February 7, 2016

...and now for something completely different...

In between the hectic and stressful schedule of my life as a freelancer, a graphics design student and amateur/obsessed researcher of Komitas, I made the right choice and decided to re-start going to zazen sessions at the local Dojo!! Ta-taaaaa!
My fascination with Zen had started following a course on Non-Western art I took during my art education. I figured I loved reading about the approach of the zen monks to practicing their traditional arts more than reading about the art itself. As a result, I later took another honours course this time on the following book, which many of you probably have read:

It was an amazing course prepared and taught by Lee Adnepos (a wonderful professor; I still remember his calm voice. I used to leave his classroom more inspired and curious than before after each lesson) and I still count myself extremely lucky for having taken it. The whole semester we dissected Pirsig's book, word by word, researched on themes within, and ended up reading several other books next to his. And then, as a part of the field research, he took the entire class to a Zen temple in Rochester and there I had my first zazen experience. After the first introduction at the temple, I knew I wanted to make it a part of my life.
After we moved to Antwerp, I realized I wanted to continue and Bas and I started going to the zendojo Ho Sen. We enjoyed it immensely, and we saw the benefits of these frequent zazen sessions in our daily life. Nonetheless life happened and we stopped going following some medical problems. Since then neither Bas nor I had practised zazen although we tried Samu at every chance we could and Bas's interest in koans and other readings never diminished.
Today I went there again after several years of absence. And boy! I had a blast! Once I was there I knew I had made the right decision. To start with, I  had a very warm welcome from other members, I then met the new ones, had two zazen sessions and I knew I would try and do my best to go there regularly.
Do not get me wrong, it is not all enlightenment right after the first moment, and nothings is sugar coated, no no-not at all. On the contrary it is a lot of work and can be tiring at first, even sitting still or finding the right way to sit can be a painful experience for some. The benefits come slowly and way later. I believe zazen helps me stay calm, helps me control my ups and downs a bit and makes me more observant.
Today our teacher gave a wonderful example of a landscape, which I think can also be applied to many aspects in life. This is what I understood of it: during meditation, everything we perceive (smells, sounds, even physical discomfort of sitting still, or even the thoughts and memories) are like different parts of a landscape; some more pleasant and some less than the others. Concentrating on a single discomfort is like concentrating on a single piece of garbage within the landscape and missing on all the rest. Instead, we should be aware of the whole picture without giving priority to a single one.
Of course this was just one of the many things he told and after all this is my interpretation of what I heard. You might do zazen and have a totally different experience. It is worth trying, for everyone, I believe, regardless of your path, your faith (I am for instance an atheist), your age, your condition etc.

Here below you can find the information about the Ho Sen Dojo I attend. Feel free to check their website(in Dutch) and try it for yourself maybe? :)

February 1, 2016

in search of Komitas -2 Bibliography

Reading about the Armenian genocide is not at all an easy task. I keep reading about places I know, places I have been to, places I walked on without knowing that thousands had been murdered there. I have to stop every now and then to go out for a walk or open the window the let in some cool air to calm myself down. I also feel more irritable and have less tolerance for silly jokes that target groups of people or cash on stereotypes.
It feels like there is so much hatred in this world.
I think the more I read topics on sociology and history, the more I understand people and their motives. They are selfish and predictable. Animals driven with simple instincts. That gives one a strange sense of calmness, it is like coming to terms with human stupidity. You would then expect that it should not be news that there is so much hatred around-since that too is to be expected from our species. Nonetheless there is also so much good and greatness; like in music, harmony, in arts, in literature, and all of it is going to waste!
A fragile and gentle person such as Komitas is wasting away somewhere on this world, at this very moment. This alone is the biggest tragedy.
Komitas, gouache on watercolor paper, 2016 -  Sevgul Sumer Dielemans

As I keep reading, I keep sketching too, these days all I draw is about him and his music.
Anyways, here is a bibliography (in English) I would like to share; the first 6 are sources mentioned at the website: Komitas Virtual Museum where you can find more information on his life and works.
  1. Atayan R. - Komitas. 100-th anniversary of Komitas. New York, 1969.
  2. Komitas Vardapet - Presents the life and songs of Komitas. New York.
  3. Komitas Vardapet - Rethor of modern Armenian music. New York, 1957.
  4. Poladian S. - Armenian folk songs. Los Angeles, 1942.
  5. Poladian S. - Komitas Vardapet and his contribution to Ethnomusicology. California, 1972.
  6. Soulahian-Kuyumjian R. - Archeology of Madness Komitas. New Jersey, 2001 (ordered this one from Gomidas Books, great selection of books and very friendly service!)
  7. Karakashian Meline - Komitas (1869-1935), victim of the Great Crime. (I have ordered this book from Hairenik shop and that was a big mistake! Luckily I managed to get my money back, gotta order it somewhere else.)
  8. Andonian Aram - Exile, Trauma and Death-On the way to Cankiri with Komitas Vartabed. London 2012 (ordered this one from Gomidas Books, great selection of books and very friendly service!)
  9. Balakian Grigoris - Armenian Golgotha. New York 2009 (limited information about Komitas but gives a detailed first hand account of the 1915 deportation)