"Our ability to know, our sense perceptions, the seeds of our past karma, and the phenomenal world all come together to create life’s show." These words called to me from my inbox in the form of a Tricycle Daily Dharma piece on "grasping" by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. I've had my occasion to grasp lately, maybe a grasp-fest or two. Looking for a home to buy offers lots of opportunities for grasping, a well explored opportunity in my case. And I noticed the sticky fingers reaching out from my mind as I waited to hear if I might place my art in a local venue.
But the place I have really been wrestling with the grasping mind is in the studio. After a long while out of the studio it seemed I needed some limbering up, some yoga for the right side of my brain. Or maybe I just needed a whack on the side of the head (there's a book on creativity with this title!) Maybe I needed to give myself permission to make a mess and create some horrible paint creatures, things to fling out the window (Natalie Goldberg talks about this in relation to writing - giving yourself permission to write something awful, no one has to see it).
After a month of seeing inspiring art I assumed I would arrive home full of ideas that would simply leap onto canvas in inspired ways. Ah, another road filled with the land mines of expectation. I'm still picking out the shrapnel. It seemed when I put all these beautiful things into my brain, it choked and sputtered and seized up. Did I put the wrong oil in at the brain station?
When I stood in front of the great art it made me feel large and inspired. But when I got home and picked up a paint brush, all these great works brought out the vulnerable little self that never feels good enough. So the whole creative process got tangled up in wanting things to look a certain way, mainly better. And Alice what Wonderland did you just wander in from? My sticky fingers were growing longer, reaching out toward some imagined outcome. And grumbling mind was waiting to take over when these magically perfect paintings didn't appear, fully formed on the easel. The ground for lots of frustration and subsequent avoiding of the studio. Who wants to go in there and meet those ugly, grumpy, little demons?
And then on Monday after doing the laundry, watering the garden, sitting in the meadow, making some raw crackers I headed into the studio late in the day. I turned on some music and gagged all the nagging little crones in my head. And I just painted. I had already painted the ground based on a painting I'd seen while sitting. I knew what was needed next but I was afraid. I was afraid to mess up the lovely ground. I was afraid of the hard work. I was afraid I'd get it wrong. But I picked up the long handled brush with the skinny bristles and started to work. And as often happens when I step into the stream of it all, a peaceful settling takes place and I just work, devoting myself to the details. And that is the lesson for me. Just like the commercial for over priced running shoes says I need to " just do it". (Do they own these words?) But before I start I need to send the little crones on an outing, perhaps a picnic in the meadow? I work best without their company.