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: