MR. BRAY

Studios, LLC

503-334-7521

       MR BRAY

A boutique design & animation shop that dissolves the line between studio and agency.

Six Realms: The Animal Realm

Before we move onto to this next realm I want to pause for a moment. This blog and this exploration is not something I expected or let alone desire others to read dogmatically. This is just a playful and sometimes painful introspective discussion and thinking out loud.  

This following realm, the animal realm hardly limits itself to Buddhist teachings. The same ideas and illustrations that describe this realm are talked about in great details in Taoist teaching. Which I'm presently enjoy the charming book called "The Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff. It's easily the most precious and peaceful experience I've discovered in the arena of philosophical stories. 

 

Back to the Animal Realm. The animal realm is the pattern driven person. They're out of breath in their first sentence because they've already queued up there next nine talking points. The animal realm is the realm of racing for survival in an "eat or be eaten" mentality.

You've encountered people like this, if not yourself been there innumerable times. The animal realm is similar to say a gazelle that's in a consistent search for food and a constant alert for predators. People in this realm are  often unreachable. They can't take a break because there's too many fires at work and if they can't finish everything it means the end of their career! They're in a hurry to nowhere. 

Its easy to get caught up in this mess, especially as you allow fear to grip you. When fear is your motivation you're incapable of inviting in a bit of rest and relaxation. The animal realm also turns you into a thoughtless robot. Your life becomes automated. 

 

Here's an experiment to see if someone is in the animal realm. Ask them a motivational question, say why are you doing your task this way in a nonjudgmental tone? See if they have a clue. Ask them about their day or their weekend and see if they can give you anything other than a stock reply. If they only give the stock answer you're currently looking a a robot. They've disconnected for reasons, none of them truthful. 

The animal realm is the realm that makes you stupid! You're to busy to see the world or things around you. The problem is we can all get captured by this thinking. Being busy is not a sign of quality in our lives. Being anxious about our next task then the next is mindless and inhuman. Running and running around and completing to-do lists won't awaken you to the presence of being. Further I challenge you to think of a quality decision you've made under extreme anxiety and fear? That's guaranteed to be a poorly made decision or solution.

How to we break away from this realm? It's quite simple. Slow down and pay attention. Not everything is a fire and exceptionally few things are actually life and death. Looking busy so management or professionals or social media excuses you to just be you is ridiculous.  

I'll leave this subject with a picture. Imagine you're a flowering plant 🌱. At first you begin life as a seed in the ground which eventually breaks free from the soil. Reaching upwards and outwards you're fed by the rich nutrients in the earth and the warmth and light of the sun. Your existence is both out of your control and half unseen. Beneath the soil is your roots. Your history, life events, friendships, heart aches, childhood and adult experiences that brought you to this moment. Yet none of that can be seen. All that can be seen is your leaves and flowers, your external accomplishments, projects, possessions, etc... You're here today because of yesterday's roots. Inner growth is always needed for outer growth. Life is bigger, better and far more wonderful that not taking the time to stop and smell the roses.

There's truly no need to be in such a hurry, we'll all get to our own end in time. Lastly to give my favorite quote from the "Steve Jobs" biography "the journey is the reward".

 

Stay present, 

 -Jesse

Six Realms: The Ghost Realm

Continuing our conversation about the six realms, starting with the Hell Realm now onto the Ghost Realm. Often referred to as the hungry ghost realm. This particular realm has probably the strongest resonance with me and I believe many people who've grow up in extreme poverty. Just to recap according to the Buddhist teaching the six realms are the following:

  • The Hell Realm
  • The Ghost Realm
  • The Animal Realm
  • The Human Realm
  • The Titan Realm
  • The God Realm

Note: none of these realms are realms to want to reside in emotionally. Nor are you confined to one particular realm. As we'll chat about later we can transition from one emotional realm almost fluid like. The point is these realms illustrate what our desires and emotions are experiencing. And hopefully how to better or help ourselves be awake and present.

 The Ghost Realm is in my opinion one of the most intriguing realms. In the Ghost Realm you're always hungry but never fed, always grasping but never attaining. It's really no surprise when Hollywood and timeless stories portray ghosts as these formless apparitions unable to reach out to the living. It's when we feel unfortunate, without, or in constant need that we're living our lives as hungry Ghosts. It also encompasses a toxic hope I refer to as a "lotto mentality". Always looking for more and more with a magical mind that says you'll be happy when or if these wishes come true.

People that have experienced poverty get what I'm talking about. You want to spring from your circumstances but nothing seems to come your way. You're thirsty or hungry or naked or without some necessities. When you're in this emotional state you're in the Ghost Realm. But how do we get out of it?

Only within this last year did I realize how deeply I was plagued by this poverty mindset, this hungry ghost realm. How I had been forcing myself to live in this Ghost Realm. Where I felt in constant need. However the truth is, it's not need but greed that keeps me in this realm. 

There's an innate desire to always make ourselves look good. It's something deeper than I can fully understand. Yet there's also a cultural nobility at least in America to always look busy, to be productive. This pattern like behavior leads us into all sorts of troubles and when we touch on the other realms it's pretty obvious. However this constant push for more and more in our lives, and believing that that desire is noble, is in my opinion the greatest emotional evil that keeps us in the hungry Ghost Realm. Thinking what I'm craving is a need when in reality it's GREED! 

 

My father was the prime example of greed for me. Throughout my life the lion's share of our conversations revolved around his two favorite topics: lust and money. How to have it and how keep it. His whole world was painted in that light. Now for myself growing up in many ways diametrically opposed to my father on almost every idea, I still felt the effects of my father's greedy passive aggressive sentiments. While I was a penniless artist, musician, and naive hippy Jesus freak. He was a stuffy self serving amoral business man, always looking for an angle to exploit people. As I mentioned in previous posts I didn't have much of a relationship with my father, especially before I was 13. My father was a force in part of my life. All parents or parental guardians are. He was also much a force of evil and his efforts left a mark. Of that mark was for quite sometime a broken record in my head. The record said to me my worth was external. That I didn't have enough, or that I didn't matter until I had enough. 

To be completely candid you can see even here why it was beneficial for me to remove this toxin from my life, regardless of him sharing DNA with me. This ever unsatisfied person imbued a poverty mindset that clung to my early extreme experiences of being poor, homeless, hungry and alone. You see the hungry ghost realm keeps you there by many methods but all of them are lies. Being homeless isn't the end, what is home but an external comfort. Anything external can be taken from you. And a poverty mind makes you an emotional prisoner.  

Perhaps these ideas are too simplistic for you. Yet for me escaping the hungry ghost realm or at minimum realizing I was there for so long helped dissolve the fear and greed that tries to keep me there. 

 

I'll leave with one last story. When I was a child I would often have a series of reoccurring nightmares. One particular nightmare was that of being trapped in a dark windowless room with a terrifying floating head. This head would rush towards me to frighten me. And I would lose all since of direction. Years later I would discover this prison with the scary face was a manifestation of my childhood lack of agency. I was as a child unable to change my circumstances. I was forced into someone else's will for my life much, like all children. Yet I'm no longer a child. I'm not helpless. You're not helpless. Hope, real hope, hope to be awake and present is but a breath away.  And when I see a conditional happiness I can see it's truthfully greed not need that keeps me in chains. 

 

thank you so much for following my journey. Be well and be encouraged. 

Stay present,

-Jesse

Six Realms: The Hell Realm

During my mindfulness journey I discovered a fascinating teaching called the six realms. It is a wonderful illustration which emerged from Buddhism. Whether you think of them as literal or figurative they reflect real human experiences we all have. The six realms are the following:

  • The Hell Realm
  • The Ghost Realm
  • The Animal Realm
  • The Human Realm
  • The Titan Realm
  • The God Realm

Each realm represents a metaphorical and emotional reality. Many of these realms can even interweave throughout your day or within the same experience. Just to give a birds eye view on this idea of the realms we'll start with the hell realm and work our way through with each post.

The Hell Realm is as you might of guessed it, Hell. Fire, pain, agony and anger. When you're angry you're in the hell realm. And what the hell realm teaches us is that anger is ultimately about feeling alone. Now there is an immense amount of literature on this subject but I'd like to keep this subject as personal as possible. One of the beautiful things about Buddhist teachings is they deliberately ask you to test their ideas and not to swallow them mindless or dogmatically.

 

Growing up in a Christian home I was told basically that anger was bad and that angry people are bad. Which made sense to me. Angry people do violent things and violence is bad. Right? Well this is where I've evolve my own ideas. Anger is just an emotion, and emotions aren't really bad or good they're just emotions. And these emotions have greater underlining meanings within ourselves that requires a deeper reflection to begin to understand. 

Let me explain. For most of my life I considered myself to be a very even tempered person. Outwardly cool, calm and collected. When someone would cut me off or was rude to me I never said anything cruel or reactionary in response. I just outwardly held my peace about it. Thinking all a long, "look at how nice I am letting other people act a fool" and me not saying anything. Now little did I know that I was actually feeling superior to these people, a feeling akin to the god realm, a self righteous attitude. So I ignored feeling frustrated to jump to being holy.      

You might be thinking, I'm having trouble tracking. Well I wasn't escaping my anger by ignoring it or displacing it with false piety I was treating a natural human experience as if the very idea of getting upset reflected something fundamentally wrong about myself. Anger isn't good or bad it just exist. Why we're angry is a far more insightful exploration.  When I was being wronged, then immediately ignoring my anger I was missing out on the revelation that anger brings. I was feeling alone. Someone or something upset me and isolated me. We'll get into the other realms later. But for years I thought I wasn't an angry person meaning I don't get angry, so I'm a good person, I was in reality lying to myself. Anger like many other emotions are a kind of litmus tests of your spiritual health.

Your body isn't healthy because it's not currently fighting an infection. Your body is constantly fighting microscopic battles night and day. You're body is considered healthy when those infections aren't overpowering your life. Such is anger. This is not to police your emotions but to learn from them, to dissect them pattern by pattern. Examine them. Understand and validate them. This doesn't mean we indulge them but we learn from them.

Perhaps why I was angry with a careless driver is because they scared me and almost caused myself or someone else harm. Perhaps underneath that anger is a frustrated, hungry, or scared person using anger pretending it's a shield of courage. 🛡  

Anger is like the hot water that draws out the flavors of a tea. The hot water isn't what I'm after but the flavor of the tea. The hell realm is often just around the corner, but knowing that anger teleports us there is a power in itself. When we're angry and stay angry we're burning in a type of hell. I'm sure there's hours of conversation about anger triggers but perhaps we can learn to look at anger face to face  and see the deeper pattern within. The why we're angry and not just the reaction. We all get angry and this doesn't fundamentally reflect anything greater about ourselves than that we're human. It does however have the powerful potential to bring about greater insights into our being.

 

While I'm chewing on the topic of the six realms I intend to break down the other five realms in future posts. So I invite you to stay tuned.

 

thanks for following my journey 📖 

Stay present, 

 

-Jesse

First Job

The other day I got to chatting with some folks about their first jobs. One person mentioned food services another person mentioned labor. And it got me thinking my first job was a pretty odd one. I remember it quite vividly. Aside from pulling weeds or mowing lawns my first job was illegal. 

My step-father had me at 10-11yrs old go around door-to-door selling hot phone cards. Hot as in they were stolen(a fact I'd later learn). And here's the crazy thing I knew my step-father wasn't gonna let me keep a penny and I'd get a beating if I didn't sell them all. So I jacked the price up on each stolen phone card I was selling by a few bucks. 

It was a odd job for sure. But doing odd jobs would later become a bit of the usual for me. Perhaps I'll share more on that at another time.

Life has a weird way of driving us in all sorts of directions we never would of thought possible. But we all have to start from somewhere. And you really only get one first of something, be that a bit boring or a bit bizarre, Thanks for following along.

 

Stay Present, 

 

-Jesse

Visited By Ganesha

Recently I've been really digging meditation. Like big time. Seems like a silly thing to brag about. I often half close or close my eyes for anything from a few breathes to several minutes and just focus on my breathing. It's a sweet way to chill and be in the present. Not all sessions are equal by any degree. But they're always beneficial to helping me focus on the here and the now. I could go on as to why I struggle with that but honestly I'm not unique to this. We all have this monkey mind so to speak. A brain train that doesn't want to slow down for a second. A mind that's desperately clinging to ideas, subjects and objects in a frantic sorta way.

However, sometimes I have these far out experiences when I meditate. That even while it's important not to get attached to them I still like to write them down as a reference. An experience is an experience. And that's worth noting in my book. Even if after a session I just cleared my busy thoughts or struggled with gaining attention. An array of experiences helps me to let go of all the stuff and just be. 

Like I mentioned recently I've been digging meditation. This one time I met Lord Ganesha, or just Ganesha to the layperson. Now I'm not Hindu and never really versed myself in Ganesha lore or literature. At least not before I met the dude. Now don't get me wrong I know I met Ganesha in my mind but it was real and very powerful.  It was a next level experience that I can't quite shake even though I should. Especially since  meditation teaches us to let things go.

I had been wrestling with some heavy stuff so I decided to really dig my heels until I was in a particularly focused state of meditation. I saw myself shoot up into the inky black sky like a comet. All around me were constellations. Each constellation formed a familiar shape then in the distance I saw a cluster of stars that made the silhouette of Lord Ganesha seated in the lotus position. I took a closer look and out from the stars appearing before my very eyes was the physical form of Lord Ganesha. He placed his trunk on my right shoulder and I felt a transmission of energy. Like He was downloading cosmic secrets into my being. I felt calmer and more at peace than I could remember. I even smelt a sweet aroma in the air and warmth of His trunk on my chest. I opened my eyes and He was gone. But not really. I felt Him strangely with me for the next couple days. The warmth and the smells would randomly reemerge.  

Later I would dive into some homework on my Lord Ganesha and discover He's the deity of removing obstacles, among many things. And it was clear in my mind why He visited me. Be that a vision, or visitation Lord Ganesha placed a peaceful mark on me and it helped me down the road of my spiritual journey. 

You might think I'm some crazy hippie. To be candid I for the most part consider myself a Christian. Albeit when it comes to spirituality I'm honestly more into the mystic vibe. I want an experience not a ritual. Be it Lao Tzu, Buddha, Christ, Kabbalah, Krishna, Zarathustra, Mohammed(PBUH) or beyond if they've got something to offer me via wisdom, peace or presence I'm listening. I'm not here to pass judgments on what people encounter. I'm not after artificial abstracts or dogmatic truths. I'm after experiences, and reality. So when I share this very personal experience I get its odd. But it's also strangely cool.

 

Thanks for following my journey, 

 

Stay present! 

-Jesse

 

Revisiting Old Tales

In college I wrote a children's book called "The Oak Tree". The story is about a tree that falls in love with a fox and what ensued afterwards. 

The class was a lot of fun! It was taught by a professional that worked at Dark Horse comics. He did an exciting and inspiring job of teaching the ins and outs of graphic storytelling like I had never understood before. He also brought in a slue of guest artists and professionals to mead out industry tips and insights. 

One particular guest was an editor at Dark Horse. She went around the room giving healthy edits to people's stories. It was an incredibly rare privilege. Now I was a bit different than much of the classmates in that I was creating a kids story rather than a traditional comic book. When she read my story she was moved to tears. Inside I leaped for joy in that I had struck an emotional chord with her. 

However, I was puzzled. I asked what's wrong? She said it was a great story. Yet I was still confused. I asked her directly if the story is so great how would I present it to Dark Horse comics. She said while it's a great story it's unfortunately not a fit for Dark Horse. I was completely side smacked. Here I had hope she enjoyed my story or at the very least hoped she had minimal suggested edits. Now starring me in the face was someone that enjoyed my story so I naturally assume what's the next steps? Sure I'm hardly leaving this kids book in this post at the moment so it might be hard to feel the resonance of what I'm saying. 

 

Yet my point being I felt had found an audience with a creative gatekeeper so to speak, and in this context a positive one at that. However I was mistaken. I had written a children's story in a comic book class. Sure many comics are kid friendly. But this story was the wrong format for the wrong audience. I had thought I was being clever, or perhaps all along I had really just wanted an excuse to tell my story. 

Here's the interesting takeaway. Regardless of the audience or the format or really if the story was even good or not. I had a weight on my heart that needed lifted. I'm nobody special nor do I need to be to express my feelings to the world. I want to create emotional connections with people that's all. While I've positioned my mind to revisit this kids story and hopefully release it to the public, it's the alleviation of my creative burden that fuels my soul. Sure financial security has an allure but there really is no such thing as security in uncertainty. And life is always changing, always uncertain.

Resting in this uncertainty has been my new zen. Not my efforts, not my desires, and not the circumstances around me. Creating when there's a weight that needs lifting only through creating is what matters. Connecting in real ways are what matters most. And acknowledging and dispelling the burdens of success or failure. So while I'm revisiting old tales I pray to glean new respect and brighter sensations from the experience they bring instead of the silly possibilities they often never bring. 

thank you for following along 

Stay present,

-Jesse

The Temple

I dreamt last night that I was climbing up an enormous mountain of stone steps towards a Buddhist temple. Step after step I saw and passed many other devotees heading in the same direction.

Finally as I approached the entry way I could see a billowing fog of what looked like incense as patrons poured in and out of the doorway. Crossing the door way I was ecstatic for what was about to happen. I had the anticipation of an experience of zen or pristine awareness in store.

As I walked through the fog I saw inside this temple was in reality a massive buffet as far and my eyes could see. Here was the hustle and bustle of a hoping restaurant and everything looked so delicious! It's at this point I woke up to the sound of my own laughter.

 

Sometimes a dream is absurd sometimes it's a cosmic joke - this seemed to be a bit of both. Thanks for following along.  

-Jesse

Untold Stories

If you've read much of this blog you might think otherwise, yet I have an inner battle when it comes to sharing my personal stories. I believe I'm by no means alone in this feeling. Nonetheless the struggle is real.

 

Not so long ago I was having coffee with a friend and we started sharing some deeply personal experiences. At the end I said to him how much I appreciated our chats and tagged on a bit of preachy advice. I said "it helps no one for us to keep these stories bottled up inside". Clearly I'm a hypocrite just by my apprehension to do that very thing. 

Yet as silly as it sounds to take my own advice I kept thinking on this idea. Everything changes, nothing lasts forever. We're all going to die and in 100-150 years everyone alive  today won't really matter. Unless we make today matter. Today is technically all we have. And for many today might be their last. 

Now this might sound bleak or depressing to some, yet to me it gives me strength. If today is all I have then, what I choose to do today is far more important than what I did yesterday and tomorrow hasn't or may never happen. So it's this resolve that I'd like to uncork untold stories and I encourage you to do the same. 

Imagine what that could do for you or myself if we just intentionally shared more? If we all said today is a good day to be at peace with giving this to the universe. 

Thank you so much for following along. I wish you peace and courage as you choose to share your untold stories. 

 

-Jesse

What is Your Everest?

I'm a dreamer to a fault. I think the impossible on a whim all the time. This might make me sound like some innovator or visionary. But those are just silly words for a head in the clouds dreamer. As a society we glorify these imaginative people in media, tech and beyond. However it often boils down to two things that give these people worth: wealth and opportunity. 

Take any invention from the creator of radio to television to electricity many people were simultaneously developing the same idea at some other location. Yet the winners like Farnsworth, Edison, Disney & Jobs weren't the originators. They were lucky or affluent enough to find their voice or product to become the loudest. Such is business.

 

You have a great product, story or idea which might even be able to help better the world but there's really no guarantee your projects will ever see the light of day. Yet we still create. We still dream. Why am I seemingly lamenting about the plight of the dreamer? Well two reasons... 

1. Talking about this reality helps me be at peace. 

2. Speaking a dream out loud regardless of how wild and impossible feels profoundly cathartic. 

 

One particular dream that's been a labor of love and heart ache has been an animated children's show I've been developing. The show is called "Kafka & Normie". It's about a beetle and worm that live in the attic of a library and they go on literary adventures together.

The premise of the show is somewhat reminiscent of that classic live action kids show called "Wishbone" with that adorable dog that re-enacts stories from books. I absolutely loved that show as a kid and I can honestly say that it was one of the few programs aside from Mr. Roger's & Reading Rainbow that actively gave me a thirst for reading. 

You see while I've mentioned this in previous posts I grew up much of my childhood homeless. However these shows when I did view them ignited a flame inside be like no other. I was obsessed with libraries, still am! Even being homeless and not in school I tried to go to the library whenever possible. I would often get there when the doors opened and stay till they closed. The library is the simplest and purest way for anyone to feel rich! They offer access to the greatest wealth and depth of subjects and knowledge from history and around the world all at your fingertips. 

This is why this silly animated kids show means so much to me. It represents my salvation. The library saved me. And it's through this love of adventure of reading that I want to share that same spark. If I can hopefully reach even one child in need, like I was, I can truly leave this world fulfilled. So for me my Mt. Everest is this animated kids show. Albeit more of what the kids show represents to me.  

 

So I ask you this question: what is your Everest? What is a great labor of love that you do regardless of the outcome?

 

thanks for reading along 📖   

-Jesse

 

Printing Kidneys

We live in a pretty incredible time! It seems almost like there's a never ending technological miracle happening every day! 

 

At the beginning of the year I started doing some freelance driving gigs for supplemental income; Lyft & Doordash particularly. I just want to frame this post with a bit of a confession. We all have seasons in our life and there's no shame in having a side hustle to make ends meet. I struggled with this at first because I felt it might override my mind or make me feel low because not all of my time was being allocated to my favorite work. That was hugely incorrect. The truth is my industry and many others is often feast or famine. You'll work 65+ hours one week then maybe  zero hours the next week. A side hustle can seriously help you have a bit of financial balance. Plus you don't have to commit to anything longer term or on going. One of the greatest things about those freelance gigs aside from the total flexibility is the opportunity to meet new people.  

One such person I met really impressed me! He was a doctor. We got to chatting like usual and I discovered he was a kidney transplant doctor. He shared with me some fascinating details about the difficulties of his job, especially in context to compatible donors. Apparently a donor even if they share the same blood type and are related still face the possibility that there might be trouble with the host rejecting the new kidney. 

This is where having read an exciting article in Wired years prior in college I brought up the topic of printed organs, such as kidneys. Well to my amazement my rider immediately perked up and said "that was me being interviewed in that Wired article!" Here I was a graphic designer  taking a morning Lyft shift and I got to meet someone who performed miracles! Total highlight of my day and beyond! The doctor continued to explain the complexity, much of it over my head, of how they create the matrix required to grow tissue and organs.

To me this experience is a reminder that we're all continually surrounded by extraordinary people doing extraordinary things! Some of us like myself get to share their stories, others get to create the stories, all of us are more connected than we realize.

 

-Jesse

My Eyes Are Bigger Than My Stomach

Sometime last year I got a wild hair and wanted to create my own LMS (Learning Management System) for a FREE animation program. I've had quite a bit of success in the past teaching, especially animation and design, so I thought out loud "what if I could do the whole thing myself and for FREE"?

 

Well reality set in and I started to pull apart the hiccups to create this program all on my own. I thought perhaps I could use the exercises and projects I've had my interns create over the years or even rework my previous course work for this platform. Then I got seriously stuck. 

 

While I'm an animator and graphic designer, the hurdles to create this sort of online FREE "Animation Boot Camp", I needed to sort out more than just lessons and examples. Teaching the materials wasn't my problem; time, costs and technology were the real problems.

 

Firstly time is the most significant and the most limited. I'm just one person, and when exactly would I be able to pull together the extra 40hrs a week on top of my work and life to build this thing? This dream project requires a great deal of time and energy.  

Secondly I've gotta keep the lights on and working on a FREE animation school isn't going to pay the bills. Even if I had unlimited server credits on AWS (Amazon Web Services) and it was 100% free to build (which it's by no means) I need some upfront costs to build it.  

 

Lastly, and this is my most persnickety point, technology. While there is amazing technology available, the cost of the greatest tools are the immediate barrier that cause would be animators to miss out. From Toon Boom to Adobe and beyond these softwares have a steep learning curve and a hefty price. While they're amazing software and I'm confident I can teach them to anyone; basically I would be creating free advertising for an existing animation software company. 

 

Which got me thinking why not create my own tools? Why not create animation & design tools that are free to use?! Well that's my current ambition. I personally feel a quality educator, cares so deeply for their students, they're passionate about removing as many obstacles as they can so their students can learn uninterrupted!  

 

So what does that mean for the future of "Mr. Bray Academy/ Animation Boot Camp"? Well I haven't abandoned my dream project. In many ways I've just refined it. However I'll mostly likely be creating course work that is flexible and modular for those limited to just an internet connection and interested from multiple entry points. I've even been playing with the idea of creating a character animation course using, CSS  (Cascading Style Sheets) & JavaScript, web languages that in many ways are a whole different animal to the classical digital animation approach.

 

Also you might be thinking why not create the course on Udemy or Skillshare or an existing LMS site without having to deal with all these technical issues. The truth is currently I'm really disappointed in their lack of functionality and boilerplate approach to learning. Most of those sites allow you to show a slide, have a fill in the blank or multiple choice quiz, play some audio or a video. Which is fine for some learning but animation is highly, highly interactive. The people that are often drawn to animation range greatly too. I've taught people from hundreds of different countries, from ages six to sixty and beyond and each person has a very unique learning style. So my hope is to create an LMS that's adaptive to peoples own learning styles. Something that's smart enough to allow people to approach a problem differently. Not always the linear approach, and in a way when they finish the course they'll be empowered to create beautiful animations, films and even teach themselves. 

 

This is my basic disrupt thinking. Remove the old lecture then test model and get the learners involved! This might be beyond me to finish I have no idea at the moment. Yet I have a clear vision for it. Animation is in my opinion is one of the most exciting subjects you could possibly teach. And being that animation is inherently exciting that means the bar is exceptionally high to begin with. This LMS can't be just another string of YouTube playlist tutorials. I need a platform that's built for interactively, that I can add my own custom code and measure and refine the course materials.

So as you can see my eyes are clearly bigger than my stomach. I want to revolutionize how animation is taught and hopefully how stories are told and shared across the globe. Perhaps this might eventually mean a pivot in my companies business model or even an offshoot non profit. I'm not sure yet. I personally don't like the paperwork and administration aspect with the whole non profit idea. I'd like to not have this project be dependent on tax deductible donation or grants. In my mind's eye I can see a dozen ethical and positive revenue options for the school. But I don't want to sacrifice the educational experience and I don't want this to only cater to people that could already afford conventional learning.

There's lies the creative nut I'm trying to crack and there's your long winded answer for if you were curious what happen to the Animation Boot Camp. If you're interested in chatting more about this or if this idea excites you please feel free to reach out to me via email: jesse@mrbray.com

 

thank you so much for following along. Have an excellent day! 

 

-Jesse

Naturally Curious

When I was five or six years old I did a bad thing. The night before Christmas I meticulously, or as meticulous as a young kid can be, opened a gift with my name on it. Inside was a radio controlled Godzilla toy with glowing eyes, realistic roar, and animatronic arms and legs. I was so excited I couldn't believe how incredible this toy was!

The next morning when we all got together to open our presents I remember feeling a slight numbness to the excitement I had from the night before. I had spoiled my surprise. However I still had my radio controlled Godzilla. I was intrigued with how this toy worked I couldn't help but eventually pulling the toy apart to learn how it worked. While I made a mess and I'm very sure there were missing pieces and the toy didn't work quite the same when I placed it back together, I learned a valuable lesson. 

I learned the power of curiosity! Learning anything new can be a challenge yet if you're naturally curious it can make the whole experience a rush fueled by interest.  The older I get the more I try to examine my past to help me with my current values. Sometimes I'm embarrassed by my past sometimes I'm inspired. Nonetheless the mini personal archeological digs have helped me. We all have these little treasures hidden within that are worth rediscovery, so perhaps Today let's lean into our natural curiosity.

 

thanks for reading 📖

 -Jesse

Pepsi Unfortunately

One morning I see next to me on the coffee table my unfinished can of Pepsi from the night before. Being 13yrs old and not concerned with the taste of room temperature cola I took a drink. As I was drinking I noticed something wiggly and scraping the back of my tongue. I immediately spit it out and to my absolute horror it was an earwig! The nasty little insect had fallen into my beverage.


Now granted this isn't Pepsi's fault. Yet for years the sight of that iconic blue can made my throat itch. While recently for my health I've been steadily limiting my sugar drink intake however, one bad or in this case an exceptionally bad experience can forever taint your tastes.


Sure the end results might mean me  choosing a different soda yet isn't much of life like this? An awful experience that really was aside the product or service that can steer you clear from a thing all together. Now personally I'm more of an RC cola fan when it boils down to it. Though as I try to challenge myself these days by asking why do I feel or think the way I do about a thing? And even more so examining how personal likes and dislikes can shape and in some cases define you - I want to continue to ask why? And if my old prejudices or painful experiences have relevance today.

 

I don't want to ask anyone to do something that makes them feel unsafe - but perhaps today think about why you feel strongly a certain way about a thing. See if it has value for today.


Thanks so much for reading 📖

-Jesse

The Corridor

Recently my therapist guided me through a particular meditation exercise that was incredibly powerful. She referred to it as "The Corridor".

Basically what she did was have me close my eyes while focusing on my breath as she painted a picture of a vast and deep hallway. This hallway was populated with endless closed doors on my left and my right. Many of the doors were far beyond my reach because I just hadn't lived long enough to walk by them. Yet many doors were behind me. Each door represented something very personal. There was a door that represented specific people, events, traumas and more. 

She had me approach a door she labeled the "fear" door. And began to ask me what the door looked like. This was the part where I got to interact and I gave each detail an image the moment I was asked it. So for me the fear door was off white, cracked and looked like porcelain. The door handle resembled an egg shell and just as fragile. As I opened the "fear" door I noticed it was light and brittle. Inside the door it was inky black.  

When asked what I wanted to do next I then reached for a light switch. Upon turning the light on I notice the light wasn't a switch but a string dangling from a single bulb that swung in the middle of the now lit room behind the cracked porcelain door. The walls and floor were naked 2 by 4's and the floor was a single particle board between to beems. On this particle board was a sleeping bag. The ceiling was exposed and charred and I could see outside. The stars were bright and the moon was full. This room was my once my actual attic bedroom when I was ten years old. 

 

At this point my therapist guided me to leave this room and to begin to think of the safest place possible. Not far up on the right I saw a red door. It was a familiar and peaceful door. I knew already what was behind this door! When I pulled it open the thick smell of pancakes filled the air. It was my Papa Neil's house and I could see him through the doorway sitting on the couch. As he took notice of me I was a ten year old boy and my Papa rushes to give me a hug. Soon afterwards he piled a plate high of delicious right off the grill pancakes. It was clear to me that this red door was going to be my safe place, my visual inner light that we were going to use to process our work ahead.

 

While I understand this is a deeply personal experience I challenge you to think on this particular metaphor of "The Corridor". What does your fear door hold? And even more importantly what is behind your "safe" door? 

 

 

thank you for reading 📖

 -Jesse

Glass Flowers

Circa 2006 I wrote a song dedicated to my sisters. My younger sister Jaime was attending Oregon State University and she'd graciously let me crash at her place for what I considered songwriting binges.  This is where I had the chance uninterruptedly to pour into my music.

 

I had just moved back up from Mexico and beyond from a year I spent as a missionary, followed by a time playing with bands. Here at my sisters apartment I honed my songwriting chops, and even tested these new tracks out on her roommates with mini living room concerts.

 

I had a very strong & unique relationship with my sisters back then, especially two of my sisters. My older sister, Micah and my younger sister, Jaime. We grew up together and had survived turmoil, trauma and poverty. Which ultimately cemented our connection like "brothers in arms" so to speak.

 

In high school I tried to have a special moment or ritual that I did with my sisters, just to remind them I loved them. One of my favorite memories was how every Thursday I'd buy Jaime and I Carl's Jr. and we'd sit in my Chrysler Lebaron and chat for hours.  

 

I feel so incredibly privileged to have had the love of my sisters growing up, even while there were so many forces that were acting the opposite. I'm forever grateful for those relationships! And it is with great joy I share the following song, which is a love letter to my sisters, my "Glass Flowers". 

Mind & Body

Recently I went to the Doctors for the first time in a long time. By long time, I mean outside of an urgent care or unfortunate ER visit it's been seriously years since I've seen a doctor on the regular. 

 I'm not alone on this but I really dislike going to the doctors. Be that anything from a chiropractor to a dentist or physician. I'm often apprehensive. While I'll goto the chiropractor when I'm in pain and I try to goto the dentist every six months to prevent a cavity the regular doctor has been something that just makes me the most anxious.

 

Eventually I started to avoid the doctors all together. Which is bad. I'll come right out and say it. But what I didn't realize was while I think there are many subpar professionals in all industries I was being foolish about my health. However, what I didn't expect from finding a wonderful therapist was how a healthier mind was going to lead to a stronger desire to have a healthier body. 

 

So here I was meeting with my new doctor and for the first time I felt comfortable with a doctor. I went on to describe some of my health issues including a trouble I was having swallowing certain foods. The doctor then said he believed I had a certain kind of hernia which involves my stomach slipping into my esophagus. So the doctor has me lie on my back. He then uses both of his hands to pull on my belly while I feel a pop in my throat as he pulls my stomach from inside my esophagus. It was crazy! It felt just bizarre!

While it's a little to early to tell if it's cured my digestive issues I do have to say how thankful I feel. The encouragement from my counselor has helped me get over such a significant anxiety I had. We all have bad experiences and they can paint our minds with unhealthy ideas about very healthy things, like going to the doctors. 

 I'm still skeptical of doctors but I feel empowered to advocate for my own health. No one has more skin in the game to save your skin than yourself.  

 

thanks for reading 📖   

-Jesse

Drafting My Memoir

Perhaps I'm alone in this but the word "memoir" has always bugged me. Don't get me wrong I enjoy a good memoir: from "Size Matters Not" by Warwick Davis - probably the hardest working little person in Hollywood to "Bossy Pants" by Tina Fey. I've read a fair share of memoirs and autobiographies. But the word "memoir" in my head at least sounds pretentious and kinda douchey.

 

Maybe it's just me but a good life story is accessible and hopefully relatable on many levels. It's earthy, salty and lacking fancy college words. Or perhaps my roots are showing. For me growing up with an inconsistent education I used my vocabulary amongst many things to cloaked my poverty. I was very insecure about my intelligence and felt if I sounded smart no one would be the wiser of my embarrassment. I think we all do this, pretend like we know what someone is saying or we're too afraid to ask a question because we don't want to look stupid.

 

However, I believe we all have an exciting or important story to tell - which should be told from the heart. So here I am with my heart on my sleeve, again, saying a lot of fancy words does not a good "memoir" make. 

 

Let me share a story. When I went back to school in Spring of 2009 I had been out of practice since I graduated in 2000. My math skills and some of my grammar chops were in the gutter. So I had to take a few extra special non accredited courses at my college. It was a bummer for sure, having to fork out a bunch more money for classes that weren't going to bring me a credit closer to my degree. However it's what I had to do.

 

Yet remember I thought I had an excellent vocabulary so I should be able to breeze at least through this non accredited writing class. My first assignment was an essay based off a Edward Hopper painting. Since this was an art college it was really great they tried their best to align our homework with an artistic flair.

So this painting by Edward Hopper was that of a train station. Nothing elaborate or surreal. It was a slice of Americana, rustic and strangely familiar in composition. Perhaps I had seen the painting before or it was just that common of a setting. Nonetheless I decided I would wow my teacher with all sorts of flowery phrases dripping with ethereal metaphors upon metaphors. Again I wanted to be perceived as an educated man. Well my teacher saw right through me! He said "this reads really nice. However I don't believe you're really saying anything." Oh no! I'm busted! He then helped me let go of this odd impulse to complicate my thoughts while writing and just focus on saying what I'm thinking or feeling. It was strange at first but so liberating! 

 

The funny thing is how I was so bent on trying to prove I was sharp when clearly I was placed in this remedial writing class because I was rusty. I needed help. We all need help. It's apart of life and nothing to be particularly ashamed about. 

 

So while I embark on drafting my memoir I'm reminded I have nothing to prove. I just have a story to share. And I believe perhaps this is the greatest reason I'm compelled to share my memoir. Not out of some sorta delusions of grandeur. Not from the insecurities of trying to convince the world I'm not a fool. Heck we're all foolish at times and that's ok. Owning our limits are important, how else are we going to do the impossible if we don't see what we never thought we could do before. 

 

 I'm writing a memoir that is deeply deeply personal. And while if you're here and have read this blog you might have a bit of familiarity to the stories I'll be sharing. But know that this memoir is something that scares me. It scares me to even confess this. I've been locked away in my head: injuries, hopes, fears, dreams and desires that many who know me might have to rethink the man they think I am. And hopefully this will encourage you as I take an emotionally terrifying step forward.

 I'm excited to share these stories too but also nervous. Because this will be the first time I'll literally be able to say "I'm an open book". 

 

thanks so much for reading 📖   

-Jesse

 

p.s.  I've decided on a title for my memoir and plan on calling it: 

"I'm Only Dreaming" 

To Hell With Bullies 🔥

(The following is from an episode of my now retired podcast Go Forth & Nerd 🤓)


From trolls to thugs bullies often want an array of things but the one universal thing I've discovered about bullies is that they all want a sense of power. Be that power to take away your dignity, your lunch money, your joy, your piece of purpose on this hurling blue marble, or just to displace their own frustrations on you because of their low self esteem and lack of control in this world.


A bit about me if you've already guessed:I'm actually a quite even tempered guy. I seldom get physically upset. Even more so I deliberately avoid people that are prone to unpredictable bursts of anger. For good reason but the truth is this has roots into the scars I have from being bullied as a kid. To me angry people have crossed a clear line and have acted very violent to me. And it's these scars some emotional some physical that I have learned to live with.


To illustrate the lessons I've learned I'm going to share three short stories that embody the title of this post:

TO HELL WITH BULLIES!

I'll start off with a funny story.

There was this one time I was being bullied by a kid in the second grade. He kept hitting me while we were waiting in line after recess, and I kept asking him to leave me alone. Now it's important to mention that for some reason at this school they thought it wise to have recess immediately after lunch. Then while he was punching me my stomach started to turn. So I told him one last time to leave me alone - in a menacing grin he continued his behavior and punched me again so I let him have it! I puked up my entire lunch all over this jerk! It was awesome! He was covered from head to toe with a hot assault of irony. It was fair to say he NEVER bothered me again! Now we can't always vomit our way out of being bullied but this story reminds me that if you can't beat'em at least make them regret it.


My next story gets quite a bit edgier. Fast forward we were living in Minnesota outside of the 3M Corp - I was middle school aged, short rabbit trail for those curious I never went to middle school. I technically missed not skipped but missed 5th,6th,7th and 8th grade. Which I've been told by many people especially my wife that that is prime time for bullying. Back to living in what was clearly a ghetto in Minnesota. I was the only white boy in the neighborhood. Here I was a shrimpy white ginger kid completely surrounded by justifiably so angry and frustrated African American kids. And they hated me!

 

Let me explain why these kids were so frustrated - the only white people they knew were the cops that barged into the neighborhood to arrest or assault their family members. To these kids police sirens and gunfire was so frequent it was like a lullaby. These kids weren't in school, they were poor, and treated poorly. I honestly and deeply hold zero grudges against these kids. They were in a system that crapped on them and they felt it. Nonetheless at the time when faced with having my ass kicked multiple times every single day I discovered that:

  1. I was never going to be able to out run these kids. Frankly they could lap me three times on my best day.

  2. I couldn't make them laugh hard enough to forget how frustrated they were - something deep down in them was satisfied in punching out a pale freckled faced red head.

  3. I had no other option but to fight back. That said even when you fight back when you're on your own unless you're Bruce Lee you're gonna lose in someway!


Here's the single greatest thing that changed for me aside from when we moved:

My friendship with Jamal - Jamal was the skinniest scrappiest kid I ever knew! He lived on the bottom floor of our apartment complex and I befriended him after giving him a Maxx comic. He was at that moment hooked on comics! So we became bros! Jamal and I loved watching cartoons together, eating fruit loops until our mouths were numbs and talking about our favorite super powers. Then at a hair pin turn Jamal was by my side when the gang of the usual bullies came to harass me for my timely beatings. Jamal was like a hurricane, he flew at the biggest kid in the group often 2 to 3 times his size and would just wail on the kid until he pleaded for him to stop! Jamal's motto was that you always attack first and go for the biggest meanest looking bully and don't stop hitting until your sure they'll never bother you again! I swear it's like this kid not knowing it lived out Ender's tactic from Ender's Game!

 

Jamal was such a bad ass. There was one particular time a gang of close to a dozen kids had surrounded me. They wanted to really beat the living crap out of me. Then in a moment of pure insanity Jamal came in - he had skewered a basketball size active wasps nest on a stick and he began to smash it to tinder upside their heads like it was some sorta stinging mace. It was insane!!! If you remember the hornets nest scene from Hunger Games that was the tame version of what this looked like. Close to a dozen kids screaming and flailing in all directions. It was one of the most violent and heroic things I've ever seen. Jamal and I fled relatively unscathed. Though I never gained Jamal's eye of the tiger this scrappy African American boy was my hero! He taught me how to fight back and that power is all about the heart and nothing to do with size.


So sometimes you have to fight back but you need to know your enemy enough to why they want to hurt you if you can. Sometimes fighting back is walking away or ignoring them like I've learned when dealing with internet trolls. And sometimes fighting back is through gaining a scrappy ally that'll march into the eye of the tornado with you like my buddy Jamal. There's strength in numbers and every bully has a weakness.


For my last story I want to throw you a bit of curve ball. Sometimes bullying doesn't look like a direct attack but is part of an underlying mob mentality. And the truth is sometimes people just aren't aware they're being bullies and they're just playing along blindly:


You see I went to Glencoe High school in Hillsboro, Oregon. And like all high schools they had a goofy mascot. But Glencoe high school had by far one of most bizarre mascots I've ever seen. It's called the Crimson Tide, and if you guessed that it might resemble a red wave with a ridiculous cartooned grinned you'd be right. The Crimson Tide was and to my knowledge still is a red cartoon wave of blood. You heard that right BLOOD! Yeah weird right?! My high schools mascot was/is a wave of blood! And not just any blood it's a reference to a specific wave of blood that took place from a historical massacre in Glencoe Scotland. Gross right? I agree. But it gets worse. My grandfather informed me that my ancestors specifically immigrated to the US to flee from the brutal genocide of the Campbells clan that was slaying our clan from Glencoe Scotland. So here I was attending a high school that their very mascot was a wave of the blood of my direct slaughtered ancestors. Can you say bloodthirsty? That was my reality from the following...


One particular day I was walking down the hallway and I saw a fight begin to break out. A shrimpy freshman was about to be crumbled by some massive dude. It was kinda of a Marty McFly vs Biff situation. I having had a growth spurt pushing 6ft tall awkwardly towered over both of them and got between them to try and stop the fight. A crowd quickly surrounded the three of us as these bloodthirsty teenagers chanted FIGHT, fight,  fight! Well these kids with their Crimson Tide fury were angry that I got in between them and their entertainment so several of them shoved me to the ground so the fight would continue. And then in a moment it was over, the massive Biff like kid pummeled this shrimpy freshman. I was eventually able to stop the bully again but I learned a valuable lesson that day. People crave violence. Even when it's a spectator sport people like seeing other people being hurt. And because of that being a peacemaker is NEVER an easy task!


The truth is sometimes we need to stand up, walk away or just outsmart these bullies. We can and we're able but we need to fight against the senseless mob, the towering brute or the frustrated and displaced.


So today I want to encourage you by reminding you're not alone, that we all need allies, and that you can as hard as it sounds there is a way tell to take positive stand. As a community we need to have each others back!


As always thank you so much for reading. Let's unite together as we say To Hell With Bullies!


-Jesse

Naming Our Monsters

For the past few weeks I've been embarking on an incredibly scary journey. I've been outwardly expressing my past and present fears and pain. Apart of this scary therapeutic work has involved sharing these very personal experiences here on my blog and with my amazing therapist. 

I can't fully give words to the life giving experience it has been to finally get this stuff off my chest. And for the most part I've received an overwhelming amount of encouragement. Truth be told I really didn't set out to write these stories to garner any attention. I'm just writing to heal myself. I hope these stories make you feel less alone and give you the added strength to seek out your own healing works.

As I've been working through these events from my past my therapist has helped me give names to the specific villains in my life. We all have villains, some constant some intermittent. While having villains or negative forces in your life is unavoidable their power over you can be tempered by a wonder tool. By naming your monsters.

For me there was a very wicked and cruel person from my past. He was violent to me, mistreated and tortured me. He abused me for years and for many years longer after he was out of my life I've tried to supress the pain. From diving into my faith to escaping into music or losing myself in art these things while I love them deeply they failed to help me look my monsters straight in the face.

My therapist helped me dubbed this person as my Step Monster. Since any other title really didn't feel deserved. At first I responded to my therapist that I had more than one "Step Monster" but this man was pure evil. While my other "Step Monster" she was more a wicked Queen than a full blown violent creature. Which I do anticipate sharing stories about her here as well. However hearing my therapist give a name to my monster felt so cathartic! I was free to release myself of the pain of the pure chaos of my experiences. Because that's what people do. We try and make sense of why something happened or why someone would act a certain way. Yet Monsters they don't need reasons, they're just monsters! The world on fire makes them happy. 

 

So while I continue to share these intensely personal experiences I encourage you to give a name to your monsters. Perhaps this can give you an emotionally healthy distance from the cruelty you've been dealt while you allow yourself some proper healing. 

 

 

thank you so much for reading 📖  

 

-Jesse

A Spaghetti Dinner

Not long after we had fled our roach infested burnt to a cinder Minnesota apartment were we on the road again. We had started our journey from Rocklin California up through southern Oregon then straight east through Montana, Wyoming & Yellowstone national park. Sleeping in our extended cab GMC truck.


Well most of us slept inside the truck. I was forced to sleep outside the truck bed with all our possessions. With boxes piled high on all sides of me it was easy for me to slip deep into the junk into a sorta make shift cave. I'd sink down into my sleeping bag, zip it up as tight as possible and cover my whole head minus a tiny crack for air and a place for me to stare at the stars and moon.


I remember the sounds of wildlife howling, squawking and snarling in the night air. The icy chill of adrenaline making all my hairs stand up. The crisp smell of fog and the snap of frozen dew. Finally the deep inky purple skies. The moon was amazing! I felt like it had a hypnotic power over me. All alone in this exposed pickup truck bed at 11yrs old it was this glorious moon that would lock eyes with me and slowly my fears would subside as I'd fall asleep.


This was the common experience for me when we were on the road. I was typically forced to sleep outside either in the pickup bed or if it was raining particularly hard inside a makeshift tent or under a tarp to keep guard of our possessions in boxes.


By the time we had left Minnesota my mother had given away almost everything I owned. All except my briefcase my grandpa Neil had given me. I guarded this thing with my life! On our journey eastward and north we drove through Montreal and parked at a tiny Canadian rest area in the woods. This time my stepfather had me sleep in the tent to guard our possessions at the rest area while they parked the truck some distance away. I remember thinking how nice it was that I could finally use the bathroom whenever I felt like this evening. It rained a relentless rain almost all night. I curled up into a ball in another makeshift cave I constructed with the boxes then fell asleep. I woke only once in the night to a hovering sound like I've never heard. The tent started to flutter then shake. The whooshing sound grew louder and louder. A dim light now surrounded the tent. Then as suddenly as it appeared it went away.


The next morning I tried describing the sound and light to my sisters but they were parked some distance from my tent so they never saw a thing. We piled all our effects back into the bed of the truck and this time my stepfather decided there was no longer room for me to be in the truck cabin. I was to stay outside in the truck bed day and night hidden amongst the boxes and junk indefinitely. At this point I remember it getting really cold both during the day and especially at night. My sleeping bag was no longer keeping me warm enough to sleep. So I tried to sleep more during the day while we traveled since I was too cold to sleep at night. Then one particular evening we drove late into the night I remember being told to get out of the truck bed.


I saw the back entrance to what looked like a school gym. There was a small line of people and I could smell garlic bread! We had arrived at a Salvation Army soup kitchen. We were herded up stairs into a gymnasium where as far as my eyes could see was smiling faces. There was a large row of tables and everyone was eating spaghetti from blue plastic bowls. They even had fruit punch in red dixie cups and the adults were huddled by the coffee makers.


I remember going through the line multiple times and how each time they filled my bowl to the brim! Finally after we were literally stuffed they led us to our sleeping quarters. We each got our own blanket, pillow and a cot. After we had selected a bed they showed us to the designated showering area and told us the downstairs was off limits to kids.


Lying in my warm and cozy cot, freshly showered in my new hand me down clothes and my stomach swelling with Spaghetti I felt content. It was a simple happiness I had never paid any attention to before. My basic needs at this moment were being met and it felt amazing.


Thinking back on this story this wasn't our first experience with charity nor would it be the last but this was the most important. Years later I would end up working for a short time as a youth minister/music director/food bank operator at a Salvation Army and while it was brief it felt like home.


There's a funny thing about life that's so easy to take for granted. That simple and sometimes not so subtle feeling you get after your evening meal. The feeling of satisfaction. We all deserve to know this warmth and comfort on a daily basis but it's only when it's removed from us do we really notice it's power.


Today I feel thankful, thankful and happy to be alive. I know hunger but I also have the means to fill that hunger. It doesn't mean that all is at peace with the world but it does mean that you're at least ready to say peace to the day as you goto sleep.


Thank you so much for reading 📖



-Jesse