Monday, 28 July 2008

Bringing Art to Everyday Life

This summer I've read a very fascinating biography of the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Trungpa, who died in Canada in 1987, was born in Tibet. From a young age he received training to become a Lama. He was forced to flee to India in 1959 to escape the Chinese invation. He also lived a few years in England, studying religion, philosophy, and fine arts at Oxford, before leaving for the US where he introduced Tibetan Buddhism to Westerners and founded the Shambhala organization.

Through his teachings he aimed to bring meditation into daily life. Trungpa was also an artist, and inspired by the Japanese Zen Buddhism he introduced his students to diciplines like calligraphy, archery and ikebana. Bringing art to everyday life is a way of integrating meditation practice in your life. There can be a quality of meditation and art in all the things you do during a day. In this sence it doesn't matter if you're washing dishes or making a flower arrangement. Art is not separate from daily life, although artistic work represents a heightening of experience. Trungpa called this "extending the mind through the sense perceptions".

When he lived in England, Trungpa studied Ikebana with Stella Coe, a well reputed teacher of the Sogetsu School. Trungpa says he was shocked and surprised that such a new dimension of working with reality could be expressed through arranging. He studied with Coe until he received a teachers degree from the Sogetsu School.

Trungpa loved working together with a group, and he loved making large arrangements, the main branch being "as large as a tree". One of his favorite flowers to arrange were white chrysanthemum, as seen in this picture.

In 1982 Trungpa founded the Kalapa Ikebana School. It teaches Kado, the way of flowers, as a meditation practice. In Trungpa's opinion the actual result was not as important as the experience of arranging. Through the arts man can be involved in joining heaven and earth, heaven being the visionary principle that can be grounded and accommodated by earth.

The book that I've read is "Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision" by the French writer Fabrice Midal, Shambhala, Boston & London 2004.

Through this link you'll find information on Kado programs held at the Shambhala centers. I'm planning to take part in a weekend program in Rotterdam in October. If you have experiences with these programs you're very welcome to comment.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Norwegian Romanticism - Japanese Style

My ikebana teacher is invited to exhibit at a rose exhibition in Oslo every summer. Believe it or not, the event takes place in a chocolate factory. The chocolate is not the best, but the garden is beautiful and the cantine has real Edvard Munch paintings mounted in the walls. This is a cultural institution open to the public only during spesial events.

I was asked to do five arrangements for this years exhibition, and decided to make it a tribute to one of the most important Norwegian writers on his 200th birthday: Henrik Wergeland, very nationalistic, but aslo a champion for liberty, democracy and international cooperation. Wergeland was a romanticist and very fond of roses, so that's the conection. Flower symbolism was an important feature of his writing. In this series of ikebana arrangements the overwhelming poetry of Wergeland is interpreted in the more precise style of ikebana. Two cultures with a strong and close relation to nature meet, the Nordic and the Japanese.

I've named this arrangement "A long way from home". It refers to a song for the childrens parade at the Norwegian national day, May 17th. As far as I know it has not been translated. I post it any way for those of you who read Norwegian:

Mer grønt er gresset ingensteds,
mer fullt av blomster vevet
enn i det land hvor jeg tilfreds
med far og mor har levet.

The rest of the exhibiton can be seen through this link. It's also in Norwegian only, sorry about that. Most of the arrangements are by my ikebana teacher. The five at the bottom of the page are mine. Rose festival Oslo 2008

The exhibition is also presented on the Norwegian blog Moseplassen.


Two weeks of vacation.
Doing nothing but watching the sea.
Finally getting to do what I've been thinking about
for quite some time:
Cyberspace ikebana networking!

I whish for this blog to inspire and to be inspired.
Let's work on it together.
The blog world is a huge drawing room.
Come sit down and have a chat.

A man, just one -
also a fly, just one -
in the huge drawing room.

Haiku by Issa (1762-1826)

Lotus at the Lily Pool Terrace of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden,
New York, august 2007.

For inspiration: More water pictures from BBG in the visitors exhibition

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