Monday, April 6, 2009

The Dharma of Doing Something Different

I am excited about this picture I am posting tonight. One, it is finally finished and two it was a commission.  A friend, a very trusting friend had a Bodhi leaf that someone brought  him from India.  He wanted to preserve it and gave it to me, asking that I incorporate it into a piece of art.  That was in December!  It took some contemplating before I finally felt good about the composition.  He left it all up to me, no colour or composition preferences.  Sometimes you can get a long leash to hang yourself with --- or a lot of trust from a kind friend.  Anyway here it is (I hope he's not peeking!) and I'm pretty pleased.  

The leaf at the very top is his original Bodhi leaf which was quite dry and crispy  when I got it (think Frito Lay Bodhi chips or Old Dutch, if you're Canadian!).  After a lot of research I rejected resin which is a pretty toxic brew and settled on a less toxic alternative called if you will, "tar gel".  A young woman at the local Opus art supply store was extremely helpful as I sorted through all the medium options and this one worked like a charm, actually softening and plasti-coating the leaf.

But that's not today's Dharma, it's just me rambling.  But I did learn something today, as I do almost everyday (sometimes the lessons aren't so welcome) but today's was good.  In December I took my first real dip into the online universe, setting up an Etsy shop and later in the month a blog.  I committed to my 100 days of Dharma, also put on an in-home art show and sale and popped a couple of my pieces into local shops for the Christmas season.  In essence I lit a little fire under my tentative little butt, the butt that can always think of zillion reasons why this or that is not going to work, a butt that sabotages and tires itself out thinking before it even gets out of the starting gate.  Do you know how that works?  Do you get up to that too?  I think so many of us are afraid to fail that we never even try.  We are guilty of living in some state of pale grey, the unlived, ghostly (or should that be ghastly?) life.  I'm not pointing fingers.  I just suspect I'm not alone in this.  My Zen teacher has a saying that a Swami she studied with used to sum this up.  He would say, "when you know one mango, you know them all."  

But that's not the lesson I learned today.  That's December's lesson.  Today I realized that the novelty value and work that had kept me busy, engaged and feeling alive for a good while was flagging a bit.  I could see myself starting to do what we humans do.  I was scanning the landscape, perhaps feeling a little bored.  While I've made lots of good contacts, had some sales on-line and been inspired by all the creative souls out there, I realized I needed to expand my horizons a bit.  So instead of grumbling I starting casting about.  That word reminds me of a fisherman throwing his line out into the pond which is kind of what I felt like I was doing. "I'll check out the local art scene.  I'll check out some shows."  It just felt like time to do something different.  Not that there was anything wrong with what I had done but  some internal pedometer was telling me to keep moving.  Some of the ideas of what to do came to me by way of an energetic artist named Matt LeBlanc that I met on the Boundless Gallery site.

The really interesting thing for me was the amount of energy generated by just the act of throwing that line out into the pond, of doing something different.  Now in the past I might have grumbled and given up on the online scene and felt depressed.   It would have been like my ol' pick-up truck coasted  to a halt with a flat tire at the end of a dead end road.  This time when the truck stopped I pulled out the ol' fishing pole and sauntered down to the pond.  The sun was shining and I was having a great time.  It really is about changing habitual tendencies.  I found that trying something new generates new energy.  So this morning I signed on to write for a new art blog called artINK.  I think I've snagged a last minute spot at "Make It", a show for artists and crafters at the Round House in Vancouver's Yaletown on the May 1st-3rd weekend.  And if time and energy allow I found out I can  join in the Fairfield Artist's Studio Tour on April 25-26th even though I'm too late to appear in the event's guide.   I'm still contemplating that one.  

But what I really learned was about moving energy, that  just adding a new ingredient or two to the pot livens up the soup in an invigorating kind of way.  Now you might have known this already and really at my age I ought to have too but..... well old habits being what they are.....  some of us are just slow learners.  So just a small turn in how we see things and how we sidle up next to them can make all the difference.  It might not be anything big, but it seems to me an essential part of feeling alive.  Sometimes all it takes is getting up  an hour earlier than usual and going for a bike ride or for coffee at 7 am to a place you've never been before.  Maybe it means organizing a dinner party, if it's something you'd never do.  It's about stepping out a bit, changing a routine, taking a risk.  You don't have to go sky diving or bungey jumping or join a nudist colony (although any of these things could work for you).

So that's what I know today.  And why is that the Dharma?  Well because in it's most basic sense the Dharma is about getting to know ourselves intimately, about building our awareness of what's around us, including what we do.  It's about changing habitual tendencies as the basis for altering our own karma, learning to be in the world in more wholesome ways that cause less suffering for ourselves and others and egads, even promote some joy.


  1. GOOD FOR YOU!!! I need to get my butt moving on the same stuff. I have prints for sale in a coffee shop and I need to get back up there are replenish the supplies.

    I have an online store but need to step out into the great unknown and check out the studios. I've been sooo afraid to do just that as I'm self-conscious about my art on a certain level. But what artist isn't, right?

  2. there we are 2 mangoes! and that feeling that we're all in this same boat together is encouraging in it's own strange way. I didn't mention it in this piece but I remember last fall that I found saying to myself, Carole don't make such a big deal of it, just go do it. It was that light touch that I found so helpful. And yes it is definitely putting a bit of your private self out there when you take your art around.

    thanks for the comment, James!

  3. What a beautiful piece with the Bodhi leaves! I love it! So serene...

    Once again you inspire me with your art and words... absolutely lovely.

    The phrase that caught me in your blog tonight was "living the unlived life." Yes, I get up to this a lot - the dread of it. The creative fires are burning and yet most of the time I feel caught in the "mundane" aspects of life (chores, cleaning, cooking - you know the domestic role), snuffing out the fire of what my heart longs to do - a recurrent theme for me. Not that the mundane isn't "sacred" as well, but somehow I feel trapped there. So "stepping out" for me seems to be about creating the space for creativity to happen - which I'm working on. And your blog tonight brought more encouragement to make that a reality; to put my heart before the "hearth" :)

    With deep regard for how well you know yourself and express it here...