“Right mindfulness does not simply mean being aware; it is like creating a work of art. You can therefore trust what you are doing; you are not threatened by anything. You have room to dance in the space, and this makes it a creative situation. The space is open to you.”
– Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
There is much that can be said with words, but even more that can be said without words.
After I spent the first 30 years of my life studying the normal outer channels of communication — including music and visual arts — I became more interested in studying our inner world of sensation and non-verbal intuition. These are the ways we understand, gain insight, and begin to respond as we learn to be open and still. I learned that the dynamics at work in our inner environment are similar to the outer. Particularly, we tend to move in known pathways. We believe in something and not in something else, and this affects what insights we gain, what we open to, even what we can imagine and begin to move towards.
My next two decades of disciplined meditative practice were mainly informed by Tibetan Buddhism, and I learned about different energy practices and the natural state of the mind. I believe I learned more than I ever could have discovered through study in our western disciplines. This experience changed my outlook and understanding about everything. It changed what I could have insights into, by opening up a field I wasn’t aware of before.
Changing approaches, opening further
The more I discovered and practiced meditation, the more I left the world of arts and music. Now two decades later, art suddenly came back in a surprising and powerful way. Fulfilling a request from my husband for some art for his office, I started to paint again and somehow I couldn’t really stop. All those years in between I just didn’t have or take the time to paint. And in this time I’ve found my focus has changed, from paint and the painting to a focus on awareness itself as the painting happens. As a practice within a meditative life, this has been like a fresh start in a new terrain.
Experiencing life with all senses
For years I’ve enjoyed moving through my day and moving through whatever space I found myself in. I take in the impressions of my senses and sometimes feel overwhelmed by the beauty, contrasts, sound and silence, structures and harmony. In some way living in this world is like experiencing an all-senses symphony, all the time.
Rediscovering visual arts
When I started painting from this view or place it felt so different than before. I did not think about any rules in painting, about what should or should not be. I found myself feeling and being free and curious and easily moving step by step through a flowering of colors and shapes. Altogether it felt like a meditative process, like moving through the different experiences coming my way during the day.
Awareness and painting
In this way I feel like awareness is what I connect with while I’m painting. Every once in a while some artistic knowledge comes through, and many times I stop because I’m not sure how to continue while the paint is still wet. So I stop and wait. Moving through my days now I see the same process happening everywhere. Wind, water, light, other people and other beings leave traces. Things move around, stop, start again, creating shades and changing colors. Awareness paints, more or less. There’s a feeling of connection or non-separateness, a moment of unity and the feeling that creation is happening.
I wish I could just create like the elements, paint without goal, in a natural flow, accepting changes without resistance or judgment, just being and doing naturally what is necessary or simply what comes next. In this way, breathing, maintaining health and balance, moving about the different activities, simply living — all of this is a similar process to painting and it also leaves traces.
If I look at my paintings in the beginning, middle, and at the end of the creative process, I feel they are similar to a being undergoing change. They document the process and represent it later like a single image that unifies all the photos from a journey, like the one memory remaining from a beautiful weekend.
There feels to be much more depth to this process and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface here. But if we look at our very normal experience as an artist might, one who steps back every once in a while to take in a view of the whole, then we might recognize that many, or even most of our decisions about our life could also be seen as aesthetic ones. And we might discover previously unseen qualities of surprise, beauty, openness, and wholeness within our lives.
So if you’ve wondered why I’ve posted some paintings here and there, now you know. In the same way, the nature photos I love to share in some way depict what has been created by nature, sometimes over a short period of time, sometimes over a very, very long time. There is a living and artistic quality within everything no matter how “merely material” it might seem, and in some way we participate in these creations all the time. This artistry can also represent the presence and experience of magic in our life. Such experiences inspire a meditative mind and can help us to reconnect with it many times during the day.
I hope you’ll have a great week and maybe you will be touched by moments of just being, wonder, magic or creativity. I feel that fall is a beautiful season to inspire this, because within the process of ripening and then decay, so many new scents and colors happen. You might find yourself sweeping leaves all the time, but you can also listen to the sound of them falling and just rest in the earthy scents of the season.