This past weekend I made some tattoos on the homies at Ed Hardy's Tattoo City in San Francisco. I even got to use Ed's station. Epic.
Photos by Sean Desmond.
Attention all Bay Area homies! I'm opening a new show of drawings at FFDG in San Francisco on Friday, February 7 from 7-10pm. The gallery is at 2277 Mission Street. Hope to see you there!
1. Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.
2. Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.
3. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.
4. Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
5. Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
(Adapted from The Five Mindfulness Trainings taught by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, which I personally try to abide by.)
I hope you will all consider these ideas over Thanksgiving weekend.
Spread the 8...
I was digging around on Tumblr the other day and I found a video clip of a guy in a REBEL8 t-shirt throwing his fists around in a pit at a hardcore show and it really bummed me out. The Eightfold Path is one of non-violence. Hitting random people at shows is violence, plain and simple. So please, if you're going to wild out in a pit with a REBEL8 t-shirt on, keep your hands open. No fists. No hatred. OK, guys?
I had to cancel my solo show at Known Gallery in Los Angeles that was scheduled to open later this month. My apologies to anyone who has been inconvenienced by the cancellation.
On another note though, I am currently organizing a monthly event that will hit the LA area very soon. Stay tuned for more details. Thanks.
I painted this wall in Alhambra with my homie Jaber yesterday.
I always get really bummed out on 9-11. I was in New York only a week before, making tattoos at a friend's shop on the Lower East Side. My last tattoo appt that trip was with my friend Dominique Pandolfo, a really awesome girl that I hung out with a few times and really liked. She came in for her tattoo and was super pumped on the result. I think we went drinking that night and I never saw her again.
On September 11th of 2001, she had a job interview in the Towers and was killed. RIP, Dominique. I'll never forget you.
And for the record, I've never believed what the mainstream media told us about what happened that day. I went through too many years of architecture school to believe their bullshit. I know better. Do you? Educate yourself.
Part 8. Right Concentration
I have the word “Samadhi” tattooed on my left arm. It’s the Pali Sanskrit word for Right Concentration, the final aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is also the last of three aspects that concern themselves with mental discipline, concentration and meditation.
I learned how to develop Right Concentration in three main ways:
1. Using the body as the object of concentration.
2. Using sight as the object of concentration.
3. Using sound as the object of concentration.
Focusing my attention on my breath has been the mainstay of my meditative practice since the beginning. My first instruction on sitting meditation included lengthy comment on the importance of the process of breathing to the aspiring meditation student. If you are alive, you are breathing. It’s something you can always come back to. So as my mind becomes distracted by thoughts during meditation practice, I simply return to my breath and enjoy the present moment. When I notice that I’m lost in thought again, I simply return my concentration to my breath. This is the process of meditation: continually pulling attention away from the thinking mind and returning it to the living body. In this way, I feel like I am learning how to internalize my practice of Right Concentration.
In 2003, while staying at a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center in Southern France, I began to meditate with my eyes open. Up until that point I had only practiced meditation with my eyes closed. So, for the first time, instead of focusing my attention on my breath I focused on what I was seeing. At first I tried to focus on something very tiny on the ground about 4’ in front of me. I would focus my attention on that spot for the entire 45 minute sitting meditation period. Immediately I started to experience some dramatic perceptual shifts not only in my vision but my consciousness in general. After a few days sessions in the silent meditation hall, I began meditating in nature. I focused my attention on a nearby tree for one sitting period, then I focused on the horizon the following period. My vision became hyper sensitive. It was very exciting. Then I reversed focus and practiced seeing all things as One thing. In doing so I experienced a whole new way of seeing. Through my continued application of these practices, I feel like I am learning how to visualize my practice of Right Concentration.
In one context, I think of dharma as the ideas that we aspiring Buddhas need to understand before we can free ourselves of the suffering caused by identifying with our egos. The historical Buddha described his Dharma as a raft on a river. We start our Path on the shore of greed, hatred and delusion. Then, using the raft of the Dharma we are carried to the shore of love, compassion and understanding. (And as an important side note, he mentioned that it is not necessary to carry the raft with you once you make it across.) An ancient mantra that reminds me of this metaphor is “Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhisvaha.” I know that looks crazy, but it simply means “Gone Gone All the way gone All the way gone to the other side Fuckin’ awesome”, or something to that effect. Regardless of the meaning or the particular mantra you’re using, the point of the practice is to repeat it evenly and consistently and use it as the object of concentration, just like you use the breath as the object of concentration during vipassana practice. It’s in this way I am learning how to vocalize my practice of Right Concentration.
By articulating the practices of Right Concentration for myself, I feel like I am able to integrate the other seven aspects of the Eightfold Path, coming full circle, like the famous symbol for Zen Buddhism. Now I can see that each aspect of the Path works with the others to help us be free of the suffering created by our thinking minds. But again, it’s up to each of us as individuals to articulate these teachings in our own lives for any of it to work at all. Lasting peace of mind is possible, always. Just put your faith in your practice, come back to the present moment and you’ll see that everything is actually going quite well.
8er for life!
Bet you didn't know I could sew.
Part 7. Right Mindfulness
Right Mindfulness is the seventh aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is the second of three aspects that concern themselves with mental discipline, concentration and meditation. By practicing Right Mindfulness we are training ourselves to perfect cognition, or to “see things as they are.”
Normally when we see something our thinking minds make distinctions and interpretations of the object we are looking at. We may notice the size, shape or color of the object. It might be something we want to keep, or something we’d like to destroy. But by thinking about the object, we are conceptualizing it. We’re not actually getting to know the object. When we are practicing Right Mindfulness correctly we are able to observe the process of conceptualization without getting caught up in it. In other words, we can hear all the thinking going on in our minds, but we can take it or leave it. In this way we can settle our minds down and in a way let the object itself tell us what is has to say. This may sound trippy, but when you are able to relax your mind in this way it all makes sense.
Here, Bhikkhu Bodhi explains the practice of Right Mindfulness:
“The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, registered and dropped.”
Through my own practice of Right Mindfulness I began to see that the way my mind works in a dream when I’m asleep is the same as how it works when I’m awake. It’s just thinking. And just as easily as I can wake up from a dream and realize it was just a dream and forget about it, I can practice Right Mindfulness when I’m awake and deal with my thinking mind as if it were a dream, and let thoughts come and go, cultivating the good thoughts and letting go of the bad thoughts. Personally, this simple realization has been incredibly helpful day-to-day.
Also, as a side note to my fellow artists, when I practice Right Mindfulness while I’m working in the studio, I can work from a place beyond the conceptualizing of my thinking mind. It is in this space that I feel the most focused and in tune with the raw creative flow. And when I’m in that flow I’m able to remain productive and inspired indefinitely. I really believe that combining my art practice with my mindfulness practice was a huge breakthrough both personally and professionally.
Now, as a lifestyle, I try to maintain mindfulness during all the day’s activities. The consistent application of Right Mindfulness to all my daily activities has always yielded great personal kharmic benefit and a powerful feeling of peace and contentment. If I had to recommend only one aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path to those interested in liberating themselves from the general sense of dissatisfaction in their lives, I would encourage them to develop Right Mindfulness. It’s that important.
Part 6. Right Effort
Right Effort is the sixth aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is the first of three aspects that concern themselves with mental discipline, concentration and meditation. It is important to recognize that the same mental energies that go into self-discipline, honesty and kindness can just as easily create desire, envy and aggression. The practice of Right Effort should be our guide when working with our mental energies, in meditation and life in general. Without the practice of Right Effort our mental energies can be misguided and create more harm than good. The practice of Right Effort is really about focusing our mental energies to continually develop wholesome states of being.
The Pali Canon describes these four ways to practice Right Effort in our thoughts and actions:
1. Prevent unwholesome states that have not yet arisen.
2. Let go of the unwholesome states that have already arisen.
3. Cultivate wholesome states that have not yet arisen.
4. Maintain the wholesome states that have arisen.
Easier said than done. I struggle with this shit every day.
Please join me on Saturday afternoon for the 4th Annual Silent Auction and Street Fair to benefit the Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society here in Los Angeles. It's located at 4300 Melrose, just a few blocks west of Vermont. I will be working on 8 drawings from 1-4pm to be auctioned off at the end. Also in the auction are pieces from Moby, Shepard Fairey, Jondix and many more. My homie Paco Excel will be tattooing! Live music! Crazy swag!
I've been tight with the founder of the center, Noah Levine, since he founded the Dharma Punx over 10 years ago. His outreach has helped a lot of people overcome enormous obstacles in their lives, particularly those with substance abuse problems. I'm stoked to be able to help out his center and keep the Buddha's teachings alive in this crazy, modern world. Hope to see you there.
8ER FOR LIFE!
I went home for lunch today then stopped to see my buddy Dave Persue (Per-sway) painting a wall.
Dabs and Myla were there too!
On my way back to the warehouse I caught this sweet ZOOK throw-up.
Now I'm back in the studio, blogging, blazing and drawing! Hope all you REBEL8ERS are having a great day.
Part 5. Right Livelihood
Right Livelihood is the fifth aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is the third of three aspects that concern themselves with ethical conduct. By practicing Right Livelihood we are training ourselves to be careful not to cause harm to others or ourselves through our occupation. By practicing Right Livelihood we begin to see how unwholesome occupations can be creating much of our day-to-day suffering and the suffering of the people and animals around us.
The historical Buddha described four basic areas of harmful occupation. The first is the business of weapons. The citizens of the United States produce more weapons than any other nation on this planet. In 2009 the U.S. government spent $737 billion on “defense”. That’s nearly ¼ of the entire budget for the year and our tax dollars covered 85% of that budget. It is incredibly obvious to me that the weapons produced in this country are the source of immeasurable death and destruction in our own cities and the world over. I articulate the practice of Right Livelihood in my own life by avoiding the IRS, not owning weapons and not working for weapons manufacturers.
The second area of harmful occupation is business in human flesh, specifically the slave trade and prostitution. You may consider the slave trade to be a thing of the past, but please consider how the American prison system operates. The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world and the 13th Amendment to the American Constitution explicitly allows for free labor from incarcerated citizens, even in privately owned facilities. Just like the slaves of any era, modern convicts are locked up and forced to work for no pay. It’s clear to me that the present system is more interested in creating revenue than rehabilitating it’s most desperate citizens. So I keep my head low and I try to stay out of jail. And I don’t hire prostitutes.
The third area of harmful occupation includes any business in the flesh of animals, which includes raising animals for slaughter and butchery. Every year in the United States, 9 billion birds (mostly chickens, turkeys and ducks) and 150 million cows are murdered for the taste of their flesh. The U.S. produces more flesh for consumption than any other nation on the planet, almost twice the production of the entire European Union. Go vegan.
The fourth area of harmful occupation deals with the manufacture and distribution of intoxicants, addictive drugs and poisons. The citizens of the United States consume over half of worldwide pharmaceutical drug production. The US is by far the greatest producer of drugs on the planet as well. The bottom line for corporations like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck & Co. and Abbott Laboratories is profit, not long-term health. Many of the supposed “medicines” they push are addictive and intoxicating. Their drugs don’t treat problems; they cover them up. I think it unwise to participate in such an obviously corrupt system, so staying healthy and pharmaceutical-free has become an integral part of my practice of Right Livelihood.
As with any of this stuff I’m writing, you need to find the truth in the Eightfold Path for yourself by living it and breathing it and acting on it. How I practice Right Livelihood may be different from how you may practice it and that’s ok. We’re all unique individuals. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Remember to be a player, not a fan. Follow your own path.
Draw, draw, draw...
I was in Huntington Beach on Saturday and Sunday to paint the skatepark at the Vans Open. I was invited by this guy, Russ Pope.
Legendary skateboarder Neil Blender stopped by and added some rather controversial elements to the park.
My old friend Rich Jacobs was there.
I made some new friends too. This guy is Nathaniel Russell.
And this is my man Zio Ziegler. This guy is one to watch.
After careful consideration of my options, I decided to paint my part of the bowl with extended brushes and latex paint.
And after two days of work, this is what I came up with.
Don't get caught in the web!
...next stop, Agenda Long Beach!
Part 4. Right Action
Right Action is the fourth aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is the second of three aspects that concern themselves with ethical conduct. By practicing Right Action we are training ourselves to be morally upright, and we’re also being careful not to cause harm to others or ourselves through our actions. By practicing Right Action we begin to see how unwholesome actions lead to unwholesome states of mind, which perpetuate our day-to-day suffering.
To begin with, the practice of Right Action means that we abstain from harming or killing any living being (including ourselves), intentionally or otherwise. That’s why Buddhists are generally non-violent vegetarians, like myself. But I think it’s important to note that the Buddha himself taught that eating meat was OK as long as it was leftovers. If someone couldn’t finish the meat prepared for them and intended to throw away the leftovers, it was perfectly acceptable to offer the meat to a monk like the Buddha. But if the meat was specifically prepared for a monk, it couldn’t be accepted.
Practicing Right Action is especially important in sexual matters. The Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta states that one should not get involved sexually with people “who are protected by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, their relatives, or their Dhamma; those with husbands, those who entail punishments, or even those crowned with flowers by another man.” Personally, I take that to mean that I don’t pursue women that are underage, women that still live with their families, or women that are in monogamous relationships. I just don’t go there.
The practice of Right Action also means that we don’t steal, commit fraud or be dishonest. All you crooks out there, are you reading this?
Part 3. Right Speech
Right Speech is the third aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is also the first of three aspects that concern themselves with ethical conduct. Simply put, practicing Right Speech means that we only say things that we know to be factual and true, as well as beneficial and agreeable to others. We should never lie, nor exaggerate. We should not say one thing to one person and something different to another. And we should never use insulting or abusive words towards each other. I’m sure this all sounds simple enough, but in real life it’s not always so easy to practice Right Speech.
One of my teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, relays this story when talking about Right Speech:
“Many people have to lie in order to succeed as politicians, or salespersons. A corporate director of communications told me that if he were allowed to tell the truth about his company's products, people would not buy them. He says positive things about the products that he knows are not true, and he refrains from speaking about the negative effects of the products. He knows he is lying, and he feels terrible about it. So many people are caught in similar situations.”
For myself, the real test of Right Speech comes when I’m angry or frustrated. Just yesterday I exploded in a difficult moment. It’s especially in those moments that I need to understand my own suffering and deal with it head-on. When I don’t deal with it, I explode and let it out on those around me, sometimes vocalizing in very unwise and hurtful ways. And that just creates more anger and frustration, something we certainly don’t need more of in this crazy world. So I keep practicing.
Part 2. Right Intention
Right Intention is sometimes translated as “right thought” or “right aspiration”. I think of Right Intention as a pro-active commitment to overall self-improvement. In practice, Right View helps me to distinguish between the wholesome and unwholesome aspects of my moment-to-moment experience, and Right Intention helps me focus my energy on developing the wholesome aspects as they arise and letting go of the unwholesome. Seems simple enough, but quite often in our daily lives we are unwittingly developing unwholesome situations through our own ignorance and lack of perspective.
The Buddha taught that a person should be judged by their intentions, not the outcome of their actions. I think this is a key point in Buddhist philosophy. It simply means that if you go into a situation with Right Intention you can’t be judged by the outcome. However, if you act out of ignorance, your right intention isn’t worth shit.
The Buddha described three types of Right Intentions:
First is the intention of renunciation. In practice, this means that I have the intention to give up the things that cause harm or suffering in my life. For myself, that means giving up stuff like television, cars, meat, cigarettes, cocaine, horror movies, MySpace, one-night stands, etc.
Second is the intention of good will. In practice, this means that I always have the intention to act with kindness, especially when faced with anger or aversion. It is important to note that aggression in this sense doesn’t always mean that it’s coming from an outside source. Aggression most often begins in our own thinking minds. It is within the space of your thinking mind that your intention of good will is most helpful.
Third is the intention of harmlessness, such that you don’t think or act cruelly, violently or aggressively. In practice, this means that I always have the intention to bring love, peace and compassion to any given situation. And again, it is important that we maintain this intention of harmlessness at the level of thinking. It is very important to remember that feeding cruel or violent thoughts only creates more harm to you and those around you. We must use compassion, patience and understanding to help us let go of unwholesome thoughts.
By practicing Right View and Right Intention, you will develop the foundational wisdom needed to continue on The Eightfold Path.