Art and the Human Conscience

Sunset Awakening – a story, a meditation

“When the sun dropped behind the lower clouds and the evening sky began to darken, something happened that was so profoundly unexpected, it shocked me into a new level of awareness and understanding.” -Karah Pino

My first year at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, I commuted by foot over the Montlake bridge to attend undergraduate classes. The Montlake cut connects Lake Washington to Portage Bay and the bridge is a double leaf bascule bridge that raises in the middle to allow tall masted boats between the bodies of water. I had moved to Seattle from Santa Fe, NM after high school. The smells of wet earth were intoxicating and a landscape defined by water astounding to me for the first years I lived there.

Sunset Awakening

One trip across the cut was during a rare spectacular sunset and the rising bridge stopped me at the pedestrian platform at the north end of the bridge. While waiting, I gazed east at the wetlands and Foster Island, the north end of the UW Arboretum. The setting sun had dipped below the stratus clouds in the west and illuminated them from below all the way to the eastern skyline across the lake. It was Autumn and the leaves of a giant maple tree on the island were beginning to fall. A slight breeze was stirred by the moving water and I strongly smelled the drying leaves and the microbes of decay from the fading summers growth.

I marveled at the height of the tree glowing in the distance and wondered in amazement at the size of the leaves dancing in its branches. The trees and wetlands and water flowing under the bridge vibrated with life in a way that constantly surprised me as a desert dweller. I had seen many sunsets growing up in the Sangre De Cristo mountains with a hundred mile vista of the desert and I considered myself a connoisseur. I had found solace and comfort in the silent permanence of the surrounding geologic formations that framed the desert sky each evening. Distant mountain ranges illuminated by the vast dome of deep blue sky contained all matter of cloud formations that glowed in hypersaturated colors during the evening hours.

The Montlake bridge lowered again and the sounds of traffic picked up behind me. I stayed at the waiting area at the north end of the bridge, watching the leaves moving in the distant tree as the sky shifted from dark red to purple. The glow of sunlight after so many days of rain heightened my awareness of the myriad of changes taking place in a landscape defined by monumental deciduous trees rather than by staid evergreen scrub.

When the sun dropped behind the lower clouds on the western horizon and the evening sky began to darken, something happened that was so profoundly unexpected, it shocked me into a new level of awareness and understanding of this new world around me. Perhaps my shock was in part due to my trust in the steady consistency of the desert I had known. Or maybe it was a result of my expanded openness to the moment I was observing, but the event I witnessed next held me in an infant-like experience of newness and wonder.

The darkening sky still held a shade of deep purple that marked the end of that evening’s sunset as the leaves danced on the distant tree. There was just enough light still slipping through the branches to distinguish the sky from shadow. Without any indication by sound or a rising breeze, all at once, hundreds of leaves lifted momentarily in the branches of the tree and then fell heavily, scattering in all directions.

My mind, shocked in amazement, whirred with calculations of all preconceived possibilities that could explain what I was witnessing. I gasped and felt my heart stop beating as time slowed. I gripped the concrete railing to steady myself as the entirety of my awareness was absorbed in the fluttering motion of the scattering leaves. They twisted and twirled, seeming to spin in a heavy wind blowing through the tree.

But this strange wind only seemed to be affecting this one single tree. And the way the leaves were spreading made it seem that it was blowing from inside the trunk, pushing out in all directions. I watched breathlessly, held fascinated by a permeating curiosity at what would happen next.

The darkening shapes continued their outward momentum from the tree, but after their initial heavy fall, they slowed and seemed to lighten. Some lifted as they spun away. As they gained distance from the branches, I noticed that the random black shadows became more organized. Clusters seemed to be gathering together and moving in the same direction. Some continued to rise even higher in the horizon.

My surprise mixed with alarm as I watched one group moving toward me. The fluttering, spinning movements became rhythmic and steady as they approached. They seemed to be alive. An instant of recognition registered in my mind and confused wonderment coalesced into concrete awareness. I smiled wide as the shadow shapes rose higher to crest over the towers of the bridge. As the band of crows soared overhead, I laughed aloud, both in relief and in amazement.

Over the next years, I spent many sunsets with this tree. Sometimes, I walked along the maintained path through the wetlands onto the island to experience the cacophony of crows in close proximity. On days when I arrived early enough, I witnessed each band of crows arriving from different directions to alight on the branches of the enormous tree. By the time the sun had set, hundreds of crows had gathered from all directions to share commune in the waning light. And each evening, once darkness began to spread across the sky, they would rise together in a synchronous farewell before scattering once again.

Each of these evenings I was reminded of that first encounter with the crows of Foster Island. In each of the 5 other places I lived in Seattle, I observed the crows head to Lake Washington as dusk approached and was reminded of that sunset. The moment of awakening had been so penetrating that it pulsates anew even with the memory of it nearly 25 years later as I scribe this story.

I have come to understand how our life is defined by these moments. Moments of awakening, moments of loss, moments of shock, moments of awe, these become the framework of our beingness as we live through them and even more so as we navigate the world once it is changed by one of these moments.

Sometimes the moments seem overwhelming or insurmountable and it can take time to realize how our lives have been changed by them. A car accident, the death of a loved one, a national tragedy, the birth of a child, and then the eventual realization that our concept of ourselves, our best laid plans and our daily life will never be the same.

What I appreciate about vipassana meditation is how the practice of awareness in full acceptance of the moment as it is can prepare us to be in those moments

-Karah Pino

A Message of Unity with Nature as Divinity from St. Francis of Assisi

The Hymn of the Sun by St. Francis of Assisi


MOST HIGH, All Powerful, God of Goodness;

To Thee bepraise and glory, Honour and all thankfulness

To Thee alone, MOst High, are these things due,

And no man is worthy to speak of Thee.


Be thou praised, O Lord, for all Thy creation,

More especially for our Brother the Sun,

Who bringeth forth the day and givest light thereby,

For he is glorious and splendid in his radiance,

And to Thee, Most High, he bears similitude.


Be thou praised, O Lord, for our Sister the Moon, and for the Stars:

In the heavens,

Thou hast set them bright and sparkling and beautiful.


Be thou praised, O Lord, for our Brother the Wind,

For the air and for the clouds, For serene and for tempestuous days,

For through these dost Thou sustain all living things.


Be thou praised, O Lord, for our Sister the Water,

For she giveth boundless service, and is lowly, precious and pure.


Be thou praised, O Lord, for our Brother the Fire,

Through whom Thou givest light in the night hours,

For he is beautiful and joyous, vigorous and strong.


Be thou praised, O Lord, for our Sister Mother Earth,

Who doth nourish us and ruleth over us,

And bringeth forth divers fruit, and bright flowers and herbs.


Be thou praised, O Lord, for those who show forgiveness through Thy love,

And that do endure sickness and sorrow,

Blessed are they that do suffer in lowliness of spirit,

For by Thee, Most High, shall they be exalted.


Be thou praised, O Lord, for our Sister Bodily Death,

From whom no man living may escape.

Blessed are they who shall be found doing Thy most Holy Will,

For the second dying shall work them no evil.

Be Thou praised and blessed, O Lord, in endless thanksgiving, and served in all humility.

Penn researchers integrate origami and engineering | Penn Current

The quintessential piece of origami might be a decorative paper crane, but in the hands of an interdisciplinary Penn research team, it could lead to a drug-delivery device, an emergency shelter, or even a space station.

The Penn team is led by Randall Kamien, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts & Sciences, and includes Shu Yang, associate professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s departments of Materials Science and Engineering, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Collaborating with researchers at Cornell University, the Penn team will share in a $2 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation. The grant is through a program called ODISSEI, or Origami Design For The Integration Of Self-assembling Systems For Engineering Innovation.

The program draws inspiration from the Japanese art of paper folding, but the Penn team suggested adding a variant of the technique, known as kirigami, in which the paper can be cut as well as folded. Allowing for cuts and holes in the material makes it easier to fold rigid, three-dimensional structures.

The Penn team plans to begin by prototyping designs with paper and 3D-printed plastic.

“We want to demonstrate the concept in the macroscale, but once we have a grasp on how the theory and experiment work together—where to introduce cuts and folds—we’ll shrink it down to the microscale,” Yang says.


Finished kirigami configurations in front of the template. Kirigami is a variant of origami that allows cuts as well as folds.

Yang and Kamien have collaborated on similar molecule-manipulating research in the past. Along with Kathleen Stebe, deputy dean for research at Penn Engineering, they developed a technique for getting a layer of liquid crystals to form different patterns of divots or bumps based on nanoscale templates.

These concepts can also be scaled up, enabling applications such as emergency shelters that can be folded flat for transport. Kirigami architecture is particularly attractive for space-based structures, which are free from the size constraints imposed by gravity, but still need to fit into the cargo bays of launch vehicles.

“The thing that’s cool about geometry, is that the Pythagorean theorem works the same for big triangles and little triangles,” Kamien says. “We can build something out of paper, or we can build the same structure much smaller, working with molecules, or much bigger with cloth or metal.”

Penn researchers integrate origami and engineering | Penn Current.

Opening Night of “The Sacred Shadow Self” – photo gallery

First of all, thanks to all the amazing helpers who have shown up to assist me with The Sacred Shadow Self: Meditation as Art

Without you, it wouldn’t have been possible.  I needed help watching my son so I could prepare, help with installing the wall sized pieces, help filling the gallery with amazing artwork, help with photo copying, help with performances and taking photos and videos during the performances and help to stay awake at work!  The magnitude of help I needed strikes me at how this kind of installation is more of a community event and how much more powerful and encompassing this exhibit has been.  In a way, that level of participation is also reflective of the meaning behind the installation.  The Sacredness that comes from the original source that brings us all back to our collective origins is the same sacredness that is manifested in our precious SELF.  Thank you.

Here are a few photos from the opening night:

Sacred Shadow Self Opening Performance Tomorrow: Anonymous. Spontaneous. Dance. Meditation

The Anonymous Spontaneous Dancer reveals herself:

When Karah Pino first asked me to be part of The Sacred Shadow Self I was hesitant to say yes because I am in a “non-performance state”, a state of creative development, and quiet reflection.

My Mother almost passed away three times in the last several months and I had been doing a lot of advanced grieving, introspection and forgiveness work during that time and to be honest, I was a bit overwhelmed by my own shadow self and all I wanted to do was escape into the lighter side of things.

I knew I would ultimately say yes though because Karah is a spiritual sister and when she appears in my life there is always a positive lesson attached.

So yes. I will be there, with my veil on, I will be there, hidden amongst the crowd and yet obvious to the eyes of anyone who is present. I will be a shadow of my self, a ghost of sorts, a fraction of who I am. I am not entirely sure what I will be doing but maybe I will see you through the veil. And maybe you will see me.

Anonymous Dancer

Karah Pino in Mindful Meditation and the Anonymous Dancer will end the Opening performances at 8:30pm during Artwalk.

Karahs sacred shadowMind Unwind Gallery

2206A California Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98116
(206) 849-7222

Sacred Shadow Studio Update #4: Layering the Mandala

I looked at  many different shapes, these are just a few I chose to consider for this mandala.

Exploring Mandala Shapes:

Mandala Tests

Mandala Test Shapes

Looking at layering:

Final choice:

Mandala Three Layers

Mandala Three Layers


Mandala Detail

Mandala Detail

Moment of beauty and meditation through time-lapse – The Feed Blog – CBS News

(CBS News) Back in December we had a fan of The Feed, Gavin Heffernan, reach out to us with some wonderful work he and his team had created. Now, a bit over a month later, he’s reached out again with another piece above that is sure to give you a moment of beauty and meditation through the medium of time-lapse. I’d definitely recommend watching in high-definition if possible.


The latest piece entitled “Death Valley Dreamlapse” was created by Heffernan and his team, and posted by Vimeo user Sunchaser Pictures who write about the breath-taking work:

After the great response to our SUNCHASER STAR TRAILS video, my brave team and I trekked to the world-famous Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park to search for some of the darkest skies on Earth. Despite temps below freezing, we went on December 13th, 2012 – the night of the Geminid Meteor Shower Peak, and a time of great planetary alignment! Armed only with boxed wine, firewood, and our DSLRs, we had to conquer epic climbs, sand roads with the 4×4 Jeep, and the occasional UFO…


But it was all worth it when the skies cleared and showed us an incredible galactic palette! Star Trails shot at 25 sec exposures. No special effects used, just the rotation of the earth’s axis.

Thank you so much for reaching out to us here at The Feed again with another excellent and aesthetic piece of work that shows nature in all its wonder, Gavin! And if you’d like to check out more amazing work from Sunchaser Pictures and Gavin Heffernan, be sure to visit their Vimeo page by clicking here.

Moment of beauty and meditation through time-lapse – The Feed Blog – CBS News.

Reaching for the Better Angels of our Nature – Art Installation by Karah Pino, MAcOM

Reaching for the Better Angels of our Nature - #Artpocalypse @Mind Unwind December 2012 l Installation by Karah Pino

#Artpocalypse @Mind Unwind December 2012 Installation by Karah Pino

I began this piece with the idea that our better nature, the nature of humanity in harmony with the natural world, is just a decision away.  All we have to do is reach for the truth in ourselves.

Artwalk December 13th, 2012 at Mind Unwind Gallery in West Seattle.  “Artpocalypse” happening all day December 21st, 2012

Mixed Media “Chime”delier
Vellum Origami Folded Angels
Oil Paint on Industrial Scrap Plastic sheets
Indian Brass Bells

Installation Photo Gallery:

Roosted in the Angels NestThe Light that Shines WithinAwakening to the Gentle Chimes Our own Clarion Call

Reaching for the Better Angels of our Nature – #Artpocalypse December 2012 Final Installation by Karah Pino

Each angel with bell and blessing $120.  
$20 to the artist and $100 to the Mind Unwind Foundation bringing vital Creative Arts programs into local schools and Community Centers in partnership with other local Creative Arts programs.  The Creative Arts are the foundation of natural learning and critical thinking, building the capacity for developing life skills including math and science .

Origami Artist, Karah Pino graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Interdisciplinary Visual Art in 1998 with experience in Jewelry and other Metalworking, digital production, graphic design, and paper arts.  She is currently an Artists in Residence at Mind Unwind Gallery,  teaching paper arts to children and meditation to adults with a focus on Origami and Creative Collaborations!

These 19th-century diagrams were one man’s attempt to illustrate human consciousness

Could you represent the stages of human consciousness with a diagram? In the late 19th century, New Zealand psychologist Benjamin Betts tried to apply mathematics to the problem of visualizing human consciousness. What he produced were striking, almost floral designs that he believed represented the shape of out consciousness for a given activity.

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings came across these images in the 1887 book Geometrical psychology, or, The science of representation, an abstract of the theories and diagrams of B. W. Betts, edited by Louisa Cook and available on Open Library. In his metaphysical explorations, Betts attempted to represent the successive stages of the evolution of human consciousness with symbolic mathematical forms; he was quite pleased to find that his mathematical representations frequently resulted in plant-like forms, taking this to mean that he was on the track to some universal representation of consciousness. Incidentally, he also believed that human consciousness was the only thing that we as humans could study directly since everything else must necessarily be perceived through human consciousness.

While Betts methods and illustrations seem ultimately abstract, there is something appealing about his diagrams. We can almost imagine how a student of metaphysics might make perfect sense out of one state of consciousness working like a petalled bowl and another like a deep and narrowing funnel.

Geometrical Psychology: Benjamin Betts’s 19th-Century Mathematical Illustrations of Consciousness [Brain Pickings via Radiolab]

These 19th-century diagrams were one man’s attempt to illustrate human consciousness. IO9.