a map of dust and stars…

a map of dust and stars

Last week the folks over at the Tattooed Buddha were kind of enough to publish a piece of my writing. Below is an small excerpt. If you’d like to read the full article you can find it here.

Dissatisfaction and disdain rest atop nearly all the facts and facets of my existence, like a fine layer of dust covering over something dormant. Something settled and still. Something stagnant and unmoving. Something that came to rest and then never left. 

Dust is full of dead things, but it is also made of stars. The molecules of a supernova’s splendor cascading down across the sky on wafts of otherworldly light, and flecked into the nebulous clay of who we are. Our dust is made of living; not only of what once was but also what still is; a rife and teeming ecosystem. “It is this ‘dust’ that makes your corporeal self”, says J.M. Miro, “It is in you and through you, and it leaves its traces wherever and whenever you use your talent.” The shed skin of shifting cells side by side with the pieces and particles of every living thing embedded in and upon the use of your unique gift. “The body of a talent”, Miro goes on to say, “is a map of their dust”; a map of their dissatisfaction and decay, a map of regeneration and change.

Miro explains that we “waste all this time dreaming of where [we] came from, cause [we] know no one comes from nothing”, and we hope there might be a hidden explanation for everything in the hindsight of our regret. We tell ourselves, Miro says, that “if [we] only knew, then maybe [we] could see a reason for how [we] got to be the way [we] are”, and why our lives look the way they do. “But there isn’t any reason,” Miro concludes, “not really”. Shit happens as the sacred proverb goes. The nature of reality is absolute, but it is also inherently arbitrary and absurd. 

If you’ve found my work helpful in anyway, consider supporting by Buying me a coffee.

The Tattooed Buddha: Snapshots of Meditation

snapshots of meditation

Recently I was asked by the lovely folks over at the Tattooed Buddha to contribute to their SnapShots of Meditation series, a project that seeks to show what real-world meditation looks like by highlighting the daily observances carried out by everyday practitioners and their reasons for practicing. It’s always such a pleasure to get to work with the Tattooed Buddha team, and I always jump at the chance to do so. Hope you like my contribution to the series, and be sure to head over to the Tattooed Buddha website to read what other contributors have to share.

So much of creativity and the creative process is about seeing; seeing clearly and seeing differently.
In fact, Seth Godin writes that, “Artists, at least the great ones, see the world more clearly than the rest of us”. This is, for me at least, why “artistry” and spirituality are so intimately connected and intertwined. Achieving and maintaining this kind of atypical ability to see and perceive is intrinsic to being an artist, but being an artist has absolutely nothing to do with one’s mastery over watercolors, oils, marble, or clay, because art, itself, has nothing to with any of those mediums, or any other other medium for that matter.

The medium is irrelevant and ultimately inconsequential. “Art,” as Godin goes on to say, “is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person.”

Meditation is an art, and art is a mediation. Both function as the means by which our perception becomes alerted to the immense profundity laced throughout the realness of the present moment. In art we are allowed to exercise a kind of analytical awareness.

Our consciousness becomes concentrated and compounded, and we are attentively attuned to the rich interplay of texture, color, tempo, and composition. Similarly, “To meditate,” as Stephen Batchelor explains, “is to probe with intense sensitivity each glimmer of color, each cadence of sound, each touch of another’s hand, each fumbling word that tries to utter what cannot be said.” And in both cases, we are at our best, and our most artistic when the change created within ourselves elicits a change in others.

If you enjoyed this article, consider supporting my work by Buying Me a Coffee.

“This is Nothing” – Free Downloadable Zine

A few weeks back, in a rare moment of boredom, I was doing a deep dive on Austin Kleon’s website. Somehow or another I came across a blog post about free, printable zines from The Wander Society.I downloaded and printed a couple of them. I was completely captivated by these little zines and enamored with the idea behind them.

I had been toying with the idea of trying to make zine for about a year or so, but just couldn’t really come up with a concept or a format. These Wander Society zines were exactly what I needed. It was the final catalyst, the moment of clarity, the last big push of inspiration to get me to do it.

What you see above is the end result. It was so much harder than I anticipated. I got so much wrong throughout the process of making this zine. Even the final product is really rough and more than a little “off”. It didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped it would, and I went back and forth for a while deciding whether or not I would post it. Finally, I said, “fuck it, why not”.

Here you have it, my first free, downloadable, printable zine! By the way, just to forewarn you, you may have to play with the scale settings when you print the zine. “Fit to paper” seems to do the trick.

I really hope you enjoy it. I hope that maybe it’ll inspire you to do something you’ve been wanting to try.

As a bonus – I’m doing an art give away in conjunction with this zine!

Here’s the rules:

  1. Follow me on Instagram
  2. Post a picture of your printed copy of this zine and tag me in it.
  3. Comment on my Instagram post of this zine that you’ve done it.

I’ll announce the winner this Friday, February 5th.I’ll direct message the winner for their mailing address, and then ship out some of my original art. Unfortunately, at this time the giveaway is open to US participants only.

If you get any value out of what I do, consider supporting my work by buying me a coffee.

Keep showing up, Keep doing the work, FAIL BOLDLY, and let’s make something meaningful.

New Podcast Episode – “Glimmers of Hope in the Kitchen…”

the possibility claimed meaning

Madeleine L’ Engle says that “An artist at work is in a condition of complete and total faith”  – a faith that some minute piece of the manifold mystery will become material for a moment. A faith that some small substance of the things hoped for will become manifest albeit in an ephemeral way. A faith that we will uncover the evidence of things unseen, the evidence of the possible, and that the possibility will claim meaning.

We are full of secrets. We contain a multitude of mysteries. We are breathing inkblots, walking Rorschach tests. Perhaps, its in experiencing the weight of our own untold secrets that we are driven to create and compelled to keep creating.

Maybe art, itself, is an external attempt to touch our deepest secrets, the secrets buried so deeply that we don’t even know that they’re there. And maybe, these are the secrets fighting the hardest to be unearthed.

We stand poised upon the precipice of a sacred unknowing. We don’t know what comes next for us as a culture, as a society, we don’t know what our civilization will become, but we know that there are glimmers of hope in the kitchen, and maybe that’s the secret sauce.

If You’re interested in pre-ordering “The Unusual Collections” mentioned in the show which contains a t-shirt, a Mala, a signed copy of Jim Martin’s book, The Practical Meditation Journal, and one of my Art Prints – click here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/special-offer-37125633

Shout out to my patrons:

Jim Martin – https://theunusualbuddha.com/

Ben Bridges – https://www.myfpvstore.com/

Rev. Jerry Maynard – https://www.facebook.com/thepplspriest

Julianna Minotty – https://www.instagram.com/wellinformedish/

Bob Clubbs

If you’d like to support the podcast and all my other creative work, consider becoming a Patron on Patreon.

If you’re interested in purchasing prints, feel free to message me on Social Media:

FaceBook – https://www.facebook.com/duanejtoops

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/duanetoops/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/duanetoops

New Podcast: “Fair Weather in the work…”

Maybe I’m just getting to that age where conversations about the weather is a thing that happens now. Maybe the weather is as good a metaphor for life as any other. Perhaps then every conversation about the weather is an implicit conversation about living and being alive. Perhaps what we really talk about when we talk about the weather is how we are handling the way life is at this moment right now…

If you want to look further into some of the writers and thinkers I mention, check the links below:

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The Practical Meditation Journal by James Martin

Grace Eventually by Anne Lamott

Brilliant Ideas: Artist Grayson Perry 

If You’re interested in pre-ordering “The Unusual Collections” mentioned in the show which contains a t-shirt, a Mala, a signed copy of Jim Martin’s book, The Practical Meditation Journal, and one of my Art Prints – click here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/special-offer-37125633

Shout out to my patrons:

Jim Martin – https://theunusualbuddha.com/

Ben Bridges – https://www.myfpvstore.com/

Rev. Jerry Maynard – https://www.facebook.com/thepplspriest

Julianna Minotty

Bob Clubbs

If you’d like to support the podcast and all my other creative work, consider becoming a Patron on Patreon.

If you’re interested in purchasing prints, feel free to message me on Social Media:

FaceBook – https://www.facebook.com/duanejtoops

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/duanetoops/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/duanetoops

New Podcast Episode!

After an almost six month hiatus from releasing a podcast episode, I’m back. In this episode I talk a little bit about where I’ve been, what’s been going on, and why there hasn’t been any podcast episodes for the past SIX MONTHS. I share about some personal difficulties I’ve been having and some hardships I’m still reeling from and going through. I also get into why I decided to finally make another episode.

And, because I’m a book junkie I bring up a wonderful book I’ve been reading by John O’Donohue called Eternal Echoes .  A few passages reminded me of the last podcast episode I released called “The Insight of the Other” which was based on a blog post I wrote called “ I am Grateful for the Insight of the Other“.

Special thanks to my friends, patrons, and supporters:

Jim Martin: https://theunusualbuddha.com/

Charlie Maclean: https://taenofvessels.home.blog/

Rev. Jerry Maynard: https://www.facebook.com/jerry.m.maynard

Ben Bridges: https://www.myfpvstore.com/

If you’d like to become a patron and get access to behind-the-scenes patron only content: https://www.patreon.com/duanetoops

Thanks so much for being here!

Keep showing up, Keep doing the Work, and Let’s make something Meaningful.

2019 Reading List

Every year I set a reading goal for myself. Some years the goal is more prodigious than others. This year I wanted to keep it fairly simple. I wanted to read two books a month. I didn’t reach my goal but, I came close.

These are the books I read this year in chronological order. Some struck a deep chord. Some were only mildly interesting. But, each and everyone taught me something. Each one imparted something, and for that I’m grateful.

New Podcast/Video – “The Insight of the Other”

Earlier this morning I put out the audio and the video of a New Podcast Episode.

Last month I wrote a blog called “I Am Grateful for the Insight of the Other“. In many ways that essay opened some creative flood gates. It’s been the catalyst to much of my recent creative work, so I thought it might be interesting to talk about it on the podcast.

Realizing that November is the “National Month of Gratitude” prompted me to take a hard look at myself and my propensity to be “ungrateful”. I began to think, what would it look like for me to be more intentionally grateful? What would happen if if I made it a point to purposefully practice gratitude? What would I find? What would I see?

One of the first things that I found myself incredibly grateful for are the countless conversations I’ve had with so many inspiring people; people who have brought me to insights I would have never arrived at on my own, people who taught me so much about myself and the world.

I remain presciently grateful for the insight of the Other…

A Diagnosis of Ingratitude…

I pulled this clip from my interview with Daniel Midson-Short because I initially intended to include it in the blog I posted yesterday about the mutinous nature of gratitude but, I as listen to this conversation it feels so poignant that I think it deserves space enough to breathe on its own. 

Everywhere we look we are told that who we are, what we have, and what we do is not enough. We are told that we need more, we need be more, we need to do more. And all too often these sentiments are expressed most ardently within ourselves to ourselves.

Usually, the loudest voice in the room telling me that I’m not enough is my own. As a result, we become afflicted by the disease of what Daniel Midson-Short calls “comparison-itis”.

In fact, not long ago I sent out a tweet admitting that the trap of “comparison” is one that I fall into often, actually “often” may be an understatement.

These unhealthy comparisons not only render us unappreciative of our living particularities, they also leave us feeling ungrateful.

As a result we overlook our own anomalous nature. We take our lives, and almost everything within them, for granted but, gratitude is a protest against the autocracy of comparison. Instead, it is a celebration of the “overlooked”, a commemoration of the “taken for granted”.

All the metrics and measurements, though helpful at times, are imaginary and ultimately inconsequential.

“Moving the needle” simply means that we’re making the effort to make it work.

Gratitude says that wherever our feet land as we walk upon our path is a landmark. Every move we make within the process is a milestone.

Gratitude is Mutinous…

Almost a month ago I posted an essay called “Grace Through the Cracks”.

In that essay, I wrote that “Maybe gratitude is a kind of mutiny”, because it “refuses to be submissive or obedient”.

I didn’t think much about those lines at the time but, the imagery of gratitude as a mutinous activity, a rebellion against authority, a refusal to take orders, has really stuck with me.

The picture at the top of this post is proof of that admission. A couple days ago I sat down at my desk to test out some new brushes in Photoshop, and that picture is what arrived. I can’t say it came from “nowhere”. An image like that has been in my head for a while but, I didn’t plan on making it when I began doodling with the new brushes but, I’m grateful that it showed up anyway.

I suppose that also proves how rebelliously insubordinate “gratitude” is.

Gratitude is an active resistance against apathetic passivity. Gratitude subverts the status quo by refusing to see anything as “status quo” . It is a mutiny against the mundane. Through the treachery of thankfulness the mundane is elevated to a place of magnificence.

Our morning coffee becomes an Opus Dei, every commute becomes a pilgrimage. With profane gratuitousness everything becomes sacred…