Any kind of art is an intimate expression of who we are. And who we are is beyond our physicality as we simply use our physicality to express our inner shining light. Through our physical being we observe variety which firstly stimulates us and then inspires us to discover more of ourselves. Therefore, the human physically-focused part of ourselves and our divine part have equal value—both perspectives are blended and joyously dancing with each other at all times, to enrich our lives more, to discover more, to create a fuller and more satisfying expression of the Everything That Exists.
Deep, an American-born artist with Punjabi ancestry who grew up in Richmond, Virginia, says, “I am a human being that’s here for some time in space. I think one thing that I find fascinating about art in itself, is that it speaks its own language. It introduces you in a way where you don’t have to. The collectivistic identity of living in a household with three generations, building and existing together, in terms of the Punjabi identity was pretty immediate: the food, the religions, the spirituality, the ways you think that sort of elements of the culture. But also, for someone who went to an American school and began to learn English as a third language, you notice certain patterns and things that become pretty interesting in the dynamic of trying to differentiate the home life versus the life outside of it. It’s like a duality, and then even more, it’s been an interesting blend. I like to blend my identities rather than like separate parts. I let them flow together into one.”
The feeling of home is not something outside of us, it’s the state of beingness within ourselves, therefore we emanate from the inside outwards. “For a long time, I couldn’t connect house and home as one. Most people say the word house and they assume home or people as home. For me home is essentially where my heart and my spirit is. And so it’s really about listening to my emotions and then feeling the spiritual states,” recognizes Deep.
Although, for the vast majority of humanity whose basic needs are covered, we still often resort to survival mode in our daily lives. For those of us who have shelter, food, and clothes to wear, we can predominantly focus on things that are beyond those basic needs, therefore creating a fuller physical existence in pair with our spiritual counterpart. We all want to experience more, it’s in our human nature, but celebrating what we already have will bring us a fuller sense of joy along with the discovery of what we desire to accomplish next. Being here, now, present in this moment in time—that’s reason enough to celebrate.
Deep shares his perspective of practicality and the mystic by saying that, “Practicality is essentially a part of the human biology of survival. What is practical is having the necessities that we need on a day-to-day basis. And so perhaps that looks like having a structure of making sure that you’re able to eat, to have a roof over your head, you’re able to make your way into the day. You’re able to go to sleep at night, with peace, from just the aspect of being able to live. And it’s interesting, because a lot of times it is assumed that the basic needs are easily met. So that’s where practicality, and a lot of times religion and spirituality allows those that don’t have the basic necessities to have a gateway to greater life. I was blessed to be a first generation American. I didn’t have to worry immediately about a roof over my head, because my father went through that struggle. And so the practical aspect is being able to keep yourself in alignment, where you’re able to interact with the world and the things that you want to do in the lifespan that you have.
“The mystical aspect of it is that a lot of people don’t actually experience mysticism because they don’t get past the practical, they become so bonded in with practicality that mysticism is not coming into their life. And so when mysticism starts coming up on a more regular basis, you start inviting it, and you start seeing how it distorts the concept of productivity.
“What I found is that instead of trying to overthink it, or make it too much of a mental process, I am being intuitive when there’s a necessity to shift into more practical aspects. For example, in the Islam, the practicality is that there is the aspect of praying five times a day, so you literally surrendering your body five times a day. And so that keeps you in alignment and in balance. Or with yoga, it’s Asana practice, eventually translating into a deeper aspect of meditation and breathing. And so that naturally brings you to the gateway of having those deeper experiences.”
Balance is naturally happening at all times, it’s a matter of where we are looking within the steady movement of the lifeforce we all are. And so, we all have infinite tools we can choose from to go within and apply our mysticism to the practical part of ourselves for facing whatever we decide to give our attention to. Too much focus outwards can feel overwhelming, as we allow our physical senses to take over the perception of our lives. But too much focus inward can also create a sense of stillness that is easy to get lost in as we forget the joy of translating it to physical action. The balanced dance between practical and mystical, the physical and divine, the asking and receiving is what makes us experience our human potential in its full nature of who we are.
“I think the interesting thing for me was that early on, I found a way to do things that were very much based on spending time with yourself. So, twelve years onwards, I started skateboarding, and for me it wasn’t just the community, but it was about being by myself doing what felt natural to me and in connection with me. In that aspect, that particular form was self-surrender—being able to calm the emotions, calm the mind, and to drift with the wind, to go with the speed of the board. And to find ease in the movement, to put a little bit of effort, go back to ease the effort. So self-surrender essentially starts with the self. As you begin to spend time with yourself, either two things happen, or maybe a mixture happens, either there is no resistance with spending time with yourself, or there is a lot of resistance. You know the middle ground that you established. And so self-surrender is essentially exactly that: that you’re surrendering to the will of the self, which is you’re giving yourself some sort of context, some sort of spacing, and then you start exploring that. But you can also just go into the deep end and throw yourself into whatever experience with the self. So, it’s seeing what it means to be yourself, but being connected with yourself, not by any validation or norms, just yourself.”
Life is movement, life is never static, life is ever expanding. Therefore, life is like riding a bicycle, from time to time we have to put the effort of peddling the wheels so that momentum takes us in the direction we wish to move. Then we can relax for a while as the bicycle travels by its own inertia, but only until we decide we want to move a little bit more, and so on. Being with ourselves, and then sharing what we discovered in that state with the world, becomes inevitable. Because then, we want everyone to experience what we know.
And so Deep shares, “I’ll use a reference to nurturing the plants, because I feel at this moment, it’s been pretty connected to me lately. The interesting thing about any sort of plant is that they have the ability to take in the sun and take this energy that is not of the plant, and something that is beyond the plant itself, but somehow integrate that energy into becoming a way to nurture itself. For me, what is the equivalent of plants and the process of photosynthesis, is how it takes light and creates energy out of it. I think about that for humans and the perspective that inherently we are connected to something that is beyond us, and is something that we will never be able to fathom. Yet at the same time, we’re able to take that which we can’t fathom, and create something for ourselves through it. So activating the self is an act of prayer. And so, perhaps from the kindness of our heart, we see someone as we’re walking down the street that is in some sort of need. And instead of turning our eyes away, we look at them, we look at their heart, we look at their eyes, we do so and see if we’re in a space to provide something, from the way perhaps, and in some way that the beyond has provided to us in our lives.”
We all are inclusive by nature. And when we look within ourselves, when we spend enough time with ourselves to get steady, we want to rush and help anyone we think will benefit from interacting with us and we feel inspired to do so. Receiving and giving, including everything and everyone around us, is an utmost expression of self that we can do while remaining as humans.
“I think a lot of times people see the result and not the process. A lot of times, there’s the fascination over things that are not taboo, that are more appealing, that are easier to talk about. And in the same ways, a lot of times I see that sort of perspective being brought into a motion of thoughts that are very chaotic. With light, there is this ability to be able to be optimistic, as there’s this ability to be able to be very determined to get past anything, and be able to have a perspective of reaching a level of clarity and to ascend, essentially, to get higher into some perspective, some sort of realm. You’re essentially just trying to go up higher in some sort of understanding or perspective of experience that you’re going through.
“With darkness, there’s an inherent depth, that is a part of darkness, any sort of struggle that you’re going through in your life, or not even something that is a struggle, just an inherent feeling, or state. Perhaps it’s the concept that one day, you and I both are not going to be here in the physical body, yet, we’re able to maintain a level of calm about that, and still continue existing. Instead of rejecting that, we embrace it. And so whatever darkness is in our heart, in our mind, we embrace it by trying to understand what is the deeper meaning here that we’re not understanding, that we don’t want to understand. So, in that aspect, it isn’t even the stigma of what people see as light and dark. It’s the integration of depth and elevation. There’s a lack of clarity, there’s more confusion. But with ascension, typically, there is a little bit more clarity.
“Now, when you get to those peaks, of course, it’s a different conversation with light and darkness. But when you do get to those peaks in higher areas, you begin to see how they all are—connected and shaped together. So then you’re able to have a conversation with someone, feel their pain, but also help them by being yourself. And in that context, you just create space for that person, there’s no need to have a savior mindset space, instead you just exist,” says Deep.
We often want to run away from things that are considered negative. But putting our head in the sand can only serve us as a starting point to get steady. When we are in a steady space, we can uncover any mirror without fearing the reflection by knowing that there is value in everything. Without darkness there can’t be light and vice versa. And with practice, and by focusing on the process instead of the final result, we will be able to ascend the darkness and the light, including it all, as all bring us inevitable inner expansion.
Deep has recently released his poetry and short stories book, innocence, where he shares his intimate process of discovering new layers of him as a whole being. “The interesting thing with innocence is that I actually didn’t write it for anybody. It wasn’t meant to be for anybody, it was the state that I was in. And so in April 2020, I had designated time for myself to go within and explore. And at that time, it was also the beginning of Ramadan. The world in 2020 was changing. So something that I was very familiar with was having to go through an isolation period and go through a deep reflection state. For the first time what I experienced was what the entire world was experiencing, because of COVID. And so, for me, it was like doing what I would normally do, except the world was on fire, literally. In this space and time, it was just spending time with myself very slowly, moving, getting up slowly, sleeping slowly, setting the architecture of the space that I was living in, vibing out, burning some incense or listening to some music. And then as I began to spend a lot of this time with myself, some days I would be crying, some days I would be in the state of detachment or reflection, and just continuously over and over again, and it was a cathartic expression.
“So I would write pieces of paper scattered all over the floor. Then sometimes when I was unable to write, I would draw, expressing myself in that way. So eventually, after the intensity of what I was experiencing, it started to decrease because I was doing it, and there was no time measurement. I was doing it from when I would start my fast at about 5:30 am in the morning, all the way to 10 pm at night. So now I’d repeat that over and over again. I had maybe contact with only three other people during that time frame. And that space was a warping time because you get to go through, do something very quick. And there’s a duration on the outside, but you’re going through it very quickly, and at the same time very slowly, because you get to really feel it.
“I think I was in that experience of cultivating, making a decision to just spend time with myself. And then from there, I didn’t have any idea what this would be like. The process afterwards, after going through the experience, and making it into a book was something I chose to do consciously. But I did not consciously choose to write. Many were raised to go to all of those emotions, and those emotions just overwhelmed me. And it was survival, it was like a way to cope with what was being expressed,” with serenity expresses Deep.
The word “innocence” is often reflective of children, but calling an adult can be pejorative, sometimes. Deep has stirred up all the layers of the adulthood identities we are supposed to wear, and instead, he says, “Innocence is the essence of who we are, when we spend time with ourselves in an unbroken state. And so that experience is both subjective and objective, which typically means that it’s an experience that is coming from us, me as a person, you as a person, and our experiences are individual. But then there’s also the collective experience that you and I share within that innocence. I may not have the same memories as you, emotions, thoughts, and vice versa, but there is a collective experience of that innocence.
“Children are very intuitive. Some of my work in the past has included teaching children in many different ways, but also teaching them yoga all the way from one years old to seventeen. So, there’s a big range, then, within that space, you get to see the different stages of how their emotional intuition, and awareness either begins to grow, or begins to die out, because of this idea that adults have about the mind. And how there’s some sort of an evolution in ways of living that happens when you only engage as an adult. Which honestly is bullshit to me, because you actually get to see the nuances of it and the shades of gray. And when you get to see behind the facade of adulthood, you also get to actually see the innocent childhood.
“But that’s the thing with innocence, it’s not just something that is of the child, that is of every person and something that I see in my grandfather who’s eightee plus years old. And it’s in those moments when you get to understand that if you’re going to look into something and really experience it, then you have to understand as a human, you have to let go of these constructs and age is one of them.
“Why the need to label ourselves? I think it’s ridiculous actually. Because once again, if you spend time with yourself, if you spend a year with yourself, only yourself, I would be curious if you would be so fixated on the age. The experience itself and spending whatever duration is of more value than trying to create this following of a norm. I think that’s where innocence is very interesting, because you will see it in yourself regardless of what age you’re at.”
Graffiti and street art are at the core of the expression of Deep’s poetry and short stories book, innocence. “I think for me, it’s always going to come in the non-traditional art space, because I’ve never been in a traditional art space. I’ve never gone to art school, so I’m not familiar with a traditional art setting. Art exists outside of institutions. Whatever illustrations that I felt compelled to create, innocence was a part of that. I have one drawing that I drew that is actually on my arm right now. This is essentially taking something that was created in my room, and then having it on my body, it’s just flowing from one place to another,” shares Deep.
We all have our innate innocence and intuition within ourselves. We don’t have to seclude ourselves from the world to tap into these aspects of ourselves because there is nothing more satisfying than embracing innocence and applying it to our physical existence from our own unique perspective.
And then Deep concludes with the following words of appreciation, “There is an inherent level of surrender in me. And I really appreciate that. I appreciate everyone’s uniqueness. I appreciate how every human is, whether they’re collectively following patterns or on the beautiful experience of their own existence. That’s the whole basis of me, taking an experience like innocence and wanting to share with others because I see an inherent beauty in humans. I understand and that also brings the perspective about the darkness and us as people, but also it brings us to see the beauty. And instead of an ego trip of wanting to share this with other humans just for the sake of creating a hierarchy, I want to do it to understand other humans, explore other humans and have that experience while I’m still alive.”
Photography // Whitney Ingram
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