer. Let’s say we do a weekend workshop people come on Friday evening. The studios all built so people walk into a kind of an interesting environment in there’s always painting spaces set up. There’s light everyone has their own light There, there are central painting tables. And it’s exciting environments to walk into. And and we sit down and I do a little introduction in the beginning. And I say some of these things that I mentioned to you earlier, I said, I said, I create a safe environment, there’s going to be no comparison with no critiquing of what you do. There’s no measuring in any way, we’re not going to have a show and tell, you’re not going to make comments and anybody else’s work. And there’s no comparison or competitiveness at all. So that sinks in starts to sink in a little bit. But then we get started, and there’s no direction given. And so you have to begin painting without knowing what you’re doing. And, and this is a, this is one of the more most powerful, you might say, kind of foundational pieces of the work is not knowing, being willing to not know. And to act, and you’re not knowing it’s one thing to not know, it’s another thing to keep acting when you don’t know. And you know, so here you don’t know, you’ve got this blank piece of paper in front of you, you have to take a brush and get a color and go over and something has to happen. And it happens and and I encourage people not to wait for something to happen actually dare to act. And so immediately, it brings up Am I authentic? Is this something I’m just doing? Because I don’t know what to do? Is it really what level is it coming from? Is it my thinking? Or is it my intuition, all these questions arise, and a person’s swimming in this kind of confusion, you might say or not knowing. And I find that incredibly valuable in the beginning to kind of create that, that sense of being lost. And everybody’s equal in that whether you are an artist or a therapist, a meditator doesn’t matter, you, you’re having to develop a relationship with your own lostness you’re on being willing to be lost. And, and then slowly as the workshop unfolds, you realize that there you know, there are certain things that get in the way. So for example, with you, if you try to make a pretty painting, in your relation, I want to I want to impress people around here, I really want to, you know, I have, I have a lot of skill, and I’m going to impress people, you’ll notice that very quickly, the feedback from the process speaks to you and you find yourself getting really bound up and really stuck. And really tired often and de energized and, and maybe kind of paralyzed kind of frozen. Or another example of that is if you find yourself creating too, too narrow a narrative around your painting, and you start telling a story around, oh, I’d say I’m working with my I’m working with the Shakti energy. And therefore, because of this, the Shakti energy, I’m going to put this over here, because that’ll that’ll open up the energy here and know here am I Here am I different energy centers, and you start knowing too much about what you’re doing. As soon as you do that, you start to shut down the energy again. And so there’s a kind of feedback that comes from this activity of painting, where your own presence is your is your is your guide. In other words, when you start to when you start to come from ego, and you start to come from divided mind, in other words, me here trying to achieve that, you get really tired, you get bummed out and you get you get cut off, you find yourself getting isolated in and then your imaginations stops talking to you the very impetus, the pain disappears. And so these are the moments that the facilitator myself or some people I work with, will engage a person and and in through questions, not certainly not telling anybody what to do, but through questions, bring them back to the source, letting go of their their attempts to grasp and control and to manipulate the experience. And so there’s this built in feedback mechanism from the from the work and and once a person starts tapping into that there’s something else that takes over. And, and there’s you know, I recognize this very early on, and I didn’t It’s It’s been many, it’s taken me many years actually to kind of see it more clearly and to be able to place it in the right context. But I think I think by sub very early on that there was something sacred happening here. That that by sort of giving over to this creative force, that a person was coming home to themselves that they were coming back, you might say to now Draw mind there was no division, there was no painter doing a painting there was just a painting being created. And, and I see that now in this broader context of course of non duality of presence and, and really the implications of the learning potential in this work. Because when when the personality shows up, for example, and the inner critic as part of that, and starts disliking a particular part of the painting or you know, or creating a product wanting to create a product, as soon as that happens, it, it creates the duality, right. Like Krishna Murthy used to say, the action creates the actor me the motivation, motivated action, the action within motivation creates the actor, the the the the product creates the producer. The judgment creates the judge that there’s a, there’s a there’s a mechanism that happens if they happen together. The person who the little person, a little self who wants to control the painting and manipulate it and have it come out his or her way, shows up as part of that duality that happens when there’s a projection about where to go or where not to go.
Rick Archer: So essentially, you’re saying you want people to learn to get out of their own way? You know, I mean, well,
Stewart Cubley: and what does it mean to do that exponentially? Because we know that right? Yeah, we can say we can say okay, it’s great to get out of your own way. But I think what is I think the a tool for doing that is you have to you have to taste strongly what it’s like to get to be in your own way. And then stand in it. So for example, I don’t know if you listen to that tape I made, but I did. Yeah. So for example, somebody gets really into judging their painting big time, right? Well, I’ll often say to people look this judgment that you’re experiencing, is it just happened in front of your painting? Or is it something you know, in your life, too, and it’s kind of a loaded question. But of course, people know that in their life, it’s not just isolated incidents in the painting. So someone really, really is not liking their painting, or maybe a particular part of their painting. In my experience, there, there’s there is the key. And our tendency is to want to fix it. Our tendency is wanting to get rid of it. And of course, there’s the analogy in our life, how we do this in so many ways, but in a painting, the person would like to take a brush and exit out or, or covered up and redo it, or, or really, you know, fix it. So it looks better. And I’ll say no, no, do you dare to make it worse? And it’s, it’s quite amazing. Rick, the if this was done skillfully, in the right moment. Usually, the right moment being when a person has kind of reached the end of the rope, and they can’t they realize they can’t do anything, they can’t make it better. It’s like, could you go with it, instead of going against it, look what you’re doing, you’re going against your feeling, your feeling is rather aggressive at this moment, your feeling as you don’t like it, your feeling is just kind of ugly, what would it mean to go with it rather than against it?
Rick Archer: So I hear you, I hear you saying something here that people can be. So the bitchu ated, to certain ways of functioning judgmentalism and, you know, straining and manipulating and this and that, that they are unaware that they even do it. And somehow the the introspective, more silent nature of this process you put people through brings those tendencies into, into sharp focus or contrast. And so this stuff starts coming up that you had been kind of, you’re sort of situated to that you were unaware of, and then you can learn to relax into a more natural way of functioning, which is non judgmental, and so on.
Stewart Cubley: Well, yes, that’s, that’s a good way of putting it and those things that come up are the building blocks of duality. Yeah, that’s what creates duality. So in other words, it’s one thing to have kind of a concept of non duality and how am I get there someday, but it’s another thing to see the actual way in which you’re creating duality. Yeah, that’s the way through right I mean, that creates the potential. And so to see for example, that oh, here I am creating this duality, and by being willing to stay A Portrait. It’s quite amazing. Sometimes chaos is another one, you know, we have a prejudice against so called Chaos, like, the painting doesn’t fit together. There’s this over here, and there’s this over here and there’s too much in it and nothing makes any sense. And it’s just a, it’s just a jumble. This is fragmented. And when somebody tells me that, I read that. Now after, after many years of doing this, I read that as a call from the unconscious of that person for more chaos. And when I asked them, if the moment is right, and I say, could you make it work? Hey, hi. There is something lights up. It’s amazing. It’s like, oh, yeah, no problem, I can make that chaotic. That would be easy to do. Well, I’ll see. Try it. And, and then the brush knows how to make it chaotic. At that point, the body is already going there. It would love to make it more chaotic. And so there’s something about daring to follow the energy, rather than the preference. The energy was, was calling it was like reveling in it. But the the the judgment was so strong, we were trying to get away from it. So what happens is, when you go towards the knee to start making it more chaotic, things change. First of all, that split internally, is healed. There’s only one thing happening, which is this movement that we called chaos. And then the next thing that happens is the word disappears. While it doesn’t even feel chaotic anymore, it feels well, there’s a wholeness, I feel here myself doing this, maybe the painting kind of looks the same, but I’m feeling whole. Now that I’ve engaged the chaos. And then something happens often, and you find out my God, this painting. This is profound, this, I feel really in love with this painting. I feel so connected to this painting that that I was rejecting as chaos. It’s expressing something I can’t put words in, but I feel like it’s opened the door to a bigger dimension. And, and and then usually, that little person who was so frightened and so manipulative, and so you know, caught up in the narrative is gone. And there’s a whole new dimension, the next painting starts in a very different way. So that’s an example of for me of inhabiting your experience, as limiting as it might see, might seem, the very willingness to stand in your own limitation allows that magic to happen.
Rick Archer: Nice. So a little while back, I asked you whether being in the socket, doctor’s presence with his, you know, certitude that you talked about, you know, his kind of absolute confidence in know, in his in knowing who he was, had sort of rubbed off whether there was an influence on you, or whether you know what it was about being with him for those six weeks or so that you find memorable. And you said, well by to explain that. Let me tell you how I do the whole art thing. So just tie that together for us. How would you how would you explain what your thought process reflects back on your experience with Nisargadatta?
Stewart Cubley: Well, you see why I can’t answer that question. Rick, do you see why I can’t answer that question on that level? Because given what I just mentioned about the magic that can happen. In other words, my my sense of the potential for transformation comes about through a person having the courage to fully inhabit their own individual experience, no matter how eccentric it may seem, no matter how much they might judge it, no matter how much it doesn’t compare to the spiritual teachings even. Right. And I would, I would say that, that when that environment is created, people come alive. When there’s absolutely no authority, there’s no projected attainment. There’s not some carrot held out in front of people and but a place to get to. That is not about getting better in any sense, but it’s about being who you are. It’s about authenticity. I don’t know if you know MC Richards, she wrote a book in the Seva in the 60s called centering. Remember that it was on it was she was a potter at the time and she later became a painter and, and a teacher. She makes she has this quote that authenticity is spiritual presence. which I love because I feel like that they’re authentic. to cities about being yourself, where you are, if you have any kind of measuring stick, about what level of attainment you might be on, or somebody else’s on, you see, if you have, if the teacher holds himself up to have a certain level of attainment what that creates in the student in the in the participant in the event is really destructive for me, it just shuts the door. Because that person can’t and can’t fully be him or herself. If there’s any sense of if there’s any sense of someplace to get to, whether it’s in the painting, or whether it’s an internal state, it’s the same. And so I just find, I can’t, I can’t go there, I don’t want to create that. For people, it would really be a disservice. In my own work,
Rick Archer: I hear what you’re saying. But I’m just not and I understand how it works in your process of working with students using art as a spiritual practice. But I’m just not convinced that it sort of has total universal application. Because I, you know, I’m willing to kind of discuss the point, of course, but I sort of do see levels of attainment in many fields, including spirituality. I mean, obviously, in music, there are levels of attainment, you know, that we have great artists that we look up to as having excelled and as musicians, even in education, their levels of attainment, you go to college, to sit with people who really understand physics or engineering or something in order to learn those things. And when you first go in, you don’t really know much, and then you can kind of gradually get to the point where you yourself could be a professor someday, maybe. And in spirituality, I mean, there’s a sort of a tendency to almost the phrase that comes to mind is dumbing down, where people, they gain an intuitive familiarity with what people like Nisargadatta or Ramana, Maharshi were setting and they think I’ve got it, that’s it, I’m now at the same level of attainment they were and prison, I think they’re really selling themselves short and deluding themselves, if they if they jumped to that conclusion, because there could be years lifetimes of deepening and unfolding before they actually achieve that same level of attainment. You know what I mean? And feel free to completely disagree with me, if you do?
Stewart Cubley: Well, well reflect this is, I just want to say, I really appreciate your openness here. Because I don’t want to make this as kind of a global statement. Because look, you have you have pursued this interest of interviewing people who have had spiritual experiences. And and it’s, it’s really important. I mean, I think it’s, it’s quite interesting. And so I’m not trying to throw everything out. But I guess I feel spirituality is different than other things. There isn’t, there’s levels of attainment, for sure, you know, you can people are better at certain things than other things. But when you come down to the nature of self there is no difference there. Gotcha. Totally. There’s no difference. And so to give people the idea that there’s something to attain on that level, or to or to reach, I think the people that you mentioned, who are taking things in a superficial way, who are identified with, you know, you know, okay, now I’m, I’m got it. Obviously, they don’t, I mean, in fact, Krishna verde used to say, and anybody who says he’s enlightened obviously isn’t. And so I think those people who have done that have gotten caught in creating the image of what it is to be have attained, and then they’re identifying with the image. And that’s exactly what I’m saying. That creating the image of attainment creating the image of attainment sets up duality.
Rick Archer: The tricky thing with spirituality is that what we are quote unquote, attaining is something that we already have, and that we already are. And so it’s a little different in a way than studying physics because you don’t necessarily necessarily already have an understanding of quantum mechanics, that that’s something that you could attain after years of study. Whereas with this, you know, spirituality we’re talking about I’m still use indoor tanning. But with quotes around it, we’re talking about attaining an experience of the Self. And how can you ever not be that or have been that. But we’re where the practicality comes in, is that just understanding that that’s what I am, and actually living that 24/7 with the kind of clarity and certitude that Nisargadatta had, for instance, using him as an example, can be two very different things.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, so, you know, if it’s true, Rick, that, and I believe it is true, that there’s nothing to attain that in other words, it’s, it’s, it’s already present. Right? We just don’t we don’t recognize that well, how do you go about recognizing it, then how do you go about realizing it? For me, setting up a goal pulls the person away from your own experience. And I know that in spiritual traditions, there is this, you know, there is this practice, there is this idea that, okay, if you’ve set up the goal, you have to exhaust yourself going after the goal before you can, before you can be broken up. In other words, you have to, you have to realize the impossibility of achieving on your, on your, on your own energy, it’s not something you can do, you can’t make it happen. And I think there’s validity to that, I think, you know, you there’s something about setting up that duality and, and increasing it, you know, there was turning up the fire underneath that duality, to such a degree that something has to be something has to break open. And I think that that’s an that’s a valid path, I have chosen to do it differently. Which is not to set up the duality in the first place. So it’s, it’s more gentle, I would say. And I would say it probably appeals to, to a different kind of demographic as well, there’s something about the the non achievement aspect of it, that I think for certain personalities really appeals and really works. And there’s a way of gently entering your own experience. And learning to integrate it learning to accept it more and more without, without judgment, without without coercion, you know, that we are of such, we have such an attitude of coercion around around what it means to be spiritual, and what we should, what it should look like, and, and then all of the ways in which we are, you know, letting ourselves down and disappointing ourselves for not being spiritual enough. That kind of model is something I just I don’t support, I feel like that the courage to enter your own experience without judgment. And being in the environment where you’re encouraged to do that, and then having a powerful tool in which to engage it. And to and to get a kind of feedback from, from from a process, which is much more intelligent than any teacher, actually.
Rick Archer: Well, you know, I totally agree with you. And this, despite everything I just said, which I don’t, I’m not what’s the word retracting. But in fact, what you’re saying, and the whole process of, you’re working with art, as I understand it, is very reminiscent of the spiritual practice I’ve always done, which is, you know, when I first learned to meditate, one of the instructions was you can think of thought you can meditate. And any kind of manipulation or judgment or effort, even to the slightest degree, was not to be part of the process, or else you’d be, you would just be throwing a monkey wrench in the works, the more natural and effortless and spontaneous you li went about it, the more effective it would be. And there and that’s quite different than some types of spiritual practice which you might be alluding to, or even some types of approaching art perhaps in which there’s this injection of individual effort at the at the outset. So that you’re sort of trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps rather than surrendering to something deeper and just letting that guide the process.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, yeah. That makes sense to me. So so I just to say a little bit about where this leads. When there is not a atmosphere, when it when there is no goal to reach in a group. There is not getting better at there’s not becoming more proficient there is not getting deeper, then there’s no comparison and that I would say is one of the striking things that happens in the painting process is that when you’re in it, when you’re in a community in which there’s absolutely no comparison, and there’s no competitiveness, something then is allowed to happen. Something comes, something is born in that, that is really quite extraordinary. And you get a feeling like everyone is rooting for everybody else. And so when somebody has a breakthrough, which happen, right, in other words, usually, if there’s a kind of, there’s a kind of cycle to this work, there’s a kind of, it’s kind of a wave action, where a person will go through kind of a difficult time, there’s, there’s the, one of the biggest things to learn in this work is how to how to work with difficulty. And so you know, what I said earlier about painting, becoming ugly, and not liking it, and then finding a way to move towards it or chaos and finding a way to move towards it, and actually expressing that is a way of learning to work with difficulty. And part of the part of the teaching, part of the learning that occurs is to see that difficulty is actually a call from the other side. It’s not, it’s not just, it’s not just there to bother you, it’s actually a portal, it’s, it’s, it’s something that’s going to challenge you to let go of something that you may not even know what it is. And you might even go through the process, and let go without even knowing what it was, it can happen exponentially and energetically without knowing what it is. But there’s this kind of wave action. And so there’ll be a period of time in which it gets tighter, and it gets a little harder, you feel like you’re moving through molasses, things aren’t coming to you easily. Brush is not working so, so well. And, and I’ll often work with somebody at that point and say, Okay, where do you feel it in your body? Let’s, let’s really ground it, where do you feel it? Okay, I feel I feel this tension in my chest, I feel like I’m kind of in a vise or something, you know, or I feel this pressure on my, on my heart, or I feel my intestines, whatever. And I’ll say, Okay, let’s what color it’s it, you know, we’re not trying to we’re not trying to make a hotshot I said, we’re not we’re not trying to portray it, we’re gonna feel it. There’s a difference between portrayal and expression. And so when you, when you actually express it, you’re entering the feeling. So maybe you say, Okay, I feel like, I don’t know, it’s kind of dark, maybe it’s black, and maybe maybe it’s spiky, or something. And I’ll say, let’s see if the how the brush feels doing. And so you step towards it, you enter the difficulty, and you find a way to move in the painting with the difficulty. And this, this is where art has its magic, you see, there’s something about giving form to feeling. There’s something about actually, it’s one thing to know it and to be working with it internally, to actually take it and to have it show up on your paper in some form, and you and you, and then you’ll feel like it’s not enough. That tension, I started to paint it, but I feel it, I got it, it’s got to be more and you find you work with it, and you keep working until there’s something there’s some thirst that’s quench when you go to the end of a feeling. And then the door opens. That’s why I say it’s a portal. And so there’s a wave, this wave is completed itself, you’ve you’ve, you’ve stood in it, you’ve not run away from it, you’ve been able to envy to inhabit your own feeling. And with patience, and, and kind of integrity. And then the door opens. And you find yourself in this incredible space of freedom, things that are coming to you, you can’t do any wrong, everything is beautiful. You’re loving everybody around you, everyone’s doing great, you know, and you you find yourself in this much more loving and kind of expensive environment internally. And then of course, in that that wave lasts for a while, and then there’s an inward movement as well. And so there’s this kind of breathing that occurs. And in my experience of this is that every time you’d go through one of these contractions and stand in it and stand in your own experience and you’re not denying it you’re not trying to make it better. You have to cut there’s an ego death there. There’s something has to be let go of there’s a there’s a there’s an ego death and in that moment, the duality that you create is dissolves and you can just you got a taste of non duality. And what’s what’s really cool, Rick is that I have people come in You know, I don’t build the workshop as being a spiritual practice. So I get people come who have never heard of non duality. Right there, they’re there, it’s the furthest thing from them, they have a whole completely different environment in which they live. But if they experience it, and they touch it, and it doesn’t even need to be named, I wouldn’t really be helpful for me to try to put it in this context. And these words, because they wouldn’t really get it, it would be non dwelling, let’s that but they feel it. And I, and I think that’s what satisfying for me is to realize that, hey, they’re there. And that’s having some effect on them. And, you know, a lot of people come back after doing this work, and they say, you know, something happened for me, and I can’t put words on it. But I guess if I were to say what it was, it would be that I, I feel like I can trust myself. Like, I can trust my own experience. And I And that’s huge. When you think about it, that’s really, you know, that’s being that’s willing to trust, the movement, the creative force itself. So
Rick Archer: it’s really cool. The parallels are so striking to me. And just like that whole thing you just described about how a person might get stuck in this constriction, and maybe some sensation in the solar plexus or something. And then they use painting, as a way of working through that. It’s it has a cathartic influence. And you know, after a while it’s released, and then they feel this openness and his love and his appreciation. I mean, I’ve gone through that cycle, so many times in spiritual practice, and others other stuff, too. In fact, when I started reading your articles and things I, I began making a list of, of comparisons between this spiritual practice as you facilitate it with painting, and my own practice, and others, others practices. And now we can run through some of the items on that list. In no particular order, whether there was a thing you just mentioned, which is fascinating, you said it was like breathing. And there’s, there’s definitely a cycle and in my experience, where of kind of contraction and expansion and contraction and expansion. And, and each, each contraction is an awareness of something that needs to be purged, or were worked through. And then in the process of doing that expansion and says, you know, and then in the context of that expansion, it begins to stir up, or bringing attention to the next constriction, you know, exactly, which needs to be worked through, and then that gets worked through. And so there’s this kind of cycle that goes on and on and on. And in the process that one gradually gets stabilized in a kind of a more permanently expansive, free, non constricted state or condition.
Stewart Cubley: Well, yeah, and let’s just, let’s just bring into question, the whole idea of there being a permanent state. Okay. I know that’s a big one. But look, you see, one, here’s an example. It’s not unusual for someone to go through this, this wave that you just talked about, right? This there’s this contraction, and, and followed by an opening. And very often the contraction that has to do with something personal to it is personal very often. In other words, it’s not unusual for a person’s parents to show up. In the painting process, they, they’re painting along freely, they don’t want to have anything to do with their past or their parents, but their mother, my mother’s back, you know, so. So there may be a need, then to paint her. For some reason, we don’t quite know why. But there’s energy there, you got to follow the energy and the energy is really the key in the work. And you’ll notice the brush goes easily with it, that’s, that’s a key, that’s a kind of a indication that it’s energy. So the mother shows up, and then you don’t know what’s going to show up around her where she is, but then certain things happen. And you find yourself painting your mother’s heart, and then you find Oh, my gosh, there’s somebody behind her and then there’s something on the floor and, and there’s an intelligence behind the creative flow, it brings things to you for a reason. And so being willing to to give, give over to that and paint them even though you think they don’t belong, or they wouldn’t look good, or they’re going to be silly, or they’re going to be childish. There’s so many judgments. So giving birth to that, when you go to the end of it, and I would say that this is one of the one of the foundational parts of the work too, is Completion. Because we often want to abandon things before they’re complete. In other words, you get to a certain place it’s uncomfortable. Give me another piece of paper. Let me start a next painting I’m done with that. And so a lot, a large part of my work is saying, Wait, hold on, let’s, let’s get to a place, if you’re trying to get away from your painting, you’re not finished. If there’s any part of you, that’s that’s pulling to be done and wants out, obviously, something’s not finished. Let’s stand in there, you’re willing to stand in there and say, Okay, and so, and it can have many layers, the painting can go through iterations and lifetimes that you wouldn’t expect after you think you’re finished. But then at a certain point, there’s a real completion. And this is where that opening occurs that you’ve mentioned, right? Well, that expansion occurs. And it’s often characterized by what I call neither pushing or pulling, neither trying to get away from, nor being attached to. I suppose there’s Buddhist terms for that right? And revulsion. But there’s so it’s an inward state, really. And that’s how you read when a painting is finished is when you are in that place, inwardly, you’re not trying to, you’re not trying to get rid of it, and you’re not to attach to it to do something. And, and so something happens. And what I want to point out here is that it’s not unusual when having painted something very personal like this, like your mother, or some something from your life, that’s, that has been troublesome and challenging to you, and you paint it. And all of a sudden, the painting goes to a completely different level, and you realize it’s not personal, there’s a much bigger space that opens up and you see it, you see it more as archetypal, you see it as collective, you realize that, that this personal experience that you’re having is in a much broader field. And that that you see it, it liberates you in a way to see it. To see it beyond your own personal experience, you it there’s a compassion there that grows. And and I my experience of this process is that this deepens In other words, you it moves beyond the personal, it becomes something that’s much more collective, it becomes something that is much more universal. That’s why I question about this idea of permanent, because I think, I think that there’s certainly there’s changes in your relationship to the process where you can be living it fully and totally, and with great vitality, but that there are always new depths to penetrate.
Rick Archer: I completely agree so so by permanent, I don’t mean some kind of Terminus, you know, where you have arrived. And that’s it, I don’t think there is such a thing. As far as I can tell, there’s going to be never ending deepening and clarification and refinement and subtlety and whatnot. But, but by permanent, I mean more, I suppose I could use Ken Wilber example of states and stages to clarify it, where he talks about states as nice experiences we might have in meditation, or well doing art or while looking at a sunset or you know, something rather evoke some kind of nice state of mind or state of awareness or Satori, or something. And then stages as more and more integrated stabilized development, if you will, which doesn’t seem to fluctuate so much maybe that you move from stage to stage and there’s a deeper and deeper establishment in, in, in something. But it’s, and then within the within each stage, there can still be states where you’re experiencing this and that and they come and go, but there’s a kind of a foundation that just keeps getting built more and more and more solidly.
Stewart Cubley: You know, I do agree with that. I think that’s true. And I’m also very sensitive to how the ego ego can grasp and define one according to this state stage that’s now been developed, supposedly, and and then, of course, there has to be a kind of reckoning, that that occurs where, where that gets torn down. Right. And, and so I think, you know, there’s something, there’s something really wonderful about, and I’m going to come back to this because it’s just this my way of working. There’s something really wonderful about not having stages, not having levels of attainment, levels of attainment, create a certain kind of abuse, whether it’s personal abuse or abuse from the authority.
Rick Archer: I would say that you’re going to have them whether or not whether or not you like the concept of them, but it’s a question of how you approach it. You can definitely acquire a spiritual ego you can definitely make it big fuss about yourself and think, Oh, I am so great and holy. And I mean, I’ve run into people like that have probably gone through that myself at times. But that we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I mean, just the way life seems to be structured. There are, you know, degrees of refinement of realization, or of consciousness or whatever terms you want to use. And just because we acknowledged that mechanics doesn’t, doesn’t? Well, on the one hand, there are people who get hung up with that and make a big fuss about themselves and get insist upon having rose petals thrown at their feet as they walk into the room. And then there are on people who just sort of take it very matter of factly. And don’t take it personally. It’s not about them.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, you know, an example of that. I heard an interview recently with Wendell Berry. What a beautiful man. Have you ever heard him?
Rick Archer: I’ve heard his name, but I don’t probably read a quote here and there,
Stewart Cubley: but he’s not. He’s not as he’s not a spiritual teacher. It’s
Rick Archer: like a poet or writer or something. He’s
Stewart Cubley: a writer. He’s he’s a man deeply connected to the earth in a very spiritual way and into place into environment. And is he still alive? Yeah, yeah, I think he unless he died recently. I think he might
Rick Archer: have an essay in the book by Llewellyn Vaughan Lee that I just read.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, he was interviewed by Bill Moyers. I went, Oh,
Rick Archer: I listened to all those I must have heard him.
Stewart Cubley: Anyway. Beautiful, beautiful man doesn’t. He’s the humility there is absolutely incredible. The, the the sense of heart that comes through him the the deep connectedness to the earth. And, and, you know, in terms of, I guess I, the feeling I have is that he’s not concerned with levels of attainment. Right? He’s living it. It is him. Exactly. There’s no duality there at all. There’s no, there’s no, there’s no parsing of that sort of thinking. And, and I find a beauty in that. And you know, the way I guess the way that I look at spiritual experiences that I think you probably know, the analogy of the elephant in the dark room.
Rick Archer: Tell it tell me that. There’s,
Stewart Cubley: I can’t remember what the source of this is. But oh, this is like blind
Rick Archer: men feeling it feeling the elephant? Yes. Yeah, maybe it’s like that the
Stewart Cubley: blind man feeling the elephant or maybe there’s this elephant. And it’s in a completely black room. And there’s people coming in from different sides, and somebody touches the tusk and say, Oh, it’s very sharp, right? It’s very hard and very sharp. And somebody touches the tail and says, Oh, it’s no extremely, like a snake, like a snake and somebody touches the toe and says, Oh, it’s so soft. And so smoothen. And I just feel like, you know, the, the, it’s that big, it’s, it’s so different. For for the for anyone, everyone’s approach to it is going to have a different taste is going to have a different experience. And, and so I just feel like I I’m really careful not to give any kind of projection on my part of what it looks like. Or, or to talk about my experience of it in that vein, because it inevitably at least, you know, I just I know it in my own milieu, I know it in my own sphere of work that as soon as I to do that, if I were to do that. It creates. It creates a it creates distortion in the field.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And I would say that, you know, it’s a, it’s a, there’s a delicate balance here. I would say that someone like Wendell Berry, if to use terminology I’m using here is his, there’s a stage of development. And that man has a degree of refined refinement of heart or refinement of perception or refinement of intellect, which, which, you know, he doesn’t go to be in a punk rocker for half the day and then switch back to that later on there. It’s there’s a stability to his development, if you will. Yeah. And that’s kind of what I mean by when I say stages or levels or something that the this, whatever it is stage or stages, it’s been cultured over a lifetime, and it’s resulted in a very refined, intelligent, you know, perceptive sensitive, man.
Stewart Cubley: Yes. Yeah. And so when I, when we view him when I view him and see him, I am really deeply inspired. Sure. Because I see I see an individual who has become himself who was actually he’s deeply authentic. He’s he is, he stands in his own experience, and he’s not afraid to say what that is, and especially when it goes against the mainstream as well. willing to do that. And that, for me is different than someone who announces that they have something.
Rick Archer: And I think there’s Sensei, you know, those who know don’t say, and those who say don’t know. Yeah. So that’s what it means.
Stewart Cubley: Exactly. Yeah. So there, that’s the context. For me. That’s why I’m hesitant. And find it not in service of the people that I work with, to, to talk about my own experiences in a way that would then create, you know, create that image in people’s minds, because I just feel like it really is not helpful. Yeah. So I
Rick Archer: think we’re in agreement here, is there’s just a slightly different sort of angle or taking out a different emphasis. You know, I’m saying, I’m saying, Sure there are, there are degrees of attainment and kind of levels of spiritual maturity or something. But if you’re, if you’re tooting your horn about them, then you probably haven’t attained them. And if you’re noticing them, yeah, if you’re not making a big fuss about them, or I knew a guy one time that he used to go on courses within the TM movement, and every time marshy talked about some new experience or state of consciousness or something, he would get up in the mic and proclaim himself as having achieved it. And he loved having people clustered around him and listen with rapt attention to his every word. So I think that’s an egregious example of the kind of thing you’re talking about where there’s no humility, and you know, what person is just using it to aggrandized their ego. But, you know, but in the same breath, I was, I was still saying that, that doesn’t refute the notion that there actually are genuine stages of spiritual maturity or development. But again, you know, being a blabber mouth about them is probably an indication that you haven’t attained them.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, or even having that concept of yourself.
Rick Archer: Yeah, yeah. In fact, the Om Shanti, who, whom I respect a great deal. Yes. One of the things he said one time is, I always have the attitude that I’m just a beginner, you know, I just feel like, I’m just getting started on this path, despite the fact that I consider him to be quite spiritually mature. And I think that might be what they mean by beginner’s mind and the Zen tradition.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, yeah.
Rick Archer: So there’s some cool comparisons between that I picked up on reading some of your stuff, for instance, you were alluding to the comparisons between your process of using artists spiritual practice and other spiritual practices. One is giving up, you know, what you were just talking about. And a lot of people drop off from spiritual practice, they do it for a while, and then they lose interest or just hit up against a wall, which stops them cold, and they don’t take the time or whatever, to break through that wall. You were talking about that. I suppose that hack can happen in the process of creating a single painting. And it can also happen in longer term in terms of, you know, not engaging in this process anymore. After a while.
Stewart Cubley: Well, you know, there’s, in my mind, I like to the distinction between giving up and giving over is very big, because, of course, in this process, you’re going to be tempted to give up, you’re going to be tempted to bolt, I worked with a woman actually, I just I just finished a workshop up in Portland. And there was a woman who came and very serious person, very deep person, she was a writer. She was absolutely petrified. She had never done our she, she just felt like it was not her place to be there. And that there was tremendous fear. And, and it’s not unusual for this work to elicit that because you know, it’s very visual, you’re kind of out there in front of everybody, you’re, you’re not just sitting in a room and kind of going through your own things. It shows up in the paper and everyone sees it right, even though we don’t make comments on it. So she just read she reached this, this sort of abject panic and fear. And, and it was through the support of myself and my facilitators that she felt safe enough to stay there but more than stay there, but to stand in it. To be curious about that. So that it wasn’t some obstacle to get over. But it was like wow, look at that. Look at the extent of the sphere. This is pretty incredible. Wow, look at look how much I want to like run a run and get out of here. And and then how do you move with them? And so there was a there was a good conversation and encouragement for her to actually take that experience for her fear which is very good. This role by the way, it’s first somatic, it’s not just in the head, right, it’s in the body. And to take that experience and, and maybe with a large brush, I don’t know what size brush she took, she moved with it, he found a way to take it from here and to have it move out into the paper. And, and there’s an example of standing in it and being willing to express it, which is, which is giving over that the the giving up there. And in over in many, many different times, a person is tempted to give up, because the judgment is so strong, or the fear is so is so cute. Or the sense of comparison. Very often you just feel like oh my god, all these other people are just doing so well and look at my piece of crap on wall. Right. And so you just want to give up and I think that’s a very fruitful time. Like you probably the reason you you’re finding an analogy to that and spiritual teaching. That’s a very fruitful time. Yeah, that’s that’s when the ego is the most threatened.
Rick Archer: It can mean that something good is happening that you really, you really come up against something that is ready to be routed out.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah. Yeah. Right. It’s a time of potential. It’s a time of great potential. Yes. So
Rick Archer: here’s another one. You’ve sort of discussed this, but comparing oneself to others, we’ve touched upon this another time, but that that happens a lot of times in spiritual groups. Oh, so and so it’s so much higher than I am or, you know, I don’t have any good experiences, and everybody else seems to have good experiences and that kind of thing. You really get kind of caught up in that.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah. Well, I think it’s, that’s one reason we create the environment that we do, because that’s going to go on the mind does that. Right? And, and so if it’s not supported in the environment, in other words, if we’re not giving awards for paintings, if you know, if we’re not if we’re not doing critiquing, because in so many art schools, for example, we get, we get many people who come in wounded from their experiences in art school, because they have they have been subjected to heavy critiquing, often by big egos. Yeah. And in an environment that’s created, where you just feel devastated, you’re constantly criticized. And so you know, that there’s a wounding that occurs there. And so to create an environment in which that’s not happening in any level, whether, and this is why I come back again, and again, to say, there’s no can, there can be no measuring stick. It’s not about breaking through even. Because, breaking through in my mind, in fact, I told that that woman, this this past week that we had this workshop, I said, your your position right now and feeling as stuck as you do, and as afraid as you are, for me is, is equal to someone who has is breaking through in this feeling joy, that, that both experiences have to be equal. If not, you’re going to feel guilty about where you are, you’re not going to be felt, you’re going to you’re going to go to the old story, which is I’m not good enough. I’m not in the right place, I have to get better. So
Rick Archer: there’s a place for critiquing and art school? Or do you feel like it’s just a very kind of Age of Ignorance approach to art, and that perhaps, if art were universally taught the way you go about it, it would be better for everyone.
Stewart Cubley: You’re talking to the wrong person? I do. I do feel like we live in an age of ignorance, and especially around some of these things that I’m talking to you about that we do not know how to be kind to each other. We do not have we do not know how to emphasize the most important things, what’s really important we employ, we get totally caught on things that are just cosmetic. And so is there a place for critiquing, I suppose if you’re trying to learn a particular skill, to have someone compassionately show you how to, to learn certain things about how to how to execute certain things that has its place. That’s a kind of critiquing. I mean,
Rick Archer: maybe if you’re studying, you’re in a class studying anatomy and you and you’re painting nudes, or you’re doing still lifes or something like that, there must be some kind of tricks of the trade that you need to learn and you’re going to get critiqued if you haven’t learned them or some such thing is
Stewart Cubley: but Rick, what’s the emotional environment there? That’s the question.
Rick Archer: Whether they’re ripping you down or whether whether it’s loving and Yeah,
Stewart Cubley: exactly. That’s the important thing. So I’m saying there is a place for that but for me, I’m looking at the emotional environment. And that’s why having an environment in which there’s absolutely no comparison and there’s no better and no worse it’s it’s it’s amazing it’s it’s actually kind of mind blowing. What what the the energy do that then starts to emerge in that kind of environment where you do feel like you’re rooting for everyone else. And I will say what happens there is because it’s not being supported by others around you’re by the facilitators, you get to see how you do it yourself in a very pure way,
Rick Archer: you know, even though you don’t critique, critique or evaluate, or judge, are you kind of amazed sometimes by the quality of some of the stuff that people produce? Especially neophytes.
Stewart Cubley: You see, I don’t know what quality means.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I know what you mean. But I mean, some of the things and think this is awesome.
Stewart Cubley: I think I think what’s awesome is authenticity. And everyone, whether whether even if they’re trying to manipulate their painting, because they’re afraid, and they’re trying to paint a nice painting, they’re being authentic, and that at that moment, I cannot, I don’t have the that bone in my body where I feel like one painting is better than another. I really don’t.
Rick Archer: That’s great. You’re really sticking to your guns. There’s another tendency in spiritual communities, I wonder if there’s any parallel on what you’re doing, which is my way is the best way, you know, we’ve got the best teacher, we’ve got the best practice, everybody else is, you know, kind of like a little bit confused. Some such thing. Is there any parallel with that there?
Stewart Cubley: You know, that parallel exists everywhere. Yeah. And for me, that’s the sign of a teacher who hasn’t done his or her own work. And the need to be seen as special the need to have your way be the way. And
Rick Archer: I did attempt at self validation.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, it’s an attempt to fill a hole that’s not been filled. And it’s not been it’s not been entered. And I started recently, an apprenticeship program, and about a year old now. And it’s an invitational group of people, people, a group of people that I invited to work with me. And it’s been really, really special because that energy is not there. And I recognize that this is, this is something I’ve developed over the last 30 years I have, I have my way of doing it. And it works, it works. For me, it works for the groups that I teach. But I also know that somebody that I am in teaching to facilitate this process, if they have the fundamentals, in other words, that they really get an A great deep level, that it’s about process versus product. And that it’s about in the in the spiritual implications of the work the most, you know how deeply it actually goes, I’m really excited about turning them loose, and letting them their personality take the work. And I know that it’s going to be different than the way that I do it. And so I work hard on this, because I know a lot of examples. And and I could name them, it doesn’t make sense to do it. But I know a lot of examples where the work has become very diminished by the attitude that I am the only person who can do it. And it has to be my way. And it’s a shame really, especially when it’s a valid work, especially when it really is the work that has the ability to help people.
Rick Archer: Or you’re talking about spirituality in general now or art. I mean, the people who have that attitude,
Stewart Cubley: I was talking about both.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. Yeah, I agree. Yeah. How about the concept of dark night of the soul? I you know, which I think St. John of the Cross, coined it. And for him, it went on for years. But people on the spiritual path can sometimes go into doldrums, which which can last long periods of time. And it’s kind of like a train going through a trunk, a tunnel progress is being made, but it doesn’t seem like it. And you can feel stuck for long periods of time. And I guess you’ve sort of alluded to that, but in your thing, but it seemed more like a short term thing where you’re just sort of working on a painting and you’re young artists block. And then somehow you work through it. But do you see people going into sort of deeper spiritual crises in a way which take quite some time to work through?
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, yeah. It’s not just a short term thing. I think the infirmity This is one of the major misunderstandings of our culture is the power and the, the spiritual nature of the dark side, so to speak, of going into the dark night of the soul. And, you know, there’s such a fear of that. And there’s such, there’s such a tendency to want to heal that too quickly, to kind of paste it, you know, catch it up, put a bandaid on it, and think that you’re through it. And so the painting process actually lends itself to the exploration of that part of the psyche in a very powerful way because you’re working with color certain images and forms. And those energies that you’re talking about whether you know this dole is it’s not just doldrums when somebody tells me that they’re experiencing the doldrums, I’m I want to look for what the physicality of that is. Right? Where is that weed? How do you how do you know where you’re this is a word doldrums? Well, what’s the experience itself? Well, the experience might be a real lethargy, for example. Or it might be a being a being weighted down, like you’re just being, you can’t, it can’t, can’t emerge, you can’t come up, you’re just being pulled down. Or it might be, it might be deep contraction, that might be a sense, it might be deep sadness there.
Rick Archer: So you’re actually suggesting that people kind of tune into their physiology and sense the sensation that corresponds to the mental attitude that there’s,
Stewart Cubley: well, yes, because you see the body by tuning into the body, but the somatic aspect of the experience takes you out of your head, you get away from the label of it, and you go into the you start inhabiting the experience of it. So that’s kind of the first step. And then, and as I say, sometimes, sometimes sadness arises very deep sadness in this process. And, and you know, the first tendency is all I’m going to hit, I’m going to paint a happy painting, I’m going to make myself feel better, I’m going to paint a happy painting. Well, of course, that’s just on the surface, there’s something more deep, there’s a deeper call here to go towards that. Whatever that is, that’s being announced by the sadness. And so if depending upon the relationship that I can develop with a person and their willingness, or encourage them to go towards it. And so that’s the first step might be to feel it in your own body. Where do you feel it? How do we move from there into the painting, and it might, it might, then it’ll take a form on the painting, will it be will it be a massive dark color, for example, sometimes it is just black. One of the most powerful experiences sometimes for people is to paint, painting, black painting, after Black painting after Black painting after Black painting. Some I remember a woman last year she workshop I taught in Holland, she three days Black Paintings, and some of them were like, six feet by 10 feet, wow, with all these pieces of paper put together, the whole wall black, black, black, black, black, black, and there’s something there’s a certain moment, and if per person, there’s a certain timing, when that is so nurturing, to just give yourself to the black, to be buried into black to know that there’s no and to black to go to be to be completely immersed in covered in black. And, and then at a certain point, the wave is over. And there’s another color that emerges and something happens. There’s another there’s a there’s a coming out, so to speak. So there’s that, that has a certain lifetime to it, but also an assert, and a person’s spiritual practice, you know, on your own evolution, there are times where you really, there are times when you really need to enter the darkness. And it and it may happen for months and months and months that Michael on yours. The what I feel about the painting process is that you don’t just stay stuck in it. The power of expressive arts is that you can move with it, you can actually feel like you’re moving, even though you’re still in the darkness, you feel like oh my god, things are shifting now things are moving. Because you’re engaging it, you’re feeling it, you’re expressing it, you’re feeling it, you’re expressing it’s very alive. And it’s very different than just being sort of stuck in the doldrums.
Rick Archer: Yeah, that’s good. There’s a kind of a related point, which is that sometimes, you know, things are kindly bottled up and a person. And then when they do spiritual practice, the cord comes out and, you know, Pandora’s box lid opens, and all sorts of stuff starts to come out that, you know, had been kind of kept by low. And this can sometimes result in sort of extreme situations of actual mental breakdown and sanity and hospitalization and that, in other words, the spiritual practice destabilizes them. I’m wondering if you’ve ever encountered that in the painting process.
Stewart Cubley: You know, this is a conversation that we had just recently with my training group, because there’s, I work with a lot of therapists. There’s a lot of people in the therapeutic community psychotherapist who come and do the work for themselves. There’s some in my training. And the interesting thing and all my 30 plus years of doing this, I’ve had maybe one or two instances where it got edgy in that way. And one was a woman who had a panic attack. I was teaching a workshop at Esalen. and all of a sudden, we’re all sitting there, we’re all we’re all in this room painting very quietly, and she starts screaming at the top of her lungs. So I went over and, you know, I was really clear that, that I did not want to give her the feeling that something was wrong. I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to contribute to that. She was obviously feeling it. And when you’re having a panic attack, right, but I, she needed to know that I was okay with that. So I went over, and I sat with her and maybe held her and somewhat in fashion, and let it just have his way I knew it was a wave. I knew everything has a beginning and an ending, depending, you know, how long it’s going to be, I don’t know. But it was a wave. And I knew that by presence there with her allowed the wave to complete itself. And then the room settled down a bit. And then we went outside, and we sat on a bench and talk. And you and the woman, then the woman. Yeah. And it was, you know, it was essentially, she needed to know that, that that was no big deal to me. And I kind of might have said that I said, Okay, you know, you, I, you can do that. What’s next. And so then we went back in, and she found a way back into the painting. Now, I don’t say I don’t want to say that’s the case all the time. There are moments there are times when somebody is on the edge in a way that’s not healthy. And there’s something about the painting process that’s very self regulating, I should say, because nobody is nobody is. Nobody’s telling you what to do. So you’re not being forced to do anything. It’s all coming from you. There’s a regulation, there’s an intelligence in the psyche, in terms of what it brings up and what it brings you to do. And when you when you feel in a safe environment, and that you’re not being coerced, in that you’re not being brought to an edge that’s uncomfortable for you. But you really are in charge of what you do. It’s very rare for someone to reach that point of feeling kind of out of control. And it does require a certain ego health, I might say there’s, I know people who work with with other populations where there’s real, more challenges, challenges mentally for these people. And that’s a different, that’s a different ballgame. Yeah, like
Rick Archer: if you’re going into prisons, or you’re going to a mental hospital to help with the inmates or patients, they’re imagining.
Stewart Cubley: It’s a very different thing. But I would say in these groups, these are self selected groups, these are people who are have an ego helps to the degree that they’re really interested in exploring and going deeper in themselves. And so that’s sort of selects.
Rick Archer: There’s a thing with spiritual practice where you can even a relatively healthy person can do too much meditation or too much Pranayama or something, and can deep destabilize themselves by over indulging. I mean, can you do that with art? Can you do too much?
Stewart Cubley: Well, you know, it’s a little hard because what happens is, if you if you go beyond your limit, you get exhausted. Yeah, and you didn’t want to take a break. You want to take a break, you’re just exhausted, it’s really hard to keep pushing. In that way. It’s unusual. I haven’t seen it happen.
Rick Archer: My father was a professional artist. I haven’t told you that yet. He was sort of the stereotypical suffering artist, you know, and I read something you were writing about how there is this sort of stereotype about suffering being conducive to creativity? And you get the sense you don’t buy that? Right. I mean,
Stewart Cubley: do you? Well, I did talk about this cycle. Right. Yeah, there is, I think we’re in agreement about that, that, that in our own internal development, there are these waves and that we are being called, we are being called at times to, to encounter suffering, to encounter difficulty. I think what I was questioning in that article was just kind of the culture built around that in the kind of ego stance that that can give birth to where it really gives you permission to get away with a lot. Right? And it’s not really mature that there’s a way in which you can kind of identify with a struggling with it with a with the suffering artists. And then you know, then it gives you license to be to indulge be manipulative, not really take things seriously and hurt a lot of other people as well. So
Rick Archer: as an artist, so this is the way I am dude. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And so you wouldn’t say that a relatively happy, well adjusted person who is not about to cut his ear off or commit suicide or something is in any way hampered by his happiness and well adjusted pneus he can be a fountain of creativity and productivity and On,
Stewart Cubley: it’s really important never to take that away from anybody. So people will come in, and some people start this process and they are just in ecstasy. It is like, oh my god, I can’t believe the freedom that I have, I feel so good, I’m in love with my painting, everything is so great. And an even if I have a sense that they’re holding on to that a little too tightly, right, because we have a lot of fear around around suffering. But it might mean something about us, if we were to admit our own sadness, for example, or admit our own feelings about certain things that aren’t just happy, then it, it challenges our own self image. And we’re afraid of that, like what it might mean about us. So I recognize that. And sometimes you’ll see people who are a little, they’re holding on to their happiness a little too tightly, right? They’re wanting to keep it right there, they want it to freeze frame it, I don’t have to do anything. Because the intelligence of the process itself will bring a person to a screeching halt at a certain point. And they’re, they’re not going to maintain it, they can’t maintain it and keep their feet in the room. And so then there’s vendors and availability, at that point, there’s an availability. And I just might ask them, What are you really feeling? And if they say, oh, you know, I’m sad. I’m feeling sad, then we have a way to enter it, then there’s an opening to say.
Rick Archer: So, so it keeps coming back to naturalness and authenticity. Absolutely. Yeah. And if and if you become a bit unnatural, or inauthentic, the process that you’re engaging people in is going to, you know, sooner or later help them get back on course,
Stewart Cubley: exactly, it has. And so this is part of my learning wreck over the years of doing this, because I used to exhaust myself trying to get people to move. Right, I would have I have a certain intuition about kind of the potential where they could go, and I, I would I would step into early and I would try to make it happen. And then of course, you I’d be at loggerheads with that person, right. And, and they would feel like I’m kind of forced them and I would feel like they’re not moving and, and I just learned, I had to learn how to get out of my own way. I had to learn how to not exhaust myself, and how to wait for the moment when it was just ready to happen. And it just takes the slightest you know, push, like with a feather, you know that somebody’s opened and they’re ready. Then.
Rick Archer: There’s a saying I don’t know the Sanskrit but it’s Brahman is the charioteer.
Stewart Cubley: Very nice. Yeah. Yeah.
Rick Archer: And by Brahman, in case anyone doesn’t know, it just mean that sort of holistic intelligence that contains and permeates the universe and ultimately, is the charioteer, that’s the thing that’s doing it all. Yeah, yeah. We just need to get out of the way. Fact, that’s what we are. That’s That’s what our intelligence is, however, much it might make it filtered or distorted through our little filter. When you get right down to it. That’s right. That’s what we all are. Yeah. Nice. Yeah. Well, anything we haven’t covered.
Stewart Cubley: Um, let me talk about one more thing. Sure. Because there’s a quote that I like to use from from Keats, the, the English Romantic poet, and it’s become much more meaningful to me as the years have gone on. And he, I think, he said this maybe towards the end of his life, or towards the end of his career. But he said, I am certain of nothing except the holiness of the hearts, affections, and the truth of the imagination. I am certain of nothing except the holiness of the hearts, affections and the truth of the imagination. And I’ve come to realize that this path, this using our as processes, the spiritual path, is is is sort of four is formed on these two pillars. In other words, there’s the imagination and the heart. And by heart, I mean, I often use the word energy, because heart doesn’t mean just love or, you know, romance, it’s its connection, its attraction to or repulsion. It’s heart energy, it can be either, it can be either that you want it you’re going toward something or you’re trying to get away from something, there’s an energy there. And I’ll often ask people, I’ll recognize that when I’m working with somebody if they say, you know, I really don’t like this part of the painting. I really want to get rid of it, I see that there’s a lot of energy right there. And so for kids to say, I am certain of nothing about except the holiness of the hearts, affections and the truth of the imagination. He’s saying that holiness is spiritual, the connection that we feel to things is our spiritual connection. Its holy, and that the truth of the imagination, and then the words that which, which comes to us in in the intuitive realm, that which comes to us without thinking. Imagination is that which happens without thinking is truth. In other words, that you can, that there’s a, that there’s an intelligence in the imagination. And these are, these are two things, which I think are really not understood. They’re not they’re confused, especially in this culture. We just we discard imagination, we think we’re just making it up. We’re thinking it’s, it’s just fantasy. Again, in, there’s a, there’s a man with Paul barons, and he says, fantasy comes out of us. Imagination comes into us before it comes out of this. Imagination is a receptive phenomenon. It’s not something we make up we receive it, we have to be listening, we have to be empty enough to have to have it, break through to have it enter. Whereas fantasy is just our own personal narrative and our own desires, creating a fantasy. So there’s a lot of misunderstanding about this. And this is a lot of the education that happens in the painting process, which is, how do you tell the difference between thought and feeling? How do you tell the difference between an image that comes up that is just contrived, or between one that’s authentic? And that’s actually coming from imagination? And, and then, where’s the energy? In other words, you may, you may receive something, even something comes up, oh, I could put a television set in my painting. But when you when you connect with yourself, there’s no energy there that often asks the question, does the brush want to do it? That’s a somatic question. You see, that’s an energy question. It’s like it’s, and it’s pretty clear. And it’s an interesting way you often know, physically, what are the brush wants to do something or not. And that’s, that’s a very, that’s a way of tuning in, to what I’m calling energy here, or what I call heart connection. These are the two pillars of the work. These are, for me are fascinating, because they’re not taught in this culture, right? We’re taught thinking, we’re taught comparing, or we’re taught preference. And we’re taught what would look good, and what’s expected of us, we’re not taught to tune in to that kind of wild place in the psyche that gives birth to imagination, which is the same as the source of dreams. And we’re not taught to listen to our own energy around something. In other words, what is the physical reverberation of that? When you consider doing it? In fact, we’re
Rick Archer: taught quite the opposite. I mean, there’s we’re bombarded with external stimuli, which compete for our outward directed attention. You know, you see people walking down the street looking at their cell phones, or, you know, there’s just this constant bombardment. So it’s not really conducive to an inward turning, you know, which is going to lead you to that place. So the holiness of the hearts affection.
Stewart Cubley: Yeah, that’s right.
Rick Archer: When I hear you say, that holiness of the hearts affection, quoting Keith Keats, you know, to me, that means it, I mean, Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharshi and others talked about, you know, having the mind settle into the heart or residing in the heart, and so on. And that was kind of the essence of self inquiry, as I understand it as Ramana Maharshi talked about it. And so, to me, the word holiness is totally out because it’s a it’s a holy place that sort of deep spiritual abidance and a state of inner wisdom or consciousness or what have you. And then kind of culturing the the ability to function from there to paint or to live or to do anything from you know, there’s a saying in the Gita established in yoga perform action, you know, having established yourself there then perform action so if that’s what you’re talking about,
Stewart Cubley: that’s interesting, I I heard that and I never put it together with this but that’s interesting. Very interesting because I think we get confused of what it means to abide in heart right? Okay, you can think well, what does that mean? I should be I should be feeling love I should be feeling compassion I should be feeling I should be feeling something I’m not what does it mean to be inviting and hurt? I think
Rick Archer: the way Ramana uses the term it goes beyond feeling it has to do with sort of becoming a Yanni you know, just residing In the sort of state of pure intelligence, which is fundamental to all thoughts and feelings, well,
Stewart Cubley: what does that mean, in our own experience? You see, for me when I, when I talk about that, that that what I call energy, it’s really, it gets very clear, we’re all we always have it resonance, or lack of resonance with something. In other words, if I, if you had a painting in front of you hit it, you would paint it, there, there’d be certain areas in that painting, every area would have a different feeling for you, you and if you start perceiving through that lens of that, which we call heart, or I’m going to call it feeling, if you perceive through that lens, and let that guide you let that be your guide. So for example, if there is an area that really disturbs you, you recognize that is a kind of energy call, it’s a it’s an it’s a call to a deeper place, there’s something unfinished there. And so you actually go, you gravitate towards the disturbance, recognizing that it’s an incompleteness something wants to happen there. When you start looking through this lens of energy, it changes it changes kind of where you the way you relate to the world, actually. And I’ve had many people come up to me after the workshop and say, you know, this is one of the most useful things that came out of the work is that I asked myself now over and over again, when I have to make a decision, I asked myself, where’s the energy? Where’s the energy? And it’s kind of a radical question, because so much of our consciousness wants to go to what would look good? What do others expect of me? What am I supposed to do? What will be the right answer? Rather than? Wow, where’s the energy? And? And I, anyway, I just feel like that’s
Rick Archer: another way of phrasing it might be to become self referral rather than object referral. Yeah. Yeah. In other words, you’re not looking to others for approval, or for what they think or what the what’s cool, or what the world thinks or whatever, there’s just sort of this, you know, kind of inner compass that gets cultured. Yeah. marched to the beat of your own drummer, so to speak. Nice. Well, anything else you wanna throw in there? No, I,
Stewart Cubley: I’m getting talked out here. Right. Okay. Yeah, well, that’s
Rick Archer: great. I think we covered a lot. And I haven’t really done an interview like this, talking to someone with your passion, or your orientation, using art as a spiritual practice. But I think that, you know, the, the parallels to other spiritual practices is so striking, that, you know, it’s, it’s totally a spiritual practice. It’s not just like one it is one. And, and obviously, it’s having a profound, having a profound influence on those who engage in it with you, which I suppose you’re still doing workshops, right? Anybody can do this sort of thing if they want to.
Stewart Cubley: That’s right. We have workshops all over the country. And we have a number of people now that are trained to do it. So you can definitely engage in it.
Rick Archer: Yeah. So I’ll be linking to your website. And people can find out where those workshops are. And they can you’ve written a book, Life, paint and passion, reclaiming the magic of spontaneous expressions. So I’ll link to that also. Right. And you mentioned you use Skype a lot. Do you do some kind of sessions with people over Skype?
Stewart Cubley: I do. I do quite a bit of online work with people over Skype. So that’s another another avenue. People are engaging in the process at home. They take photos of their paintings every 15 or 20 minutes, and they put them up in a web album or send me by email. And then we schedule a talk and I look at their work, and they tell me where they got stuck and trickle. So it’s almost like being in the room together.
Rick Archer: Yeah, that’s really neat. Yeah, really works. And you can do it with people all over the world. That’s right. Yeah. Great. Well, thanks, Stuart. Let me make a few concluding remarks. Those of you have been listening or watching this is part of an ongoing series. Stuart’s interview here is milestone number 205, or something like that series. And they’re all firstname.lastname@example.org Bat gap. There’s on the right hand column, there’s an alphabetical list of all the interviews and there’s a pulldown menu where you can find a chronological list. This started out as an attempt to do a little radio show in my hometown and it grew. Up there also, you’ll find a discussion group that springs up around each interview and there’ll be a link to Stuart’s discussion area on his page, there is a donate button which I appreciate people clicking if they’re willing and able, keeps the whole thing flowing. There’s a place to sign up to be notified by email each time a new interview is posted. There is an audio podcast and a link to it in every on every interview page in case you’d like to subscribe in iTunes and listen to the audios, and a bunch of other things. If you poke around in the manuals, you’ll find them. So thanks again, Stuart. And thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching and we’ll see you next week. Next one should be Joseph Goldstein, who is a well known Buddhist Buddhist teacher. See you then.
Stewart Cubley: Okay, thank you very much, Rick. That was great. Yeah.