I had some pieces of old sewing patterns kicking around the studio that I have been itching to use, and well, this seemed to be the time and place for them. Here's the part where zen meets canvas, or board as the case may be... It's about letting go of thinking and being drawn to what feels right for the piece ... walking the critic to the door ... letting go of questions like what would be good here? Just trusting and following.
The piece called out for the line drawing of the Buddha (I have no idea why, like so many other things in life.) And the bits of text... something I love but am not always brave enough to add. The text often gets left behind in some second guessing or when doubt rears it's familiar two headed little self. I seem to be in an exploring mood these days with one painting not looking at all like the last. Ah, the schizophrenia of creation. Is that Sybils signature on the back?
On the Dharma front it seems to be cloudy with a hint of compassion, maybe a 60% chance of compassion today. Perhaps it's the season for compassion, days are getting shorter, all things Christmassy are making their appearance? First there were the monks who worked so tirelessly on the mandala of compassion at the Art Gallery here in Victoria.
Earlier in the week continuing on this theme, I heard about Karen Armstrong's "Charter of Compassion". Then later in the week a friend emailed me a link to the site. If you don't know Karen Armstrong I highly recommend her book "The Spiral Staircase" which chronicles her journey from young Catholic nun to a secular life. Recently she was given a TED award and with it, the recipient gets a wish. Armstrong wished for help in creating a charter of compassion for the world. She sums compassion up as the "golden rule", do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's about taking ourselves from the centre of the universe and putting others there. She talks about how the spiritual life is really about "what you do everyday". If our practice isn't translated into how we treat the clerk at the dry cleaner's or how we behave when someone runs over our toe with their grocery cart then what is the value of our practice? And of course we don't always get it right, but it's about working on it.
Recently there was a good reminder about working with compassion in Tricycle's Daily Dharma. It talked about treating our enemies in the same way we might treat those dear to us. And to me that's a really important nitty-gritty reminder about compassion. As a concept compassion is nice to think about. We can read, we can sit, we feel inspired by the idea of compassion, We feel all warm and cozy but then bingo, someone rear-ends us in traffic.
It's easy to be nice to someone when someone is nice to you or when the day is going our way. The real test of practice is when strangers or people you're not so fond of behave badly. Someone insults us or criticizes us. What do we do then? Are we like the rat in the experiment? Do we bite? Can we count to 10 and let it go? Can we say something firmly but with kindness? There's the cutting edge of practice.
I feel encouraged by people like Karen Armstrong to work on building the compassion muscle, to get out there and lift a slightly heavier bar bell of compassion than I might normally choose. I am encouraged that the charter is out there to remind all of us about compassion. I am reminded of the Dalai Lama whose people have suffered so many losses. He says so simply and directly, "my religion is kindness."