Truth is my Identity

I was recently inspired by a vision I saw while meditating on a ten day silent Vipasana retreat.  Ten days is a long time to sit without speaking.  Inevitably the mind comes up with all sorts of ways to distract.  At one point, I had a vision of a nuclear mushroom cloud with the words SAT NAM overlaid over it.

Sat Nam is the main word that appears in the Sikh sacred scripture.  The word Sat means “everlasting truth” and the word Nam means “name”.  Translated loosely, it means “who’s name is truth” or “truth is my identity”.

In that moment I considered that all of life is part of truth.  Whatever concept of God we might have, it surely embodies all of reality as it is.  The light and the dark.  The good and the bad.

It can be easy to become disillusioned or righteous.  But how do we maintain an equanimous perspective – seeing the entirety of reality as interconnected?

I was inspired to translate this vision into a physical art piece.  I worked with mediums that were entirely new to me but quickly found support through research and friends.  The first piece came together within a couple of weeks and I felt called to expand on the concept with additional imagery beyond the nuclear explosion.  What was most striking to me was this idea of using challenging imagery not to criticize but to create dialogue.


The reality is that we are all products of this world as it is.  Were it any different, we would be different.  As we endeavor to change the world, it is important to accept this fact and recognize that it is implicit in whatever social or political function we wish to address.

I spent months collecting images that I felt were reflective of the global human condition that has emerged over the last century.

Each piece is a social mirror calling us to stop and reflect on how what we see has somehow informed who we are.  The goal being to approach the subject matter not with judgement, but with acceptance as we endeavor to see our own reflection in whatever is being depicted.

Though the things we see may not be agreeable to us, they are nonetheless part of our reality.  A reality of which we are also an expression.  By acknowledging this, we can overcome notions of the 1% or the 99% and consider that shifting our global situation requires a holistic approach that involves all participants in the system.

My wife, Natasha, and I partnered with Alhia Chacoff-Berger from UPstate to organize a discussion panel focused on this subject of “truth” and “identity”.  The panel included thought leaders from various spiritual disciplines: Hari Kaur Khalsa, Elena Brower, and Shaman Durek, with Alhia and Kyle Godfrey-Ryan as moderators.  Gerald Foster from WelcomeEarth was gracious enough to film the whole event.


Here are the pieces and, at the end, my poem as a spoken word expression of the pieces:

The Art is the Heart

This last year I debuted my first art show.  On display were two heart responsive electronic pieces inspired by an experience I had at Burning Man.  Exploring the desert playa one night, I bumped into a small, golf cart sized art car covered in LED lights.  What was particularly notable about this vehicle was that it had a heart sensor that you could attach to your finger.  Once the sensor picked up your heart rate, the entire car would start pulsating with your heart beat.  It was deeply moving to observe my heart and my partner’s heart in this way.  I was inspired to explore the concept further on my own.  A few months later I did some research, bought all the electronics equipment I needed, and created my first heart responsive meditative mandalas.


I’m fascinated with this idea of using external inputs to bring awareness to our internal landscape.  When someone initially plugs into one of these mandala pieces their first reaction is to tune into their own heartbeat to see if the LED pulsations are accurate.

Our heartbeat is ever present inside our chest.  From before we are born until we die it is there.  We never have to think about it, it just does its job.  Yet there is so much more to explore and understand.  Just on a sensory level, tuning into your heart, you can begin to feel the flow of blood throughout the whole body.  You become deeply present with yourself just by feeling the physical heart.

I believe that this is incredibly therapeutic.  It is a meditation unto itself.  And this is the vision behind the mandala pieces, that one might have an external visual cue to reflect their internal state.  As I continue to explore this work, I may try to make the LED colors responsive to changes in heart rate to put more emphasis on the bio feedback.  In the meantime, the lights just cycle through the color spectrum as they pulsate with the heart.  Here is a video of one of the pieces in action: