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Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton


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Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Ego Ground

I walk with my dog, Shadow, every morning. (Actually these days, given his age and lack of eyesight, our "walks" are more like slow meanderings, which gives me plenty of time to contemplate things.) On our morning walks recently I have been thinking a lot about GROUND (earth and Mother Earth); BEING GROUNDED (stability and practicality); STANDING MY GROUND; and GROUNDLESSNESS (the fundamental ambiguity of being human).

The ground here in New Mexico is suffering from lack of rain, which is not just a function of being in the relatively dry Southwest, but also the effect of climate change on our Mother Earth. Shuffling through the sandy arroyos here, I feel a sense of sadness about what we humans, in our restless quest for more and more, have wrought on this earth. Has our greedy pillaging ultimately made us any happier? Possibly we have some momentary ego happiness, but ultimately our dissatisfaction returns tenfold. Trungpa Rinpoche called this cycle a form of insanity; i.e., endlessly repeating the same behaviors but each time expecting a different outcome.

Buddhist teachings say that this questing for more and more is the fearful grasping of the  human ego to stave off its fear of the inevitable: DEATH. Through consuming and hoarding material things, the ego feels it will be happy and have security from misfortune and harm. The endless strivings and distractions obscure the true reality that EVERYONE dies. No exceptions.

"How morbid!" us Westerners cry out. But Buddhists don't feel that way at all. The contemplation of death in Buddhism produces a sense of the preciousness of life and the acceptance of life, moment to moment, as it presents itself -- fresh with new possibilites for us to embrace, experience, learn, and grow wiser.


The Path

So, knowing that death is inevitable (only the time of our death is unknown), we set out on the Eightfold Path towards the cessation of suffering with good cheer and intention, walking to the freedom land.



Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Another dichotomy/duality that we humans suffer from is the artificial East/West split. I grew up in the 60s when things "Eastern" were all the rage, holding out the promise of exotic and romantic spiritual life far from the bourgeois humdrum of the Western materialistic world.



While I was on pilgrimage to Nepal and Tibet in 2007, Lama Wangdu imparted his fears to us that the real threat to Buddhist spirituality in Nepal was the onslaught of Western materialism that the Nepali youth were embracing whole heartedly. Maybe it's the grass-is-always-greener mindset that causes our restless seeking of something different than what we have. And so, in search of elusive happiness, the baby is thrown out with the bathwater.
Have we forgotten that the earth is round, and if you travel far enough to the East you will come to the West. And vice versa. It's all a continuum and wherever you are is neither East nor West but the center, the middle, the ongoing now.


My neighbors to the East
have forsythia blooming.

To the West,

My own yard is bare.

Will East and West ever meet?



Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

The years have passed since I last posted an entry. What happened? Did water pass under the bridges that were burning? Did trees fall in the forest? Did I lie awake trying to wake up again and again? Did I make art and make merry? Did I inhale and exhale and eat and shit? All of the above. And then some.

So I will start again from where I am. OK? Ok.


Jack and Jill1       Building Block#2

Jack and Jill

Human heartache, thy name is duality;

desire and aversion, this and that,

self and other.


Jack-and-Jill parents, time after time,

bequeath these building blocks to their own innocents.

All fall down.


But the crown we thirst for is not broken.

It resides well within.

Beyond either/or, beyond now and then.


Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Drive By Nation

I had lunch with some colleagues yesterday at a small French-inspired cafe which had, by all accounts, "simple, clean food."  Sounded good. The topic of conversation turned to global warming and our corupt government, etc., etc., a topic I am all too familar with, as on we ranted with self-righteous anger, periodically checking our cell phones, monitoring when we would need to leave and jump into our fossil fuel guzzling cars to get to the next thing on The Schedule. I started losing my appetite for my $6.95 chicken salad sandwich with chicken and tomatoes and lettuce and bread from who knows where or how, while the minimum wage busboys hauled our dirty dishes into the kitchen, and the parking lot filled with the cars of well-meaning middle class American white collar workers on their 30-minute lunch breaks. The sound of mindless gobbling, my own included, made me feel dizzy and afraid and sad. Something was terribly wrong with this picture.


Drive By Nation at the speed of sound



2008: American Life is just a bowl of merischino cherries?


Thich Nhat Hanh says:

"We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. Whether we can wake up or not depends on whether we can walk mindfully on our Mother Earth. The American dream is no longer possible for the Americans, much less for the rest of the developing nations of the world. We have to have another dream: the dream of brotherhood and sisterhood, of loving kindness and compassion."


But how to achieve this? It's not enough to "know" the "right" thing to do to to slow environmental degradation. We must act with body, speech, and mind. Thankfully, there are people all over the planet who are hearing the bells of mindfulness. There is a growing Slow Food movement, the Bioneers, books like by Barabara Kingsolver and other organizations using their speech and their bodies to effect change.


"It's All Alive, It's All Intelligent, It's All Connected."

We all eat. Therefore, food is central to the world’s most pressing issues surrounding public health, poverty, social justice and the environment.


Table Full


Table Empty



Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Georgia on My Mind (O'Keefe, that is) #2


Though it may be sacriligeous here in Santa Fe to say it (about as bad as admitting that I don't particularly LIKE opera, gasp!), I don't revere Georgia O'Keefe as much as I used to. There, I said it. Yes, I still adore her paintings, and I have to stuff my hands in my pockets at the Georgia O'Keefe Museum to keep from caressing her glorious canvases; but I NO LONGER WANT TO BE JUST LIKE GEORGIA.  I still want to emulate some of her qualities-- courage, vision, independence,  and, yes, eccentricity (as in not giving a damn what people may think).  But now I want something more, and that something more is a SPIRITUAL PRACTICE, something that can hopefully inform my artisitc vision but much more importantly can help me lead a meaningful life with much less suffering.

Georgia had a groping kind of 20th century spirituality based on the rugged individualistic pursuit of happiness far from the madding crowd (i.e. eccentric, artistic, romantic loner).

"I feel that a real living form is the natural result of the individual's effort to create the living thing out of the adventure of his spirit into the unknown — where it has experienced something — felt something — it has not understood — and from that experience comes the desire to make the unknown — known ... I in some way feel that everyone is born with it ... but that with most of humanity it becomes way or another."

My new role model, Machig Labdron ( ,

an 11th century Tibetan yogini, has a much more direct path:

Machig Statue Face   Troma

Loving Kindness aspect                Ferocious "cutting through" aspect

Be happy, my disciples!
That dualistic mental activity may be completely destroyed,
I have the excellent doctrines of freedom from activity.
Be happy, my disciples!
That all difficulties may be used as helpers,
I have the doctrines which show how to liberate whatever is arising in the mind.
Be happy, my disciples!
That the treasure of benefit for others may be opened,
I have the doctrines of mental training of aspiration and practice of Bodhicitta.
I open the treasure of benefit for both self and others and give it to you.
Do not feel sorrow, my children.
I will liberate all beings from the six realms of samsara.,_1997
Yippee! & A la la ho!

Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Georgia on My Mind (O'Keefe, that is) #1

Here I am in Georgia O'Keefe country and she is surely on my mind. The landscapes she so loved are every where I look, languid as nudes, shimmering and beckoning. There is a sense of freedom in the air, of spaciousness in the wide open spaces within and without. I feel the presence of the Beloved and the Grandmother rising all around.

I resonate with Georgia. Like her, I professed my intent to be an artist at an early age. Like her, I love the Southwest. Like her, I am a seeker and a loner. My artist friend, Gilda, and I used to sit in our favorite Mexican food restaurant in Dallas drinking endless "Texas Tumblers" of iced tea, plotting our escape from Texas. Gilda wanted to run away to NYC and be like Louise Nevelsen. I wanted to run away to New Mexico and be like Georgia O'Keefe. Gilda's been in NYC for 20 years; and now here I am in Santa Fe.

"I know I cannot paint a flower. I can not paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey to you my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time." --Georgia O'Keefe

Georgia's flower    Blake's flower

     Georgia's Flower (Poppies, 1943)             My Flower (photograph, 2007)

Georgia was a trailblazer, a feminist role model, my hero. AND . . . I have changed. My Buddhist practice has trained me to accept change more gracefully, and to look past romantic appearances into the true nature of reality. Again and again, I have had to let go of long-cherished fantasies and happily-ever-afters to embrace the what-isness of NOW.

Georgia       Machig

                                Georgia                                                         Machig Labdron

My new "role model"  is an 11th century yogini, Machig Labdron. In my next blog entry, I will elaborate.  But for now, just look at the pictures and I think the paradigm shift is evident: from 20th century rugged individualistic searching, to 21st century (via 11th century wisdom) luminous bodhisatva enlightment for the sake of all beings. A la la ho!

Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Myth America #5: The Illusion of Self

Perhaps the biggest myth/illusion we SUFFER from, especially in the rugged individualism culture --Yeehaw!-- of The US of A, is the sense that we are an  INDEPENDENT and SOLID "ME".  Buddhist teachings say that this grasping after the illusion of a solid and independent SELF is the root of all our suffering as human beings. It is based in ignorance of the true nature of reality. After all, each one of US started as two cells. IS THAT WHO WE ARE? Are we still the baby we once were? Are we the the WE that we were yesterday? Or even a moment ago? WE are constantly changing, shifting, never solid but dynamic and as ephemeral as the track that a flying bird leaves in the sky. We grasp at a concept of SELF that is not there. And then fearfully stare at our empty handedness, while reaching for the TV remote.


Me  Gazing Ball

                                    ME?                               ME?




Will the real me please WAKE UP?


On the eve of the 4th of July, where residents of the US of America celebrate "INDEPENDENCE & FREEDOM" by getting drunk, making lots of noise, and grilling dead animals (as Dr. Phil says, "How's that working for ya?"), why not consider our INTER-dependence. The Dalai Lama says:

[It] is quite clear to me is that the moment you think only of yourself, the focus of your whole reality narrows, and because of this narrow focus, uncomfortable things can appear huge and bring you fear and discomfort and a sense of feeling overwhelmed by misery. The moment you think of others with a sense of caring, however, your view widens. Within that wider perspective, your own problems appear to be of little significance, and this makes a big difference.


Why not further loosen your self-clinging, and become an ANTEVASIN (Sanskrit for "one who lives on the border") like our forefathers.  "You can live on the shimmering line between your old thinking and your new understanding, always in a state of learning. This is a border that is always moving as you advance in your studies and realizations.  That mysterious forest of the unknown always stays a few feet ahead of you, so you have to travel light in order to keep following it." 
E. Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love



Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Myth America #4: ET Phone Home


Welcome to the "High Strange" world of New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, where bumper stickers read "Keep Santa Fe Different" and I recently saw a  green Roswell alien painted on a UHaul truck. Maybe it's the altitude here (a rarified 7,000 feet above sea level), or the vast desert expanses that serve as a blank canvas for the sensory deprived.


Roswell Coke      UFO Theatre


Maybe it's the proximity to Roswell, New Mexico, where a UFO containing aliens supposedly crashed in 1947, and the government covered it up. You decide:




Maybe it's something more spiritual, if you will, this longing humans have to not be alone in the universe, to be able to reach out and touch. . . creation, eternity, god/goddess/all that is.


Creation of Adam

The Creation of Adam (Sistine Chapel; Michaelangelo)


ET Phone Home

ET Phone Home


Being in Touch

"Being in Touch" (mural in Roswell, NM)


Coincidence????? I don't think so.



Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Myth America #3: The Jackalope


If we are going to delude ourselves (and we humans seem to LOVE to do that!), we should do it with magical and fun things that make us laugh, not things like WAR or SOCIAL & ECONOMIC  INJUSTICES or RACISM, SEXISIM & HOMOPHOBIA (to name just a few delusions, alas, that we humans indulge in).


"The world is full of stories about brave heroes, magical events and fantastic beings.

For thousands of years, humans everywhere —sometimes inspired by living animals or even fossils—have brought mythic creatures to life in stories, songs and works of art. Today these creatures, from the powerful dragon to the soaring phoenix, continue to thrill, terrify, entertain and inspire us.  Some symbolize danger. Others, we think, can bring us luck or joy.

Together mythic creatures give shape to humankind's greatest hopes, fears and most passionate dreams."


Woman on Jackalope

Unidentified Female riding the only known Domestic Jackalope


So, why not put all our seemingly innate and insatiable need to wallow in delusion into my personal favorite mythical creature-- THE JACKALOPE!!  There is so much for us humans to love, admire, respect and mimic about the Western Jackalope:

*Jackalopes possess an uncanny ability to mimic human sounds. In the old West, when cowboys would gather by their campfires to sing at night, jackalopes would frequently be heard singing back, mimicking the voices of the cowboys.

*When chased, the jackalope will use its vocal abilities to elude capture. For instance, when chased by people it will call out phrases such as, "There he goes, over there," in order to throw pursuers off its track.

*The jackalope is an aggressive species, willing to use its antlers to fight. Thus, it is also sometimes called the "warrior rabbit."  To avoid injury, quickly fall to the ground, remain calm and still while humming the Roy Rogers song, "Happy Trails to You."

*The best way to catch a jackalope is to lure it with whiskey, as they have a particular fondness for this drink, as well as beanie weenies and s'mores.


*Jumping Jackalope








Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Myth America #2: Stuckey's


Pecan Log

"A little magic, a lot of hard work,

and an American tradition is born."

While it's not exactly known who created the very first pecan log roll, many would argue that it was Mrs. Stuckey who actually perfected it. The signature item within all Stuckey's stores and the "must have" purchase during family travel stops from the 1950's through today, the candy was first made in the candy kitchen attached to each store. In eight Stuckey's stores in the years after World War II, employees faithfully followed Mrs. Stuckey's original southern recipe. The maraschino cherry-laced nougat was hand dipped in hot, creamy melted caramel, then before cooling, freshly shelled pecan halves would be liberally sprinkled onto the caramel. Each pecan log roll was hand wrapped and delivered straight to the customer.                                                                                                       


Ok, I have to admit it-- I always succumb to the siren call of Stuckey's when I'm on the road. Having grown up back and forth between Texas and California in the '50s, I was practically weaned on Stuckey's sugary treats. Now, as a somewhat politically correct veteran of the vegetarian and natural food movements, I am appalled at the ingredients in a pecan log roll: sugar, of course, and corn syrup, OK. But marischino cherries and trans fats? Egads!


And yet, I always stop. Now I pretend that I will send the pecan log roll to my Southern friend, Kenley, who can appreciate my kitschy, road trip souvenir. More often than not, however and sadly, the pecan log never reaches Kenley! And why would I want to send a carcinogen log to a FRIEND anyway? Better to send a case to George W.


We are such creatures of habit, even when our current experiences and knowledge let us know in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that a Stuckey's pecan log roll will at the very least give us wicked diarrhea.  Still, my five- or eight- or even 12-year old self, yearning for that illusion of safety and the sweetness of life, longs for a Stuckey's. And my 59-year old self says yes. What can it hurt?





Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Myth America #1: Route 66


My road trip from Massachusetts to New Mexico eventually intersected with historic Route 66, as announced with much nostalgic-tinged ado and souvenir-fueled seduction on every highway billboard. My internal adventure-meter started buzzing, fueled by my 11-year olds half-remembered 1960s TV viewing. For those of you who don't remember, according to Wikipedia,


"Route 66 debuted on October 7, 1960. The premise was simple: earnest, privileged and sheltered Tod Stiles' (Martin Milner) father dies and leaves him a shiny new Corvette but little money; he and his buddy Buzz Murdock (George Maharis), who grew up in Hell's Kitchen, take off in the car to discover America, in search of adventure and enlightenment."


        "You see, were sorta looking for a place where we really fit,"

        Buzz explained. "A kind of niche for ourselves. You know?

        But, until then, we'll just sorta keep looking and moving."


Hmmmmmm?? Somehow from my 2008 vantage point (with a lot more life experience, meditation, critical and political thinking, and just plain reality checks under my belt than in 1960), this Route 66 thing feels a lot less romantic and adventurous and a lot more like mindless (and let's face it, immature) American existential privileged bullshit.  Especially in light of the soaring price of non-renewable, ozone-depleting fossil fuel, global warming, environmental degradation, and the level of world-wide human suffering.  Sure, we all want to "sorta kinda fit" and I'm all for ENLIGHTENMENT.  But hold the Corvette, the attitude, and the ennui, please.


Rather than getting their Hollywood-glamorized "kicks on Route 66" an estimated 210,000 people migrated to California to escape the despair of the Dust Bowl during the 1930's. Certainly in the minds of those who endured that particularly painful experience, and in the view of generations of children to whom they recounted their story, Route 66 symbolized the "road to opportunity." In his famous social commentary, The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck proclaimed U. S. Highway 66 the "Mother Road." 


History & the truth can be gritty and hard to bear. But if we turn away and forget, we may become lost.


Dust Bowl

Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Fearless Puppy on American Road


"Actual horrors notwithstanding, life on Earth is a lot friendlier than we have been led to believe, and can be made friendlier still. Many of us regular folks have realized this and chosen to do something about it."

-- Doug "Ten" Rose (


FP Cover


June 1, 2008

I serendipitously found this book in my local coffee shop the day before my dog and I headed out on our summer road trip. I felt it was an auspicious theme for our journey to adventures unknown in the wild blue yonder of New Mexico.

The actual "puppy" (my dog Shadow) is pretty fearless, the exception being loud noises like thunder.  I, despite my bravado and seeming love of "adventure", am the more chicken-hearted and prone to worrying type. I all too often allow my imagination to be influenced by the insidious negativity of the mass media that seeps in despite my best efforts. This coupled with my tendency to indulge in existential doubts (why? why me? what now?) can tip me over into the fear zone. And tip I did! What if my car breaks down? What if I have an accident and die? What am I-- nuts!-- to leave friends and a job for adventure? What if I lose my wallet? (This actually happened to me once on a road trip. The responding state trooper gave me $20 and my wallet was eventually found and returned intact!)

I was humbled by how much suffering my mind was creating!

Meanwhile, the beauty of the American landscape boldly but unassumingly unfurled itself outside my car windows. The scents of dew-laden earth, trumpeting honeysuckle and the bursting glory of spring green life flooded my senses. Beauty started winning out over fear. Pleasure and curiosity opened me to the moment. And the next. And the next. Five days and 2000 miles on the American road with no air "conditioning" to blunt the experience, no radio or music to distract the mind.  Mile after mile of mind looking at mind, moment after moment of restful alertness in the "what is-ness" instead of the "what next". I felt humbled AND overjoyed by the preciousness of this Earth and our innate ability to experience its beauty.


In Buddhist teachings, fear is foremost among the reactive emotions that produce the Three Poisons (aversion, attachment, ignorance) that are the root of our suffering. Fear can make us AVERSE to the "other" (people, experiences, emotions) and lead to separation and oppression. Fear of loss, of death, of what meaning our lives may have can lead to an addictive ATTACHMENT to material things and experiences to fill our emptiness. And fear can overwhelm us into head-in-the-sand IGNORANCE.


Meanwhile, the beauty of life on Earth unfolds moment after moment. Why not be a fearless puppy? YOU CAN CHOSE.

Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Our emotions & perceptions are like seeds in the garden of our minds –
 & mindfulness is like cool water.
When we water the seeds of joy in ourselves,
they will grow &  flower without struggle or effort.
This is one of the simplest &
most wonderful of miracles.
~~Thich Nhat Hahn




Flower Mandala


Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton


The Buddha said that all SUFFERING in this life as humans (as opposed to the inevitable and unavoidable PAIN of sickness, old age and death) is caused by The Three Poisons:

1)attachment (desire & greed);

2) aversion (hatred & fear);

3) and ignorance (delusion)

Speaking from my own vast experience of creating mountains out of molehills, I can heartily agree. If I had a nickel for every time I have reacted to an ostensibly benign situation with heart-pounding rage or fear, I’d be the proverbial millionaire!

Just recently, my friend Diana gave me an example of how the mind creates suffering. While on a writing retreat in tropical Yelapa, Mexico, she was terrified every night by the loud rustling/grunting sounds just outside her palapa (thatched roof hut with no doors or walls!), convinced that a huge and probably rapid javelina was poised to rip her to shreds. Night after night she suffered. Until one night out of sleep-deprived desperation, she faced her fears, shining a flashlight at the horrific demon on the other side of her mosquito net, wanting to see in her last gasping moments on this earth the monster that would bring about her demise.  But lo! and behold! that savage demon turned out to be a sweet little ole armadillo, known far and wide in Mexico & Texas as the peace-loving clown of the under brush! Poor Diana, Yankee that she is, had never hardly heard of an armadillo, much less petted one at the State Fair of Texas petting zoo like I had growing up. Moral being, for a good night's sleep: Never let fear morph an armadillo into a javelina!




Here are some armadillo factoids I looked up in the internet:
* There is a Mayan legend that the Mayan Sun God sat two unruly gods down on a bench before all the other gods. The bench was suddenly altered into a pair of armadillos, which immediately jumped up in the air--tumbling the two disobedient gods onto their backsides in disgrace. I'm not familiar with Mayan legends, but I do know that armadillos are known for jumping vertically into the air.

* During the Great Depression, this species was known as "Hoover Hog" by down-on-their luck Americans who had to eat them instead of the "chicken in every pot" Herbert Hoover had promised as President.

* In 1995, the nine-banded Armadillo was made the State Small Mammal of Texas.
* According to ancient legend, the symbol of the armadillo means to "roll with the punches". (

This last part is the one I know most about, having spent time in the late sixties at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas, where everyone rolled with the punches, and rednecks partied with hippies. The armadillo life lesson I learned in my, yes, mostly misspent youth--  for a good time, Tolerance Trumps Fear.


Take Me to the Mountains's_Headband- regulars at the Armadillo World Headquarters

Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

The Potholes of Life


Black Hole


I'm sure you've all encountered these potholes, if not literally, then figuratively-- the black holes of loss, anger and hatred; the bottomless pits of despair; the soul -jarring obstacles on our path. Unfortunately, there is no way out but through. Especially the basic ones like sickness, old age and death, as the historical Buddha said in his first teaching on the Four Noble Truths.


In case you don't know or remember the Four Noble Truths, let me summarize:

1. The Truth of Suffering

Life as a human is subject to the inevitable suffering of sickness, old age and death.      Nobody gets out alive! (or unscathed!)

2. The Causes of Suffering

Besides the inevitable pain of sickness, old age and death, we humans add a lot of         mental/emotional/physical suffering  by engaging in the reactive emotions of attachment, aversion and ignorance (The Three Poisons).

3. The Cessation of Suffering is Possible

Good News! Free your reactive emotions, clear your mind and you will feel less               suffering.

4. The Path to the Cessation of Suffering

Buddhism is nothing if it is not practical and effective! The Buddha laid out an Eightfold  Path of mind trainings and behaviors/life attitudes that can greatly relieve human         suffering. (More about that later.)


Whereas the lesson with life's pleasures is not to get too attached (aah, maple syrup on pancakes!), the lesson with potholes is not to be too avoidant by denying or repressing these obstacles and the resulting reactive emotions they elicit.  Once again, the SLOW DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION advice applies to potholes, though in my experience with a lot of extra added squirming!  I remember being at a retreat with Pema Chodron called "Going to the Places that Scare You" and almost having a panic attack when having to meditate on one of my potholes. Here is where the importance of breathing deeply and calmly cannot be emphasized enough.


I'm practicing a lot of deep breathing and softening as I prepare to fly to Dallas tomorrow for a family conference aimed at assisting my mother into a nursing home. The image below has helped me to stay calm and centered. May it bring you joy.

May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May they have happiness and the causes of happiness.