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

…As a $2 Bill…

This morning was a momentous occasion, well that’s probably an exaggeration.

I’ve been trying to get into the habit of writing every morning after I meditate and before I bring my daughter to school. Yesterday, I filled the last remaining pages of a notebook, which means that today was time to open a new notebook.


I took out a fresh journal. I always keep a few around, who doesn’t? Right? I pulled the cover back, cracked the spine, eager to enter the freshness of the notebook’s beckoning blank pages, I noticed two crisply folded $2 bills. What else could I think but “that’s weird”? I don’t remember when or why I put them there but, I’m glad I did.


I’ve often quipped that I’m religious but not spiritual. I don’t have an affinity for the “other-worldly”, the supernatural, or what some might call the transcendent. I think “this-world” has more than enough amazement and wonder to offer. I think the “natural” is plenty “super” on its own, and often my most profound experiences of “transcendence” comes from deep experiences of the immanent.


And yet, I have a relishing fondness for ritual. I think most creatives do. We are often meticulous and almost superstitious in the observance of our creative routines. We take great care to create at the same time and place everyday. We drink out of the same mug. Some of us are compulsively particular about the notebooks and pens we use, as well as the ceremonial ways in which we use and prepare them. It’s interesting that the near monastic ordering of our creative ritualizations becomes the opportunity for the expression of our weirdness.


In a lot ways I think that’s exactly what creative practices are, the routinized rites we methodically perform in honored observance of our weirdness; the ceremonious celebration of our peculiar strangeness.


In fact, James Victore goes so far as to say that “the things that make you weird as a kid will make you great tomorrow”.


On a daily basis we are bombarded by a legion of outside influences and forces all vying for a chance to smooth out the unevenness of our peculiarities, so that we can better fit into the current cookie cutter shape of normalcy.


We need to find, formulate, and routinely carry out rituals that remind us of our strangeness. 


Today one found me…


I think from now on, whenever I open a new notebook, before I ever dot an “i”  or cross a “t”, these $2 bills will be ritualistically paper clipped onto the pages of the journal to instruct me that no matter what happens here, no matter what you do…Keep it weird…

Art in Pieces…

Nietzsche says that “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” I can relate. While I can’t say for sure if I’m actually able to “give birth to dancing star”, I can say that everything I create begins in chaos, an inner chaos that manifests itself into outward expression. That physical expression of an internal anarchy is what I call my creative process.


Everything that I make begins its life as a fever of a thought typed into Evernote, a jagged idea roughly hewn and scraped into a notebook or across a Post-It, like the photo above.

The line inscribed on the pictured Post-It note first appears in a conversation I had with Brady Hester on an episode of his podcast. It then took up residence as a random annotation. And, would eventually find a home in an essay called “I Am Grateful for the Insight of the Other.”


This leads me to wonder…


What if it’s the Post-It notes, the scaps of paper, the unseemly assortment of uncured ideas, that are more important then the completed essay?


What if it’s the sketches, the rough drawings, the drafts, that are of greater value than the finished painting?

What if “the process” is the place of artistry?


What if it’s all the various “pieces” that make up a piece of art that are the real ‘masterpieces”? And what if we treated them that way?


What if we created a Gallery of First Attempts, a Museum of the Primordial?


What if we framed the early iterations and filed away the finished product?

Maybe that’s what it means to be liberated from the “outcome”…

“Everything is Connected” – Transcript

A few weeks back I had the privilege of recording a few thoughts for The Riverside Church’s podcast “Be Still and Go“. The podcast has been exploring the connections between spirituality and the environment through meditative reflections from various practitioners of differing traditions. I am humbled and honored to be included in such an interesting and insightful group of thinkers. 


At one point in time ecological thinking played a pivotal role in some of my creative work and writing. It was invigorating to bring environmental thought back into current work. Below you’ll find a link to the episode and a rough transcript of my reflection. Enjoy!


Spiritual traditions are at their best when they’re breaking down binaries, when they are bridging the gap between binaries, when they’re dismantling and deconstructing dichotomies, when they’re collapsing all the categorizations that we’ve constructed to keep ourselves separate divided and disconnected.


I think one of the dichotomies, one of the binaries, one of these places of division that is most in need of being dismantled, and deconstructed, and broken-down is when we believe that we are separate from this earth, separate from the land, when we believe that we are disconnected from this planet, this environment that we are a part of.


I think that’s one of the things that attracts me most to Buddhism, and specifically Zen. They begin with this idea of “interdependence” and “inter-connectivity”, this idea that everything that “is” is dependent upon everything that is in order to continue to be. Everything is connected, everything connects, everything is engulfed by this lively mesh of existence and “Being”, this tangled brew of life.


In Buddhism we take refuge in something called the Three Jewels, we have these refuge vows. We say that we take refuge in the Buddha, we take refuge in the Dharma, we take refuge in Sangha. The Buddha, the dharma, and the Sangha. The teacher, the teachings, and the community. But, I think the reason that these refuge vows, these three jewels, are so important to the this practice and to this tradition is because there is a way to see them play out that shows that they are an expression of this interdependence, this inter-connectivity.


I think when we say that we take refuge in the Buddha, the teacher, we’re not saying that we take refuge in the historicity of a figure, or that we take refuge in the particularities of a person. I think what we’re actually doing is saying that we take refuge in the “universality” of awakening. We are recognizing that all of existence  exists in an already awakened state.
And if that’s the case, when we say we take refuge in the dharma, the teachings, we’re recognizing that because everything that exists is an expression of this on-going process of awakening, then everything that exists, everything that is, has truth to impart to us. Everything is the teachings, and everything has something to teach us. We have lessons to learn in the examination of all that lives.


When we say that we take refuge in the community, we’re not saying that we take refuge in the spaces and places of fellowship. We’re not saying tat we take refuge in our communities of practice, our communities of observance. We’re saying that we take refuge in the community of all being. We tale refuge in the community of life as a whole.


There’s a zen master by the name of Dogen who says that “Mountains practice with one who meditates. Water realizes the way with one who practices.” He goes on to say that “Because earth, grass, trees, walls, tiles, and pebbles of the world of phenomena…all engage in buddha activity, those who receive the benefits of the wind and water are inconceivably helped by the Buddha’s transformation…and intimately manifest enlightenment.” He says that “The sutras are the entire world… There is no moment or place that is not sutras.” There is no moment or place that is not the source of truth, the source of the teachings.


“The sutras,” he says, “are written in letters of heavenly beings, human beings, animals, fighting spirits, one hundred grasses, or ten thousand trees. This being so, what is long, short, square, and round, as well as what is blue, yellow, red, and white, arrayed densely in the entire world… is no other than letters of the sutras and the surface of the sutras. Regard them as the instruments of the great way and as the sutras of the buddha house.”


Mountains, rivers, lakes, streams, grasses, everything that we encounter, everything that is, are the letters of the teachings, they form the letters of the lessons we have to learn. They form the expression of how we’re connected. And when one meditates, when one sits down to practice, when one becomes observant, all of existence becomes observant. When one of us wakes up, everything wakes up. When one of us comes alive everything comes alive…

New Video! “Is it True? W/ Rajan Shankara”

Recently, I had the good fortune of interviewing Rajan Shankara for an episode of the podcast. you can listen to the full episode below.

Today I released the video of our conversation:\

Rajan is a former Hindu monk who lived the monastic life for 12 years. Almost a year ago he left the monastery and returned to the world. He’s now a personal trainer, a meditation teacher, and a life consultant.

He and I began chatting near the end of year after we had both been guests on the Project Mindfulness podcast. You can find Rajan’s episode here: https://projectmindfulness.com/podcast/audiobiography-of-a-yogi/

And mine here: https://projectmindfulness.com/podcast/episode-7-facing-the-reflection-in-the-mirror-with-duane-toops/

We wanted to collaborate together in some way but, we just weren’t sure how. Since our initial contact I started my podcast and the time was finally right for us have a recorded conversation.

Rajan was an absolute pleasure to speak with. We talk about what pushed him into the process of taking up a spiritual path. We discuss his time spent as a monk, and what inspired him to leave monastic life. We compare notes between Zen and Hinduism, and we even touch on some big topics like ‘Enlightenment’. We had a great time and I really hope you enjoy it!

Be sure to connect with Rajan on Social Media:

Facebook Business – https://www.facebook.com/Rajanshankaraofficial/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rajan.shankara.5

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/rajanshankaraofficial/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/rajan_shankara

Shout out to my Patrons and Supporters:

Jim Martin – https://theunusualbuddha.com/

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

Jerome Shaw – https://anchor.fm/jshaw

Jerry Maynard – https://www.facebook.com/revjerryhtx/

Rajan Shankara – https://rajanshankara.com/

If you want shout-outs in podcasts and videos, if you want to get early access to videos, and if you’d like exclusive access to Patron only content, then check out my Patreon Page. For $3/month you get it all!

Be sure to check out my Website to stay up to date with what I’m up to, and feel free to hit me up on Social media – links below.

YouTube – www.youtube.com/duanetoops
Twitter – https://twitter.com/duanetoops
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/duanetoops/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/duanejtoops/

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

Hurricane Daze: What’s Coming Next…?

It’s Thursday. The week is coming to a close and yet, I feel like my week is just getting started.


Let me explain.


I live in Central Florida and if you’ve been following the news at all you may have seen that we’ve been living with the threat of Hurricane Dorian for the majority of the week. 


I’ve lived here in Central Florida since I was eighteen. This was not my first hurricane experience but, the unpredictability of it is something you never quite get used to. When you’re waiting to see what happens or what’s going to happen, it’s like your whole life gets paused and everything is thrown into a perpetual and all-consuming “waiting”. You make preparations, you check the updates, you double check your preparations, you check for new updates, you make sure there are no gaps in your preparations, but ultimately you’re just waiting…


After a few days of “waiting” it’s difficult to distinguish what day it is, they all start to blur together.


Today is our return to normalcy.


We got lucky. Hurricane Dorian didn’t make land fall in Florida. Unfortunately, the Bahamas were not as lucky. My heart goes out to them. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around what they’re going through and what they’re experiencing. My words fail. I know it doesn’t help but I’m sending them as much compassion and concern as I can.


Before the tumult of hurricane preparation took over our daily routine, I had the good fortune of interviewing Rajan Shankara. Rajan is a former Hindu monk who lived the monastic life for 12 years. Almost a year ago he left the monastery and returned to the world. He’s now a personal trainer, a meditation teacher, and a life consultant.


He and I began chatting near the end of year after we had both been guests on the Project Mindfulness podcast. (You can find Rajan’s episode here and mine here) We wanted to collaborate together in some way but, we just weren’t sure how. Since our initial contact I started my podcast and the time was finally right for us have a recorded conversation. 


Rajan was an absolute pleasure to speak with. I had a great time talking with him. The impending storm pushed me behind schedule in editing the interview but, I’ll be starting that process today, and I’m hoping to have ready to release sometime before the end of next week.


I’m sorry to keep you “waiting” lol. If you want to listen to the latest episode of the podcast you can find it here and if you want to watch the video of the latest episode you can find it here.


Wish me luck.

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

New Video – “Lessons of Liberation W/ Rev. Jerry Maynard”

I sat down with Rev. Jerry Maynard. Rev. Jerry is a Priest, activist, and Interfaith Minister. He works within the Int’l Church of Mary Magdalene, which is a ministry of the Independent & Progressive Catholic Religious Order, Order of Mary Magdalene. He is also the founding pastor of The People’s Church.

In this conversation we talk about theology, atheism, activism, “liberation”, and so much more. I think you’re going to love it!

If you want to connect with Rev. Jerry you can find his social links below:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/revjerryhtx/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/revjerryhtx

The People’s Church on Twitter – https://twitter.com/ThePplsChurch

Shout out to my Patrons and supporters Jim Martin from The Unusual Buddha ( https://theunusualbuddha.com/ ), Ben Bridges, and Jerome Shaw from The Open Palm Podcast ( https://anchor.fm/jshaw )

If you want shout-outs in podcasts and videos, early access to YouTube videos, and access to Behind-the-scenes Patron only videos, blogs, and photos, then check out my Patreon page. For $3/month you get it all! – www.patreon.com/duanetoops

And be sure to connect with my at the social links below:

YouTube – https://youtube.com/duanetoops
Twitter – https://twitter.com/duanetoops
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/duanetoops/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/duanejtoops/

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

New Podcast Episode! “Lessons of Liberation W/ Rev. Jerry Maynard”

This week I sit down with Rev. Jerry Maynard. Rev. Jerry is a Priest, activist, and Interfaith Minister. He works within the Int’l Church of Mary Magdalene, which a ministry of the Independent & Progressive Catholic Religious Order, Order of Mary Magdalene, He is the founding pastor of The People’s Church.In this conversation we talk about theology, atheism, activism, “liberation”, and so much more. I think you’re going to love it!

If you want to connect with Rev. Jerry you can find his social links below:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/revjerryhtx/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/revjerryhtx

The People’s Church on Twitter – https://twitter.com/ThePplsChurch

Shout out to my Patrons and supporters Jim Martin from The Unusual Buddha, Ben Bridges, and Jerome Shaw from The Open Palm Podcast.

If you want shout-outs in podcasts and videos, early access to YouTube videos, and access to Behind-the-scenes Patron only videos, blogs, and photos, then check out my Patreon page. For $3/month you get it all!

Be sure to connect with me at the social links below:

YouTube – https://youtube.com/duanetoops

Twitter – https://twitter.com/duanetoops

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

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

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

“A Purposeful Purposelessness” – Transcript

Hey friends! This is the transcript from one of my most recent podcast episodes titled “A Purposeful Purposelessness“. If you’d like to listen to the episode you can click the link above, listen below,

or you can find “The Process & The Path” on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and any where else you get podcasts. Enjoy!

My favorite part of creating and sharing content are the conversations that follow. The conversations mean the most to me. Those conversations are where I learn the most. It’s that learning that is most important to me, it’s learning from those conversations that inspire me the most.


I was fortunate enough to receive some great feedback and some really interesting push-back from Jerome Shaw of The Open Palm Podcast.


He was struck by something I said in one of my previous podcast episodes titled “Something About Nothing“. I was talking about how I’m almost addicted to being busy, addicted to always doing something, or working on something. And, that sometimes I implicitly equate my worth and value as a person with my productivity. I almost instinctively tie my identity to what I “do”, to what I produce, and to what I create.  Because of this compulsion to be productive at all times, I feel anxious and uncomfortable whenever I’m not doing anything, and I almost never really allow myself to do ‘nothing’. The one exception is my meditation practice. I said that the 20 minutes a day I sit in meditation is the only time during the day that I give myself permission to be unproductive.


That last remark is what caught his attention. He said that he wouldn’t be able to produce on the level that he does without his meditation practice. He described it as a slowing down to speed up. And, he said he feels as though he is producing tons when he sits. He remarked that even though you seem to be doing nothing, you are doing something.


First off, I really appreciate the push back. I love the engagement of curious and respectful rebuttals. Not only does is create quality conversation, it also deepens the understanding of all parties involved. Sometimes due to the constraints of the platforms we create and communicate on, we offer fast and dirty remarks, we provide our “hot takes”, when we should be more thoughtful. I feel like these moments when I get to respond to probing questions provides me with the opportunity to examine things more fully.


When we talk about the productiveness or un-productiveness of meditation, I think its really more a difference of semantics rather than a point of outright disagreement.


(I probably should say before going any further that I am in now way a meditation expert or teacher. I’m just a guy trying his best to figure all this shit out, while trying to talk about his personal experiences in a clear and understandable way.)


I agree with the image of meditation as a “slowing down to speed up”. I was in a really bad place for a few years and I had let go of any and all of my creative aspirations. It was practice meditation that awoke the creativity that I had allowed to become latent and dormant. It actually sparked and ignited a depth of creativity that I didn’t realize I had. My deepening practice of meditation was and is the catalyst behind all of my current creative work.


My engagement with meditation has been primarily within the Zen tradition. The style of meditation I practice is called “shikantaza” which translates to mean “nothing but sitting” or “just sitting”. We don’t sit to achieve something, to gain something, to produce something, or to do something. It is sitting only for the sake of sitting. It is a goal-less endeavor, a purposeless practice. It is sitting with no ulterior motive beyond simply sitting.


In fact, the instant we introduce an ulterior motive to this practice of meditation, it ceases to be meditation. In his book The Way of Zen, Alan Watts writes that “it is only when there is no goal and no rush that the human senses are fully open to receive the world.” He goes on to say that “The moment a goal is conceived it becomes impossible to practice the discipline of the art, to master the very rigor of its technique.” The discipline is the art. The practice is the goal. The process is the path…


Yet, meditation is an ambiguous exercise, a paradoxical practice. It’s an enacted contradiction. When we practice this kind of meditation we are “doing nothing”  and yet, somehow, in some strange way, “something happens”. It reminds me of something I read in Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. He writes that “Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying…Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.” He says that “When we sit…we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. insights accrete.” 


When we put in the reps and build the muscle memory, when we consistently show up, for the sake of the discipline, for the sake of the practice, and for the sake of the art alone, something shifts within us. We find a flow that feels both foreign and familiar. We have changed and yet we have never been more the same. Everything remains in its place and yet somehow everything has been dramatically altered.
So much of my time is spent striving towards a goal, pushing towards a desired end. I pray to more fully comprehend the practice of a purposeful purposelessness.  

The Itch of Acceptance…

About a month ago I wrote an article about acceptance, and I still can’t get it out of my head.

Usually when I make a piece of content about a particular subject it’s because its been buzzing around inside my brain for a while. In that regard, creating content around that idea is like scratching an itch in my mind. Most of the time that creative scratching provides relief from the intellectual agitation. But, sometimes…the mental tingling surrounding a certain subject doesn’t subside. Sometimes it lingers, and sometimes it spreads. Even after I’ve explored an idea in a video, a podcast, or blog, sometimes it still sticks with me. “Acceptance” is that kind of enduring itch…

I just came across a tweet from a blogger named Ben Simons that returned “acceptance” to the center of my focus. He wrote the following:

Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. We can accept things as they are, without being resigned to them staying that way. In fact, that acceptance helps us to see the most skillful way to respond to our circumstances.

Needless to say, I find myself thinking more and more about “acceptance”, what it looks like on a day to day basis, what it means, and more specifically what it means to me.⠀But, I’m not sure why…

There’s a lot about myself I have trouble ‘accepting’. There are parts of myself that I just wish weren’t there. I’m moody, and socially awkward. I get easily disheartened and disillusioned. I’m prone to periodic bouts of depression and melancholy. I see the glass as perpetually half-empty. And, as you can probably tell, I’m pretty critical of myself as well.

I’m coming to understand that practicing acceptance doesn’t mean we have to like those things, and it doesn’t mean that we have to resign ourselves to the idea that we can’t change or that this is how we’re always going to be. Acceptance shouldn’t be confused with apathy or indifference, acceptance is something much more radical and subversive.

Acceptance is the realization that who we are cannot be concretized by our characteristics. We are more fluid than that. The wide openness of acceptance sees our story take place across a sweeping landscape, a broad horizon , instead of through the narrow tyranny of a judgmental gaze.

Acceptance is a kind of clear-sightedness. In the book From Mindfulness to Insight , authors Nairn, Choden , and Regan-Addis explain that “Our perception is obscured as soon as there is resistance and the impulse to struggle with what we don’t like”. They go on to say that “what we refuse to accept hangs around longer because our mind gets locked into resistance and, ironically, we hold on to the things we don’t like”. Acceptance is the recognition that before we can begin to see things differently we must first clearly see and understand the way things are.

Acceptance means that we refuse to be broken by our flaws. Instead we see simply see our shortcomings as bends along the path that we continually press forward upon. It’s easier said then done, believe me I know. Maybe that’s why it still itches…