Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pink Buddha Peels An Onion

I was thinking that the lattice grid in this mixed media piece I recently finished was bamboo fencing.  It was pointed out to me that in fact it looks more like the Buddha in jail.  I agreed and symbolically and metaphorically it is kind of appropriate.  Really we are all Buddhas imprisoned by our attachments, our habitual tendencies and whatever else obscures our Buddha nature.  So maybe this image came from somewhere deeper than my conscious awareness.

In Buddhism they often use the analogy of peeling the layers of an onion for the work we do in practice.  And I am working away at another layer, tugging way at it like some little sharp toothed creature in the compost bin.  It looks a lot like some previous layers (onions are like that).  (They also make you cry sometimes.)  I am seeing how deeply my "wanting" of things colours my vision.  I am seeing it in an "Oh yeah, I'm getting that now," bang-yourself-on-the side- of the- head kind of way.  

In this specific instance (booking back to back weekends with art shows)  (and my Zen teacher always says it's individual situations that count, generalizations just don't work for practice)  I came to see the domino effect of "wanting": wanting to generate some activity, wanting to make something happen, wanting to sell some art, wanting to take control.  Was I trying to escape boredom?  Was I trying to create the life I imagined others to be living?  Did I belief that some success or outcome in the world would make me happy?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Also let me qualify here that this action that was not right for me might be fine for someone else.  For me it fed into an deeply ingrained habitual tendency.

This wanting tipped a domino that rippled perfectly down the line, as dominoes do, and caused some suffering(ouch those dominoes are harder than you think!).  As I looked back at what I'd done (hindsight can be a wonderful teacher when we're willing to sit in his class) I could see not only what I'd done on this occasion (not choose carefully, not think about timing, imagine how things should go) but see the pattern stretching back in other situations in my life.  It was sobering and instructive.  

What I was really reminded of was the best way to live my life.  It seems a little clearer, a little less confusing from this side of the domino pile.  It consists of living from my true self, my inner knowing.  How do I do this?  Well it requires some patience which is not always a strong point of mine.  It requires me to really contemplate the question "what is it good to do?"  and then not act until I feel clear about it.  As I thought about the whole process what life was really asking of me was that I go into my studio and paint, not worry so much about results and sales, just trust a little.  

In a way it is about being true to who you are, instead of listening to all the clamouring that goes on out in the world.  A phrase that has often come to me is "what is yours will come to you."  I hope that doesn't sound like magical thinking or new agey or "secretey" because it isn't meant to.  It's about letting go.  And ultimately letting go is about faith and trust.  It's about doing what needs to be done.  It's about acknowledging that ultimately this little me is not in control.  I've probably said all this before.  So if it seems like I'm repeating myself it's because I need to hear it again.  And of course it never stands against appropriate action.  It doesn't mean we should hide ourselves away in our studios and never do any marketing and promotion.  It means we should contemplate these activities as deeply as we would other aspects of our lives.  And here I use the word contemplate as opposed to "think" because it implies that deep inner knowing, the "sitting with" the question until it becomes clear.  It is not something generated by pure logic but comes from a deeper place and is a deeper way of knowing.  When we can truly connect with this place then we don't act out of desperation or wanting or fear.

I will end with a quote from John Daido Loori that appeared in the most recent issue of Shambhala Sun:  "None of the antidotes to stress -- numbing ourselves, running away, the various therapies -- will ever really get to the root of it.  We actually hold on to our stress.  It is a way of holding on to our positons, our beliefs, our sense of being right -- our self.    In that tightness and rigidity, the body cannot deal with it and the mind cannot deal with it.  We suffer because we will not let go."


  1. Wow - Words I needed to hear tonight! I read it three times! Wonderful, wonderful... Thank you for your experience of Truth...

  2. we're both working with onion-peeling today; thank you for your deep exploration, carole. i've added a link to ZenDotStudio on my post today.