MR. BRAY

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

The Three Lanterns - Part Four: The Green Light

 The final chapter of - The Three Lanterns: The Green Light

Pushing through the wall of emerald dust I can see the green light clearly now. It is again another flaming skull lantern. Yet the fire from this lantern is more like green ashes. It fills the air and sticks to my skin and clothing. When I reach for the lantern the dust like flames are ice cold. The chill hurts worst than being burned. Placing my hands on the skull lantern a vortex of green smoke thrusts itself down my throat. I can’t breathe and my chest is in extreme pain. 

It’s evening of my honeymoon week and I’m seated sadly on the couch in our beach side hotel. My guitar is by my side and I feel all alone while my new bride sleeps soundly in the other room. I’m now at the store excitedly purchasing a pregnancy test, hoping for the best. It comes up negative, she sighs relief, I just sigh. I slip on the carpet and accidentally run my hand across a mirror which slices my palm. I’m dizzy from the blood, she barely takes notice. It’s 2am and I’m in tears expressing my deepest hurt, she falls asleep completely disinterested. We’re at the church service and I feel excited and ready for a new change, she’s bored and wants to talk about lunch. I arrive at my second job working on this holiday film and text her I’m not feeling well. I throw up in the office restroom and have to leave early. When I get home she’s fast asleep. We show up to the tiny cottage next to the river. It’s midnight on my birthday and she awakes me to open some gifts. I’m excited and see that it’s some camera equipment. The next morning we go to Crater Lake. She’s short with me in the car and I feel alone again. It’s Saturday morning and I’m excited to start our day. She tells me she’s leaving. I beg and plead for her to stay but she walks out the door anyway.

The next moment I’m vomiting up the smoke on the cave floor. It’s clear now that the skull lantern with the green icy flame is my ex-wife. She was emotionally unavailable from the beginning but I was blinded by my love. It was toxic but I couldn’t be convinced otherwise. She had a hold on me but I was never allowed to have a hold on her. I drop the lantern and it shatters like glass into a million tiny pieces. The cave is a cave of sorrows. My mind has built a prison of pain, a mausoleum of misery. 

All these lights have brought me a certain heart ache to recall.  I begin laughing uncontrollably as tears flood from my eyes. The tears float upwards to the cave ceiling then descend like tiny droplets of light. The tears settle into small pools of water as plants begins to sprout from within them.

I notice now that this darkness is truthfully a kind of light. That all pain is. It's like connective tissue to a muscle. It strengthens me. I then awake from my sleep.

The End

Thank you for reading my original story and dream “The Three Lanterns” by: Jesse Bray

The Three Lanterns - Part Three: The Red Light

My eyes are heavy as cement as my body falls to the cave floor. At the point my head is about to strike rock it lands on a soft pillow. I'm a toddler bouncing on an enormous bed. My mother appears in the room nine months pregnant and waddling after me. "Honey, come here, Honey it's time for dinner". I giggle and reply back with a comment much more snarky than a child can comprehend and say while leaping in all directions:"Mommy can't catch me she's too fat, mommy can't catch me she's too fat"...My laughter breaks down to my mothers face. She fights to stay serious as I crawl under the bed. Chanting my ornery little mantra, believing to be safely out of reach the bed pulls back as I see the large shadow of a hand reach down and pulling on my overalls.

In a seamless motion my back falls on a wood floor. I'm three years old and playing with a fire truck. In the background my mother is getting her hair and makeup fixed by a lady with a puffy pink shirt and tight black stretch pants. A photographer is adjusting his lens while his assistant walks up to me and smiles. She comments on my curly red hair and bops my nose with her index finger. I grasp my fire truck and roll it across the floor. 

Looking within the vehicle I see myself seated in the truck. I transition to the point of view of the passenger, I'm six years old and my mother looks sad. She starts to swerve and I reach for the wheel. As I clasps the wheel we turn towards traffic and I'm thrown back into my seat. Now I'm twelve years old seated motionless in a trailer. My mother is being slapped across the face and I can't draw the strength to do anything. I look at my arms and legs and I'm covered in bruises, frozen in this moment. That evening I see the moon reflect off a knife I'm holding up to the sleeping neck of the cruel man that struck my mother. Trembling I look deeper at the reflection of the moon. The moon grows larger and I can feel my breath bouncing back at me. I'm thirteen years old and I'm starring at the moon from behind the paned glass window of a train. 

Suddenly my eyes open and I'm the ten year old boy again in the cave. I'm covered in the fiery red liquid, clutching the skull lantern. The lantern was my deceased mother. The images were from when she was a model and a actress, along with her struggles with depression and the abuse her and I suffered from the hands of her ex-husband. The moon outside the window was the night I ran away on the train. The moon and the train were what saved me from doing the unspeakable and ending that mans life. The fire of this skull lantern burned though it was liquid because the love I have for my mother was complicated. I deeply loved her but to have her in my life was to also to be hurt by her or the life she unfortunately attracted. 

Placing the skull down the wall of fire now engulfs the lantern like a piece of wood. The lantern turns to ash yet remains visible in shape and crumbles to the ground. I know this represents the death of the most powerful feminine influence I'll ever have. My mother was horribly flawed yet more powerfully intoxicating. No one could ever replace her in my life. The cave goes dark once again.

I look up to the corner and see a brilliant green light. As I trek towards it a cloud of emerald dust billows in my direction. I begin to cough and choke on the particulate. My eyes and nose burn like I’m in the throws of a dusts storm. I power through. The green sand remains all the thicker the closer I approach the new lantern. Gripping my throat I’m unable to breathe as I gulp for my lungs to catch some air…

To Be Continued...

Stay tuned for the final part four - The Three Lanterns: The Green Light

An original story and dream by:

Jesse Bray

The Three Lanterns - Part Two: The Yellow Light

Sinking like a stone into the inky black pool of the cave, bubbles rush like soda water across my nose and mouth. They tingle and burn as I force my eyes open. The water is clear and a single beam of light from the yellow lantern pierces through the liquid. I reach for the ray and I'm immediately above the water, now holding the yellow skull lantern. 

On closer examination the light from the skull lantern is actually a yellow flame which wraps itself around the object. There's no heat from the flame and I'm completely unharmed from the fire. Yet the yellow fire dances across every inches of the skull. I look inside the eyes of the skull and I'm now immersed in the yellow flames.

I'm teleported through visions. At a moment I'm holding my grandpa's hand as we're walking through an antique car show. Next the image cuts to us enjoying some ice cream. We both laugh and I'm on his knee as he sings me a silly song about an alligator. Next he's making me ninja turtle pancakes and an extra special pancake shaped like the first letter of my name. Then I'm holding a tiny briefcase and I'm sitting with him at a business meeting, being perfectly polite. Moments later we're in his van laughing and singing down the highway. Then we're seated in a grassy pew in an outdoor amphitheater. There's a wild eyed and red bearded preacher baptizing people in a small swimming pool. I look at my grandpa and he invites me to take the plunge. 

Now I'm back in the cave where I was looking inside the eyes of the skull lantern covered in heatless yellow flames. I instinctively know, this lantern is my deceased grandpa. The most important man in my life. The man that taught me faith in God and faith in people. The man that showed me unconditional love and warmth. The man that was the closest I had to a father up until the age of ten years old. This cave must truly be my mind and these lights must represent important memories or experiences in my life. Yet this yellow lantern is the foundational light in my life. A light that would guide me, unbeknownst to myself all my life. This lantern was the first to place a price tag on my worth. 

I set the yellow lantern down and the cave floor opens up to retrieve it. The lantern descends deep into the rock. The flickering gray lights reappear and soon I see the pulsating red light in the far corner of the cave. This time I take extra care not to slip on the wet stones. The red light in on a small mound that I need to climb upwards on hands and feet. This lantern is also a skull yet the red light it emits looks more like liquid than fire. As I reach for it the lantern I burn my fingers. The red liquid juts outward and creates a circle of fire in all around myself and the skull lantern. The heat licks at my heels as my shoes begin to melt from the fumes. My mind gets fuzzy and I begin to pass out...

To Be Continued

Stay tuned for part three of "The Three Lanterns: The Red Light"

An original story & dream by:

Jesse Bray

The Three Lanterns - Part One: The Cave

The following story, isn't exactly fiction. It is the retelling of a true and reoccurring dream I've had after my mother passed away. I call it the "The Three Lanterns".  This is the first of a four part post. Hope you enjoy.

Here I was a boy of ten years old. Dressed in black shorts, black cap and the remains of a school uniform. I was walking at twilight in a dark silhouette against the crimson and turquoise sky. Approaching the mouth of a cave I could see a faint gray glow deep within the recesses of the entrance. 

I stumbled across the rock formations and protrusions. I scuffed my knees, knuckles and grazed my cheek. Descending deeper and deeper within, the gray light begins to flicker, almost pulsate like the beating of a heart. Crawling on my belly for what felt like a mile I slipped through a crevice in the rock, only to emerge to the sight of a vast and open cavern. The gray light wasn't one light but actually millions of tiny illuminated plants. 

Carefully I make my way in the floor of the den. I now notice that each bioluminescent plant is sprouting from their own small pool of water. These glowing plants spiral in a straight and vertical direction, as if they were reaching for the sky. Walking along this hidden garden of sparkling lights in a sea of darkness I see three greater lights. Distinct in color in and at different corners of the underground garden; a red light, a yellow light and a green light. I make my way towards the yellow light. As the distance shortens a thick fog appears and twists around the yellow light. A wind picks up and forces me towards the source of the yellow glow. I'm rushing closer and closer. I can clearly see that the yellow light is coming from a skull shaped lantern. I'm within an arms reach, as I place my foot down the wind stops. All other lights in the cave go dark. The Yellow Skull Lantern is perched on a small rock surrounded by a tiny watery moat. My foot slips on the wet stone and I plunge into the water...

To Be Continued..

Stay tuned for part two "The Three Lanterns: The Yellow Light"

Original story & dream by: Jesse Bray

Mexican Moonlight

Years ago I was working at an orphanage in Carmen Serdan, Mexico. It was a small border town way out in the country. To follow the directions to this orphanage was perilous. Narrow and barely paved roads skirted along the sides of rolling hills and steep cliffs. It was common to see vehicles, particularly wrecked semi trucks that had the misfortune to have barreled off the edge. Lost forever rusting away in the ravine below. This wasn't a trail for the fain of heart.

Arriving into town the orphanage was the largest structure. Driving over the cattle grate and down a dirt road. Most of the facilities were what you'd imagine, an almost spartan sense of utility. Freckled in orange and lemon trees, their was a special patch of concrete laid near the far end of the complex. Next to the fence was a basketball court that volunteers had installed. It was smooth and was a great place to sit outside in the warm desert air and meditate or study. 

One evening a friend of mine enticed me to camp outside on the basketball court. At first I was apprehensive. You see there were quite a few creatures in this desert that I found unpleasant at the time. To name a few: tarantulas, scorpions, rattle snakes and coyotes. Yet I was feeling adventurous. Also considering we both had sleeping bags that would zip up completely, and that the basketball court reflected in the moon; I felt that if we slept in the middle of the court we'd be able to spot critters making their way towards us.

What I didn't anticipate was actually the moon! That night was as if every star in the galaxy decided to shine so bright to compete with the brilliance of the moon. The moon was so full, so glamorous it felt like it took up three quarters of the sky! Perhaps it was just being so far in the country or perhaps it was truly what the Mexican moon always looked like. Nonetheless even though years later I feel awestruck by it's beauty. That something so ancient, and so magnificent can be so freely shared to all with eyes to see.

You see as I've been reflecting on this night and my incomprehensible euphoria. It's the beauty that keeps coming back to me. There's much in the world that is beautiful. From natural wonders, to creation, to people themselves. These things of beauty brings me joy, I often forget that beauty is seldom something you can own. Yet I still want to possess beauty. I want the feelings beauty gives me. I think we all do. From a smile from our partner to a scent that brings up happy memories. We want beauty of all forms in our lives, rich, deep and meaningful beauty.

Currently my wrestle has been with how I've been clinging to beauty. The beauty of what once was my marriage of 12yrs to my best friend. I miss her so badly. I miss the way she would make me feel and how that instilled a courage deep within me. I miss how she drew out the beauty in myself. And with this beauty now gone I'm stuck with it's absence. I've felt ugly. Yet I know on the surface that isn't true. I'm not an ugly person and the love and beauty I had in our marriage was real, at least on my part. So today I lift my head up, reminded by the Mexican moonlight that beauty is all around us, much of it is for everyone and some for a select few. I've decided to purpose in my heart to find the beauty in these ashes, the beauty in the ugly and the beauty at every angle.

Sincerely,

Jesse

The Camino Opportunity

My hearts been broken for the last month and half. My wife and best friend for the past twelve years decide she no longer loves me, left me and filed for a divorce. This has been an emotional whirlwind. So to gain a fresh start I'm moving to Southern California to be closer to more animation opportunities, particularly with doors now opened for me to work with Netflix. 

With the scale of relationships tipping one way and the career potentials swinging the opposite direction an even more sober opportunity for me has emerged. The Camino! 

Now if you're like me until recently I had zero clue of what the Camino was. I knew of a couple from a church I once attended that mentioned they had walked across Europe and may have vaguely heard the word Camino pop up in conversation. But I paid little to no attention to what they were raving on about. This only comes to mind now as I start my homework for this trip in September.

During this incredibly difficult time of separation my older sister flew up to spend a few days with me. She helped me pick myself up and handle this tragedy of my divorce. I know I'm not alone, a lot of people have been divorced, heck my sister had gone through it and even more alone than I was. However, like thinking you're never going to get cancer was the total shock to my system that I'd be losing my best friend. I always thought that would of happened with one of us passing away in our old age not twelve years into our life together. Yet here enters my absolute blessing of my sister. She's a travel writer and even works with a touring company. Specifically they take people on pilgrimage trips, particularly the Camino. And with an amazing grace her company has reserved a space for me to go with their upcoming group in the fall.

Now the Camino is this millennium old trek that involves following the steps of the saints that brought the bones of Saint James the Greater, disciple of our Lord Jesus, up from Jerusalem to a believed resting place of his remains. While I wasn't raised Catholic I was raised Christian. Albeit from a quasi-cult like crazy hippy Christian church in southern Oregon. Nonetheless I connect with the power of reflection and spending time to work on your inner self. My spiritual journey has been a steady and providential thing in my life. My faith has brought me through the roughest of times. So while I'll be spending this upcoming time preparing for The Camino the work I'll really being doing is inward as I let go of my broken heart to the maker of my soul. 

I begin this new chapter with a step at a time. A step followed by an innumerable host of sincere and hurting people looking to find a healing deeper than they could of imagined.

-Jesse

Visiting My Mom

When I close my eyes I can still see you. In my dreams you're alive and full of life. It hurts that near the end we were so estranged and that we never got to really know each other. 

I see you in my dreams and it makes me happy. All my dreams about you are me doing almost pointless things, like ordering food at a restaurant, and you appear. You're full of joy and enthusiasm. Once you spot me you smile from ear to ear and rush to hug me. You interrupt what random task I'm doing and we share both the light and the heavy things in our hearts. We can finally just sit and talk.

In my dreams I goto heaven in my mind and I see you Mom. You're always the same age when I see you, the same age you were when I ran away, oddly the same age I am now. I might only be dreaming, yet in my dreams when I see you and Papa it brings me great comfort. It's as if you're helping me through a storm like a patron saint. If it is you reaching me, thank you. And if it is just my psyche helping me to metabolize my pain, I'm fine with that too. I love you Mommy and can't wait to see you even if in my dreams again.

Your son,

-Jesse

Hurt

When your best friend is gone it leaves holes in your life. Some greater than others. While there's much I'm missing today the simple things are what ache the most. 

I miss holding your hand as we walk down the street. I miss sharing popcorn and candy while we watch a movie at the theater. I miss cuddling on the couch before bed. I miss Saturday morning breakfast, when we'd go to your favorite spot for biscuits and gravy. I miss hearing your voice in the morning and helping you get ready for work. I miss listening to you about your day and rubbing your back and feet while you unwind. I miss opening the door with take out for dinner and seeing your smiling face. I miss your laugh and the way you'd make me laugh. I miss looking at your face and your deep blue eyes. I miss you curling your head under my chin.

I miss you and I wish you weren't gone. But I've lost you and heaven and earth seems not to care. I miss you and I'm not ashamed to say I love you even though you don't love me anymore. My love was always forever, always genuine, always there and never anything less than my whole heart and soul.

I miss you even when I'm hurt by your absence. I miss you and my heart feels lost without you. I miss you and time feels slow without you. Hours feel like days and minutes like hours. I miss you more than I ever could imagined. I'm not over you and I still love you. 

This is my heart on my sleeve and I'm sharing it for no other purpose than to express my inner truth.

Broken hearted,

-Jesse

12 Years

Here I was sleeping on a yoga mat on my office floor. The soft folk sounds of David Gray filling the space between the road noise and the hum of street lamps. I had been in this scene before. Except it was almost 12yrs earlier.

Before I met my soon to be ex-spouse I lived in the corner of an attic with no less than seven room mates. My bed was also the floor, a small blanket and a ragged pillow. To the side, a very small handful of clothes, and my only other two possessions; a old Mac G3 and an acoustic guitar. Each night I'd soothe myself to sleep with the sultry tunes of David Gray. He always reminded of Bob Dylan with a modern flair. Not as prolific of a song writer as Dylan but still brilliant nonetheless.

12yrs ago I was a part time janitor and a fledgling folk musician. I dreamed of touching souls of people across America. I wanted to extract the musical art from my life like a serum and inject it into other lonely persons. At that time a casual melon collie painted my life in a way like an old familiar shirt. It felt natural, it felt even comfortable.

12yrs ago I thought I was a poet and a bohemian preacher. 12yrs ago I was delusional but sincere. Yet, 12yrs ago I had found love. Or at least looking back at our failed marriage I had found an object with whom to be devoted to.

I threw myself into our relationship like I threw myself into my dreams. With reckless abandon. Eventually I placed music down to pursue an older and more genetic calling, visual arts. Something I was too afraid to run towards before. 

I've always loved story telling. There's just something about a narrative that's intoxicating. From the early days on my grandpa's knee when he would tell me his navel adventures, to religious lectures about supernatural Jewish prophets. A story is even greater I discovered when it's told with the intent to be believed. Faith is like that, there's a balance between belief in something, and belief of something. I never believed in divorce yet it happened to me when I was a kid. My parents got divorced. I always believed in forever love yet my partner stopped loving me. Regardless of what we believe in sometimes belief is just not enough to avoid what's actually happening. I don't believe in divorce yet I'm living through it as I write this. I don't believe that love dies yet I'm witness to it's death right in front of my face. 

On Saturday August 25th 2007 I heard the greatest and most profound story I had ever believed. It was my partners wedding vows. They weren't loquacious or overtly elegant. Yet they were poignant and powerful. They dripped like honey onto a scorched heart. My life felt complete. I felt like a soldier returning home for good never having to fight again. This was a taste of that vow and the depth at which I believed it. Yet this vow turned out to be a lie.

The forever love wouldn't last. The sickness and health was really only in health. The rich or poor was just for the rich. The support was fragile at best. Our marriage was a one sided promise. I swore and pledged my soul yet my partner buckled.

Sure this makes them out to be the villain. And perhaps they are. But I love them and still do. I will always love my now ex-partner. I'm still in love with them. And someday I may no longer be in love with them, yet I don't see that happening anytime soon. My heart is broken. My heart has been betrayed. Yet there is still hope. 12yrs and my worst nightmare has come to life. Yet I am still alive! This is why I have no fear left.

I have grit. And I have love to give to the universe. My heart will heal in time and I'll choose not to let my wounds guard me from loving others. So while 12yrs closes this chapter of my life. I'll mourn this like a funeral for a love I thought I once had. Yet, while my heart may be broken it is also incredibly open.

Thank you for being with me on my journey.

Stay Present,

-Jesse

Six Realms: The God Realm

As we approach this final realm I want to get really personal. Life happens all around us and it's impossible to truly separate ourselves from what we're going through and the work we're doing. For me there's been an intense amount of change that's been taking place. My spouse and partner for the past twelve years left me and filed for a divorce. This has all created a whirlwind of events, especially since it came as such a surprise. The state that I reside in is particularly unique as my divorce will be finalized in as little as a week or up to 30days. The speed and the shock of this event has rattled my cage. I was living in an emotional ivory tower. Now that tower has been burned and torn down. I wanted to frame this post with this reality. All is not lost in my life, in many ways the complete opposite. However losing my best friend has been both heart breaking and emotionally sobering. To echo a teaching I've steadily been learning through these Buddhist lessons that "anything external can be taken from you". 

Let us begin with a little story I call "The Marble Man".

Looking out from his tower was a life of luxury. No want nor need ever crossed his mind. If anything he felt complete in all sense of the word. He lacked nothing and even felt both insulated and enlightened. Here was the Marble Man. Full of grace and supernatural wisdom, at least from his perspective. The Marble Man would often look below his tower and at times take a detached pity on the struggling commoners, as if they were ants busying themselves about in a pointless flurry. He knew they lived a worry filled existence. He knew they fought and clawed for everything in there lives. And he knew they had it all wrong! 

Until one day this Marble Man awoke from his comfy bed with a strain in his neck. Throughout the day the kink never loosened. Actually the pain grew worse and even spread across his back and shoulders. By evening the Marble Man's whole body was racked in pain. He went for the mirror and what he saw terrified him. He was no longer the man chiseled of stone in perpetual health no now he was an aged man drained of all youth. He was old. This eventuality of his death struck him to the core. He had been given all the comforts and graces one could possibly of imagined. Yet none of that would reverse the inevitable. The Marble Man was like all things in nature reaching his end.


The story of the Marble Man is a picture of all thinking that places us in the God realm. When we're insulated we become detached from our own mortality and from the suffering around us. This is not to say that all comforts are inherently evil, heavens no! Yet to quote a lyric from one of my favorite bands, Remy Zero, "fine living makes us slow". The God realm is in my opinion the realm of the comfortable blind. When we're blind to suffering, be that from a false sense of certainty we will stumble on our own mortality, at least eventually. As I framed this story with the backdrop of some excruciatingly painful life events I'm going through - in many ways the level of certainty I had in my partner was an illusion. No one person, at least no mortal person can ever truly be a rock or complete certainty to us. And it's this faith in these impermanent people and situations that blind fold us from reality. Everything that is external can be taken from us. So the real solution is to find balance with the certainty of uncertainty. To love ourselves first before we can begin to love others. And to hold on loosely to things and others lest we become dependent on them not changing.

Thank you so much for listening to me on my journey.

Stay present,


-Jesse

Delusion or Death 💀




Delusion or Death 💀 

Nightmare at the doomsday cult

Here I was in a long line of people working my way through this large room of a library of a conspiracy theorist gift shop. Books, pamphlets, votives, statues all random articles claiming secret truths and end of the world prophecies. 

As the line moved deeper into the building the pathway became a spiral carpeted stair case. Until the line of people came to an abrupt stop obstructed by a large tub that recessed into the floor. Then a large booming voice started speaking "delusion or death, delusion or death, choose! Delusion or death!"

Peeking into the large tub I see a shallow pool of toxic water and what clearly looks like rotting flesh submerged in the pool. The person ahead of me sets a foot in the water and immediately begins to transition into a living decaying monstrosity.

Across from the tub is a rows of other patrons in, this now clearly a temple of death, are other rotting humans. Each in further layers of decomposition. Again I hear the booming voice say "delusion or death, delusion or death choose delusion or death!"

At this point I turn tail and begin to race through the crowd towards the entrance of the building. Almost to the exit an usher begins chasing after me and says "stop STOP you're NOT allowed to leave with any items." The usher pulls some literature from my pockets as I slip past and narrowly escape outside.

I wake up safe and sound in my bed. Yet I still hear the echo of the booming voice saying "delusion or death, delusion or death choose delusion or death!"


-Jesse

Saying Goodbye


Saying Goodbye...

I've been currently going through a very painful legal separation with my partner of 12yrs. This has caused me a lot of distress and heartache like I never known possible. Yet a strange sense of beauty has emerged. Friends and family have been so overwhelmingly supportive and comforting. These amazing relationships, many who don't live within a thousand miles of me have slowly been melting away my thoughts and feelings of isolation and aloneness. While this hurt is a bit too fresh to speak of at lengths. I am hopeful for the future. I can't say at the present where I'll physically be in next few months, however I feel pulled both by opportunities and necessities to leave Portland, Oregon. 

My life here has transitioned and my new chapter is across the sea or states away. I'll always have a piece of my heart in Oregon. But the universe is in a very real sense calling me away.


Stay Present,


-Jesse

Six Realms: The Titan Realm

The battle raged on for ten years. Each side inching back and forth from victories. Until the mighty Titans hatched the ultimate scheme! To overthrow the Gods of Olympus they decided to stack one mountain upon the other to literally gain the higher ground in the fight.

However what the Titans didn't anticipate was the new Gods had been given magical weapons of mass destruction. With an invisible helmet Hades soared into the air dive bombing from above into the spines of the Titans. Poseidon, with his triton sent tsunamis in all directions wrecking against the Titans bodies. Then the final blow was given by the God of Thunder himself, Zeus. Raining down an electric storm like canons of static and lightening, he struck down the remaining Titans as if they were parchment. The war was over. The Titans had lost and now were doomed to Tartarus and the underworld.

The Titan Realm. 

The story above depicts the literal Titans of Greek myth. Yet it is this constant over reaching or stretching that can be described when we're in the Titan Realm. The name Titan means "stretcher". When our lives become this constant battle, or never ending competition we're living in the Titan Realm. Nothing is good enough and everyone is a foe to overcome. We make war for the sake of having more. This is a prison of always needing to compete.

Years ago I remember a tacky yet popular bumper sticker that said "Whoever dies with the most toys wins". What a sad existence to just be living to undermine the next person or collect the next useless toys.

The ancient Egyptian God of the Sun, Ra was also known in the Greek tongue as Helios. Helios, the Titan God of the Sun. After the Greeks conquered Egypt it's a pretty clear picture that the battle of the titans and Olympian Gods was the rise and fall of two religions. The old weaved into the new but ultimately being subjugated to the new faith. So while there's a clear historical context of the Titans reflecting a changing societal upheaval the desire to war can happen from fear of change or fear of losing control.

When the urge rises up inside us to war against others especially for neither noble or enlightening things it robs us of the present and it teleports us to the ever struggling Titan Realm.

 When we stop the war within us we leave this realm and learn to be in the here and now.

 

Stay Present, 

 

-Jesse

Six Realms: The Human Realm

Let me tell you a story... There once was a homunculus, a creature brought to life by supernatural means, that lived in the forest. This homunculus, or person made from clay eventually became lonely. The homunculus wanted someone to have and hold, spend time with in the forest and everything in between. Until one day guided by the same supernatural means plus a piece of their own clay fashioned themselves an equal partner.

Now these two homunculi spent day and night together. Enjoying each other and the beauty and bounty of the forest. Until one day they came upon a special plant. This plant had a spell on it like no other green thing in the forest. Even more so the supernatural force, that aided in their creation, threatened them to avoid this very plant, especially the fruit it produced.

Now the homunculus' partner being momentarily separated from each other walking by the plant saw a lizard. This lizard, seeming friendly as any of the other creatures in the forest, began to speak in the most elaborate speech. The lizard seemed special yet looked so ordinary. This lizard possessed wisdom the homunculus had never known. The lizard knew the homunculus's inner desires for the magical food from the cursed plant, and persuade the homunculus to eat. So the homunculus ate the fruit and gave some to their partner. It was at this point both of the homunculi realized they were made of brittle clay. And as much as they loved life nothing in their power could keep them from one day crumbling to dust.

The End? 

The above story is my personal retelling of the book of Genesis's "Adam & Eve". I deliberately framed this story devoid of loaded gender specifics and casual human terms to illustrate some Buddhist teachings. That of death, impermanence and "The Human Realm".  The picture above is not to disparage those that choose to read the "Creation Of Humans" literally but to expound on the universality of the story. The truth here transcends denominations.

You see Adam was, according to medieval scientist also know as alchemist, a homunculus or a Golem. Really the first Golem. A Golem is a statute often made from stone or clay in the likeness of a humanoid creature, though not always. In the biblical/Torah telling Adam is made from dust then the breath of the Creator gives him life. Later on Adam is lonely so the Creator removes one of Adam's ribs and makes a partner for him.

It is a basic tenets of Buddhist & Taoist teaching that nothing lasts forever and things are always changing. In the forest the homunculus' realize through the magical food that they're made of dust and won't last forever. They discovered their own mortality. 

In the picture of the Six Realms the Human Realm is the realm of pleasures or desires. Now typically this is the most difficult realm to recognize as dangerous. This is the realm that says it's ok as long as it makes you happy. Wanting more and more is fine as long as that's something that feels good. 

The Buddha said that desires lead to suffering. So while we're busy running about finding new and exciting pleasures eventually we'll have to come to grips with our own mortality. If all you're living for is pleasures what happens when those pleasures run out, or it takes more to give you the same high? This is where the human realm becomes the highway to all the other realms. The human realm is also the gateway to addiction. Once the cravings aren't being quenched you can get angry which teleports you to the Hell Realm. Or you feel deprived, off you go to the hungry Ghost Realm. Yet you can say I'm too busy working to enjoy these very things I want so boom you're in the Animal Realm. What about the other two? The Titan and the God Realms we'll chat about them later but when we describe them you'll see how easy they are to find. 

 

Now the human realm is all around us. From cinema to society. Having more and feeling good is an American virtue. Plus the human realm is so much fun. The story of Adam & Eve, or the way I see it, is about the awakening of the human race. Adam was lonely, or bored, or looking to mate. From the way I gather there's really only three categories of Christian sins: eat it, own it, hump it. Or as King James Bible fans would put it "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life". Eve spoke to a reptile that persuaded her of the very things she, and later Adam wanted. The desire was already within both of them. Adam's desires were to become his sins and so were Eve's. This becomes more obvious in my retelling as it's devoid of blaming all of humanity on a specific gender. Which is just ludicrous! Humans were always going to die. This story is a picture of that awakening.

Now when we're awaken to our mortality we're free to live life more fully! Not hanging onto temporary pleasures but inner joy, compassion, loving kindness and equanimity. We can be free from living only for unquenchable thirsts. Desires can blind you from the present. This is by far the more complicated of realms for me to understand. Yet as we've mentioned earlier being awake to these realms is our first step. 

 

thank you for following this journey, 

 

Stay Present

-Jesse

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

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